Wednesday, June 15, 2011

INGREDIENT ESSENTIALS - SWEET HERBS & SPICES

I decided on this entry to not just focus on one thing, because there is really no SINGLE herb or spice that you must have, quite simply you need to have a variety.  I would say however that this is a list of essential spices that you should have in your pantry to use in your baking and dessert cooking. 
Previously, I covered the essential herbs for cooking savory dishes. 

In no particular order they are:
  • CINNAMON- This ubiquitous spice is essential in all types of pies and cookies.
  • VANILLA - In all forms, it's used in virtually all desserts.  Vanilla extract is the most common form, and you can actually make that yourself, I'll have a "how to" on that coming soon.
  • NUTMEG - A whole nutmeg is best so that you can grind it as you need it.
  • CLOVES - Ground is most commonly used in desserts, but often, whole cloves are used in a simmering style dessert to add flavor, and then are removed at the last minute.
  • GINGER - An unusual spice, very pungent but necessary for Gingerbread and other similar desserts and breads.
  • SUGAR - Goes without saying that it's essential, you can't make anything sweet without it. Sugar comes in many varieties, white, powdered, dark, light, cane, etc, and it's good to have a variety.
  • ALLSPICE - Used in cookies and cakes and breads, adds an unusual taste to pies.

It's interesting, all of these seasonings are used interchangeably in sweet and savory dishes.  Whereas the savory spices are rarely used in desserts, these are very commonly used in dinners.  Nutmeg goes well with seafood dishes, and I've often put a tiny pinch of cinnamon in my meatloaf. 

The key to using them like this is to use a very small amount, just to add a little extra "hmm, what is that?" to your dish.  Also, when using them in your desserts, they are often not used to "taste", like, for example, salt/pepper.  If a recipe calls for one teaspoon, don't use two or three.  These seasonings are meant to be used in moderation so that they don't overpower your dish.

I remember reading an article once that said you can experiment in cooking dinner and don't have to be precise with amounts, but in baking and desserts, always follow the directions.
Good rule to live by I suppose.

Happy Cooking!


 

No comments: