If you are unfamiliar with kaffir lime leaves, they are what give Thai soups their distinct citrusy flavor. They have an aromatic tang instead of the tartness of regular limes. En masse, kaffir lime leaves smell an awful lot like Lemon Pledge. For this reason it took me a while to decide to give these guys a shot. It wasn’t until someone told me that a few leaves work wonders on a pitcher of lemonade that my curiosity was piqued.
I had dried kaffir lime leaves, which are actually a little bit more difficult to find than fresh ones. Fresh leaves can be found at most Thai grocery stores and many Indonesian markets. The dried leaves are less potent, so if you are following a recipe you should use twice the amount.
I figured that the aromatic quality of the kaffir lime leaves would lend itself well to a simple syrup for cocktails. This is an easy one!
Kaffir Lime Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
8 dried kaffir lime leaves
Heat water and sugar in a medium saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and add the lime leaves. Give them a gentle stir to coat on all sides, and let mixture cool completely.
Remove the leaves when you reach the level of flavor you desire. I was going for a really strong kaffir lime taste, so I covered the pan and left it overnight, about 9 hours.
Lasts about two weeks refrigerated. Stores best in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
The simple syrup had to be tested – it’s one of those “if you give a mouse a cookie” type situations – so it led to a summer update of the classic Gin Smash.
Muddle fresh mint and strawberries, then add Hendrick’s Gin (only the good stuff unless you want this to take a pine needly turn!), Pellegrino, and kaffir lime simple syrup to taste. Squeeze a lime wedge on top if you want to make it a little tart.
Since I was on a roll, I decided to continue with the ice cream madness and see what I could come up with to really get the unique kaffir lime flavor to shine. I’d already done a lime sorbet and didn’t want to retread old ground, and thought that the richness of a regular ice cream would mask too much of the flavor. When I saw the Tangy Lemon Frozen Yogurt recipe in David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert (I love this book!) the lightning struck.
Kaffir Lime Leaf Frozen Yogurt
Inspired by David Lebovitz’s Tangy Lemon Frozen Yogurt
3 cups (24 oz.) plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup kaffir lime simple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
Zest of 2 limes
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 tsp citric acid
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Churn in an ice cream maker according to the machine’s instructions.
Although there is both simple syrup and a little sugar in this recipe, it’s not very sweet at all, so if you like things on the sweeter end feel free to kick the sugar up a notch. The lime zest enhances the kaffir flavor without making the whole thing taste like traditional limes, and the vanilla balances the citrus. My band of unofficial taste-testers generally favors rich desserts over refreshing ones, but we all found ourselves surprisingly addicted to this baby.