|Lavender Cheesecake with Blueberries and Lavender Honey|
One of the pleasures of having lavender in the summer garden is thinking up new ways to use it. I started this challenge off with a Nectarine and Lavender Salad with Goat Cheese Medallions as a first course. Fresh lavender flowers were used to impart their unique flavour. Our next technique used the stems of the lavender for an entree of Lemony Shrimp and Garlic on Lavender Stems. These shrimp skewers get their hint of lavender flavour from the skewers themselves. The third technique was to create a lavender infused olive oil for Lavender Infused Potatoes with Garlic and Fennel that married well with the shrimp. Many of us associate lavender with a floral taste but it is interesting to note that it is part of the mint family and can be substituted for rosemary in almost any dish. The key is to use it sparingly.
With our final dish I wanted to use a lavender infusion. Andrea, owner and proprietor of Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm, generously bestowed upon me an infusion they develop at the farm, but you will find instructions below to create your own. With this cheesecake you create an infusion of lavender and incorporate it into the mixture...plus lavender honey comes into play also.
Imagine the sweet, buttery flavour of a shortbread cookie as it melts away in your mouth. Now, add to that the fresh, spicy tang of lavender (think of a mild hybrid of sage and rosemary, with a subtle citrusy presence), blowing onto your palate like a spring breeze in Provence. It's a dazzling mix, and it's surprisingly easy to achieve at home.
We have explored the savoury side of lavender but now comes what we associate more easily with lavender....desserts. Lavender lends itself to many applications. The flowers can be put into sugar and sealed tightly for a couple of weeks. This sugar can be substituted for ordinary sugar for a cake, buns or custards. It is limited only by your imagination. Used in moderation, lavender blends well with lemon and other citrus flavours, making a lovely summery ice cream, and adds a floral aroma to baked goods such as shortbread and pound cake. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets. Imagine white chocolate lavender cheesecake or lavender lemonade. Culinary lavender is also used to make simple syrups which can be used on fruit or desserts as a light and refreshing addition. Keep the lavender stems after removing the dried flower buds and use as a fragrant kabob stick, just slide fresh fruit on the stems. Flowers look beautiful and taste good too in a glass of champagne so let's celebrate the season with style!!!!
For my dessert I chose one that was the simplest to accomplish and perfect for the overwhelming heat of summer. It created such a silky, smooth dream of a cheesecake with a surprising hint of lavender that has quests commenting, "What's in this dish?" while enjoying every bite. I had planned on serving this no-bake cheesecake with figs, but alas, they were unavailable. So for today I used a seasonal substitution of berries drizzled with lavender honey. This cheesecake is light and airy with a hint of lavender for that WOW factor. This is my go-to recipe so you can also make it without the lavender and use any fruit you wish. I highly recommend trying lavender though, just be assured that you are using culinary lavender and not something that has been chemically sprayed.
**Lavender Cheesecake with Blueberries and Lavender Honey**
2 cups shortbread cookies pulverized into crumbs (1 package)
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lavender buds
3/4 cup honey
1-8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 - 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Blueberries of other fruit in season
Pulverize 2 cups of shortbread cookies into crumbs. (You could really go for the lavender theme and follow the lavender shortbread link above.
Melt five tablespoons of butter and mix with the crumbs. Press into the bottom of a spring form pan. Put in the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling. In this case I used mini cheesecake molds.
Crush three tablespoons of lavender. Pour two and a half tablespoons of boiling water over them. Let it steep for at least 15 minutes. Then strain out the lavender buds. This is your lavender infusion.(I was given a culinary lavender infusion so was able to eliminate this step by adding a minute amount to the heavy cream before whipping)
Mix together ¾ cup of honey and one 8 ounce package of cream cheese that you’ve left out to soften. I used an electric beater. You could use a whisk, if you prefer.
Add the lavender infusion, mixing carefully, (add only a minute drop).
Whip one and a quarter cups of heavy cream.
Fold the whipped cream into the honey/lavender/cream cheese mixture. Then pour it into the crust or molds.
Refrigerate for three to four hours before serving.
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