“Lemon and lavender has got to be the new taste,” declared “The Great British Bake Off” judge Prue Leith after biting into contestant Sophie Faldo’s layered entremets cake. Indeed, the honey custard, lemon curd, and white chocolate lavender mousse masterpiece cinched her the season eight win, perhaps partly because lavender, with its sweet hints of floral and citrus, is a baker’s ace in the hole. So why aren’t we all growing our own lavender herb plant out in the garden or on the fire escape?
For starters, it can be somewhat intimidating to use as a novice. It’s not like reaching for cinnamon or nutmeg in your spice cabinet. Lavender is a flower of the mint family, and it brings similar palate-refresher properties to a dish. However, it can also be just as potent as mint, and you run the risk of only being able to taste lavender in whatever you’re cooking if you don’t use it wisely. To avoid this, your best bet is to rely on it as a secondary flavor, subtly enhancing a more neutral lemon, honey, or vanilla note, or bundle it with a few other strong herbs, like rosemary, basil, and thyme.
When figuring out which lavender to cook with, it’s important to choose the culinary lavender varieties, which are sweeter than ornamental ones. As a general rule, English lavender is more common in cooking than French lavender. Culinary lavender involves one of three forms: dried, fresh, or extract. (This goes without saying, but if you’re buying extract, steer clear of the essential oils aisle.) Dried and fresh forms can also be separated into buds and leaves. Both lend the same flavor, but the buds are a bit more potent. As with most dried herbs, dried lavender is about twice as strong in flavor than fresh lavender. Whichever one you go with, here are some ideas on how to use this ringer of an herb in your own kitchen.
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On Meats And Vegetables
Though lavender’s natural sweetness makes it ideal for desserts, don’t be afraid use it at dinnertime. Add a teaspoon of dried lavender to some garlic or rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper for an easy and standout dried rub. Or combine a tablespoon of dried lavender buds with ¼ cup honey and ¼ cup of olive oil for a honey-lavender glaze you can use on a roast chicken and root vegetables.
In Jams, Ice Cream, and Other Sweet Treats
Lavender and honey just works, period. Try this Lavender and Wildflower Honey Crème Brûleé, or Double Lavender Honey Ice Cream. Or try adding a teaspoon of dried lavender to the pot halfway through making your next batch of berry jam.
Or Throw It In Your Drink
To make a lavender simple syrup, bring 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 cup of water, and 2 tablespoons of dried lavender to a boil. (You can add other herbs to the mix as well, like in this Lavender-Thyme Syrup.) Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reached a syrup consistency. Use the syrup to make a Champagne and Sorbet Float, a pitcher of Lavender Earl Grey Iced Tea, or in a cocktail that calls for simple syrup. Lavender mojito, anyone?
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