Pumpkin Pie Spice blend is worth its weight in gold; a bad one will leave you choking on dust"> Pumpkin Pie Spice blend is worth its weight in gold; a bad one will leave you choking on dust"> Pumpkin Pie Spice blend is worth its weight in gold; a bad one will leave you choking on dust"> Food Wednesdays: Pumpkin. Pie. Spice. | Donna Marie Desfor | witf.org
In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Food Wednesdays: Pumpkin. Pie. Spice.

Written by Donna Marie Desfor, Culinary Consultant and Chef | Oct 25, 2011 8:19 PM

Once we get to Halloween, the world seems just a little more fragrant with the scents of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.  Indoors or out, everything smells like pumpkin pie, which relatively speaking isn’t a bad thing.  For a while I tried to put pumpkin pie spice into everything and, well, you can imagine the often less than appetizing results. But understanding what actually went into pumpkin pie spice was eye opening.  There’s a lot going on in there, with some pretty potent aromatics.  A good Pumpkin Pie Spice blend is worth its weight in gold; a bad one will leave you choking on dust.

Understanding the blend helps you understand how to mix your own so when you are making a dessert or seasoning a roast you can easily adjust the different layers of spice to accommodate your preference and the menu.  Of course, there is a time to use the prefab blend, but only if it’s blended from quality spices to begin with.  Here’s what I mean.

A quick search for “pumpkin pie spice” reveals how varied this blend can be.  All include cinnamon, and most include ginger.  From there, you’re likely to encounter everything from allspice to cloves to nutmeg and mace, to mustard powder.  Some purveyors say that the pumpkin pie spice “adds a more full pumpkin flavor,” but the truth is pumpkins don’t taste like cinnamon or ginger or nutmeg.  They taste like, well, squash.  They have a mild, slightly nutty sweetness, that makes them the perfect platform for other tastes, including spicy-heat and bitter.

For fall recipes, having pumpkin pie spice or the spices to make your own on hand is a wise idea.  It’s no secret I’m a HUGE fan of The Spice and Tea Exchange’s Pumpkin Pie Spice.  I’ve worked with their distinctive blend of cinnamon, pumpkin powder, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, and orange zest for over a year now.  When you think about it makes it a truly authentic (not to mention smart) culinary blend, it’s the addition of the things that make pumpkin and squash so delicious.  Mostly, though, it’s the addition of the pumpkin powder and a few other original spices (and some citrus!) that makes it work so much better in pulling up the flavor of just about everything you it on. 

Hard spices (those that come from seeds) and warm spices (those that impart a warmth to the mouth through spiced-heat) do one of two things in the mouth: they either push flavor forward or they help close down the palate to keep flavors balanced and in check.  When it comes to baking pumpkin or other vegetable pies, or roasting meats and vegetables, you need that combination of hard and warm spices.  First, you need it to season the ingredients.  Without it your food is either cloyingly sweet or boringly bland. 

Here’s what I mean.  Pumpkin or sweet potato pie isn’t much more than sugar, eggs, milk, and pumpkin or sweet potatoes.  That’s sugar, combined with protein and fat, combined with sugar and sugar.  Roasting pulls out the natural juices from the food, which contain sugar, caramelizes them and then redistributes the juices (minus the sugars that caramelized) back into the food.  When you add in a spice mixture, the flavor gets a push while keeping all that sugar in check on the palate.

That’s why a true culinary pumpkin pie spice blend doesn’t stop at cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg (or cloves).  You need to layer in additional flavor, including pumpkin powder to give some intensity to the mild pumpkin flavor, some star anise to keep the other aromatics in check, and then a bit of citrus to keep all the other ingredients bright and their flavor clean.  The Spice and Tea Exchange does it all for you, which makes life a lot simpler when you step into the kitchen. 

These two recipes were created specifically for The Spice and Tea Exchange Pumpkin Pie Spice blend.  While you can use your run of the mill store-bought pumpkin pie spice, I suggest ordering up a small pouch, then do the smell (and then taste!) taste side by side.  You’ll be amazed at the difference (both in aroma and flavor) and thrilled at how truly great anything seasoned with the ultimate autumn blend can truly be.

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Makes about 4 cups

1 cup simple syrup (made with water, sugar, and pure cane or brown sugar; instructions follow)
1 can pumpkin (pure pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon TSTE Pumpkin Powder
1 teaspoon TSTE Pumpkin Pie Spice
¼ teaspoon TSTE ground cloves, optional
¼ teaspoon TSTE Ceylon Ground Cinnamon, optional
1 cup heavy cream

Prepare the simple syrup.  In a small saucepan combine 1 cup water and ¾ cup sugar, plus ¼ cup raw (pure cane or Demerara) sugar or brown sugar.  Place over medium-low heat and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.  Set aside to cool about 15 minutes.

Prepare the ice cream mixture.  In a large mixing bowl combine the pumpkin, TSTE pumpkin powder and spices.  Whisk to combine.  Slowly add the heavy cream whisking to incorporate.  Measure out 1 cup of the simple syrup and whisk into the pumpkin mixture.  Discard any remaining simple syrup or set aside for another use.  Place the ice cream mixture into the refrigerator and let chill about 30 minutes, or up to several hours.  When well chilled, whisk thoroughly and then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Chef’s Note:  For a special Halloween treat, I freeze the prepared ice cream in a sheet pan lined with cling film.  When frozen, lift the ice cream out of the pan and cut into bars.  Top with spider web chocolate garnishes seasoned with TSTE espresso or ginger sugar.

To make spider-web design:  on a sheet of parchment paper pipe at least 3 circles around each other, making each circle a bit larger than the one inside it.  Using the edge of a knife or spatula, draw through the circles from the outside to the center to create a web pattern.  Pipe a spider on the parchment paper by making a dot and adding 4 legs on each side.  Place the parchment paper in the freezer.  When frozen carefully remove and place on top of ice cream bar.






Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Spice Chai-Nilla-Mint-Chilla Latte

2 teaspoons TSTE mint chilla chai nilla tea (for a more intense chai flavor add up to 1 additional teaspoon of the loose tea) (substitute your favorite chai tea blend)
6 ounces water
6 ounces cold whole milk or cream
1 teaspoon TSTE pumpkin pie spice

Bring the water just to a boil.  Remove the water from the heat source and add the tea leaves.  Let the tea steep for about 5 minutes undisturbed.  Meanwhile, place the milk or cream in a small saucepan and whisk in the pumpkin pie spice.  Gently warm until small bubbles are forming around the edge of the sauce pan and steam is beginning to rise from the liquid.  Give the mixture a good whisk and remove from the heat. 

Transfer the cream or the milk to a deep container and use either (1) a frother to froth the infused cream or milk, or (2) return the container to the heat and over moderately low heat, whisk a layer of foam into the infused cream or milk.  Or, use a whipped cream canister to create a pumpkin pie whipped cream and dispense into a glass mixing bowl, then whisk until some of the air is discharged from the whipped cream.

Make your tea.  Strain the tea into a warmed service mug; add the infused milk and top with some of the infused foam.  Serve immediately. 


Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Chai Smoothie
1 cup brewed TSTE Mint-Chilla Chai Nilla tea (substitute your favorite chai tea blend)
¼ cup pure pumpkin
½ cup plain (or vanilla) yogurt or whole milk
½ teaspoon TSTE pumpkin powder
½ cup ice
1 teaspoon sugar (I recommend TSTE Coconut or Ginger Sugar), to taste

Place all the ingredients (except sugar) in a blender and process until smooth.  Taste.  Add sugar to taste and blend until combined.  Serve in a tall chilled glass.


Photo and Recipes Copyright © 2011 Donna Marie Desfor and There’s a Chef in My Kitchen, LLC for The Spice and Tea Exchange.  All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2011 WITF, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

Published in Donna Marie Desfor

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