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    Holiday Baking

    Posted on 11/25/07
    It's that time of year again. My favorite part of winter? Baking season! Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, fudge, candy canes, and more. I love the smell of baking and spices floating through the apartment, and the warmth of the oven filling the kitchen. I'm looking forward to incorporating new ingredients and spices into my baking this year, such as hazelnuts, peppermint, and butterscotch.

    Some holiday spices to look for (adapted from MyRecipes.com):

    Allspice: Not a combination of spices, as the name implies, but a spice produced in Jamaica. Its flavor, however, is a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

    Cardamom:A spice from the same family as ginger and turmeric (and you know how found I am of those), this has an orange-like favor that lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes. This spice is the main ingredient in Chai tea.

    Cinnamon: This common spice isn't always given its due. Cinnamon is a common ingredient in gingerbread, mulled wine and cider, and pairs well with chocolate and coffee flavors. It also works great with fruit such as apples, bananas, and pears.

    Cloves: More bitter than the rest, cloves should be used sparingly as it can overpower other spices and flavors. Lends itself well to sweet and savory dished, especially gingerbread and ham.

    Ginger: Warm and fragrant, ginger is very flexible and adaptable to a variety of dishes. Think gingerbread, fruitcake, molasses cookies, and fruits for this potent spice.  

    Mace: A close cousin to nutmeg, with an orange-like color similar to saffron. Not quite the same as the self-defense weapon.

    Mint: The definative partner to chocolate, usually used as liquid extract but can also be used as a fresh or dried herb. A cool after taste, look for peppermint or spearmint.

    Nutmeg:Sweet and musky, this spice is warm and inviting in any dish. It doesn't get the same notoriety as cinnamon and ginger, but it is perfect for cakes, cookies, and milky drinks such as Chai.

    Saffron: Very expensive, but very much worth it and a little goes a long, long way. Though best known for rice and savory dishes, Saffron works well with honey, ginger, cardamom, and fruit such as pears. As the blog Vanilla Garlic demonstrated, it also goes great with white chocolate.

    Star Anise: Like anise seed, star anise has a flavor similar licorice. This works great with poached fruit such as apples, pears, and plums.

    Vanilla Bean: One of the most popular flavorings in the world, and vanilla extract is a popular ingredient in baking. Try adding to hot cocoa, chocolate, and tea for a sweet, woodsy flavor.
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