Week three of Eight in a series:
We’re on our way to stocking our pantries for the whirlwind Baking season ahead! If you’re just joining me, first of all, welcome! Second of all, here is the point of this series. Every holiday season, by the time I decide I’m ready to get my Gift-baking on, I make my list of the baking supplies I need to get started and before I know it, said list is longer than anticipated (and expensive!). So, most years I just give up and bake a few simple recipes with whatever’s left in the baking cupboard, which usually means some sugar cookies and a couple batches of brownies or quick breads. This year, over the next several weeks, I’m going to take stock of specific ingredients needed and make smaller, more manageable purchases that can be made over several weeks rather than all-at-once.
This week is all about the ingredients that can make or break a recipe -Spices- Aromatics that are at the heart of what makes a recipe exciting… or flat. Spices are an integral part of hearty breads, tender cookies and scrumptious pies and cakes. But let’s be honest, how many of you really stay on top of keeping your spices “fresh” in the pantry? I certainly haven’t, at least in the past. A couple of months ago, I went through my spice cupboard and was surprised that nearly half my inventory had long-since expired. Sure, they still seemed to smell fine. But I did an experiment and bought the replacements before throwing out the old spices so I could do a little olfactory comparison. Let me just say that I’ll be paying better attention to my spices’ expiration dates in the future!
For you, this week could either be a little expensive or won’t require you to make many purchases at all, depending on how diligent you are at keeping your spices fresh and up-to-date. So, what are those most important spices? Well, some will depend on your individual list of recipes, but what most of us seem to always have on hand are – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger, black pepper (fresh pepper is a MUST in my Molasses Cookie recipe). And some lesser used but incomparable queens of the cupboard are cardamom, lavender, anise and how about poppy seeds? Since we all have our own specialty recipes that vary from one to another, the list I’ve made for you to print and shop with is not all-inclusive, so I’ve added blank bullets for you to add your own extras.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most common spices:
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices around and certainly one of the most common. It’s used in baking, cooking, and even in colognes and perfumes. Can you imagine eating pumpkin or apple pie without it? And what would Snickerdoodles be without this sweet and aromatic flavor?
Whole vs. Ground – Most people swear by the freshness of whole nutmeg, cloves and even whole vanilla beans. If you have the tools needed for grinding your own spices, by all means start with whole ingredients. But whether you buy whole or ground, just make sure they’re fresh!
Look at these beautiful allspice berries! Allspice is its own singular spice but smells and tastes like a combination of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Many winter-spicy cake recipes call for Allspice.
Whole vanilla beans are pricey but might be a splurge worth having. I’ll be talking about vanilla extract and putting it on a list for you all in the upcoming weeks.
Nutmeg is a softer smelling and tasting spice than cinnamon but is often paired with it at Christmas, as well as cloves and ginger in pie recipes. You simply can’t make Egg Nog without it and it’s even used to enhance savory dishes, like lasagna.
The list of spices used in baking goes on and on, like ground or crystallized Ginger, and Cardamom is not the most commonly used especially in baking, but it is one of my most favorite smelling spices in the kitchen cupboard and Cardamom Cookies are incredible.
Now, before I let you go I want you to start thinking about something else for your baking pantry to purchase in the next few weeks. Think about a tool or an ingredient that you’ve been wanting to add to your baking repitoire but haven’t purchased since it isn’t a necessity. Think of one or two “splurge” items then budget for it. I’m not talking about a new stand mixer (though I’m saving up for one of those down the road). For instance, maybe the whole vanilla bean that I talked about is an ingredient you’ve been intrigued by but have put off. How about gold or silver star shaped edible glitter to go on Christmas or New Year’s Eve cupcakes? One splurge I will definitely be buying are these dark chocolate flakes. You will be see them on top of some amazing triple chocolate cupcakes I’ll be sharing soon.
I hope you’re making room for all these great ingredients we’ll be buying together over the next several weeks, because unlike the photos I’ve been sharing with you of these big and beautiful pantries, mine is a closet-sized pantry that must share space with all the other cooking staples in my kitchen.
Now, print out this list, open up your spice cupboard. And by the way, good luck reading the expiration dates stamped on the bottoms of your spice bottles! You might want to get out some reading glasses for the task.
- Ground Ginger
- Crystallized Ginger
- Cream of Tartar
- Black Pepper
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
The beautiful pantries shown in this series can be seen here. I’m not paid or compensated to share the pantry photos or products in this series. I just love them and want to inspire you.