Your Fruity Baked Goods Will Benefit From A Hint Of Lemon Oil

Shove that garlic salt into the corner — it's time to make fresh space on your kitchen shelf. Because lemon oil might be the biggest essential you've overlooked. Fresh, zesty, and delicate, it can illuminate dishes in whole new ways. Who knows, it might even earn pride of place beside your chili oil and vanilla essence. But how do you use it?

Not to be confused with lemon-infused olive oil or the more diluted lemon extract, this recipe enhancer is made by cold-pressing essence of lemon from rinds and mixing it with oil (via Cooks Info). And while it's a useful recipe replacement for fresh lemons, bottled lemon juice, or even boozy limoncello, the oil is also its own thing with its own unique attributes. This daffodil-bright essence has the concentrated aroma of fresh lemon rinds, meaning it can enhance an array of sweet and savory dishes. In fact, lemon is a terrific food enhancer in general. As explained by Medicareful Living, the fruit's acidity gives it similar properties to salt in its ability to bring other flavors into the limelight.

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures outlines several ways that you can use lemon oil. For instance, it makes a zesty addition to salads, plus you can add it to herby butters for chicken or turkey. You can also use it to jazz up anything from plain natural yogurt to roasted vegetables. In fact, she points out that anytime a recipe calls for lemon zest, you can use the oil instead. But what about baking and sweet treats?

Why lemon oil is your secret kitchen weapon

According to Serious Eats, this oil is actually fantastic for cakes, adding a brightening note to the mix. And as lemon can bring out the flavors and aroma of fruit, your apple pie, cherry tart, or Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp will thank you for it (as will those blueberry muffins). But lest you fear that, like lemon juice, this oil might make your dessert too acidic or tart, it has a much more mellow effect than that — it doesn't have the zing and sting of fresh lemon juice. So what you get is the "lemonyness" of lemons, without the wince effect. That said, go easy. This is an ingredient that you should use sparingly, as it's strong. A careful drop here and there, then taste test to make sure you haven't gone overboard. 

But beyond that cautionary note, go wild experimenting. For instance, Serious Eats recommends adding it to ice cream and meringue recipes, plus points out that it can be better than lemon rind for creamy desserts, as it won't grit up the texture.

Lemon oil makes flavors sing

Lemon oil also complements dishes with honey, ginger, or lavender, and naturally, it might just be your secret weapon in citrus desserts. So add it to your lemon drizzle cake, orange sorbet, or key lime pie. 

And don't forget those under-the-radar pairings. Baking Life A Chef points out that lemon goes well with nuts like pistachio, walnut, and almond (so what about adding it to Spanish almendrados cookies?) Maple syrup lightens up around it, too, and peanut butter is also its friend. And as confectioners know, lemon oil is a beautiful match for dark chocolate. So what's the harm in adding a drop or two to Downton Abbey Cooks Dark Chocolate Mousse with Earl Grey? For one thing, it might make that bergamot pop. And once you've done baking, don't forget to add a drop of lemony loveliness to a strong pot of black tea.