Common Baking Spices

Baking Spices

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The following list of commonly-used baking spices each have a unique history of discovery and lore.

Allspice

Columbus found allspice (the symbol of compassion) in the West Indies in 1493. The Physician on his ship noted that the tree had the “finest smell of cloves” he had ever encountered. It is a member of the pepper family. In Caribbean cooking, it’s known as Jamaica pepper, and in Poland, it’s called kubaba.

  • Tastes like a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
  • Use in pot roasts, stuffings, cakes, cookies, biscuits, pies, and relishes.

Anise Seed

Considered good for digestion, anise was common in cough drops and in flavoring homemade spirits and tonics. In 13th-century England, the tax on anise paid for repairs to London Bridge.

  • Sweet licorice flavor.
  • Use in cookies, cakes, fruit fillings, and breads, or with cottage cheese, shellfish, and spaghetti dishes.

Cardamom, Ground

Cardamom, related to ginger, was used in old recipes for pickled vegetables, fruits, and herring, custards, spiced wines, liqueurs, and in sauerbraten.

  • Mild ginger flavor.
  • It can be used in cakes and pastries (use it instead of nutmeg in pumpkin pie), curries, jellies, and sweet potatoes.

Cinnamon

An appetite stimulant, cinnamon has been used as a perfume and in sacred oils for anointing. In folklore, sniffing cinnamon was said to cure the common cold. Cinnamon sticks (the bark of the cinnamon tree, native to Ceylon) were used by colonial Americans as a digestive aid, and to flavor or “mull” cider.

  • Warm, spicy flavor.
  • Use ground cinnamon in baked goods, stewed fruits, vegetables, spiced teas, and coffees.

Cloves

To cure the toothache, to scent the closet, or to repel moths, colonists looked to whole cloves. They grow only near the sea, particularly in Zanzibar, Madagascar, and the West Indies. Their scent can be detected at sea even before land is sighted.

  • Hot, spicy flavor.
  • Use in baked goods, curries, baked beans, and beef stew, and as a pickling spice.

Ginger, Ground

Europe had Jamaican ginger as early as 1585. It was used to protect against plague during the Black Death. It was already used in medieval times as an ingredient of gingerbread. In the 1800s, a tincture of ginger (“digest an ounce of ginger in a pint of spirits in gentle heat for a week”) was an “expellant to purgative droughts” and a cure for seasickness.

  • Sweet, spicy flavor.
  • Use in pies, pickles, puddings, cookies, cakes, cheese dishes, salad dressings, and soups. It’s also an important ingredient in Chinese, Indian, and Arab dishes.

Mace

The dried aril of nutmeg, mace comes in pressed, flat blades when fresh. It is most commonly used ground. Old recipes used mace sparingly (often with cherries) because it was quite precious.

  • Has a soft nutmeg flavor.
  • Use in doughnuts and other baked goods and sauces, or with chicken, creamed fish, seafood, and fruits.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg was once considered good for head ailments and eyesight. Some old-timers used nutmeg to remove freckles. In 1760, large quantities were burned in Amsterdam to keep prices high.

  • Spicy, sweet taste.
  • Add to sweet foods, cakes, cookies, applesauce, eggnog, souffles, pies, custards, and meat and vegetable recipes.

Poppy Seed

A symbol of sleep, poppies grow where battles raged and where England’s holy maid Margaret slew the dragon.

  • Nut-like, sweet flavor.
  • Good in breads, cakes, pastries, and salad dressings. Try also with vegetables and noodles.

Sesame Seed

Open, “Sesame” is what Cassim forgot in Ali Baba’s tale. In East India, the seeds found culinary and ceremonial uses, including rituals for burial and fertility.

  • Nutlike flavor when toasted.
  • Use the white seeds in breads, rolls, and cookies. The black seeds are used in Asian cooking to coat meat and fish before cooking and to season rice and noodle dishes.

Vanilla Bean

The pod of a climbing orchid, vanilla grows in tropical climates and was used by the Aztecs for flavoring chocolate. Frugal housewives bury chunks of it in sugar for a subtle vanilla flavor.

  • Sweet, rich taste.
  • Use in custards, ice cream, cookies, and pastries, and to flavor sauces.

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spices

uncommon spices are more expensive
& cannot be found in an ordinary kitchen

Very informative. I use

Very informative. I use cardamom when I make my Finnish coffee bread (pulla), but I prefer the pods and grinding the seeds with my mortar and pestle, the way my grandmother always did it. (Too bad cardamom is so ghastly expensive in the supermarket, although all they have in the supermarket is the ground stuff. I've found it cheaper online. I've also gotten pod cardamom in Scandinavian shops in my area. Cardamom is also used a lot in Indian cooking.)

When it comes to baking spices, though, I've found that as long as I have cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg on hand, I pretty much have all the spices I need for baking.

I also learned some new

I also learned some new information. I tried to make my mother's potato stuffing, but I forgot to use allspice.

Very good read, I learned

Very good read, I learned something. Thank you.

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