Bay Leaf, giving it some attention

Once again, I open the food section of the NYT to see what ingredient needs some new attention to get my pantry spice containers off the shelf and IN the food!

Do you use bay leaf? If so, how? What kind of dish does bay leaf elevate? Before my jar turns to dust…


1 Like

I grow a couple of bays. One does well in a largish pot on the patio. The other is in the herb bed just outside where the back door used to be - I thought I’d killed that off (deliberately) a couple of years ago but it’s juts started to sprout again.

It goes into casseroles (meat or plant based) or cooked with lentils.

1 Like

John, how long does the bay leaf need to stay in the cooking liquid? Can it be overdone? Do you typically use one leaf? Since you mentioned the garden, are you using fresh all the time? Do you dry your own leaves first? Bay leaves are then removed from the dish or edible?

Ha! Just a “few” questions.

I have 2 plants, I use them when making broth, marinating or sometimes in the roast, usually more than specified in the recipes. It seem you can never get overdose with bay leaves as they are very subtle and add roundness.

If you are wondering if what exactly are they doing…

Dan - I agree with naf that the flavour is subtle. I would use one or two leaves in a casserole. And, yes, always fresh - it’s one of those herbs, like thyme and sage that are always around, even in the depths of winter. Not edible - although I’ve never tried (recipes always seem to mention discarding)

I buy the dehydrated ones from the Asian store, a whole bag , very reasonable
Used to have a few of those plants but they died. Anyway, I never used the fresh leaves as the dried ones work well for me.
Dried bay leaf is one of those herbs that works well

Use them in soup, stews, notably, chicken pork adobo, home made red hot sauce ( different kind of reconstituted chiles ), chili con carne.

I have dried ones at home, but I prefer the fresh ones, they smell better. (The dried ones are stronger) I usually tear them apart for the flavours to infuse better. Not sure you can eat them unless they are in powder, as the leaves are hard and thick, maybe very young one that are more edible?!

1 Like

Used quite a bit in Indian cooking. You don’t eat them. I buy the dried ones, from the Indian or Middle Eastern market. Much cheaper and better turnover.

just crumble them, pick them up when eating if possible.

Great advice, thank you all. I believe these dried bay leaves were purchased at the Indian matket a few months ago. Smell wonderful, almost citrus.

I will look into fresh since our small garden has never had the pleasure.

But, I think these would be disgarded due to texture. Subtle flavor goal noted.

Good thinking! We only have a smallish garden - about 16M x 10M too small for a purely edibles section. So, we only grow herbs that look good amongst the purely ornamental plants.

1 Like

Yours is much bigger than mine! My food area is around 10 m2.

Bay is relative easy, they like being pruned and a splash of fertiliser from time to time made them happy, not even need a very sunny spot.

1 Like

I remember reading somewhere that the indian ones are a different plant - I use them interchangeably too, though.

1 Like

Not John, but ATK did a test (of course) by boiling bay leaves in water for different stretches, and iirc an hour was the turning point. If using a PC, of course, less.

OK, both replies are good to know. My Grandmother and Aunt use(d) bay leaf in everything! I havent paid my attention to it and while surfing the pantry found the new bag. I think my wife uses it mostly in soup and beef stew.

1 Like

I remember reading that too, but my palate isnt refined enough to be able to tell the difference! :wink:

Back in my cake eating days I had a recipe for bay-infused pound cake.
Something like this one:

Good! And good to get your nose familiar with what bay is doing in a dish.

To me it’s a subtle (earthy) green top note to umami. Not as astringent as rosemary or sage.
++ bay/orange.

I buy the cello packs in the “Mexican” food section at the grocery & toss em after a few months.


Interesting. Is this considered a savory pound cake even though it has a sugar glaze.

Hi. This is the prob w/referencing a recipe when you’ve lost the original.
I highly doubt it but then I haven’t made the cake. Sorry!!!

Typically w/herb pound cakes (I’ve made them w/Rosemary/lemon, Sage) the herbs are aromatics only. They don’t affect the sweet/savory balance.
Same goes when you make corn waffles w/herbs. You can use honey or sugar for a sweet waffle, or leave it out for a savory prep. I like sage corn waffles w/ham in a mild mustard bechamel.

I find the dried bay leaves from Trader Joe’s to be excellent quality, and not crumbly. I have never used fresh. Bay leaf and cloves for over forty years are the reason my ancient, naked cast iron dutch oven has become a part of the seasoning of my goulash and pot roast.

I have heard of people 's throats being lacerated by accidentally swallowing a shard of dried bay. I think this was from a Lidia Bastianich show. I always remove them from my braises and soups because Mom did it.