Fresh Ideas for Baking Spices
Baking. This one word probably conjures thoughts of cold weather and warm, sweet spices. Maybe you think of your grandma's pumpkin pie or a bounty of zucchini ready to be turned into breads and muffins (I know some of you are nodding). Others might think of the ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies or an epic weekend of holiday baking. Whatever comes to mind, it likely involves at least one or two classic baking spices like Pumpkin Pie Spice, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. But there are other fun options too, if you're feeling a bit more adventurous: Espresso Powder, Mt. Baker Chai Seasoning, or crystallized ginger.
Any of these aromatic baking spices can be combined to create layers and depth of flavor. Try something as simple as adding a dash of Pumpkin Pie Spice to the batter the next time you make pancakes or a sprinkle of nutmeg on your mac & cheese (we know it sounds crazy but trust us, this is a game changer). You’ll be surprised at how much flavor a teaspoon of baking spices can add to a dish!
What Are Some Baking Spices?
Let's start with a quick reminder. When it comes to spices, smell = flavor. So you might want to start by pulling out your baking spices (which you might not be using as often throughout the year) and giving them 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 spices & blends and how they can add fresh new life to every season.
Allspice - These potent little berries earned their moniker by (supposedly) tasting like a combination of all the spices. (For more about that, read The Magic of Allspice.) Allspice has a wonderful, full flavor that is associated with fall & sweets but you can also use it to add flavor to Caribbean-inspired dishes (like coconut rice.)
Cloves - You might be most familiar with these studded in oranges. Though they have a strong flavor and should be used in small amounts so as to not overpower other flavors, cloves are a great addition to both sweet and savory dishes.
Nutmeg - Ground from the kernel of the nutmeg seed, this spice is warm, aromatic, and woody and pairs well with cloves and ginger. When used in cakes, breads, pastries, fruit dishes and pies, nutmeg pairs well with ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
Ginger - Ginger is native to Southeast Asia and is now also cultivated in Africa, Australia, and Jamaica. Ginger was introduced to Europe and the Middle East in a dried form, which explains why many dishes call for dried ginger rather than fresh. This spice is pungent, warm, and peppery with light, lemony notes and pairs well with cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, and paprika.
Ginger can also be sliced or chunked and steeped in a sugar syrup to create sweet and spicy candied ginger. Enjoy as a snack or chop the slices and add to everything from chutney and homemade trail mix to baked goods.
What Is The Purpose Of Spices In Baking?
In one word: flavor! Think about a delicious pumpkin pie and then imagine it without vanilla extract and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Bland! Or a carrot cake without cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Boring!
Adding just a touch of spice can also be your secret ingredient, the thing that makes your cookies distinctive and flavorful. Try a sprinkle of Espresso Powder in Chocolate Chip Cookies or Mt. Baker Chai Seasoning in Chai Pound Cake.
Pumpkin Pie Spice - The addition of cloves gives Pumpkin Pie Spice the pungent warmth that complements the savory notes in pumpkin anything (pie, lattes, bread, even ice cream). You already know that Pumpkin Pie Spice is great for gourds, but have you considered using it to spice up other sweet treats? Try it paired with chocolate in Texas Sheet Cake or in spiced caramel corn.
Mt. Baker Chai Seasoning - 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 are also great in soups and sauces. Of course, chai is a great flavor for desserts, too. Infuse chai spiced flavor into apple butter or add a delightful flavor to Oatmeal Cookies.
Baker’s Brew Coffee Spice - 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, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. But find some fun new favorites in traditional blends like 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!
What are your favorite fall recipes and spices? Share them in the comments below.