Lavender has a sweet, floral aroma with a slightly bitter aftertaste. There are several varieties of lavender (English, French, and Spanish), but if you are new to using herbs, English lavender is the best to use. Most lavender plants have a slight camphor undertone, but the English variety is more muted and not so pungent. There are several uses for lavender in baking. You can add dried flowers to your sugar jar. This will leave the sugar with a light lavender aroma, and can be used as you would in normal baking recipes. The fresh flowers are also popular to use in shortbread or cakes, or used to infuse cream, syrups, or ice cream. Lavender pairs especially well with blueberries and strawberries.
Lemon verbena gives you the flavor of lemons, but without the tart taste. What’s great about lemon verbena, is that the leaves can be dried and kept in storage for up to a year, while still keeping its flavor! It’s often used as a tea flavoring, but makes a great infusion for a fruit syrup or even ice cream. Lemon verbena pairs especially well with apricots, so why not make a lemon-flavored apricot jam?
For any cook, thyme is a well-known ingredient. It goes well with just about any chicken, beef dishes, and vegetable dishes. It does not lose its flavor like many other herbs, so it holds up to long cooking times. But you can also use them in desserts. The dried leaves can be added to shortbread and lemon bars. You can even make a lemon, honey, and thyme sorbet!
Rosemary has a very strong fragrance, although the flowers are slightly milder than the leaves. It’s traditionally used in slow-cooked stews and lamb dishes in Mediterranean cooking, but you can also use it in desserts. Because the leaves are quite hard, it’s important to make sure that they are chopped finely before adding to a dish. For an eye-catching drink, freeze rosemary flowers in ice cubes, and present them to your guests at your next party. Rosemary can also be used to infused syrups and cream. For a dessert, you can add them with brown sugar to roasted peaches or make an ice cream!
There are many varieties of basil, but sweet basil is the most common in the kitchen. Basil has a sweet and spicy aroma, and is popular for its use in pesto and tomato sauces. But basil can be incorporated in your baking too! As with many other herbs, they can be used in shortbread and ice cream. They pair very well with lemon and strawberries, so next time you make strawberry mousse or a lemon yoghurt cake, try adding a few leaves of basil to take your dessert to the next level!
Do you use herbs when baking? Tell us in the comments below!