Michelle Darmody on how to bake with lavender

Michelle Darmody on how to bake with lavender

Lavender is most often associated with soaps and hand creams but, if used sparingly, it can be a nice addition to baking. 

The trick is to use just a hint of it to add a floral aroma and taste.

Lavender actually belongs to the mint family and originates in sandy soils and a warm Mediterranean climate. 

I find that it grows well in a sunny spot in my garden, in both pots and the ground. 

I cut the plants back to the last green shoots in early spring and they come up each summer. 

The plant called Lavandula Angustifolia, or better known as English lavender, works well in baking, it has a soft sweet perfume. 

If you are buying lavender flowers in a shop make sure to ask for culinary lavender. 

It will most lightly be this variety and more importantly it will not have been sprayed with chemicals as it grows.

If your lavender is dried, the flavour will be more intense and you will need to use less of it than of fresh flowers. 

I like to soak the flowers in a few drops of milk for about 20 minutes before using. 

This hydrates the flowers and the fat in the milk also facilitates the essential oil distribution in your cake or dessert.

Lavender sugar can be made and stored in an airtight container for a few months. 

It can be used to dust over warm shortbread or stir a spoon into a syrup for a refreshing lemonade. 

For a particularly scented sugar use about a tablespoon of lavender to 200g of granulated sugar. 

Blitz the flowers alone for a moment or two then add the sugar and resume blitzing until it is combined.

Remember, do not overuse lavender in your baking, you want a nice hint of its unique and beautiful aroma but not so much that you feel like you are eating a bar of soap.

Lemon and lavender cake

Michelle Darmody on how to bake with lavender

2 tbs of milk

2 tsp of fresh edible lavender flowers or 1 tsp of dried edible lavender flowers

½ tsp of bread soda

½ tsp of baking powder

250g of plain flour

120g of golden caster sugar

the zest of 3 lemons

2 eggs, lightly beaten

100g of soft butter

200g of natural yogurt

To decorate:

slices of candied lemon, and 1 tbs of the syrup

2 tsp of lavender flowers

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 2 lb loaf tin with parchment.

Allow the lavender to soak in the milk and set it aside while you make the batter.

Sieve the bread soda and baking powder into the flour. 

Stir in the sugar and lemon zest until combined.

Beat the eggs, butter and yogurt and then mix this into the flour. 

Add in the milk and lavender and mix everything until a smooth batter is formed.

Scoop the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 

Once cool enough to handle place on a wire rack until cold.

Spoon the syrup from the candied lemons onto to the top of the cooled cake, lay the slices on top and a sprinkling of lavender flowers.

Blueberry lavender compote with whipped ricotta

Michelle Darmody on how to bake with lavender

For the compote:

300g of blueberries either frozen or fresh (If using fresh blueberries add 40ml of water)

40mls of honey

zest of a lemon and 10 mls of juice

1 tsp of fresh edible lavender flowers

For the whipped ricotta:

250g of ricotta

2 tsp of honey

1 tsp of vanilla

Heat half of the blueberries, honey, the zest and juice as well as the lavender in a heavy-based saucepan, over a low heat. 

Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the rest of the blueberries and continue simmering for another five minutes. 

Set aside to cool.

Whisk the ricotta ingredients until smooth. 

Serve the ricotta and compote together. 

The compote can be served either warm or cold, but if it is poured over the ricotta while warm you will need to eat it quite quickly.

Pumpkin and lavender buns

Michelle Darmody on how to bake with lavender

2 tbs of milk

2 tsp of fresh edible lavender flowers or 1 tsp of dried edible lavender flowers

200g of self-raising flour

1 tsp of bread soda

175mls of light rapeseed oil or sunflower oil

3 eggs, lightly beaten

200g of grated pumpkin flesh

the zest of 2 oranges

160g of soft brown sugar

To decorate:

100g of icing sugar

the juice and zest of a small orange

1 tsp of lavender flowers

Heat the oven to 170C and line a 12-hole bun tin with papers.

Allow the lavender flowers to soak in the milk and set aside while you make the batter for the buns.

Sieve the bread soda into the flour and stir it well. 

In a large bowl mix the oil, eggs, pumpkin, zest and sugar until completely combined. 

Stir in the flour until a smooth batter is formed. Stir in the milk and lavender.

Scoop the mixture between the 12 bun cases. 

Bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. 

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Mix the orange juice with the icing sugar until smooth but not too runny. 

You may not need all of the juice. 

Spoon the icing onto the cold buns and sprinkle with zest and lavender flowers.

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