Ways to Use Spices in Desserts and Baking

Whenever people hear the word “spices”, they instantly think of savory dishes like soups and stews. However, the truth is that spices can enhance desserts and baked goods as well. Here are some ideas for adding a whole new dimension to your sweet treats, using either chocolate or white batter combinations.

1. Chocolate and Spice Combinations

There are a number of ways to add depth of flavor to recipes that call for chocolate.

Black pepper

This awakens the flavor, and pepper is not harmful to blood pressure the way salt is in the latest trend towards salted desserts. Grind it up freshly and add to cookies and cake as you would cinnamon.

Chili powder

A dash of chili powder will take the edge off any really cloyingly sweet chocolate. It is a great match with dark chocolate.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon gives a deep richness to any chocolate, from cake to hot cocoa.

Ginger

Chocolate and ginger are a delicious combination. Use fresh or candied ginger, to experiment with taste and texture in your cakes. Add ground ginger to your cookies for chocolate gingerbread.

Lime

Chocolate-lime combinations are a favorite in the UK and the Caribbean. While not technically a spice, adding citrus to baked goods gives them a whole new dimension.

2. White Batter and Spice Combinations

Lemon

Lemon can make a deliciously tart contrast with the sweetness of your cookies and cakes. It goes well with berries such as blueberry. You can use juice or zest, extract or oil. Note: lemon oil is not the same as lemon extract. It tastes less artificial but is much stronger than extract, so use one drop at a time.

Rosemary

Lemon and rosemary cookies are a tasty treat for those that like less sweet desserts.

Thyme

Thyme offers a lemony hint to cookies and works well when paired with lemon zest or oil. Thyme also pairs well with berry-based desserts.

Cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, mace

Nothing says fall and the holidays like delicious, spiced desserts. Cookies are easy and fill the whole house with the most wonderful fragrance. Spice cakes and loaves are easy to make as treats for your holiday table, or gifts to pass along to the people on your list.

These are also the main ingredients in pumpkin pie spice. Mace (which is the outer part of nutmeg) is what give it such a distinct flavor. Experiment with these in varying quantities and make up your own baking blends. Leave out the mace and you can also create stunning apple pies or carrot cake.

Cardomom

Cardamom is also good in carrot cake and in cookies. If you’ve ever eaten Scandinavian baked goods, you will know the taste.

Cumin and coriander

These spices are often paired together in Indian, Mexican and Thai cooking. They will go well with peanut-based items like cookies, or coconut-based items to take the edge off the sweetness and give a more savory flavor.

Basil

Basil works well with berry-based desserts, enhancing their flavor and taking the edge off the sweetness.

Ginger

What could be yummier than homemade gingerbread or ginger cake?

Sage

Most people love the taste of sage in their stuffing, so there’s no reason it wouldn’t go well in loaf cakes and in your next bread pudding. Add craisins instead of raisins for a whole new twist on this family favorite.

Vanilla

Vanilla also comes from the “Spice Islands”, and is perfect for adding flavor to even the simplest sugar cookie recipe.

Mint (Peppermint, Spearmint)

Mint can brighten up any fruity dessert. It’s also a favorite in holiday cookies. The extract can taste a bit too much like chemicals, though. Peppermint oil can also be overwhelming if you use too much, so one drop or two should be more than enough. Be careful not to overdo it so things start to taste like toothpaste.

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