Foraging has been a skill that has sustained countless people for thousands and thousands (and thousands) of years. Knowledge has been passed down over generations allowing wild plants to adorn tables and medicine cabinets. Yet this skill has been lost in the modern age. Now, thanks to New Nordic Cuisine, foraging is hip once again. You can find blogs devoted to foraging, books are popping up, NPR is featuring segments, and nature guides are finding younger audiences. And I must say, I think I’m going to hop on this band wagon!
As part of our Ethnobiology class this week, we were tasked with foraging for wild plants then making a meal from what we collected. (Don’t worry our professor joined us to ensure we were picking the right items…no poisonous plants for us.) It was my first real experience with foraging. I have accompanied Kevin before to collect pine shoots and on a recent study trip to Denmark we foraged in the woods, but this….this was different. This time we had to utilize what we had collected, which resulted in a truly fabulous meal. On our walk we discovered wild chamomile. My classmate Julie and I decided to make Chamomile shortbread with a Chamomile Tea Glaze. It was delicious! These light suckers are an incredibly aromatic shortbread, combining afternoon tea in one bite. Needless to say, I think I will be taking walks more often!
(Of course this can also be made with dried chamomile. Be careful with the ratios and taste as you go.)
Chamomile Shortbread with Chamomile Tea Glaze
6 oz Unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1/2 + 1/8 t salt
1/4 c fresh chamomile flowers (finely chopped) (you can add more or less to taste, keep in mind the chamomile flavor will intensify when baking)
1 3/4 c + 3 T flour
2 T sugar for dusting
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Turn to medium low and cream until smooth. Add the 1/2 c of sugar and salt and mix on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of and the bottom of the bowl. Add the chamomile flowers and mix on low speed for about 30 sec to distribute it evenly.
Add the flour in 2 additions, mixing on low-speed for 15-20 sec after each (or until just combined). Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any flour that may have settled there.
Mound the dough on the work surface and using the heel of your hand, push it together into a 5 in square block. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 325 and line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough and place it between two pieces of parchment or plastic wrap. With a rolling pin, pound the top of the dough, working from left to right, to begin to flatten it, then turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. This way the dough doesn’t crack as it is rolled. Roll out into a 9 inch square. Once again, if the dough has softened too much, return it to the fridge to firm.
Using a chef’s knife, score the dough horizontally 3 times to mark four 2 1/4 inch-wide strips. Then score it vertically 5 times at a 1 1/2- inch intervals. You should have a total of 24 pieces. Cut through the markings.
Arrange on the prepared sheet pans, leaving about 3/4 inch between them. Bake until golden brown, 13-15 in convection oven and 17-19 in a standard oven. Set the pans on cooling racks and cool for 5 to 10 minutes prior to placing the glaze on them.
¼ c fresh chamomile flowers
½ c sugar
½ c water
Place the flower in the water and bring to a simmer. After about 10 minutes the water should be a beautiful yellow. Strain the flowers out and return tea to flame.
Add sugar. Simmer until you have a thicker consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle over shortbread.