From late summer last year, right through the winter, I was baking several times a week, even more than usual. The reason for immersing myself in this indulgent pastime has just been published.

The Floral Baker encompasses not only a lifelong passion for baking, but my almost as long fascination with the perfume of flowers as a culinary ingredient.

As a child, I would ‘boil’ rose petals in a jam jar lid set over a candle, aiming to make scent. A couple of decades later, it did not require a huge leap in imagination to steep lavender flowers in vinegar to make my first real floral ingredient. And the rest followed, much of it covered in my last book, The Scented Kitchen, which included savoury as well as sweet recipes.

For example, from a medieval recipe for chicken with almonds and roses, I developed something like a savoury panna cotta, pounding the chicken and almonds and flavouring it with a breath of rosewater.

Lavender has a scent with distinct hints of the herbal and medicinal about it, more so than roses. The quality of its scent and flavour is more akin to that of rosemary and thyme, which makes it suitable for savoury dishes.

However, when you marry the flowers with sugar, cream, chocolate or butter, for example, a whole new world of unusual desserts opens up. I found that lavender enhances lamb as well as rosemary does, and I roast lamb on a bed of lavender stalks. I have also used spikes of lavender pushed under the skin of a chicken before roasting it.

Now I have developed a collection of baking recipes, both sweet and savoury. The Floral Baker, my new book, is exactly what the title says: recipes for baked goods of all kinds enhanced with the subtle scent of roses, lavender, violets, jasmine and more. In the first chapter, I describe how to capture some of the flavours, as well as offer suggestions on commercial preparations.

When you marry flowers with sugar, cream, chocolate or butter, a whole new world of unusual desserts opens up

Thereafter, chapters on breads, tea loaves, sponge cakes, biscuits, shortbreads, tarts, fancy pastries and festive baking include recipes for every occasion, from a simple afternoon tea, to a wedding, even for those who have never baked before but find appealing the idea of capturing the scent of lavender or a rose in a delicate pastry.

Here, the lavender flavours sun-dried tomato and olive biscuits, a tomato tart, chocolate meringues and a Valentine’s cake. Roses, saffron, elderflowers, orange flower water and fennel flowers flavour cakes, muffins, scones, shortbread as well as more elaborate recipes in my chapter on festive baking, which includes a Golden Celebration Cake, Stollen and a floral panforte.

You do not need to have a flower garden to recreate these recipes. More floral ingredients are coming on to the market alongside the more traditional orange flower water in the rapidly enlarging baking sections of supermarkets. You can gather for free some of the ingredients on a country walk, such as fennel flowers.

One of my favourite meals to prepare, as regular readers will know, is a leisurely afternoon tea. The recipes that follow are just the thing to accompany a selection of finger sandwiches.

Rose petal kisses

(Makes about 20)

150g self-raising flour
75g caster sugar
75g unsalted butter
1 egg beaten with 2 or 3 drops of culinary rose essence

50g icing sugar
2-3 tsps rose water
25g unsalted butter, softened
Dash of pink food colouring

One probably should not have favourite recipes, but if I did, this one would come close. It is based on the little cakes my mother used to make for special occasions, such as a visit from her mother-in-law and in-law’s own mother.

The original recipe, from her much-battered and spattered Bero recipe booklet from the 1950s, was for coffee kisses. It translates beautifully into tender floral mouthfuls, sealed with a kiss of floral butter cream. The recipe works equally well with lavender and violets.

These are as attractive and as delicious as French macaroons, but far easier to make.

In fact, in our house, the kiss is the new macaroon.

Mix the flour and sugar and rub in the butter. Stir in the egg and rose essence.

This makes quite a soft mixture, especially if working in a warm kitchen, so you might want to chill it for half an hour or so in the fridge.

Form into marble-size balls. Place on a well-greased baking sheet. Bake at 150˚-180˚C (325˚-350˚F/Gas Mark 3-4) for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool on wire rack and, when cold, sandwich with the rose butter cream, made by mixing the filling ingredients together.

Apple and rose petal scones

(Makes 8 to 10)

100g butter, chilled
350g self-raising flour
1 large tart apple, peeled and finely chopped or coarsely grated
2 or 3 tsps dried rose petals, if available
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsprose water
50g caster sugar

While it is hard to improve on the traditional scone recipe, this rose and apple combination is very pleasing.

Line or grease a baking sheet.

Cut the butter into the flour and then rub it lightly until you have a crumb-like mixture. Stir in the apple and rose petals if using them, then add the beaten egg. Mix to a stiff but elastic dough.

Turn out on to a floured worktop and divide into the number of scones you need.

Pat and shape the scones by hand to two to three centimetres (one inch) thick.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes at 200˚C/Gas Mark 6. Once out of the oven, dredge with the sugar and serve immediately.

Pistachio, date and orange flower tea loaf

These tea loaves keep well, once wrapped and stored, and they also freeze well. You can prepare the dates the night before required.

(Makes two loaves)

1½ tsps bicarbonate of soda
150ml cup boiling water
500g stoned dates
50g unsalted butter
350g caster sugar
2 eggs
500g self-raising flour
Zest and juice of a large orange
3 tbsps orange flower water

75g chopped blanched peeled pistachios – can use cashews, almonds or walnuts

Grease and flour two loaf tins. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with boiling water and pour over the dates in a bowl and leave until cold.

Cream the butter and sugar and add the beaten eggs, alternating with some of the flour. Gradually fold in the rest of the flour, adding the liquid in which the dates are soaked, as well as the orange zest and juice and orange flower water, the dates and nuts.

Mix thoroughly and spoon into the loaf tins. Bake at 180˚C (350˚F/Gas Mark 4) for about 1¼ hours, checking with a skewer.

Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then on a wire rack. Serve sliced and buttered or plain.

Fennel flower, pancetta and Parmesan muffins

(Makes 24 miniature muffins)

350g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp fennel flowers
3 tbsps diced pancetta, lightly fried and cooled
75g grated Parmesan
3 eggs, beaten with
225ml butter-milk
pinch of saffron
5 tbsps melted butter, or sunflower oil

Grease and flour a tray of 24 miniature muffin cups.

Sift the dry ingredients together, stir in the fennel flowers and then add the pancetta and Parmesan.

Add the liquid ingredients and stir together quickly. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tray or paper cases and bake in a preheated oven at 200˚C (400˚F, Gas Mark 6) for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve hot or warm.

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