Spices are integral to baking of all kinds, from delicate, sophisticated pastries to hearty, mealtime goods. Aside from all-purpose flour, brown sugar, maple syrup and molasses, the soda and the powder, and the good butter – the upcoming cool weather months will insist on a healthily stocked spice rack. Rework the rack so that all of the below are ground, and in the forefront, available for inspirational glances and rapid reaches.
Allspice: Allspice is similar to cloves but is a bit stronger and more deeply flavored. A little goes a long way. Think biscuits, savory baked pumpkin or squash dishes, cakes, cookies and pies.
Cardamom: Cardamom is found in chai and is an aromatic, almost smoky spice with a slight coolness. Combine cardamom with spices like clove and cinnamon. Think of pairing it with chocolate, add it to gingerbread for depth, use in shortbread cookies, pancakes, hearty breads and cakes.
Cinnamon: Found in almost every cuisine, cinnamon lends itself to both sweet and savory cooking. Replace cinnamon every year if you find that the spice’s smell has dulled – you want this one to be vibrant and ready for baking season. Think stewed or baked fruits, crumble toppings, snickerdoodles, cinnamon rolls, cakes, quick breads and coffee cakes.
Cloves: A sweet, warm baking spice that also gets busy in braised meat, stews and curries. Cloves are especially partial to Christmas time baking. Think of combining cloves with recipes involving molasses and/or orange.
Ginger: Although ginger pairs beautifully with garlic and is seen more in savory cooking outside the U.S, we swoon over it in our baked goods. Think pies, scones, gingerbread, kicked up oatmeal cookies, carrot cakes and an assortment of pumpkin recipes.
Nutmeg: Sweet, earthy, nutty and pungent. Nutmeg will easily overpower baked goods, but when used in small amounts it develops baked dishes and blends in with amazing restraint. Think sweet potato pies, custards and rice puddings.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend: Pumpkin pie spice is a warm combination of the essential fall spices: cinnamon (predominantly), nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Yes, the blend is used for seasoning pumpkin pie, and yes, you could just make your own or combine the above spices. Use this stuff in a pinch: toss it into quick zucchini and pumpkin breads, season yogurts, oatmeals, and vanilla shakes, or simply sprinkle some on oven roasted squash.