Saturday, May 5, 2012

For the Love of Food...

Lemon Lavender Lollies
I love food. I luuuuurve food. It is the thing that brings us together, consoles us when we're alone, challenges us for our health's sake and inspires us to be more adventurous.

It's the adventure that I love most. It is a thrill to come up with something pretty and new and unusual but compatible in flavor. It's even more exciting when someone who has resisted unusual flavors decides to take the plunge and try something they'd never thought they'd like.

Yesterday marked the beginning of the farmer's market season in my wee little town. It is at this market where my little baking venture can reach the most palates.  I have plenty of classics on my table: chocolate chip cookies (with Belgian chocolate chips), cinnamon twists, croissants, scones, artisan breads. But I also like to add a touch of the unexpected.

This week's surprises were lemon and cracked pepper artisan bread, dark Belgian chocolate and cherry cookies and lemon lavender lollies. You might be thinking, "those seem like rather orthodox choices where I'm from," but in a town that is largely fueled by prefab donuts, coffee and pizza chains I definitely get the "she must be bonkers" looks from some of my patrons. I don't mind it a bit. Because there are many whose eyes widen and feel the call to something different. Call me crazy, but I think there is movement toward tantalizing and unexpected cuisine in this town and I am pleased as punch to bring my tiny contribution to it.

These delightful, pretty little numbers were inspired by artist/baker Heather from SprinkleBakes. She used edible flowers, which I will attempt for a wedding in the summer, but I wanted to try the candy making part before launching into it at the time of the wedding.

I had on hand lemons and culinary lavender, two of my favorite flavors, so I gave it a whirl and what transpired was a little taste of heaven...or the aroma of walking in a field in Provence...they taste like what I imagine pretty to taste like.

Here's what to do:
  1. get a lollipop want the kind that can withstand heat up to 350 degrees 
  2. Gather:
    2 cups sugar
    2/3 cup light corn syrup
    2/3 cup water
    1 dram bottle candy flavoring oil (such as LorAnn, I used lemon oil)
    flowers, or rind or whatever you wish to put into them
    Candy thermometer 
    canola oil spray (for the mold - trust me, if you want to get the lollies out of the mold, you'll need this)
Spray mold with oil.
Bring water, sugar and corn syrup to a boil and let boil until it reaches 302 degrees F, the hard crack stage, on your candy thermometer. Make sure said candy thermometer is working. Mine was not and I ended up with a black mess on my first round. I asked Heather from SprinkeBakes and she said to test the thermometer by placing it in boiling water and it should read 212 degrees F. Mine had a hard time moving past 200 degrees F.
sugar caramelizes at 350-ish so if you're getting a golden hue, you're well past the hard crack stage!
boil to hard crack stage, about 302 degrees F
  Once it's reached the hard crack stage let it settle down a minute and then add a few drops of the flavored oil (and food coloring if you'd like).

Spoon into molds about half way, add your bits and then spoon a little more candy on top to cover the bits.
lemon rind and culinary lavender
lollipop mold that can withstand heat up to 375 degrees F
Let stand until hard about 10 - 20 minutes. The candy in your saucepan will thicken and harden, but I was able to reheat it and melt it to the right consistency again. Mine caramelized a little more each time I heated it, I didn't mind as it made for a beautiful yellow hue so I didn't need to add food coloring. Next time I'll try to reheat it a little slower or keep it on a low heat setting while I fill my molds.

Can be consumed as a lollipop or try stirring it your earl grey tea.

I'd love to hear about your adventures into the culinary world. The first 3 people to tell me about their interesting or unusual flavor combinations will get a lemon lavender lollie!