Infusions are highly useful things in the world of baking and sweets. If you’ve ever wondered how your local pastry shop gets the flavor of thyme into a tea bread icing, or how confectioners introduce the flavor of earl grey tea into a truffle, infusions are the answer. They allow a cook to import a flavor — usually one from an herb or spice — without having to import the herb or spice itself. That’s a very handy thing when you want an icing or a topping that’s free of flecks or lumps. Making an infusion is about as complicated as making tea. Here I’m making an easy lavender infusion.
I start with about two tablespoons of lavender blossoms, to which I add about a cup and a half of very hot (near boiling) water. I stir and allow the lavender to steep for 20 minutes…
And here I have a great lavender base to use in place of water in a simple powdered sugar-and-water icing:
It adds a nice perfume without being overpowering (and despite being purple-brown, adds virtually no color to the final mixture). Useful as a simple concoction like this is, you need not limit yourself to water. You can just as easily infuse milk, half-and-half or heavy cream (which can then be combined with chocolate to make a ganache). The applications are unlimited.