Before the baking marathon begins for the holidays, be sure to (re)stock your spice cabinet with these must have-holiday baking spices.
Tips to Keep Your Holiday Baking Spices Fresh
With the holidays just around the corner, it is time to start thinking about your baking supplies, including the spices you will need to bake all of those holiday cookies and cakes.
Which is why it’s essential to freshen up your spice supply in order for you to have enough handy for those long marathon-baking sessions.
Just be sure to follow these quick tips when storing your spices so they’ll be fresh not only throughout this holiday season but well into the New Year.
- Keep your spices out of direct sunlight. The best places to keep them are in a spice cabinet, drawer or in your pantry.
- Keep in a tight, sealable container. Air breaks down the essence of these spices, plus allows for off-odors to creep in and taint your spice.
- Don’t buy more than you will need. Obviously, buy enough to last the holidays because the fresher the spice, the tastier it will be. You can always purchase more spice after the New Year.
- Put spices in clear containers. This is great because you can see the spice itself and identify it quickly.
- Vanilla Extract can be reconstituted with vodka. Yes, it is true! Just follow this handy recipe tutorial to keep enough on hand: Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract Recipe.
- Powdered Sugar is a must-have for frosting of sweets of all sorts, but if you run out, use this tutorial to save you from having to run to the store: Homemade Powdered Sugar Recipe.
Holiday Baking Spices Every Cook Should Have On Hand
Now, to get you ready for your holiday baking, here is a quick list of the top ten baking and cooking spices for the holidays.
1. Vanilla Extract
Vanilla Extract is made up of the essence of the vanilla bean and alcohol. Some products boast one to two vanilla pods in the bottle, like Penzeys Vanilla Extract, for example. Vanilla comes from Madagascar and Mexico, almost a world apart, but nevertheless, the two largest producers of vanilla.
Vanilla adds a freshness and a richness that you can’t get with any of the other spices. It is versatile as a baking spice and is also used in main dishes.
Depending upon the recipe, you may be asked for the “extract” or the bean. Both need to be kept in tightly sealed containers.
If you run out of liquid for your “extract” all you have to do is refill the bottle with vodka. This is only good however, if your bottle contains whole vanilla pods.
With this method, you can get a couple of “refills” before having to add fresh whole vanilla pods. Or, if you want to enhance your “old” extract, add another pod or two to the original bottle. You will be amazed at the deep flavor of the beans.
Try this out for a vanilla wow: add vanilla to your breakfast scones (if you scrape a pod of its beans and add these to your mixture, you will be adding even more flavor. Or, how about adding vanilla to your pancake batter. Again, this will brighten up any morning fare.
And, I didn’t even mention vanilla sugar! You can take the used pod (from above) and place it in your sugar bowl. Just make sure the sugar covers the pod completely. You can add this tasty sugar to fresh fruit, coffee, black tea, and even top your favorite sugar cookies before putting them in the oven.
Cinnamon is grown largely in Vietnam and China. Two of the more popular
varieties are Cassia and Vietnamese/China cinnamon.
Each has different tastes. Cassia cinnamon has a strong spicy flavor and this is the variety that is mostly used for baking.
The Vietnamese/China cinnamon is the sweetest and strongest variety. There are obviously other varieties but my preference is to use the Vietnamese/China cinnamon, although food aficionados would opt for the Cassia cinnamon.
My suggestion is to try both and then make up you mind as to which one will suit your baking needs.
TRY THIS RECIPE: Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Of all the spices listed, ginger is probably the most popular spice around the world. It is used in most cuisines and brightens up a dish with its spicy overtones.
Normally you buy it dried and ground. But there is also candied ginger that can be used in candies, cookies/cakes, and even in Chinese cooking.
Regardless of what your needs are, ginger does add quite a punch. It’s best to start with a pinch or so but always follow your recipe’s directions so as to not add too much.
TRY THIS RECIPE: Old Fashioned Molasses Cookies
Nutmeg comes from an evergreen tree located on the Banda Islands (Spice Islands) in Indonesia. Both nutmeg and mace (another holiday spice), comes from this tree.
Nutmeg is the seed of the tree. When dried, it is ground and used in both sweet and savory dishes.
For holiday baking, it is an essential ingredient in most recipes. It has a fresh taste and perks up most recipes with its exotic taste.
I like to use a microplane to grind my nutmeg, but you can also use a nutmeg grater.
Either way, you’ll have fresh ground nutmeg at your disposal at any time. Just be sure to keep the nutmeg in a tightly closed container. This will keep it dry and fresh.
5. Baking Spice
Baking Spice is considered an all-purpose spice that lends itself well to both baking and cooking. It is most often used in pumpkin pie, spice cake and cookie recipes.
Baking Spice is made up of cinnamon, anise, allspice, cardamon and mace.
Cooking Tip: If you run out of baking spice, you can create your own spice blend by using equal amounts of each of these ingredients.
6. Cream of Tartar
Cream of Tartar is used a lot in those recipes requiring a “stabilizer” for egg whites.
Recipes like Meringue and Schaum tortes are just two examples that use this spice.
What you might not know is that Cream of Tartar is one of the by-products from the fermentation of wine products.
Thus, from something that might have been originally disposed of now helps with our baking needs.
TRY THIS RECIPE: 1 Minute Fudge Recipe
If there was one “holiday” spice, allspice would be it. Allspices are the dried, unripe berries that come from the pimento tree.
Allspice is used not only in baking but is also prevalent in canning, pickling, roasted meat dishes, stews, etc.
I like to use allspice for all of my holiday cooking and baking, including pumpkin pie, mulled drinks, and cookie recipes.
TRY THIS RECIPE: Midwest Spiced Pear Cake
8. Almond Extract
Almond extract is a necessary ingredient in holiday Italian cookies and homemade biscotti.
But it’s also a great addition to your favorite pancake, waffle, crepe and scone recipes.
You definitely can’t miss its hallmark aroma that’s packed with almond goodness.
When purchasing it for your spice stash, it’s best if you buy the best quality you can, because the better the quality, the better the final taste in your cookies.
Cooking Tip: Try almond extract when preparing exotic Middle Eastern entrées or other savory dishes for more depth of flavor.
Cloves is both a sweet and savory spice. You’ve probably seen it used on baked ham or tasted it in baked ginger or molasses cookies.
But it also goes well in punches, and other hot holiday liquids.
Cloves is known as a spice with a kick. It has an intense flavor, so use it sparingly, because a little goes a long way.
Cloves come from the dried flower bud from the Myrtaceae tree, located in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia.
This exotic spice seemingly numbs the palate, if tasted by itself, but when included in holiday cookies, it will send your taste buds reeling!
TRY THIS RECIPE: Triple Berry Rhubarb Oatmeal Crisp Recipe
10. Mulling Spice/Wassail Spice Blend
Although you probably won’t have much need for mulling spices in your cooking, you will need it for mulling your favorite drink.
I like to use this spice mixture in hot apple cider, coffee, tea, with red or white wine or even in my signature holiday sangria.
Try Biltmore Estate’s Wassail Spice Blend or make your own.
Use a double-layered cheese cloth (12″ x 12″) place several cardamon pods, a teaspoon of cloves, six cinnamon sticks, a teaspoon of whole allspice, and the zest from one orange.
Draw together all the ends, twist and tie with cooking twine.
Simmer in apple cider or liquid of your chose (see above) until warm, not boiling.
Finally, let the spices steep for about an hour or so and serve warm or chilled. Enjoy!
For more delicious holiday recipes be sure to check out Wisconsin Homemaker’s Recipe Section.