“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavour.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Summer is a wonderful month filled with flowers, fruits that turns the great outdoors into a land of promise. Using the flavours of this land produces unexpected, unusual, bittersweet but extraordinary edible combinations. Foraging leads the curious explorer to exotically scented cream-coloured flowers on dark-emerald-velvet foliage (some foragers fail to identify the scent and the plant they are approaching and collect hemlock that can be fatal mistake). Similar motivation turns the foraging collector to lead the modern discovery of baking and utilize their pick in luxurious baking. To be true to the nature as well as to the self it is important to take no more than a few flower heads from each elderberry bush so to ensures that the bush will be able to recover and spread and this informed, selective picking means one can return in a few months to harvest the berries. Collect the flower-heads in a breathable paper bag as plastic will make them wilt and sweat.
225 g softened butter
225 g caster sugar
4 large eggs
225 g sifted self-raising flour
2 tbsp hot water
zest and juice of two lemons
100 ml elderflower cordial
1 handful of fresh elderflower (only the white, tiny flower-heads)
1 granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and prepare 24 cupcake cases.
Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and beat together until a pale and fluffy mixture is achieved. A
dd egg one by one and each addition followed by a spoonful of flour, whisking thoroughly between additions to prevent curdling. Sift the remaining flour over the mixture, put in one handful of elderflower, then gently fold in with a large spoon along with 2 tbsp hot water. Spoon into the prepared cupcake cases, and bake for 22-25 minutes or until it springs back when touched on the top. (A fine skewer inserted in the center should come out clean.) Cool in the tin for 5 mins.
Squeeze the lemon juice stir in the cordial and elder flowers. Use the fine skewer to prick the cupcakes all over (being careful of not to pierce the bottom), pour over the syrup then sprinkle over the sugar – it should sink in but leave a crunchy crust. Leave to cool completely, before decorating. Pipe lemon zest flavoured butter-cream on the top and decorate with crystallised rose petals.
Making Elderflower Syrup (prepare 3 days before the baking)
1 liter water
1500 g granulated sugar
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon citric acid
25 elderflower heads, stems removed (about 2 cups flowers)
2 handful of rose petals and a drop of additional rose extract
Pick off the flowers from the stalks into a large bowl or bucket that will hold everything (remove as much of the stems as possible as they are toxic and although a few stray bits of stems will not harm, but it should be minimized). Add rose petals and rose extract. Zest the lemons and add it to the bowl, then the citric acid and lemon juice. Bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve. Let the syrup cool to room temperature and pour the syrup over the flowers, petals, lemons, and stir to combine. Cover the bowl or bucket with a towel and leave it for about 2-3 days. Finally strain it through a fine-meshed sieve lined paper towel into a clean jar. Seal the jar and store in the fridge.
Foraging encourages people to touch base and return to their roots…where, ultimately, people will find that has been lost…
“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.”
Alfred E. Newman