I was trained in the school of thought that strong flavourful herbs should be tasted and smelled but not chewed. Custards could be infused but they must drape the tongue briefly and evaporate, smooth and silky. Like a well cut skirt: scissors glide through the grain of the fabric, not against it. An aroma is an elusive sensory experience. We embrace those we have known and loved forever and are comforted because they still smell the same as we remember.
A scent which we have worn for years becomes embedded in our clothes, our beds, the walls, our lover's hands.
Infusing live, green herbs can be tricky business in cooking and baking. Michael Recchiuti found he needed to invest in massive dehydrators to control volatile herbs and their varied moisture contents which disturbed and threatened his sensitive, perfectly tempered ganache. And Daniel Peterson, of the newly opened Coi, is working with powerful gastro-aroma oils to play with our co-mingling sense of smell and taste.
Candying herbs can be a way to encapsulate a strong perfume, an attempt to tame and wrangle an impetuous pixie.
We take sugar, a mad scientist's dream molecule unto itself, and liquefy it with water and heat, take it carefully to 236F, toss in our solids, shocking the hot glassy sugar into recrystallizing. We pour out this sharp snowy mass and cool it down gently in dry air. Later we fill the kitchen with loud clunky whirring and turn our tightly formed mass again into sandy dust.
This perfumed sugar can be sprinkled over cream puffs drizzled with honey, sifted into whipped cream, dissolved into ice cream base, turned into meringue for pavlova or daquoise or frosting, substituted for part of the sugar in pound cake or cookies, dusted over fresh berries. The choices are as varied, wondrous and broad as your imagination will allow.