Homemade Herbal Candy

Make your own herbal candies and healing syrups.

| August/September 2012

  • Chamomile Vanilla Marshmallows
    Photo by Sarah Goldschmidt

Using herbs in sweet confections is a time-tested tradition practiced and perfected over thousands of years. The first herbal confections were intended as medicines and applied to the skin in honey-laced ointments or swallowed in the hopes of curing ailments, boosting longevity, or aiding in matters of love.

Despite our historic familiarity with sweet herbal infusions, the confections we have come to love today reflect more our society’s fondness for food science than gardening. While many of us would derive “grape” from a candy whose flavor actually can only be described as “purple,” we would be unsure of what to make of a chamomile candy or thyme confection. But take heart: You can make delicious, herb-infused candies that will put ordinary candies’ flavor to shame.

5 Herbal Candy Recipes

Chamomile Vanilla Marshmallows recipe
Rose Ginger Caramels recipe
Sage Honey Cough Syrup recipe
Walnut Rosemary Brittle with Sea Salt recipe
Anise Almond Brittle recipe 

Flavoring Candy with Herbs

Incorporating herbs into recipes new and old might take a little practice if you are not used to working with dried or fresh leaves in your baked goods and candy. The first rule of thumb in learning this art is that our perception and preferences are highly subjective and personal. A rulebook does not exist for flavoring sweets and, though some chocolatiers might try to convince you that using sage in a milk truffle is sacrilege, your own opinion and preference are all that really matters. Experimentation is your friend when you are crafting herbal sweets.

From experience, I can tell you that sensory guidelines are the best cookbook for working with herbs. Learn to work with your hands, nose and mouth—forget about the so-called rules. Flavor notes and texture are going to be your biggest concerns and because herbs come in so many forms, these characteristics can make the difference between a culinary success and a near-death-to-the-taste-buds experience. While you might love the crunch of nuts in a cookie, you will hate munching on twigs of dried rosemary in shortbread.

Herbs can come into your kitchen fresh, dried whole or dried ground. Soft, fresh herbs are suited for being chopped into baked items or steeped into a liquid for candies. Tough, dried herbs are suited for steeping in a liquid or in some cases incorporated into a crunchy herbal candy like the Walnut Rosemary Brittle with Sea Salt that we linked to earlier in this article. Fine, dried herbs like thyme are more flexible and can work in soft baked goods, candies and even creamy desserts.

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