The first week of December is my cue for holiday baking. It’s like a switch that goes on. And the first step is to stock my pantry with plenty of unsalted butter, unbleached flour, sugars… and all the spices.
My first task is to attack the spice cabinet, which is so unruly jars literally leap out when I opened the door. I must have neglected it during my spring pantry clean.
So I pull every jar and bottle and tin out onto the counter to take stock. What a mess!
Pickling spices, whole coriander seed and caraway were in abundance. But the ground ginger was gone. How could I possibly do any holiday baking without ground ginger?
I also discover a backlog of cinnamon sticks–2 whole packages. Clearly, I need to remedy this spice situation to make sure I had enough of everything I’ll be needing for three weeks of baking Christmas cookies, rugelach and other holiday treats.
Whole Versus Ground Spices
There are many advantages to having both whole and ground spices. For one thing, fresh-ground spices are the freshest and the most potent. They can also be used to steep their flavors into liquids, like cream.
If you have an electric spice grinder, it’s great to buy whole spices and grind them as needed. I tend to do a bit of both, depending on the spice.
For example, I only buy whole nutmeg and cardamom because you don’t need a lot of quantity of either one. But I stock both cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon as well as whole allspice berries and ground allspice.
Ground spices offer great convenience, so I keep a supply of the frequent fliers like ground ginger and cinnamon.
My 5 Essential Spices for Holiday Baking
- Nutmeg: I buy only whole nutmeg and store it with a tiny grater for sprinkling into nearly every baked item I make for a wonderful base note.
- Allspice: I reach for ground allspice more often than cinnamon for its complexity of flavors. And I keep whole allspice on hand for steeping into cream for spiced whipped cream.
- Ginger: Ground ginger is a requirement for me in fruit desserts of all kinds.
- Cinnamon: Both cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon are useful to keep on hand.
- Cloves: Since this flavor can overpower, I use cloves sparingly and grind whole cloves as needed.
Where to Buy the Best Spices
Unless you’re in a pinch, don’t buy your spices at the supermarket. The prices are insane! Instead, seek out the bulk foods section of a health food store or food coop.
That’s where I buy all of my spices, both whole and ground, in the exact quantities I need. Plus, I can transfer the spices into my own jars.
Happy holiday baking!
What is in your spice cabinet for your holiday baking? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook