116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
One of my favorite parts of spring is watching the world burst into bloom. Daffodils, tulips, even the creeping Charlie in my backyard - I love the profusion of April and May flowers.
My favorite scent and sight of spring are lilacs. The beautiful purple blooms and the strong scent bring back memories - of the house I lived in as a child in Cedar Falls, on a street appropriately named Lilac Lane, and of lilacs growing in my grandparents' backyard.
But it never occurred to me to cook with those blossoms, until last year when my sister suggested making lilac ice cream. I don't have an ice cream maker, and that sounded ambitious for my modest cooking efforts, but it piqued my interest.
A little bit of internet research revealed a whole world of flower-based cooking. There are plenty of edible flowers out there and ideas for using them, from adding spicy nasturtium to salads, to turning dandelions into marmalade to stuffing squash blossoms with goat cheese and frying them. I'm strongly considering turning this column into an ode to the culinary possibilities of flowers.
For lilacs, I found recipes for candied lilacs, lilac syrups, cordials and jams - and this recipe for lilac almond scones, which I found on the blog hollyandflora.com.
The flowers are beautiful to cook with, retaining their delicate purple color. I was nervous the taste would be too strong and remind me of perfume, but in fact the flowers were very subtle. I might even recommend adding more lilacs than this recipe calls for to punch up the flavor. The almonds gave the otherwise soft scones a pleasant texture but could be easily left out. Either way, this recipe made a pleasant batch of scones perfect for breakfast, brunch or serving with afternoon tea.
One note: make sure you harvest lilacs - or any flower you plan to cook with - that haven't been sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers. Act fast - the lilac season is short, and probably won't last much longer.
3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 toasted, chopped almonds
1 cup lilac blossoms
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut butter into small pieces and work into dry ingredients with fingers, until only pea-sized lumps are present. Add buttermilk, vanilla, almonds and lilacs. Knead into a ball, avoiding overworking the dough. On a floured surface, flatten dough to half inch thickness and cut into triangles. Place triangles on greased baking sheet and lightly sprinkle with sugar. Bake 14 minutes on top rack.
Recipe source: hollyandflora.com