Fresh Ideas for Fall Baking Spices
with Stephanie Bullen
Chief Flavor Advisor
autumn baking fall pumpkin
Autumn. The word conjures visions of brightly colored leaves, pumpkins, and warm sweaters. For those who love to cook, it also brings to mind sweet, warm spices and visions of baking.
Many people use their fall harvest bounty of zucchini for breads and muffins (I know some of you are nodding). Others, like me, are getting ready to start using the oven again after a summer hiatus. And most people are reaching in the pantry for those classic autumn spices: cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.
Any of these aromatic baking spices can be combined to create layers and depth of flavor. Try something as simple as adding a combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger to the batter the next time you make French toast. You’ll be surprised at how much flavor a teaspoon of baking spices can add to a dish!
I suggest starting your fall cooking by pulling out your jar of cinnamon and giving it a sniff. Like any ground spice, if it doesn’t smell fragrant you’re not getting the best flavor. Once you’ve freshened up your staple baking spices, take a step back and consider various baking spice blends and how they can add fresh new life to many fall menu classics.
Also known as Apple Pie Spice, this traditional blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger is the perfect complement to autumn standards: apple pie, pumpkin butter, and oatmeal cookies. Use this blend to replace a single spice, like cinnamon or nutmeg, in any baking recipe. Or think outside the blend’s name and use it to add a layer of flavor to savory soups and stews. Many of these dishes have ingredients, like stewed pork or root vegetables, that pair well with sweeter spices. You could even blend it into a stick of softened butter for a flavorful spread to use on pancakes, homemade bread, or biscuits.
You have probably wondered exactly how Pumpkin Pie Spice is different from Baking Spice. It all boils down to one ingredient: cloves. The addition of cloves gives Pumpkin Pie Spice the pungent warmth that complements the savory notes in pumpkin. You already know thatPumpkin Pie Spice is great for gourds, but have you considered using it to spice up your party snacks, season your chili, or punch up your pasta sauce? Pumpkin Pie Spice can add unexpected depth to many dishes. Cincinnati chili, for example, is known for the addition of cinnamon, allspice, and cloves – try using Pumpkin Pie Spice instead…and you may even want to add a pinch of cocoa powder.
Chinese Five Spice contains ingredients similar to Pumpkin Pie Spice and can be a great substitute for an exotic twist on familiar fall flavors. With cinnamon as the base ingredient, the addition of star anise, fennel seed, cloves, ginger, and black pepper gives Chinese Five Spice a bit more bang than traditional Baking Spice. The first time I tasted Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Frosting, I couldn’t quite place the spices. It was a familiar flavor but just a bit more peppery or spicy than any other carrot cake I’d ever tried. The secret ingredient is Chinese Five Spice. The pungent and peppery notes make it a great ingredient for savory dishes as well. The versatility of this blend is stunning—add a bit to a marinade in place of pepper, use it to season a simple vinaigrette, add it to your favorite banana bread, or use it as a rub for Asian-inspired pork roast or ribs.
Chai has quickly become a popular beverage for many people, but consider expanding these sweet yet spicy flavors beyond the teacup. The pungent flavor of cardamom, spicy ginger, and the sweet perfumed notes of clove in Savory’s Chai Spices blend are also great in soups and sauces. Simply contain the spices in a muslin bag and toss them in to some simmering vegetable or chicken stock. The resulting broth, with just a bit of spiced sweetness, is a great base for making potato soup, squash bisque, or a hearty vegan stew. Of course, chai is a great flavor for desserts, too. Infuse chai into the cream you use for your pumpkin pie topping, buttercream frosting, ice cream or caramel sauce.
And now for something completely different, think of the sweet flavors of Baking Spice but with a kick of rich and earthy flavors. The addition of cocoa powder and fresh ground, dark roast Sumatra coffee to standard baking spices makes this a unique blend that can take your classic recipes in a totally different direction. Try it in a cinnamon roll recipe or combine it with a dash of cayenne to spice up your favorite brownie or shortbread. The bittersweet flavors of the coffee and cocoa help this blend bridge the gap between sweet and savory. For hearty comfort food, add it to your next beef stew or pot roast.
Keep your pantry stocked with autumn spice essentials—cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. But find some fun new favorites in traditional blends like Baking Spice and Pumpkin Pie Spice, or head in a comforting but slightly more exotic direction with Chinese Five Spice, Chai Spices, and Baker’s Brew Coffee Spice. From brownies to cupcakes, you can certainly spice up your baking with these blends, but remember that these flavors can be used in an endless variety of dishes. So get creative and spice up your menu this season!
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback about our spices and our recipes. You can review our recipes online or send your own harvest recipe creations to firstname.lastname@example.org.