Baking with Botanicals

Creamy Lemon Tart with Lavender “Sprinkles”

Creamy Lemon Tart with Lavender “Sprinkles”

I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate lavender in cooking which is what compelled me in September to attend a class on botanicals at Old World Levain (OWL) Bakery in Asheville, NC. By definition, a botanical is anything derived from plants. This includes spices and grains. You can add botanical elements to most any recipe and explore seasons, cuisines, and nature. I learned how to make crystallized herbs, a technique that I could not resist adapting to lavender. Check out the recipe, below, for lavender “sprinkles:” I used dried culinary lavender in place of the chopped herbs.

Creamy Lemon Tart with Lavender “Sprinkles”

Creamy Lemon Tart with Lavender “Sprinkles”

Crystallized Herbs

2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon water

In a skillet, bring water and sugar to a boil and stir gently until sugar is completely dissolved. Keeping syrup in center of pan, allow to boil until you see very large, glassy bubbles, and white crystals on the side of the pan. When ready, throw in your herbs (or dried lavender buds) and stir vigorously continuously without stopping until your herbs stop generating foam and start to separate. Remove from heat immediately and pour onto a sheet of parchment. Allow to cool, and break up clusters with a rolling pin if necessary.

Lavender Sprinkles

Lavender Sprinkles

Use the lavender sprinkles as a garnish on cakes, pies, and tarts. The flavor of lavender works well with anything lemon such as the tart in the first two photos.. I made using Tartine Bakery’s Lemon Cream recipe with a basic tart pastry. Lavender also works beautifully with chocolate. Last blog of the year and wishing you peace, love, and happiness! Thankfully yours, Alethea

A Modern Spice Drawer Staple: How 'Bout Those Lavender Buds

I imagine it's safe to say that lavender is a little known seasoning agent in many Southern kitchens. I'd like to change that. Like oregano, rosemary, and other Mediterranean herbs, lavender deserves a place in the spice cabinet, for sure. The culinary possibilities are as big as the imagination. Dried lavender buds can be incorporated in herb and spice blends for seasoning meats and vegetables, used in vinaigrettes, or turned into homemade lavender sugar, a mainstay in my pantry /blog/lavender-sugar-fragrant-by-design-hits-the-sweet-spot-in-sty.html. Herbs de Provence, a mixture of dried herbs, commonly contains lavender and is easy to make at home.

Camphor, the compound in lavender that renders it so pleasantly fragrant, is contained in variable amounts depending on the variety of lavender grown. It's important to know that not all lavender varieties are suited for cooking. I prefer angustifolia lavenders, especially Hidcote, for culinary uses, although some cooks use Provence. As with most dried herbs, a little goes a long way, and while lavender buds are costly the shelf life is up to a year.  In addition, don't overlook lavender foliage. If you have lavender in your yard or in a pot outdoors, the leaves can be snipped right through the winter and used in the kitchen. 

Finally, and this has nothing to do with either lavender or cooking, February dawned windy, soggy, and cold in our area. It had been awhile since we benefited from a good rain. That all changed a few weeks ago when it rained for 4 straight days and nights. This was not a gully washer rain, but a good long drenching that filled Hauser Creek. As the rising water made its way across our meadow I couldn't help but wonder what the creek, and the critters that depend on it, would say if it could talk.

Happy Valentine's Day!  ♥ ♥ ♥ lavender

Lavender Lemonade: A Cool Change from the Ordinary


This past Saturday, I took a big cooler of lavender lemonade to the farmers market for folks to sample. It was a scorcher outside, so the lemonade was a big hit. I suppose everyone has their favorite way of making lemonade, and I've discovered that lavender lemonade is still a bit of a novelty. Since I'm a tad obsessed with lavender, I prefer to use it all the time now when making lemonade. While both the leaves and buds of the lavender plant can be used, my preference is to use lavender buds, and, more specifically, Hidcote lavender buds. This particular lavender produces a pretty, naturally-colored pink beverage. While other varieties of culinary lavender buds can be used, the end result may be a lighter shade of pink. If only the leaves are used, the lavender will not be pink at all. On Saturday, a perceptive taster referred to my lemonade as "lavenade." I've included the recipe, along with a short video demonstrating the "magic" of lavender.

Place 4 cups water and 1/2 cup strained, fresh lemon juice in a pitcher; set aside. Combine 1 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. hidcote lavender buds, and grated zest of 2 lemons in the bowl of a food processor; cover, and process for 1 minute. Transfer lavender-sugar mixture to a small saucepan, and add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat; strain, and discard solids. Add sugar mixture to pitcher, and stir to combine. Chill thoroughly before serving. Serve over ice and garnish with fresh lavender sprigs, if desired. Enjoy!