The beautifully perfumed scent of lilacs is what first attracted me to them. The smell is so hypnotizing and adds such a wonderful floral flavour to recipes. I made some lilac sugar and decided to use it with honey and rhubarb and create this spring inspired salty honey pie.
I tend to think of lilacs as a May time flower, but they have bloomed a little early this year, so I rushed out armed with scissors and a bag to collect some. The season is short, so I like to make the most of them.
They are a great flower to cook with as they infuse ingredients like sugar or milk well. For this recipe it was sugar I decided to infuse. Normally I would layer the little flowers in a jar of sugar and put the lid on and patiently wait for it to get flavour. This time I decided to try some other methods and tried bruising the flowers with a pestle and mortar to help speed up the process, then I tried adding the sugar and flowers in a food processor.
The latter created a more intense flavour, so that’s what I ended up using. However, that process means you must use it right away or it will turn sour, whereas the slow process can keep for a while.
Even though lilac flowers are edible, its always best to eat them in moderation. So that’s why this tart is so good, because it’s so sweet that you could probably only manage a small slice at a time.
Please also be careful to not use the leaves or stems of the lilac, as those are not edible.
I have tried many methods of using lilacs in my recipes. From infusing milk with it for crème patisserie, making syrup, to simmering it in butter to infuse it for a cake.
I felt that the flavour was always a little on the delicate side, you really had to search for it to find it. I didn’t want that this time, so blending the petals with the sugar really helped add an intense flavour. The other methods meant that the beautiful scent often got lost and you had to concentrate to find it with each mouth full.
If you want to use regular infused sugar that’s fine also, its all down to your own taste. I love to have a notable floral flavour when I use flowers, so this recipe was a real dream for me.
You will find the lilac flowers fill the room with such a wonderful aroma. This pie also kept that beautiful smell, as I opened to fridge to get my self a slice the floral scent hit me in the face, it was magical.
The sweet floral nectar from a jar of blossom honey seemed like the perfect partner for this beautiful flower, so that’s where the inspiration for this recipe was born. That and the fact I still have what seems like a years’ worth of honeycomb to use.
I had baked the rhubarb for another recipe and didn’t use it all so that was a last-minute inclusion, but I very delicious one. It could be easily left out if you’re not a rhubarb fan.
Forced rhubarb, which is in season now. I prefer it a little more than the outdoor grown rhubarb as it has a more delicate flavour.
I have made quite a few salty honey pies using four and twenty blackbirds pie book. The book is amazing and its become by go too book for pie recipes. The salty honey pie is a very sweet one, so that’s why I thought the tart rhubarb would pair really well. If you leave out the rhubarb and just use regular sugar then you will see what their tasty version is like.
Adapted from the four and twenty birds pie book
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold buttermilk
To make the crust
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers (or a potato masher), work the butter into the flour mixture. Quickly break the butter down into the flour mixture, some butter pieces will be the size of oat flakes, some will be the size of peas. Create a well in the mixture and pour in the cold buttermilk. Use a fork to bring to dough together. Try to moisten all of the flour bits. Add a bit more buttermilk if necessary, but you want to mixture to be shaggy and not outwardly wet.
On a lightly floured work surface, dump out the dough mixture. It will be moist and shaggy. That’s perfect. Gently knead into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Allowing the dough to rest in the refrigerator will help rechill the butter and distribute the moisture.
To roll out the pie crust, on a well floured surface, roll the crust 1/8 inch thick and about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer it to a pie pan. Trim the edge almost even with the edge of the pan Fold the edges under and crimp with your fingers or a fork. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours.
2 large stalks of rhubarb ( I used forced rhubarb)
2 tbsp. honey
Juice and zest from 1 orange
(I also added some orange blossom water when I roasted this for another recipe which worked really well to boost the floral flavours).
Preheat the oven to 180c 350f and slice the rhubarb into chunks, drizzle with honey and orange juice/zest and roast for 10/15 minutes until soft. Leave to cool.
If using the quick method for lilac sugar
Grind 1/3 cup lilac petals and 3/4 cup caster sugar in a food processor until the petals are finely ground. NOTE – this must be used immediately or after 1 day or the flavour will loose its intensity and turn sour.
If using the slow method for lilac sugar
Take a clean jar and add a little sugar then add a layer of lilac petals, then repeat this and add some more sugar. Layer up the jar with sugar and petals and place a lid on so its air tight. leave to infuse for at least 2 days but preferably up to 1 to 2 weeks, the longer you leave it the more flavour there will be.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup lilac infused sugar or granulated if you don’t have it
1 tablespoon white cornmeal
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
3/4 cup honey (I use blossom honey)
3 large eggs or 4 medium
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons flaked sea salt
cut comb honey (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place a rack in the centre of the oven.
To make the filling, in a medium bowl whisk together melted butter, lilac sugar, cornmeal, and salt. Split vanilla bean and add the vanilla bean scrapings (or extract, if using) into the butter mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Whisk in honey.
Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking to combine.
Whisk in heavy cream and vinegar.
Place chunks of roasted rhubarb in to the prepared pie crust then pour in the filling. Bake pie for 45 to 55 minutes until pie is deep golden brown and puffed around the edges and set in the centre. Open the oven and rotate the pie halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 4 hours before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature, and sprinkle with sea salt just before serving.
I added some honeycomb and lilac flowers for more decoration.
You can use flaked salt or be more elaborate and use chunks of cut comb honey and lilac blossoms to turn this into a show stopper.
I used some lemon salt, but I have many varieties of flavoured salt at home, so its hard to decide which one to use sometimes. If you know me then you will find I have quite a big salt obsession and collect it. When I travel salt is often the thing I buy to take home. Smoked salt is my favourite, but I got some really beautiful ones from Iceland and Italy like green basil salt, pink berry salt and a pretty light blue Parisian one.