just a pinch: spices

December 6th, 2012

This is my spice rack:

spice rack

And I bet it looks a lot like yours.  Spices, to me, are nothing special. Something to be added to a dish if the recipe calls for it – and that is all. I don’t spend a lot of money, time or thought on them.  I do not grind whole cloves, or grate my own nutmeg (sorry, Martha).

But while thinking about this “just a pinch” series, I wondered if using better quality spices would make a difference in my cooking and baking.

You can guess the answer…

I feel like I’ve been to “Spice School 101” with the charming and talented Lindsay Fastiggi of Spice Revolution, a small local shop in a neighboring town. I asked her for  two samples to cook with – a spice  that I used all the time (cinnamon), and one that I NEVER use (paprika). My challenge to myself was to learn something new about a spice I use at least once a week, and to explore another spice that I had little experience with.

She started by opening a package of Saigon Cinnamon, and invited me to take a whiff. Normally, the first thing to hit me with cinnamon is the smell of wood. She said that this is common for the cheaper, mass produced brands. But with this one, all I detected was a warm, delicate, “cinnamon-y” aroma. I wanted to eat it straight out of the bag (a typical response, she told me).

Then I tried her Pimenton de la Vera Dulce (aka Smoked Spanish Paprika). I tend to avoid commercial smoked products as the artificial “smoke” is often so overpowering. But this was different. Smoky, yes – but in the background, enhancing the spice as opposed to killing it.

As Lindsay is an accomplished chef I asked her to provide me with recipes highlighting each of the spices. What she did was combine them in the recipe you see here.

smoked paprika and cinnamon cookies, spice revolution

I have never baked with a spice I would typically associate with more savory dishes, so I was a bit skeptical.

What happened was magical.

The cinnamon was a gorgeous complement to the dark chocolate chunks. And the smoky paprika? That tiny “essence” of smoke lent such an unusual – and elegant – layer to the same-old chocolate chip cookies. They were fabulous. I had also never baked cookies using olive oil instead of butter. They baked up puffy and so, so moist – a dream to work with.

A few interesting facts on these spices – why they are better than the mass produced variety, as well as their health benefits:

Saigon cinnamon is ground fresh from Vietnamese cinnamon bark and then shipped to the store, producing a rich, dark cinnamon.  Saigon Cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar, improve the body’s ability to process and store glucose, and lower cholesterol.

Paprika is actually made from bell peppers that are dried slowly over an oak burning fire for several weeks. The result is a sweet, cool, smoky flavor with no heat. Paprika is very high in antioxidants and vitamin C.

Need more? Lindsay is offering 10% off any purchase from Spice Revolution (simply call the store and mention Donuts, Dresses and Dirt). I love that her spices are sold by the gram, so that you can buy just what you need. She offers discounts for bulk orders, and has $1 “sample” sizes for mail order customers.

In addition to her spices, Lindsay carries dried herbs, mushrooms and chilies. She also stocks an unusual collection of exotic chocolate bars from all over the world. She has bars that are soy, gluten, sugar and dairy free as well as raw, vegan and kosher varieties.

So go – spice up your life! And tell me – do you ever use spices in non-traditional ways? Would you share some ideas with me? Thanks!

smoked paprika and cinnamon cookies, spice revolution

Smoked Paprika and Cinnamon Cookies
recipe courtesy of Lindsay Fastiggi

1/2 c. (106 g.) brown sugar
1/2 c. (100 g.) white sugar
1/4 c. plus 1 T. olive oil
1 egg
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. (203 g.) flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. Saigon cinnamon
1/2 t. Smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips or chunks

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In your mixer, beat sugars and oil till combined. Beat in egg. In a separate bowl combine salt, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and paprika. Add flour mixture to oil/sugar mixture and beat just till combined. Beat in the chocolate chips till just combined. Scoop dough into small golf-ball sized balls clumps and arrange on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, or till golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

(print this recipe)


This delicious recipe brought to you by Donuts, Dresses and Dirt
http://sherisilver.com/2012/12/06/just-pinch-spices/

For a pinch of maple syrup

For a pinch of olive oil

For a pinch of vinegar

Note: I was not compensated for this post. I was provided with samples of spices to try, but all opinions expressed here are completely my own.

 

11 Responses to “just a pinch: spices”

  • I love the idea of using unexpected spices. I once made some dishes from recipes of Shakespeare’s day. They used spices differently back then. They used rose water as a flavoring, something that is still done in Middle Eastern cooking I believe. And I remember that the recipe for spinach fritters called for cinnamon!

  • OH me oh my!

    I am a huge spice addicts and will search hi and low for the perfect one for a recipe. My spices are overflowing and it I never have enough.

    So, with that in mind, I can totally see how these would taste and I think they sound perfect!

    I am going to “convert” them to vegan and gluten-free and let you know how they turn out!

    xo

  • barbara w says:

    I always have my spices alphabetized…makes it much easier to find what I’m looking for.

  • Paprika in cookies – very interesting! The only “unusual” way I used spices is to spice up regular wine to make it mulled :)

  • I was unaware spices could be used for baking.
    Thanks’
    Marta

  • Hi Sheri, I just made these cookies on the weekend and I had some trouble… I am not sure why but after adding all the ingredients the dough was too dry to make into balls. I tried adding some water and that helped a lot and really they were yummy! I love your blog btw. I am just wondering if you have had anyone else who had this happen? I am also wondering if it has anything to do with living in Central Alberta Canada. the climate here is likely quite different than yours. I am kinda stumped and would love to hear your thoughts. Your blog is a joy and thank you for sharing so much of your world with us! Even in Canada you get around!!

    • sherisilver says:

      Thanks Leslie, for all of your lovely comments! The dough was definitely very different in texture – I believe, due to the oil vs. traditional butter. But I had no problem shaping them. It could be due to the climate, and I’m glad you thought to add some water and that it helped! Hoping for more feedback as these cookies were so delicious! :)

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