You may be familiar with your spice cabinet when it comes to savoury cooking, making curries, soups, burgers and salads with a confident hand. But desserts, from classic cookies to show-stopping sweet centrepieces can also benefit tremendously from a smack of fragrant spices you may not have usually considered. It was Top Chef Canada’s competitors that inspired us, as they were put to the test in the fifth episode’s Quickfire Challenge, being asked to create desserts with an eyebrow-raising twist using blindly chosen herbs and spices from the McCormick spice rack. The winning dish – Jalapeño and Sriracha Beignets, Burnt Orange Jalapeño Ice Cream and Caramelized Banana with Bone Marrow Caramel – wowed judges, rousing us to perhaps be a bit more adventurous in our dessert making at home.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be as extravagant as this winning Top Chef Canada creation to be just as delicious. Here’s how you can infuse your desserts with unexpected flavours when baking at home.
How to Add Spices to Desserts
Spices taste best when they’re bloomed or expressed by exposing them to fat, liquid, heat or a combination. If you’re making bread, dough or truffles, steep spices in milk to draw out their full potential. For cooked puddings, like rice pudding, add the spices halfway through the cooking time to infuse your recipe without overpowering it. For cookies, cakes and frostings add your spices when creaming or melting butter or oil instead of with the dry ingredients; you’ll get more bang for your buck and a richer, rounder spice flavour as the fat coaxes out the fragrant oils of the spices.
Like this week’s Top Chef Canada Quickfire Challenge winner, dessert makers around the world frequently introduce a sizzling kick to desserts with dried hot peppers. Take Mexico, for instance: their chocolate desserts are often pepped up with chili, adding depth to ignite and excite the palate. A stunning example of this is shown in Helloflavour.ca’s recipe for Flourless Chocolate Chili Cake, combining cayenne, cocoa, sugar, eggs, and dark chocolate. It has just a touch of bite, but not too much that it’s overwhelming, and it’s easy to accomplish at home. Click here to get the Helloflavour.ca recipe.