A bouquet of flavors can be found in food and drink from the cake for the upcoming British royal wedding to cocktails, pastries, candies and snacks
A colorful and fragrant food trend is in full bloom for 2018.
Floral flavors, coming from extracts, syrups and actual flower petals, can be found in all kinds of dishes, desserts, beverages and grocery store products these days.
Edible flowers such as lavender, rose, violet, elderflower, hibiscus, calendula and nasturtium petals, have long been used in international cuisines and dried for use in herbal teas.
But a whole new bouquet of foods uses these natural beauties as a flavor accent.
Look no further than the wedding cake planned for the British royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. London-based Violet bakery recently announced the cake would be flavored with lemon and elderflower — the petals of the elderberry plant.
Floral flavors find their way into savory dishes as well as sweets.
On the menu at the Kling House Restaurant at Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, there’s a bronzed Atlantic salmon dish that uses lavender balsamic vinegar from the nearby Olive Basin oil and vinegar taproom.
“We’re using that to finish the dish,” says T.J. Quinn, food director at Kitchen Kettle Village. “Basically, we bronze the salmon by … rolling it in a blackening seasoning. And then we’re doing it with a raita, or yogurt sauce, an Indian type of sauce. We put a little bit of maple syrup and shredded apple in it.
“We finish the dish, then, with that lavender vinegar,” Quinn says. “The lavender really pulls together the seasoning. The rice it’s served with is a lemon basmati rice, so the citrus of the rice goes well with that floral (flavor).”
Saffron, the dried stigmas of a type of crocus, is used regionally in Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, along with other cuisines, Quinn notes.
“We use it in our chicken corn soup. … We’ve done rice dishes. We’ve done paella with it before. We’ve done a saffron cream.”
Quinn adds that specialty lemonades and iced teas served in Kitchen Kettle’s Harvest Cafe feature such floral flavors as lavender, elderflower and hibiscus.
“And we use herbes de Provence in our turkey burger,” Quinn says. “Lavender (one component of the herb blend) brings out a totally different flavor.”
Chef Cedric Barberet uses floral flavors in some of the confections he creates at his Bistro Barberet & Bakery in downtown Lancaster.
Vivid purple macarons, or French sandwich cookies, featuring blackberry and violet flavors are lined up in one of the pastry cases in his bakery.
“We use a few drops … of a natural violet extract,” Barberet says. “For most of our macarons, the shell is the same base for every one, with a color that matches the flavor. Then, the floral flavor is in the ganache” filling inside.
Also in the pastry cases are chocolate bonbons colorfully decorated on the outside and filled with a hibiscus-flavored chocolate ganache on the inside.
Barberet makes the ganache with an infusion of a tea made with dried hibiscus petals.
“Sometimes we use elderflower as well,” he says, “but more in our jams.”
When he makes lemon-lavender tarts, Barberet says, he uses lavender flowers — “just the tips” — as a garnish.
He says he will make both lemon-lavender tarts and some lavender macarons for the summer season.
Barberet says he plans to create a cake for the summer that features “organic, fresh red rose petals … and we’re going to incorporate fresh raspberries and yogurt cream inside.”
He says both saffron and lavender go well with peach, hence the peach-saffron and peach-lavender jams he makes and sells.
Barberet says he sometimes uses orange blossom water in pastries.
“But not a lot,” he adds. “I’m not a fan. That’s just me. A lot of times, people use it in almond creams.”
During Mardi Gras, he says, “we do the traditional beignets, and we do put orange blossom water in them.”
“In the kitchen, we use saffron in the bouillabaisse (seafood stew), and we use it for rice or for enhancing a dish with fish,” he says.
Finally, in the bistro’s cheese course and in some of his pastries, Barberet uses raw wildflower honey from a beekeeper in Manheim.
It adds a very subtle floral flavor, he says.
Tea and lattes
At Lancaster Central Market, the Lancaster County Coffee Roasters stand serves up teas and lattes featuring lavender and rose flavors.
“Every week, we change up what we do with them,” says Lancaster County Coffee Roasters administrative assistant Eugenia Lyakhova .
“We always do the Lavender Fog, which is our London Fog — that’s Earl Grey (tea) with milk — but with lavender (syrup) instead of vanilla,” Lyakhova says.
“People like lavender-vanilla and lavender-honey lattes,” she says.
Both the lavender and rose flavors come from pumps of Monin-brand syrup.
“We do white chocolate rose lattes, and we can do dark-chocolate rose lattes as well,” she says. “And we have rose-and-honey black iced tea.”
Flavors like vanilla and white chocolate aren’t going to fight with the rose or lavender “for dominance in your palate,” she adds.
“I would hesitate to have only lavender or rose in a latte,” Lyakhova adds. The vanilla and white chocolate keep the flavor from getting “soapy or perfume-y,” she says.
Snacks and beverages
In its annual food report at the beginning of the year, Whole Foods — which will soon open its first Lancaster location in the Shoppes at Belmont — identified floral flavors as one of its trends for 2018.
And the trend is borne out on its shelves.
Whole Foods has a new set of spring beverages, snacks and desserts, including blackberry-rose lemonade, dark chocolate-covered violet marshmallows, lemon-lavender and orange blossom cookies, lemon-lavender granola, and honey-lavender and rose-lychee gelato.
Floral flavors are also being used to enhance cocktails.
Regional Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores stock a variety of floral liqueurs, including lavender, hibiscus and violet, which also find their way into floral cocktails at area restaurants and bars.
Lancaster’s Thistle Finch Distillery makes rose and lavender vodkas under its Penn Square label.
At Bistro Barberet & Bakery, Barberet notes the bartenders have experimented in the past with rose and raspberry flavors in cocktails.
“And St-Germain (elderflower liqueur) is something we use a lot in our cocktails,” he says. “It’s good by itself, at the end of meal, as a digestif.”
Barberet cautioned that floral flavors should be used sparingly, for the most part.
“I think it should be an addition to, not the main component,” he says. “It should be an accent.”
For example, if the flavor of a floral plant like lavender is too strong, he adds, “it’s like I’m eating savon de Marseille (lavender soap).”