Basil oil: Your next dessert twist!

January 31st, 2012 | Posted by greg in Daily life... | Recipes

Thinking about the next dessert you are going to prepare to impress the neighbors? Here is a little hint that is actually going to be a fairly big for the 2012 food trends. Something that is locally grown, fresh, healthy and innovative in desserts.

The basil oil dripping through cheese cloth

Fresh herb infused oil.

I know. You just wanted to click on the home button of my blog just now, hoping to find a saner article to read, thinking “that’s it, he lost it!”

When you think about it, there is nothing mystical about making oil infused with fresh herbs and for that matter basil oil too. Yet, there are a few “good to know” tips you might want to read before going full speed in the wall. (Like I did on my first try, and as usual, not listening to the advices from my experienced colleagues)

Recently, I prepared a dessert for a TV show where I was using a fresh herb meringue served with a slow baked lemon tart. I based the success rate of my idea on the principle that meringue blend well with fatty elements (i.e.: in Italian meringue butter cream) and I thought it would blend well with basil oil too. And it did. Also, as I was talking about the idea on Twitter the other day, Jeremy (from the famous prompted me with a dish he had once which was a cod fish with basil meringue. Someone else did it before me, so it must be delicious and yes, it is REALLY good!

The frozen oil in blocks

Basil oil can be used simply drizzled over fresh strawberries or blended into a preparation, such as the above meringue for example. It enhances the flavors and blend superbly with many dessert ingredients like cherries, lemon or chocolate to name a few.

To make a nice basil oil, try to get basil that looks nice and fresh. Starting with basil who is about to die isn’t going to help with the color and the fragrance. Get a nice bunch of basil and also a bunch of flat Italian parsley. The parsley is going to be our deep green coloring helper as the basil itself is a bit week after the blanching process. The other ingredient you’ll need is a nice grape seed oil, or any another oil which doesn’t have a strong fragrance. A good olive oil tends to mask the herbal tone and is not really recommended, unless you are really going for a perfumed olive oil.

Chocolate and basil oil, a beautiful pairing!

Now that you have the three ingredients, here comes the process:

  1. Pick the basil leaves and the parsley leaves.
  2. Boil a pot water and prepare an ice water bath on the side.
  3. Blanch the basil and the parsley for about 1 minute in the simmering hot water.
  4. Using a strainer, take out the blanched herbs and plunge them right away in the ice bath – this will seize a maximum of flavor and color.
  5. Take the herbs out of the ice bath and squeeze the excess water. The key point here is to squeeze the water out, but not the essential juices.
  6. Using a bar blender, puree the herbs and add them to the oil.
  7. Leave it for 10 minutes and finally pass the oil through a double cheese cloth or a paper coffee filter.

Once your oil is done, it’s ready to use. And if you made a whole pot of it, you can keep it nice and green by freezing it. Freezing it? That’s something else altogether! You will notice that your oil becomes solid and with a little creativity, the next time you serve your world famous melting chocolate pudding, you might want to serve it with a piece of frozen basil oil on the top, it’s delicious!

Draining the blended basil leaves through the sieve

You might have read that story on my blog colum from Asia Tatler Dining. :)


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13 Responses

  • hhhmmmm…basil in desserts have been around for a while and I’m yet to be convinced, this is very personal I think whether someone likes herbs in their dessert or not.   I remember having chocolate dessert infused with rosemary about 12yrs ago and disliking the fact I could taste rosemary! LOL…but I realise I’m being a dinosaur here!  So just ignore me.

    However, basil is a sweet herb mixed in with a very sugary meringue I can picture the contrast..also makes me think of Asian basil with the cinnamon notes in it which I hate in savoury food but can see it working well in desserts…you see I’m already being twisted to give it a second chance!

    Love the frozen herb oil idea though even for savoury stuff slightly melting on something…great contrast and all that good stuff!

    • True. My Grand-Ma also added mint in her fruit salad 50 years ago… And indeed, herbs have been in desserts since Antoine Careme added a sprig of mint on every creation he did… and of course the olive oil cake was already blended with rosemary years ago… I even remember myself doing rosemary tarts with poached peach back in 1998.

      But using fresh herbs infused in oil as an individual element of a dessert is not your everyday dish. And as you mention, it might disturb a few to taste herbs in sweet preparation. It’s definitely a matter of personal taste, but for me, if the infusion is well balanced and the use on the dish is not overpowering, I find it beautiful! :)

  • Simon says:

    Hi Greg! Here’s some more advice to ignore if you like :)
    Try freezing the mixture after blending and before straining.
    It may be the extra time the herbs are in contact with the oil before straining or it may be breaking the herbs down on a cellular level.
    Either way colour seems to come out better if you freeze.

  • I love the idea of this. I’ve only ever used stronger herbs like rosemary and thyme in desserts but would love to try using basil too. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Jeremy says:

    Hahaha! Thanks Gregoire….actually it was a strawberry meringue with bass…but I’ll take credit for jogging your mind with an idea… I wonder how dried powdered vegetable powders would be in meringues? Imagine beet macaron, or carrot? I’ve used juiced pulp from carrots for cakes, it’s drier, but you can play with the hydrations, even use olive oil rather then butter!

    • We happen to do flavored meringue using freeze-dried berries powder. The best result so far have been with black currant. It’s really intense in color and flavor. I’m sure using vegetable powders would work too!
      Strawberry meringue sounds very interesting too, especially with bass – definitely different than a beurre blanc and a slice of lemon! ;)

  • Wow very creative :) I’ve never thought of using basil oil for a dessert ~ very intriguing!

    • Thanks Daisy! After having tried the desserts of the NOMA restaurant sous-chef a few months ago (using herbs infused oils as element of dessert) was really inspiring and for sure there are no-no’s, but if well balanced and combined with other matching flavor, it becomes really refreshing! :) 

  • Joanna says:

    I love these photos!  And I think it sounds very interesting – I have a rich fantasy life in which I am a pastry chef and your blog just makes it worse. :)  (I still can’t roll out a circle of pastry without it going all out of shape…)  Have a great weekend ! Joanna

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