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Try Lavender in Your Brownies

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"I love these brownies!" Sharon Shipley writes in "The Lavender Cookbook" (Running Press, $18.95). "They're moist, chewy, and so quick and easy to prepare. Why bother making brownies from a box, when these take only a few extra minutes and taste so much better? Serve them with vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge sauce — or just plain with a glass of cold milk. What could be better?" If you are cooking with lavender, make sure you get the variety that is meant for the kitchen. Ask your lavender farmer or the person handling the bulk bins at stores like Central Market, Whole Foods or Green Fields for guidance. Shipley prefers the dried "Provence" culinary buds because they have "a low camphor level, a nice floral note, and a gentle lavender flavor. Other varieties of lavender can taste perfumey, buttery and medicinal." The culinary variety will also have more gray in the color. Chocolate Lavender Brownies 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender buds 3 cups sugar, divided use 1 3/4 cups flour 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder or powdered instant coffee 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter 4 large eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place the lavender in a spice grinder with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Pulse until the lavender is finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the flour, cocoa, salt, espresso or coffee powder, and the remaining sugar. Mix well. Place the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power for 1 minute at a time until melted. Let cool for a few minutes. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter mixture. Using a wood spoon, mix until just combined. Stir in the nuts, if using. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Makes 24 brownies. From "The Lavender Cookbook" by Sharon Shipley
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