Holiday baking is a tradition in many families, whether Christmas cookies or gingerbread, jelly doughnuts at Hanukkah, or benne wafers or sweet potato pie for Kwanzaa.  In this most challenging of years, Spice For Life would like to suggest baking as a way to celebrate your traditions and sharing the joy of the season. You could exchange cookie trays with neighbors and friends. You could package up boxes of baked treats to mail to grandparents or children who can't travel home this year. And you could even send a selection of fragrant warming spices for baking, accompanied by your favorite recipes. Any of these ways can help keep us connected with family and friends throughout the holiday season.

Although traditional holiday recipes evolved from different histories and cultures holiday bakers enjoy many of the same warming spices and flavors to make their holiday treats special. Some of these spices are: cinnamon, ginger, cacao, cardamom, nutmeg, anise and cloves.

Cinnamon is used widely in baking as well as savory dishes and is popular in most parts of the world. It comes from the inner bark of several species of trees in the Cinnamomum family. Holiday bakers love fresh ground cinnamon for cookies, pies and breads. Cinnamon rolls are easy to make with homemade bread dough, or ready-made bread dough from the grocery store. A mix of softened butter, brown sugar and fresh ground cinnamon, make a quick filling for fresh-baked rolls.

Ginger comes from the underground root of a southeast Asian plant, and bakers use it most frequently in its dried, powdered form. Of course, ginger is an essential ingredient in gingerbread cookies and many other baked treats. Crystallized ginger slices add a delightful, sweet punch when chopped and added to cookie or bread dough. Or crystallized ginger slices can be dipped in chocolate for a tangy addition to a cookie tray.

Cacao (chocolate in its purest state) comes from the dried cacao bean, which grows on cacao trees in South America. It can be used interchangeably with cocoa powder in dessert recipes. Homemade brownies are quick and easy to make and delicious with the intense chocolate flavor of cacao. Cacao is great in a variety of cookies, cakes, pies and candies, and the adventurous can add a little pinch of cayenne or another ground chile to add some interest.

Green Cardamom pods are the dried fruit from an herb, grown in India, Sri Lanka, Guatemala and other regions. This spice has been valued since ancient times for its floral, pungent, flavor. Green cardamom is used in its pod form, crushed, or finely ground, for savory and sweet dishes. Cardamom is an essential ingredient in many chai tea recipes. Ground cardamom adds a lovely complexity to pound cake and rice pudding. Cookies from Scandinavia and Germany commonly blend ground cardamom with cinnamon or orange.

Nutmeg comes from the seed of a fruit grown in Indonesia. Home bakers can grate the dried kernels as needed for recipes like egg nog, cookies, pies and breads, as well as savory dishes. Sweet potato and pumpkin pie wouldn’t be the same without the warming richness of a pinch of nutmeg, along with ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

Anise comes from a Mediterranean plant, and both the young leaves and the seeds are used in cooking. The seeds have a delicate licorice flavor. Anise is a favorite flavoring for holiday bakers in Germany, who use it in their molded springerle cookies, and Pfeffernuse. Pfeffernuse are the perfect cookie for the spice lover, with their blend of cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and anise.

Cloves are the dried buds of flowers from a tree that is native to Indonesia. They are used whole or ground finely for baking. Cloves have a very strong flavor and can overwhelm other spices and seasonings, but in the right amount, the spice adds richness to cookies, bread, pies and savory dishes. Whole cloves stuck into oranges add a holiday scent to a room. Cloves are an essential ingredient in mulling spices, and very traditional in mincemeat pies and Christmas plum pudding.

At Spice For Life, we have all these warming spices to help you celebrate your family’s holiday baking traditions, and most importantly to keep you connected. The Spice For Life Family wishes you and your family a very happy and safe holiday!

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