Baker's dilemma: Freezing herbed sugars?
- team_cake Jul 26, 2012 11:12 AM
I'm a a fairly experienced home baker/cook, but I'm coming in late with my love of what I call "herbed sugars," or blending fresh herbs into sugar to incorporate into baked goods. For example, mint-sugar -- about 3/4 cup fresh mint leaves/stems whirred into 1 cup of sugar -- adds a wonderful taste to cookies. Our garden is overflowing with mint right now, and I'd really like to make some of this fresh mint sugar combo to set aside to use later in the year. However, grinding or blending the fresh mint into the sugar for incorporation naturally makes a very damp product, and I'm afraid that if I pre-make some of this to set aside months from now, I'll come back to a hardened block of sugar -- or even moldy sugar -- even if it's stored airtight.
I've made vanilla sugar many times in the past, and even when it's slightly damp from fresh vanilla beans it only sort-of gets clumpy later. I think the mint (and other fresh herbs) is definitely too much moisture for long-term storage. But then...brown sugar can be kept well for ages if stored correctly.
Does anyone have experience storing something like this? Suggestions? Freezer?
Related note: I'd try to preserve some of the fresh mint separately, but I don't think dried mint would impart the same notes of "Aaaaa! Garden fresh!" you get from it right now. I'm just trying to think of a clever way to use the mint we have in abundance and also work ahead a bit by maybe processing some mint-sugar now for later use.
Not sure about your herbed sugar storage dilemma, but as far as preserving the mint goes, how about candied mint leaves? They'll have that same sweet, minty flavour (albeit probably stronger on the mint front), will keep for a long time as is, and should keep even longer in the freezer. You could grind them to a powder from frozen and still add them to cookies. Come to think of it, you could probably toss your frozen sugar in the blender to break up any chunks as well.
That's true...I thought of breaking up chunks in the food processor later, if it's an issue. I think I'll stay away from candying anything though, since I have a history of candy disasters (seems to be my Everest in the kitchen). :)
Perhaps I'll try freezing some in 1 cup portions, which would be easier to have ready for recipes and also easier to break up later, if necessary. If anyone has experience with keeping damp sugars like this, please let me know!
I should add I'm in the Pacific Northwest, where it's naturally damp conditions most of the year.