Learning to Use Herbs and Spices: Herbs & Spices in Dessert

Learning to Use Herbs and Spices: Herbs & Spices in Dessert
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Herbs and Spices in DessertsMost people think of mint as the only "dessert herb", but there are so many more things you can do with herbs that add an elegant touch to your cookies, cakes and other desserts. I think the key to using herbs in your sweet recipes is to think of it as adding a "touch" of herb flavoring. If you go to heavy it becomes overwhelming and can even have a perfume-like taste.

Add a teaspoon of freshly minced rosemary, lavender, lemon balm or mint to your sugar cookie or shortbread recipes. Be sure to mince it as finely as you can. You can also "infuse" herbs in milk or water that is to be used in recipes. Heat the liquid and then remove it from the heat, add the herb and allow it to sit for 20 minutes to a half hour. Strain and use.

Scented geranium leaves add a delicious taste to sugars, cakes and other desserts. Try placing a single geranium leaf in the bottom of a jelly glass before pouring in apple jelly for a nice touch. Make the following sugar and use it in cookies, cakes, custards or breads in place of the granulated sugar or it can be sprinkled on top.

Rose Geranium Sugar

Place alternate layers of rose-scented pelargonium leaves and fine baking (caster) sugar in a glass jar until the container is full. Cover tightly and leave in a warm place for a week or longer. Shake the jar occasionally and sift out the herb before using.

English Lavender (l. angustifolia) is a wonderful herb to use with sweets. Again, remember to use small amounts! Use only a third of the dried compared to using fresh in recipes. You want a hint of the lavender in the recipe.

Lavender Lemon Shortbread

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

grated zest of one large lemon

1 tablespoon fresh lavender flowers, finely chopped

2 tablespoons lavender sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until well blended and light. Sift the flour and salt together in another bowl, and add to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and lavender. Mix thoroughly. Roll the dough into a ball and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Press the dough into an 8-inch square pan. Sprinkle with lavender sugar and chill for another 45 minutes. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes until the shortbread is lightly browned. Cool in pan and cut into squares.

Lavender Sugar

1/3 cup fresh lavender flowers

1 cup white granulated sugar

Mix the lavender and sugar together in a glass jar. Store in a cool place out of the light.

Lemon verbena is one of my favorite herbs. It's perfect for desserts with it's intoxicating taste and scent. It's much better fresh, but use dried if it's not available. Also if you don't have lemon verbena experiment with any of the lemon herbs such as lemon balm, lemon thyme or lemon basil.

Lemon Verbena Tea Bread

Ingredients:

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons finely chopped Lemon Verbena

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Butter a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Heat the milk gently, do not boil, with the chopped verbena and let steep until it's cooled, then strain. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, cream butter and gradually beat in the sugar. Continue beating until light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the lemon zest. Add the flour mixture alternately with the infused milk. Mix just til blended. Pour the batter into the buttered pan. Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread tests done. Remove the bread from the pan onto a wire rack and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Berry Lemon Verbena Butter

Ingredients:

1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

4 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries or strawberries (not in syrup)

1 tbsp. granulated sugar; or more to taste

2 tablespoons small lemon verbena leaves

Thaw berries if frozen, and pour off any excess juice. Blend butter, sugar and berries until smooth in a blender or food processor. Add the leaves and process and until all is blended.

Cinnamon Basil is another lovely herb to use in desserts. It's easy to grow annually, and can be started from seed indoors or out. Use it in cookies or cakes minced very fine or try the following:

Cinnamon Basil Honey

Ingredients:

1 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup dried cinnamon basil, crushed

Heat the honey over low heat. Place the cinnamon and cinnamon basil in a sterile jar and pour the honey over the herb and spice. Cover and allow to sit for at least ten days before using.

Cinnamon Basil Sorbet

Ingredients:

3 cups apple juice

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large sprigs cinnamon basil

Juice of 1 lemon

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Combine the apple juice and sugar in a sauce pan and heat until sugar is just dissolved. Add cinnamon basil and cover. Allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain out the basil. Add lemon juice and rind. Chill thoroughly. Prepare in ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions or pour into a shallow dish and place in freezer, stirring about every 30 minutes, until frozen. Makes 4-6 servings.

You can also use lemon balm to flavor custards and baked goods. The following is a good basic cookie recipe to use with any of the lemon herbs.

Lemon Herb Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar; divided

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup finely minced lemon herbs

Cream the butter and 1 3/4 cups of the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and herbs. Add to the creamed ingredients and mix well. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls, 3 inches apart, on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork or glass bottom, coated in sugar. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining sugar before baking. Bake at 350 F for 8 to 10 minutes or until just browned. Cool slightly and remove to a rack.

Don't be afraid to experiment with herbs in your desserts. You can use the infusions or sugars in so many of your regular recipes! It will add a lovely touch to holiday recipes for serving to guests or using as gifts from your kitchen.

 

About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.

 
 

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