Building Blocks of Baking – Part 8 Spices

Lets take a look at spices. I’m going to look at Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Mixed Spice and Allspice.  Where they come from and how to use them.  Along with some yummy recipes including a traditional Irish Whisky Egg Nog.

low-carb egg nog

Egg Nog dusted with cocoa

Nutmeg

Botanically known as Myrustica fragrans nutmeg is very popular in sauces, puddings and cakes.  It is native to the Indonesian islands and comes from the nutmeg tree.  The nutmeg spice is a nut which is surrounded by mace.  Nutmeg has a warming, spicy aroma  and flavour used widely in cooking and baking.  I use nutmeg along with cinnamon most widely in bread pudding and making apple pies.  I also dust it onto cappuccino’s and in egg nog.

You can buy ground nutmeg, but to get the most intense flavour buy the nuts whole and grate into your baking.  Hugh Fernley Whittingstall writes a very historically interesting article in The Guardian about nutmeg and it’s fame in 18th Century London among dandy’s and the rich.  While interesting he does provide a couple of very nice recipes including a spice blend to make your own sausages and a nutmeg custard tart.

I often make my husband a dark rum egg nog. I just add a shot of rum to a glass of egg nog with a pinch of nutmeg mmmm now that’s warming.

Old Bushmills Distillery 1

Claire’s Irish Whisky Spiced Egg Nog

Difficulty – easy

Ingredients

  • 1 pint of whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 oz of caster sugar
  • 1/2 a vanilla pod split
  • Irish Bushmills Whisky
  • Nutmeg for dusting

Method

1. Gently heat the milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla pod in a saucepan.  Don’t boil the mixture but wait until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

2. You can now add a shot of Irish Whisky for the adults, to make it even more delicious and warming.  Grate some whole nut nutmeg over the top.

Nutmeg nanny has the most decadent egg nog recipe on her beautiful website.  It has cream, whole milk and looks just divine – it’s next on my list to make!

Nutmeg

Nutmeg

Cinnamon

Cinnamon, my favourite spice.  It’s so versatile and so delicious.  Botanically know as Cinnamomum Zeylanicum it comes from a tree cultivated for its bark.  That is harvested and ground or sold in long strips.  The early Egyptians used cinnamon in their embalming mixtures, and Chinese medicinal use of the spice dates back 4,700 years.  Indeed people in China believe that taking cinnamon on a daily basis will give a better complexion and make you stronger and more youthful.  I wish I had have known this a while ago!  On a completely different note if you visit you tube you will see lots of crazy people trying to eat large spoonfuls of cinnamon – with hilarious results!   For a lot more fascinating information on cinnamon and it’s many medicinal used visit Doctorschar, it is absolutely fascinating.

English: Cinnamon

Cinnamon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to baking.  Ground cinnamon is delicious with apples and I use it along with nutmeg in apple pies.  It is also amazing with dark rich chocolate dishes.  You can use the sticks for recipes that require simmering in a liquid, like poached pears, bananas, prunes as well as drinks.   Also if you make some vanilla cupcakes add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter and a teaspoon to the buttercream. Delicious quick and easy cinnamon cupcakes.

It is better like with most spices to buy in small quantities and keep well sealed.  When grounded they can lose their flavour quickly.

One such delicious recipe is from the BBC Good Food is a nutty, cinnamon and chocolate cake.  I have baked this cake several times as I always have lots of nutella as my son is addicted to it.  Not that I need a lot of excuses to make it!

Cinnamon Nutella Cake

Gooey Cinnamon Cake

One of my favourite blogs The Joy of Baking has a fantastic video tutorial to make cinnamon buns.  I love cinnamon buns and really must make them more!  I wonder if my daily intake of cinnamon could be in the form of a cinnamon bun ..

Mixed Spice

Is a carefully blended mix of spices to give a uniquely full flavour.  I LOVE mixed spice and through it into almost everything.  I just lifts a recipe from the bland to the divine.

You can make your own mixed spice:

1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoons of ground nutmeg
2 teaspoon of ground mace (the outside casing of the nutmeg nut)*
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger

In a bowl mix together thoroughly and store in an airtight jar to avoid any flavour being lost.

*If you don’t have mace don’t worry.  Mace gives a stronger aromatic nutmeg flavour to the blend.  Schwartz do a ground mace and it should be available in most supermarkets but it is expensive.  If it’s not just leave it out and add one more teaspoon of nutmeg.

Try it in Nigella Lawsons Chocolate Fruit Cake or as I do alot in gingerbread.  My favorite gingerbread is Rachel Allens -it’s delicious and perfect to build my gingerbread houses with.  Now Rachel doesn’t use mixed spice but I substituted the individual spices for two teaspoons of mixed spice and it worked just as well.  Plus I also grate in a little peppercorn for added bite.

Valentines Gingerbread House

Valentines Gingerbread House

Allspice  

Botanically know as Pimenta officinalis, allspice is very popular in Jamaican and South American Cooking.  Jamaica is the main exporter of high quality allspice with the fresh or dried leaves from the plant is used for cooking or smoking meats.   The allspice berries have a combined flavour of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn and juniper. A little goes along way.  Spice companies often sell a mixture of spices labelled as allspice so if you want the real thing make sure you check the ingredients.  For me allspice is a very Autumn and Winter flavour with pumpkin pies and hot spice apple juice to plum pudding and Christmas cake.  You can use allspice as a clove substitute in baking.  Here are some warming recipe.

Jamaica pepper or Allspice

Jamaica pepper or Allspice

Allspice Spice Cake

Pumpkin Pie

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Spiced Apple Punch

NEXT  

All about flavourings and extracts.  From vanilla to orange blossom.  How can you make your own and save a fortune.

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About Claire Sullivan

Bake - Slice - Eat - Enjoy! An Irish girl living in Norfolk, sharing everything I know about baking and everything I learn along the way. The beautiful County of Norfolk is full of wonderful gems, from cafes's to salons and I can't wait to share them with you. https://bakewithclaire.wordpress.com
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