Valentine’s Day pick | Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

So it turns out Valentine’s day is next week; the day of romance and love dedicated to the Feast of Saint Valentine.

I don’t know about you, but personally I’ve never been a big fan of it. It always seemed so commerical despite its pagan origins. It also seemed so designed to exclude a large portion of society; those who choose to be single (or in other circumstances have found themselves without partners, widowed, divorced etc.) It never really sat well with me.

I do, however enjoy books about love.

When I was trying to decide which book to pick for this week’s post, I sifted through all my favourite romance novels but my mind kept being drawn back to one place; Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. It would not leave me alone! You know how some books just call to you, beguiling with soft voices to reread them and experience again the wonder and joy of being inside that special world?

Eventually, I just gave in and spent a very pleasant afternoon reacquainting myself with Sally and Gillian, the magical Aunts, the hot-headed Antonia and the sweet Kylie. As I was reading it, I realised this was the book that sums up love for me. Love is not just the conventional romance between two people. It is that, but it is also discovering and understanding yourself. It is appreciating the differences between your family and yourself. It’s deciding you deserve to be happy no matter what ill choices you have made in the past.

“The moon is always jealous of the heat of the day, just as the sun always longs for something dark and deep.”
Practical Magic | Alice Hoffman

One of the things I love most about Alice Hoffman’s beguiling tale of magic and sisterhood is the wonderful way she manages to infuse the extraordinary into the everyday. Her magic is so believable. Her characters are real people (who just might happen to be witches). They make mistakes and bad choices. They are selfish and sometimes cruel to the ones they love. They are just like us. Through adversity and learning to face their fears, they learn to support one another and to view their flaws as blessings.

This book has a special meaning for me as both my sister and I devoured it as teenagers and it strengthened our bond. I realise I’ve done a few Alice Hoffman cookies before but I have no apologies to make for that. I adore her work – both the themes and the way she writes with such passion. She has shaped me both as a person and as a writer. Meeting her and being able to thank her in person for the wonderful gift of her stories is one of my ultimate writer goals! Yes, I’m nerdy like that.

“There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.”
– Practical Magic | Alice Hoffman

To honour this most magical of books and to celebrate St. Valentine’s day, I decided to make cookies infused with edible lavender. If you have trouble finding edible lavender, you can order it online (I bought a gorgeous triple pack which included lavender heads, sugar and honey). I’ve included the recipe below. The lavender taste is subtle but you can use lavender sugar to make it stronger if you desire.

No matter what you’re doing this week – celebrating St.Valentine’s day or just appreciating love in all its magical forms, I hope you find time to read Alice’s book, if you’ve never done so or to bake up some lavender cookies. True love guaranteed in every bite.

Lavender Studded Sugar Cookies

Ingredients
250g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg, room temp
4 cups plain flour (plus extra)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 tbps edible lavender heads

Step 1.
Cream together the butter and caster sugar until combined (and no longer gritty when you rub mixture between your fingertips).

Step 2.
Add in the egg, vanilla extract and edible lavender. Mix to combine.

Step 3.
Add in baking powder,pinch of salt and the flour in a few scoops. Combine in your stand mixer until the mixture comes away from the sides. You may have to add slightly more flour if the mixture is too moist. It should be sticky and doughy but not wet.

Step 4.
Wrap your dough in gladwrap and place in fridge for two hours or overnight. When you bring it out, let it thaw a little so that you’re able to roll it out.

Step 5.
Roll out your dough between two sheets of baking paper. Coat your cutter in flour to prevent it sticking before cutting out your cookies and placing them on a tray lined with baking paper.

Step 6.
Place your cookie tray in the fridge for 20 minutes. This allows the gluten to relax and prevents spreading.

Step 7.
Place your cookies in an oven heated to 180 degrees. Bake for 18 minutes, turning at the halfway mark.

Step 8.
Allow your cookies to cool on a rack then enjoy with icing or without.

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