It can be hard to get into the holiday spirit in the weeks leading up to Christmas, when good gifting intentions give way to harried midnight present wrappings, the short winter days seem to evaporate into thin air and temperatures hover around 80 degrees.
But I've always found that food can help get me to a more festive place. Specifically, those iconic flavors that start cropping up around October: peppermint, pumpkin, eggnog. The other big flavor profile of the season is spice, especially those baking spices that go into making a classic gingerbread cookie: cinnamon, allspice, cloves and ginger. I'd add nutmeg, star anise and cardamom to the list.
This week's cover story is an ode to those spices, with a collection of recipes that highlight their sweet-spicy nature in everything from a traditional breakfast item to a cocktail to pudding.
We suggest finding whole, fresh spices (as opposed to the preground shakers found in stores) when you can and using them to make the recipes in this issue. They are so pretty that we put them on our cover, but they also provide a level of freshness that will surprise you.
Be careful to use a light hand. With most of these spices, especially in their whole forms, a little bit goes a long way. If you have any left over, know that they can keep for a few years in the pantry. Otherwise, a pot of cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and nutmeg simmering in water on the stove makes for a warm and cozy potpourri.
Our #CookClub recipe also follows the spice route, with a favorite of Times features designer Brittany Volk. She brings these cookies to our annual company potluck. They are loaded with spice, utilizing cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and even black pepper to create a chai tea flavor in a soft sugar cookie. They are soft and addicting, and a festive way to kick off Christmas week.
Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.