Quick Recipes and Easy

A Spicy Encounter – Part 2 of 4 – Sweet Spices

Spices come from the buds, bark, stems, roots, berries and seeds of plants. Any part except for the leaf is termed a spice, the leaves are classified as herbs.

Spices are generally grouped into five categories based on flavor – sweet; tangy; pungent; hot and amalgamating. Today we will delve further into the sweet spices and learn their secrets.

Sweet spices are just as the name suggests – sweet.

These are the ones we associate with sweet dishes and desserts. They can but be added to savory recipes to balance up other spice flavors. They do vary in strength and one can determine this with a quick sniff.

The sweet spices include:

Allspice (aka Jamaica Pepper, Pimento)

This native West Indies spice is so called because it tastes like a mixture of other spices – cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Allspice comes from berries which are picked green and then turn a dark brown color after drying in the sun.

It is often used in pickling and is also commonly found in tomato and barbeque sauces.

Aniseed

Aniseed seems to be one of those, you either like it or despise it, things (me being the later). It has a mild licorice taste and is often used in cakes and cookies. This middle eastern spice also has a balancing effect on the taste of strong cheeses and is often nibbled after dinner at Indian restaurants.

Cassia

Often incorrectly labeled as Cinnamon. Cassia is derived from the mature bark of the cassia tree which is a native to north-east India and some Indonesian islands. The bark is thicker than the paper thin cinnamon.

Cassia is highly aromatic with a much stronger flavor and sharp, hot aftertaste as compared to the more mild cinnamon. Ground cassia is a dark reddish color. It can be found in Asian dishes in particular Indonesian.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon comes from a secondary layer of bark from branches of young cinnamon trees. It is a native of Sri Lanka.

It has a sweet flavor with never a hint of sharpness or heat. When ground it has a light brown color and mild aroma. Cinnamon is used in Sri Lankan and Indian curries. It is also used in cakes, cookies and of course stewed fruit.

Nutmeg

Certainly the strongest of the sweet spices. Nutmeg is made from the kernel of a tropical tree native to Banda Island in Indonesia.

If using a whole nutmeg to grate freshly, it should be the size of a peach stone and be firm so as not to crumble.

Most often used in milk or cream based desserts but also accompanies orange and pumpkin extremely well.

Vanilla

Probably the best known of the sweet spices. Vanilla, surprisingly starts off as a tasteless, odorless green bean on a native Central American orchid. It is then subjected to a curing process which can take up to three months and results in what we know as the vanilla bean.

The vanilla bean should be aromatic, black, soft, pliable and contain heaps of stick black seeds. You should be able to bend it around your finger without it breaking.

You can use the entire bean in cooking or split it open and scrap out the seeds. Often used in cream, custards and ice-cream. If you do scrap out the seeds, keep the bean. Place it in sugar canister and it will infuse it’s aroma to make gorgeous vanilla sugar for baking.

Well, there you have it, a brief introduction to the world of the sweet spice.

Until our next Spicy Encounter
Delight in Cooking!

Lisa “The Crock Cook”

Lisa likes cooking and experimenting with new recipes. And this includes a like of making small cakes. Check out Lisa’s cupcake-creations.com” target=”_blank cup cake recipes at cupcake-creations.com cupcake-creations.com

**Webmasters – Please feel free to add this article to your site. Just remember to ensure the links remain live and static. Regards Lisa**

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