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Sweet Treats Using Savory Herbs and Spices!

Holiday baking has kicked into high gear around here and I’m always looking for something unusual to add to the standard mix of butter cookies, nut bars and brittles that I assemble for gift-giving.

I’ve noticed that in the past number of years my taste in sweets has changed somewhat. I find that I’m trending away from overly rich, cloyingly sweet desserts and seeking out more depth of flavor – more of a “kick”. And that’s when I discovered the magic of baking with herbs and spices normally reserved for savory dishes.

Baking sweets with chili, cayenne and herbs requires a light hand and a bit of experimentation – to see what pairs well with these ingredients.

If you’re like me, and interested in taking the usual flavors up a notch, look no further – I’ve gathered a fabulous array of cookies, cakes, barks and brittles all containing a “secret ingredient” that sets them apart from the traditional fare!

  • Bake Up Something Different! 1 of 25
    sweet treats using savory herbs and spices

    Baking with savory spices and herbs requires a light touch - too much is NOT a good thing here! These recipes contain just the right amount, to give each cookie or brittle a subtle - yet distinctive - "kick"!

  • Pepper and Spice Chocolate Cookies 2 of 25
    babble pepper and spice chocolate cookies

    Whole pink and black peppercorns are ground just before adding to these buttery, crumbly slice-and-bake cookies - giving them a subtle heat that pairs well with the chocolate-y goodness.

    Get the recipe at Babble

  • Rosemary Cookies 3 of 25
    bareroot girl rosemary cookies

    These gluten-free cookies are flavored with honey, olive oil and sea salt - perfect partners for fresh rosemary, and heavenly when sandwiched around a honey-caramel filling.

    Image and recipe courtesy of Bare Root

  • Candied Bacon Rosemary Biscotti 4 of 25
    big biscotti bake bacon rosemary biscotti

    Candied bacon and fresh rosemary (with a little lemon zest for good measure) take plain jane biscotti and turn it into something utterly transcendent (did I mention candied bacon?).

    Image and recipe courtesy of Big Biscotti Bake

  • Chili Spiced Biscotti 5 of 25
    big biscotti bake chili biscotti

    These inventive biscotti take a triple shot of chili - bits of chili-spiced mango, chili-chocolate and chipotle almonds - for a sweet heat I can't wait to try!

    Image and recipe courtesy of Big Biscotti Bake

  • Mexican Brownie Bottom Cheesecake 6 of 25
    buns in my oven mexican brownie bottom cheesecake

    Brownie-bottom cheesecake goes Mexican, thanks to the cayenne pepper in the crust. That bit of heat is such a great complement to the cool and creamy cheesecake layer. A dusting of cayenne pepper gives a hint of what's to come!

    Image and recipe courtesy of Buns In My Oven

  • Lemon Rosemary Shortbread 7 of 25
    cakes n bakes Gluten-Free Lemon-Rosemary Shortbread

    These lovely cookies are gluten-free and filled with bright, fresh flavors. These are perfect to try if you're hesitant about baking with herbs. The rosemary is subtle here, and pairs beautifully with the lemon zest and juice.

    Image and recipe courtesy of Cakes 'N' Bakes

  • Chili Cinnamon Chocolate Cakelets 8 of 25
    crumb blog Chili Cinnamon Chocolate Cakelets

    Molten - or "lava" - cakes have had their moment, yes? Which is why I really appreciate these cakelets - upgraded with a healthy dash of cinnamon, chili powder and cayenne. No more same-old same-old here!

    Image and recipe courtesy of Crumb Blog

  • Saffron Panettone 9 of 25
    crumb blog Saffron Panettone with Apricots and Almonds

    This beautiful dessert contains all the elements of traditional pannetone - a yeast-risen sweet dough, lots of candied citrus and sprinkling of sliced almonds. What's not traditional? A pinch of saffron - whose distinctive yellow color and unmistakable aroma takes this holiday classic to a whole new level.

    Image and recipe courtesy of Crumb Blog

  • Chili Lime Cashew Brittle 10 of 25
    donuts dresses and dirt chil lime and cashew brittle

    If you find traditional brittles cloyingly sweet, then this is the brittle for you - courtesy of salted cashews, cayenne pepper and lots of fresh lime zest.

    Get the recipe at Donuts, Dresses and Dirt

  • Smoked Paprika Cinnamon Cookies 11 of 25
    donuts dresses and dirt smoked paprika and cinnamon cookies

    Smoked paprika lends an unexpected layer to the traditional chocolate chip cookie. Use the big chunks here, for a powerful flavor combination you are going to love!

    Get the recipe at Donuts, Dresses and Dirt

  • Lemon Thyme Shortbread 12 of 25
    gourmandistan herb shortbread image credit michelle turner

    These sugar-crusted cookies use lemon thyme - as well as lemon zest and extract - to give a fresh zing to rich, buttery shortbread cookies.

    Recipe courtesy of Gourmandistan (Image credit: Michelle Turner)

  • Apple Balsamic Rosemary Cookies 13 of 25
    Little Accidents in the Kitchen Apple Balsamic Rosemary Cookies

    "Savory-sweet" takes on new meaning thanks to fresh rosemary and apple balsamic vinegar, which lend a completely unexpected, delicious flavor to these crisp, buttery cookies!

    Image and recipe courtesy of Little Accidents in the Kitchen

  • Strawberry Thyme Cupcakes 14 of 25
    Little Accidents in the Kitchen Olive Oil and Balsamic Cupcakes

    Could these be any lovelier? Fresh thyme and strawberries provide flavor and color to this delightful cupcakes - which are topped with a frosting that gets an unusual tang from (are you ready?) balsamic vinegar!

    Image and recipe courtesy of Little Accidents in the Kitchen

  • Spicy Peanut Butter Cookies 15 of 25
    pastry studio Spicy Peanut Butter Cookies

    Cayenne and coriander give a welcome kick to these crunchy and not-too-sweet peanut butter cookies. Their inspiration? The spicy peanut sauce typically used in Thai cooking!

    Image and recipe courtesy of Pastry Studio

  • Chili Chocolate-Chocolate Cookies 16 of 25
    Sippity Sup Chili Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Chili powder - combined with chunks of chili chocolate - create an unforgettable flavor combination, and a cookie that is decidedly grown up.

    Image and recipe courtesy of Sippity Sup

  • Lemon Cayenne Cookies 17 of 25
    Sippity Sup Lemon Crackle Cookies with Cayenne

    I can't wait to try these lemony crackle cookies - I can almost taste that combination of cayenne and fresh lemon, all rolled up in a little powdered sugar prior to baking. Delish.

    Image and recipe courtesy of Sippity Sup

  • Orange Rosemary Polenta Cookies 18 of 25
    Sippity Sup Orange Rosemary Polenta Cookies

    Traditional Italian ingredients - pine nuts, rosemary, citrus and polenta - bake up into soft, tender, slightly sweet cookies.

    Image and recipe courtesy of Sippity Sup

  • Cherry-Cayenne Chocolate Bark 19 of 25
    spoonful Cherry-Pumpkin Seed Chocolate Bark

    Though quite easy to make - with plenty of tasks for your littlest helpers - this bark has some nice complexity, thanks to dried cherries, pumpkin seeds and cayenne pepper.

    Get the recipe at Spoonful

  • Cayenne and Rosemary Pumpkin Seed Brittle 20 of 25
    Style Sweet CA Cayenne and Rosemary Pumpkin Seed Brittle

    This inventive brittle may be my favorite sweet-meets-savory yet. Roasted pepitas, fresh rosemary and cayenne lend a fabulous kick, finished off with a dip in some melted chocolate - followed by a sprinkling of sea salt and more rosemary.

    Image and recipe courtesy of Style Sweet CA

  • Pink Peppercorn Cherry Cake 21 of 25
    Style Sweet CA Pink Peppercorn Cherry Cake

    This gorgeous layer cake takes full advantage of pretty pink peppercorns in the buttercream - the perfect foil for the almond cake and cherry jam filling within. And how about those meringue kisses??

    Image and recipe courtesy of Style Sweet CA

  • Rosemary Mustard Shortbread 22 of 25
    the pig and quill Whole Wheat Rosemary-Mustard Shortbread Cookies

    Color me bold! These shortbread cookies take sweet-savory to the next level - courtesy of an unexpected dose of chili mustard!

    Image and recipe courtesy of The Pig and Quill

  • Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies 23 of 25
    the ppk mexican hot chocolate cookies

    These vegan treats are like a cup of Mexican hot chocolate baked into a crackly chili-chocolate cookie, topped with a cinnamon-sugar topping. 

    Image and recipe courtesy of Post Punk Kitchen

  • Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies 24 of 25

    Rosemary pairs up with chocolate in these slightly exotic, vegan cookies.

    Image and recipe courtesy of Post Punk Kitchen

  • Herb Cookie "Sampler" 25 of 25
    backyard patch herb cookies

    Anise, rose geranium and lemon thyme are just some of the fresh herbs and spices baked up into buttery sugar cookies, which are adorned with the pretty leaves that lie within. How lovely would these be on a holiday dessert table?

    Image and recipe courtesy of Backyard Patch

Read more from Sheri on Donuts, Dresses and Dirt
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