Every year, it creeps up ominously, a cozy essence that infiltrates everything. Long ago, it used to be contained to a cup of coffee. Maybe a Yankee candle. Now, it's in almost every major food group: bagels, yogurt, soup, candy.
It is pumpkin spice, a flavor with a confusing name probably meant to mimic pumpkin pie spice — cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves.
It's definitely not meant to resemble actual pumpkin. No. Pumpkin is an orange squash that's hard on the outside and mealy on the inside. Pumpkin has stringy innards and hardly any flavor. Pumpkin puree, the kind that comes in a can, easily becomes a component in delicious muffins. Real pumpkin is kind of a pain.
Pumpkin does not make you remember home as it wafts into your nostrils on a crisp fall day. Pumpkin spice does that. That's what most people really want.
Others want the season-long trend to go away completely. In Ask Me Anything on the website Reddit last week, chef Anthony Bourdain, never one to mince words, revealed his feelings on the ubiquitous flavor: "I would like to see the pumpkin spice craze drowned in its own blood. Quickly," he wrote.
Last year, Starbucks announced it was adding actual pumpkin to its popular Pumpkin Spice Latte in the form of a "Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce" that contains sugar, condensed skim milk and pumpkin puree.
They missed the point.
We don't actually want to taste pumpkin in our ice cream, or Pop-Tarts, or M&Ms. We want spicy cinnamon, distinct nutmeg, warm cloves. Here is a list of ways to live that pumpkin spice life without having to come in contact with any pesky pumpkin.
Dip fruit in a Pumpkin Spice Yogurt Dip: Start with 1 cup plain yogurt. Stir in 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. (If you don't have any, mix together 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice and 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves.) Serve with apple slices and graham crackers.
Share Chewy Spice Cookies with your friends: Start by heating an oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda and 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice. In another bowl, beat ¾ cup vegetable shortening and ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar until fluffy. Add 1 large egg, ½ cup molasses and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and beat at a low speed until combined. Add flour mixture, mix and place balls of dough onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.
Drink your own Pumpkin Spice Latte: Brew some plain coffee of your choice. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice to a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until sugar melts, and stir to combine well into a syrup. Add ½ cup milk and, stirring constantly, cook until milk is warm. Pour about ½ cup coffee into a mug, then add as much milk mixture as you'd like.
Make Pumpkin Popcorn for your next movie night: Mix 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice together in a bowl. Place 3 tablespoons unpopped popcorn kernels in a large pot with 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Heat popcorn until it pops. Remove from heat and immediately add spice mix. Shake to coat.
Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.