Hello, there! It’s my third column, and I haven’t even properly introduced myself. Please excuse my terrible manners. My name is Carly Fisher, and I’m now penning the “Baked To Perfection” column, where we feature chefs, bakers, cocktail makers and aspiring professionals from around the cannabis world with innovative ways to infuse recipes with our favorite herb. Honestly, if you’re going to be a discerning cannabist about your flower and concentrates, you might as well eat better quality edibles while you’re at it, too.
There’s another reason I’m introducing myself: I personally know this week’s featured talent as a former Midwest gal myself. It’s Megan Miller, who, with her husband, Dave, are the force behind Baker Miller Bakery & Dinette, a wonderful little spot in Chicago known for their everything-from-scratch grassroots attitude that goes beyond just baking their own biscuits (which are fab): they actually mill their own grain (hence the name Baker Miller). You could just take my word for it that their baking skills are solid, but as a more legitimate credit to their talent, they’re actually two-time semifinalists of the James Beard Foundation Awards — essentially the Oscars of the restaurant world.
As a longtime fan, I was delighted to find out that Megan was not only a fellow cannabis user, but also is dabbling in edibles behind the scenes. It’s timely, too, given that Illinois is expected to be the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis within the next month as House Bill 1438 just passed the House of Representatives, and Governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign within the week. That means Illinois is not only looking at a greener future, but one potentially filled with really excellent edibles joining the ranks of fellow award-winning local pioneer, Mindy Segal.
Here, Megan shares her recipe for cannabis-infused lavender lemon bars and talks about her love of citrus, recipe testing disasters, and whether there’s an edibles line we can expect down the line from Baker Miller.
Baker Miller’s Herb Lavender Lemon Bars
Note: For my bars, I used a strain called Mimosa, which has a really nice zesty, lemony flavor and smells a little like basil (always a great complement to lemon). I thought the lavender went really nicely with the combo as well. If you are making cannabutter specifically for these lemon bars, I suggest using the fresh aromatic herbs in the garnish rather than extracting them into the butter because the extractions taste a little too earthy.
Servings: 24 servings
THC per serving: 16 mg
For the shortbread:
2 cups flour
¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup melted cannabutter
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the lemon filling:
2 cups sugar
¼ cup flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 cup lemon juice
For the topping:
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
Gold dust optional
Heat oven to 325°F. Line a 9x13 glass baking dish with parchment or wax paper. Make sure the paper is lined to the top of the pan to help transport the bars to a cutting board. Whisk all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add melted cannabutter and vanilla, combine by stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. Press dough into the baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.
To make the filling: Do this while the shortbread is baking*: whisk sugar, flour, and zest in a medium bowl. Add eggs and whisk until smooth, then slowly whisk in lemon juice.
*Note: Begin making this the last 5 to 10 minutes that the shortbread is baking. Once the eggs meet the sugar, it will start absorbing liquid. To avoid turning the filling into a chalky texture, don’t let them sit too long together.
Pour filling over the hot crust and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until set in the center, slightly jiggly to the touch. Cool for 1 hour at room temperature followed by 1 hour in the refrigerator before slicing and topping.
To make the topping: Pulse lavender and powdered sugar together in a food processor or blender until fully pulverized.
To plate: Using the parchment paper, carefully lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. It's very important that your bars are nice and cold for this part, otherwise you could crush them in transport. Slice using a butcher’s knife into 24 pieces, then dust with lavender powdered sugar. I like to finish mine with some gold dust to let people know that they are extra magical!
MERRY JANE: Tell us about the recipe. There are a lot of recipes you could infuse, why choose lemon bars?
Megan Miller: First of all, lemons are my favorite fruit. My mom used to have a Meyer lemon tree in her yard in California, and I made it a tradition to go visit every February and bring an extra suitcase for all of the lemons that I wanted to bring home. So when I'm baking for myself, I tend to go in that direction because it makes me so happy.
Also, the cannabis strain that I had on hand is called Mimosa, which is a hybrid with a super zesty, herbaceous flavor and a nice, relaxed, energetic high that I thought would be perfect for lemon bars. Instead of masking the cannabis flavors, I try to match it and source one that I think already tastes good. That’s why I used lavender and lemon to match the aromas of the strain while neutralizing the skunkiness. The terpenes really do magic in this recipe. Plus, bars have the added benefit of being easy to dose, slice, and share.
You know the old adage, “cooking is an art, baking is a science,” where baking requires a lot more precision to get things right. When it comes to cannabis, there’s this whole other layer of considerations to think about in terms of pairing ingredients, dosing, texture, etc. Did you run into any interesting happy accidents or massive failures that you've learned from to make a better quality edible?
This recipe taught me something interesting because my first batch didn't work well. I originally infused the lavender into the butter with the cannabis, but found it was too overpowering and came out with an almost minty taste. I also realized that making a lavender-infused cannabutter meant I could only use it for lavender-flavored edibles, which is extremely limiting and a bummer. For the final batch, I decided to blend the lavender buds directly into the powdered sugar to use as a garnish, which came out lighter and less floral. It wasn't really an accident, but it definitely went against what I would normally do.
Dosage is also a huge lesson. In the past, I've ended up extracting too much THC and giving myself the spins. Now I do lots of math, checking and rechecking before starting the recipe. Fortunately, I have my Illinois medical card, and the dispensary I use has great strains with plenty of dosage information — that's one benefit of regulation.
You're an award-winning baker, so I have to ask: what was the first edible you ever had, and what was that experience like?
My first experience with an edible was actually a tincture. About ten years ago, a friend slipped a few drops of a tincture into my and my husband's coffees. Our friend had already had quite a bit and was babbling off sourcing information about it, but I wasn't 100 percent sure if it was the tincture or the coffee he was talking about. It sounded like it was some sort of coffee extract. We went about our day and had a pleasant surprise about an hour later — I just remember everything feeling very floaty and nice. I'm still not sure what was in that tincture, but it was a good one! I like to add levels of happiness to food experiences through flavor, environment, look, and texture. This experience taught me there can be another level.
What's your personal relationship with cannabis and cooking? What excites you about using cannabis as an ingredient right now?
I love cannabis, but I don't smoke. Throat cancer runs in my family, so I feel pretty committed to not smoking. Edibles are a great way to still have cannabis in my life while maintaining that commitment. On top of that, baking professionally means that everything that I do in the kitchen is usually for the public. While I love baking for people, it is a different experience than just baking something for yourself to enjoy. So in the last few years, making edibles at home has become a nice outlet to bake for myself without having to worry about the profit margins or whether my customers will like it. Incorporating the flavor of cannabis to complement recipes is also a fun challenge. I appreciate the light tasting cannabis recipes that are out there right now, but my aesthetic tends to go towards bold flavors, so I'm always looking for ways to incorporate the flavor of the strain that I'm working with instead of hiding it.
Between House Bill 1438 passing this month and Governor J.B. Pritzker expected to sign next week, is Baker Miller considering getting into the edibles game full-time now that Illinois is about to become the next state to legalize recreational cannabis?
We're so jazzed about recreational weed finally being legal in Illinois. We would love to get into the edibles game as a bakery and have secretly been planning on it for years, but we thought we had a long way to go ‘til legalization. I got my medical card as soon as I was eligible, so I could start testing recipes and learn how dispensaries work behind the scenes (also, because I needed it).
We were shocked it passed so quickly last week. We’re shocked things are starting to move so quickly. We're still waiting to hear the specifics on how to obtain a license for selling edibles, but that hasn't stopped Dave from starting a new Instagram account for it (@bakermillerhighlife) and our team is busy making logos, etc.
That is fast! So, what’s next for you?
If we get approved to make edibles, our goal is two-fold. First, we want to dose our treats as a full serving. No one wants just a bite of a lemon bar or a just a couple of gummies. When edibles are made right, they're delicious. And you should want to eat all of them. We also want the product to be super transparent and well-sourced. We think of cannabis the same way we think of our baking ingredients: How has it been grown? What sort of chemicals are on it? Are people paid fair wages along the chain?
Fortunately, the idea of making edibles fits both our business model and staff culture. Our policy for staff is that if it helps you do your job better, great. If not, find a better strain, or save it for home. Now, we are just trying to get connected to dispensaries and/or companies that want us to use their strains to make edibles. I'm also turning some of my favorite home recipes into professional ones so that when it’s possible, we can jump right into it.