“Right now it’s peak season for edible flowers, especially after all this rain,” says Loria Stern, standing in her vibrant garden in the hills of Mount Washington on a recent sunny morning. Surrounded by mounds of violas, pansies, daisies, and geraniums and a fiery orange and pink sea of California poppies and other wildflowers, she adds, “Hopefully, I’m going to have a monarch brigade coming to eat the milkweed.”
But it’s not just butterflies Stern expects to feed. The 39-year-old garden-to-table chef, who grew up in Ojai and attended the University of Virginia on a tennis scholarship, took a pivotal class on medicinal and edible plants in 2012 that inspired her to combine two lifelong passions—food and nature—and changed the course of her career.
Entirely self-taught when it came to cooking, Stern, who was working as a tennis instructor, began making meals for some of her students before going on to hone her culinary skills at cafes, hotels, and bakeries on both coasts. She returned to California to launch her personal-chef business and, one day, decided to share a photo of shortbread cookies she had baked flowers into with her 1,000 followers on Instagram.
“They went viral, re-’grammed by anyone and everyone,” says Stern, whose social media fame has since blossomed to 242,000 followers and catapulted her from a tiny cottage kitchen to a full-blown commercial bakery, complete with a team of six employees and a successful brand, Eat Your Flowers, that ships nationally. In April, Stern released Eat Your Flowers: A Cookbook, sharing the secrets behind the flavorful savory dishes and delectable pastries she perfected as a private chef, including the recipe that started it all: her Insta-famous Flower-Pressed Shortbread Cookies.
Flower-Pressed Shortbread Cookies
MAKES 40 COOKIES
1½ cups (3 sticks/339 g) unsalted butter,
at room temperature
1⅓ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons (25 g) pure vanilla extract
4 cups (611 g) all-purpose flour
2 cups mixed edible flower petals
and tender herbs
Cane sugar, for sprinkling
HOW TO PREPARE:
Line two flexible cutting mats with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and salt on medium speed until completely combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the yolks, and mix until combined. Add the vanilla, and stir until just combined. Add the flour, and mix on low speed until the dough comes together in a ball, about 5 minutes.
Place the dough on a large sheet of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top, and roll out the dough to 1/3-inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment paper, and stamp out the cookies with a 3-inch round cookie cutter, then artfully decorate each round with the edible flower petals and herbs. Replace the top sheet of parchment paper and gently roll over each cookie to fix the flowers in place. One by one, remove the flower-pressed cookies with an offset spatula, and place them on a parchment-lined flexible cutting mat. Reroll and repeat with any remaining dough scraps.
Put the flexible mats with the unbaked cookies in layers in the freezer for 12 to 24 hours. This allows the flowers and herbs to keep their vibrant complexions in the hot oven.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack set in the middle position. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Arrange the cookies on the prepared sheet pan, leaving a 1/4-inch space between them. Bake for 9 minutes; rotate the pan, and bake for another 8 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack, and sprinkle with cane sugar. Voilà!
RECIPE FROM EAT YOUR FLOWERS BY LORIA STERN; ©2023 BY LORIA STERN; PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM MORROW, AN IMPRINT OF HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS
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