Lavender and Lemonbalm: using herbs in desserts and drinks

My CSA subscription brings a bounty of fresh herbs in the summer, but I’m often at a loss of how to best use anything that isn’t basil, rosemary, parsley or cilantro. I’ve been enjoying experimenting with different sweets and cocktails this summer and have found some definite favorites. Today I’m rounding up two recipes using dried lavender and two using fresh lemonbalm.

The Herb: Culinary Lavender

The Recipe: Lavender Shortbread Cookies from Tea Cottage Mysteries

Ingredients Needed: Butter, flour, sugar, vanilla, lavender buds  

This shortbread cookie is buttery, soft, and has the most lovely flavor with 2 tsp. of lavender buds. Shortbread’s origin is in the United Kingdom, so it’s no surprise that these cookies pair perfectly with a cup of tea.

The Herb: Culinary Lavender

The Recipe: Lavender Aviation Cocktail from Dine and Fash

Ingredients Needed: Lavender buds, sugar, water, lemon juice, gin, club soda

Give yourself a bit of prep time for this recipe as you need to boil and steep the lavender buds (almost like tea) before mixing it into a simple syrup. The result is a gorgeous purple simple syrup that smells and looks lovely. I’d recommend using a gin that isn’t overly botanical – I find that using a gin with less flavor lets the notes of your syrup and fruit juice shine, rather than being over-powered by a juniper profile.

The Herb: Lemon Balm

The Recipe: Lemonbalm Shortbread Cookies from PBS

Ingredients Needed: Butter, flour, powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemonbalm  

I had truly never used lemonbalm in my life until this summer. It has a fresh and citrusy flavor to it, which makes it fairly versatile. While I’ve only experimented with its use in cocktails and baked goods, I think it would make a nice marinade addition for fish or chicken. These cookies come together quickly, but do require some time to chill in the fridge before baking. Note that these butter-heavy cookies do not spread when baking, so cut them to the size you’d like. I like small, bite-sized shortbread cookies, so I tend to form a long tube of shortbread and make small, quarter-sized slices.

The Herb: Lemon Balm

The Recipe: Blackberry Jammin’ Gin Cocktail from The Southern Fatty

Ingredients Needed: Blackberry jam, sugar, lemon balm, honey, gin, club soda

In searching for cocktail recipes using herbs, I stumbled upon this blackberry cocktail and knew I had to try it out. I found blackberry jam and honey at the farmers market and found a new type of gin from La Crosse, WI to try (that way I could keep the whole cocktail locally sourced)! This recipe is a bit time and labor-intensive, but the flavor and color and top-notch. How gorgeous is this shade of pink-purple?

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