Bay leaves are the dryer sheets of the kitchen. (More like the memory of a bay leaf than an actual bay leaf.) I did it for me. At this point I was pretty tired of eating rice, and rice with an old, surprisingly peel-y bay leaf wasn’t exactly getting me excited about consuming more. Many cooks believe that bay leaves don't contribute any taste at all while others find the herb adds a subtle depth of flavor. Besides the change of leaf in each batch, all were cooked the exact same way (in my Instant Pot) and tasted side-by-side. Because the leaves do not soften as they cook, bay leaves are added to simmering sauces or included in a braising liquid, and then removed before serving. This could be because they were whole, with their smell contained safely within their unbroken cellular walls, or it could be a damning piece of evidence in the developing case against Big Leaf. Once the rice was done cooking, I opened the pot and was greeted with a tea-like, vaguely medicinal and slightly savory smell. Eating all this rice however, taught me a lot. As the leaves dry, the color becomes uniform and muted. Since bay leaves aren't eaten, the flavor is more about what they bring to a recipe—and that is up for much debate. California bay leaves are known to have a stronger, sharper flavor, while the Turkish version is milder and sweeter. What does a bay leaf look like? According to propaganda printed on the jar of bay leaves I just purchased, they “have a bold, vibrant flavor with a hint of camphor and eucalyptus.”. In addition to being shrouded in mystery, these leaves also have a bit of a reputation as trouble makers. I acquired three types of bay leaves: fresh, dried but brand new, and dried but very old, and I sniffed them all. Fresh bay leaves are shiny green on top with a paler green on the underside. To check for the existence of flavor, I cooked each type of leaf in the blandest food I had in my pantry: plain white rice. In addition to simmering in soups and stews, bay leaves are great for stuffing into the cavity of a chicken before roasting it, and can also be added to the liquid when cooking rice. How Do You Make the Perfect Stock Sachet? Other varieties of bay leaves are used throughout the world, including the West Indian bay leaf and Indonesian bay leaf. They are used when braising meat, making stock, and are also a common ingredient in pickling brines. Bay leaves have a long history, originating as an ornamental symbol of honor and success, and worn by Roman and Greek emperors, as well as Olympians, scholars, heroes, and poets. If using the fresh, California bay leaves, add half of the amount called for (which may mean tearing a leaf in half). Range and Identification of Bay Leaf. They smell like bay leaves. They have a floral and herbal scent reminiscent of oregano and thyme and are used more often than any other herb. The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. They round out the dish they’re in without hogging the spotlight, especially if there aren’t a whole lot of bold flavors in the mix. Unlike their fresh counterpart, these babies had an immediately detectable smell. Yet I keep buying them, because this what humans that cook do. But if I’m making a hearty beef stew or some other rich dish, I’m not going to panic if I run out of leaves. Updated April 1, 2019. Fresh bay leaves are often much more expensive and do not last as long as dried bay leaves. The bay leaves used for culinary purposes are not toxic and are safe to cook with. To settle the matter—and my soul—I bought a whole bunch of bay leaves to sniff and taste. Danilo Alfaro has published more than 800 recipes and tutorials focused on making complicated culinary techniques approachable to home cooks. Look for dried leaves that are free of blemishes, cracks, and tears. Nothing. If I had a to sum up my impression of bay leaves thus far, I might use the word “subtle,” but that might be a tad bit aggressive. Bay leaves are a fragrant leaf from the laurel tree used as an herb. “Yes,” he confirmed, “I will bring them over tomorrow.” (Really, who needs flowers?) Most often, recipes call for dried bay leaves, which have a slightly stronger scent than fresh. I did it for you. i … Honestly though, it’s malignant appearance discouraged me from eating a ton of it. They buy bay leaves and put them in things. A leaf. Sure. When ground into a powder, bay leaf is used similarly to a spice. What does a bay leaf smell like? The Turkish variety is the most common, with a more subtle flavor compared to California bay leaves, which have more potency and a slightly mint taste. Though I still maintain my position on the whole dryer sheet analogy, I feel like I have more of a grasp on what it is the leaves “do.” Unlike showy cinnamon or that attention-grabbing star anise, bay leaves are all about complementing their surroundings. Within it, Conaboy asks (and answers) the tough questions: “What does a bay leaf taste like? Read our. The leaves are added to slow-cooked recipes, such as soups, sauces, and stews, and are removed before serving the dish.

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