As a service to my readers, food & feast posts will always feature the recipe first, with history, folklore, and cooking tips toward the bottom of the page. For background on this recipe and helpful hints for navigating technique, scroll down! Otherwise, dive right in with the recipe below.
forest-to-table beltane violet cookies
Makes 24 cookies
Contains gluten, dairy
Prep time : 20 minutes, plus chilling
Cook time : 10-12 minutes
¾ cup butter, softened ¾ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 egg, plus 1 beaten egg white for brushing
1 teaspoon crème de violette or violet syrup (optional) 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers, crushed 2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons milk or non-dairy milk
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add your egg, violet syrup and dried lavender and mix until combined, scraping the bowl to make sure there are no lumps of butter left behind.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to your butter mixture in small batches, while mixing at a low speed. Finish with the milk. Stop mixing when the dough just comes together into a soft ball. Turn out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a roll 2–3 inches in diameter. Use the parchment or clingfilm to roll the dough tightly, then chill the dough for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Wash and pat dry your flowers, removing any leaves or pieces of stem.
Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap. On a chopping board, slice the dough cylinder into ¼ inch thick slices. Lay the cookies down on your prepared baking sheets and brush each cookie lightly but thoroughly with egg white. Set fresh flowers gently into the centre of each cookie and brush these lightly with egg white as well, then sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 11–12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies begin to brown, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
This recipe was developed to celebrate Beltane, the pagan fire festival that occurs at the midpoint between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. In my practice, Beltane rituals begin by rising early in the morning on May 1st, stealing silently to the forest near my home, and using my left hand to pluck violets before the morning dew has time to dry. I ferry these flowers home and preserve them for the year ahead – some dried in teas and incense, some steeped in syrup and others created into offering cookies to be brought back to the woods in gratitude.
When we say forest-to-table, we mean that these ingredients are harvested and used within the same day, as an extension of the practitioner's relationship to the land that they live on. This is in no way a one-sided exchange- these cookies are intended to return to that same forest as an offering of gratitude, buried or hung in the trees in thanks for the healthful harvest and the forest's companionship as an ally to the witch.
Flowers are the Mercurial, messenger aspect of plants. They are the part of the plant that communicates with the outside world, using chemical signals and colorful patterns to call forth winged spirits (pollinators!) from the ether. It is no surprise, then, that flowers are frequently used in divination and spirit communication for this very purpose. While these violet and lavender shortbreads are perfect for flower festivals, such as Beltane, or as gifts for flower-loving spirits, this recipe can be customized with the right choice of blossoms and flavors to suit any occasion.