I’m not suggesting that you eat the flowers you may have gotten for Valentine’s Day, but hey, to each his own. I thought I had a reasonably good idea of the herbs and flavourings that existed until I came across Lavender. I’m not talking about Matilda’s friend in Roald Dahl’s Matilda (weird that I remember that but isn’t that a great book & movie? That gym chocolate cake scene with Miss Trunchbull still freaks me out) or Ronald Weasley’s crazy eyes ex-girlfriend. Lavender – the dried flower- the source of that scent found in sachets and air freshener and perfume can actually be used in food.
Culinary Lavender is actually quite popular in French cooking. After a bit of research on lavender pairings, I found partners in honey, lemon, nuts, meat and chocolate. I don’t know about you but those ingredients are like the culinary equivalent to romance to me. It’s a semi complicated herb to use though – moderation is key. Just the right amount can impart this flowery, herbal note and can bring out the inherent flavours in its pairings while too much lavender can taste like soap. I’ve brushed my teeth with soap before (give me a break, I was 7 – don’t talk about washing out someone’s mouth with soap and NOT expect me to be curious!) and it is not pleasant.
Although Lavender can be used in main course cooking and in baking, I’m keeping it simple today and making a dessert recipe I developed – Chocolate Lavender Almond Bark. Sounds fancy right? This is made with 3 ingredients and I guarantee you’ll be done the work in 15 minutes. It is an extremely simple recipe that you can whip up for your Valentine. Or just make it for yourself and don’t tell anyone. I won’t judge.
You can add any combination of ingredients (nuts, seeds, herbs, salt, dried fruits, crystallized ginger, pepper) to personalize your chocolate bark. The base recipe remains the same and the add-in possibilities are endless. I used Semi-sweet chocolate because I like it more but white chocolate is just as great.
Lavender Chocolate Almond Bark
8 oz Baker’s White or Semi-Sweet Chocolate
¾ tsp dried Lavender
½ – ¾ cup Whole Almonds
Toast the Almonds in a preheated oven at 350 for about 10 – 12 minutes. Be very careful around the 10 minute mark as this can burn quickly.
Cover a cookie sheet or flat tray with parchment paper (foil works just fine. I discovered this because I didn’t have parchment paper on hand).
Melt the chocolate. You can do this in a double boiler – put a bowl over a pan with water and boil. Place chocolate in bowl so the steam from pan hits bottom of bowl and melts chocolate. (Alternatively, you can microwave the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl on high for 30 seconds, remove, mix, microwave for another 30 seconds and continue at 10 second intervals until fully melted.) See Note.
Mix in lavender and almonds. Spread mixture on prepared tray with a spatula and smooth out. Refrigerate until hard. When hard, remove from fridge and break into irregular shaped pieces.
Brag to people that you JUST MADE CHOCOLATE.
NOTE: Chocolate is a temperamental little thing so make sure your utensils are dry when you’re melting it and place it out of the direct patch of any steam. One measly drop of water can make it seize up i.e. turn your smooth lovely chocolate into a grainy, crunchy mess.