(Denver Post file)

Cooking with cannabis: How marijuana affects baked goods

It smells like cannabis in Julie Dooley’s northeast Denver commercial kitchen. It’s not the pungent Cheech and Chong odor though. It’s slightly aromatic and not at all unpleasant.

Dooley is the owner and co-creator of Julie & Kate Baked Goods. Her company makes gluten-free, cannabis-infused edibles like granola and sunflower and pumpkin-seed mix. She sells those products, along with her cannabis-infused butter — commonly called cannabutter — wholesale to medical-marijuana dispensaries.

Marijuana-infused edibles might be easy for a devoted foodie to dismiss — if you think wayward teens and pot brownies — but cooking with cannabis is, in its own way, a high art.

In 2012, the passage of Amendment 64 legalized limited recreational marijuana sales and possession in Colorado. AS of Jan. 1, a home cook (age 21 or older) will be able to buy cannabutter or oil from a recreational marijuana store — an availability that might make for some very curious Colorado cocktail parties.

“Sugar trim.” “Tetrahydrocannabinol.” “Decarboxylation.”

It’s time to talk elevated cuisine.

Edibles can be made by partially substituting cannabis-infused butter or oil for regular products.

For Dooley, cannabis is a medicine, so monitoring dosage and quality is imperative.

“I believe that everything you put in your body really matters,” said Dooley. “Lab testing products is critical to ensure a positive experience.”

Her cannabutter, which sells for around $25-$30 retail per 1.5 ounce jar, is lab-tested to determine THC content — the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets people high.

Genifer Murray , CEO at CannLabs, a cannabis-product testing lab, said active THC in edibles sold retail will likely be capped at 100 milligrams in Colorado — and that’s a good thing, according to her.

“It stops you and makes you think about what you’re doing,” she said.

The limit would help retail consumers measure their intake. Murray said people should use only edibles that have been tested. Edibles will have to be labeled with accurate THC numbers if regulations proposed by the Amendment 64 Task Force are adopted.

Dooley said making cannabutter is a “very, very easy and earthy process.” You can make cannabutter or oil at home if you grow your own plants, but it’s time-consuming, and without lab tests, the final product’s THC content is a mystery.

Cannabutter or oil is usually made from “sugar trim” leaves, which are high in THC and grow just below the larger leaves on a marijuana plant.

Dooley brews her sugar trim with clarified butter for up to 24 hours. She said keeping the brew between 280 and 325 degrees for that duration gives her cannabutter the optimum THC content. Right now, Dooley doesn’t have plans to sell her cannabutter at the 100-milligram level. Instead, it’ll be available to medical-marijuana patients at the 200-milligram level.

Mike Brodeur, manager at Ganja Gourmet, a medical-marijuana dispensary and edible store (1810 S. Broadway, Denver), said edibles offer a viable alternative to smoking cannabis, which isn’t the best way to relieve pain, according to him. Smoking gets patients high from the shoulders up, but edibles work for the entire body and provide a more intense, longer-lasting high, he says.

“Smoking does nothing for pain,” he said. “Edibles actually work for the real patient.”

Using cannabutter, Brodeur said, makes edibles tastier than those made with oil. He said ghee, a clarified butter used in Indian cooking, is becoming popular in the market. Its nutty flavor helps mask the cannabis taste.

Brodeur said the tastiest edibles are usually made with butter, but “Ninety percent of the edibles sold through dispensaries in Colorado are made with oil.”

Be warned that effects can take a few hours to appear. If you think you need another cookie or slice of bread — hurry up and wait.

Dooley is a firm believer in edibles’ benefits. “We believe passionately that this can help people,” she said.