by Jolene Adams, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
Have you recently visited a coffee shop, grocery store, bakery or convenience store and noticed a certain spice has taken over? The pumpkin spice season is here.
America is obsessed with all things pumpkin. I’m obsessed with pumpkin, and why shouldn’t I be? About 95 percent of the pumpkins processed in the U.S. are grown here in Illinois. Morton, Ill. calls itself the “Pumpkin Capitol of the World.”
We not only eat and drink pumpkin, we treat it as a source of entertainment. Famers grow pumpkin patches for people to wander about, picking their perfect pumpkin. Pumpkins are carved into jack-o’-lanterns and used as decoration. There are pumpkin chunkin’ contests where people operate giant machines designed to fling pumpkins great distances. We watch cartoons about the Great Pumpkin, and Disney taught us that with a little help from our fairy godmother, we can take a magical pumpkin for a carriage ride, but only until midnight of course.
Even though a magical pumpkin ride is probably out of the question, we can still enjoy its various culinary uses. It can be baked, stewed, canned and we can even fry the blossoms and roast the seeds. Long before the pumpkin spice latte, there was traditional pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. Pumpkin is also great to use in savory dishes like soup and pasta filling. Not a coffee drinker? No worries, you can dink your pumpkin in one of the many pumpkin ales or pumpkin-flavored whiskeys emerging on the culinary scene.
The pumpkin spice craze really began with Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. According to a news release statement on the Starbucks website, in fall 2003, Starbucks first brought the beverage to 100 stores in Vancouver and Washington, D.C. to test market it. Within the first few weeks, the drink took off. The next fall, Pumpkin Spice Latte was available in all U.S. stores. The beverage built a loyal fan base and in the decade since its release, more than 200 million drinks have been sold. The fans even created a Facebook page to honor the spice and according to Starbucks, every fall, customers express their #PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) enthusiasm with an average of more than 3,000 tweets per day!
Since then, pumpkin spice has appeared everywhere. Doughnuts, pancakes, bagels, Oreo cookies, Hershey Kisses, Planters mixed nuts, Jell-O brand pudding and even Greek yogurt company Chobani make a pumpkin spice blend flavor. While grocery shopping the other day, I picked up a package of pumpkin spice chocolate covered pretzels, and I’m pleased to report they tasted pretty good and I’m eating them as I write this.
Why is this flavor so popular? Is it the limited seasonal availability that drives us to purchase a random package of pumpkin spice-flavored food? Perhaps it’s the blend of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and ginger spices which embody all that is the fall season. I wonder what a pumpkin spice latte would taste like in July. It doesn’t even sound appealing. Has the craze gone too far now that salons offer a pumpkin spice hair dye? Seriously, pumpkin spice hair color. What next, pumpkin spice tooth paste? Hopefully not. I love the flavor, but I think I’ll stick to minty fresh when it comes to my daily hygiene. Much to the dismay of the pumpkin spice haters out there (yes, there are haters) I’ll continue to experiment with the flavor, and share my recipes every autumn. Here are a few of my favorites.
Yield: about 4 ½ tablespoons
Prep: 5 minutes
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
Combine spices in a small bowl, mix well to combine. Store in a small jar or spice container
Candied Pumpkin Spice Pecans
Yield: 2 cups
Prep: 15 minutes
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice (see recipe)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecan halves
In a large heavy non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in sugar. Cook until mixture turns an amber color, about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally (mixture will separate).
Stir in pie spice and vanilla; add pecans. Reduce heat; cook and stir 3-4 minutes longer or until pecans are toasted. Spread onto foil to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Pumpkin Spice Waffles
Yield: 12 waffles
Prep: 15 minutes
4 large eggs, separated
1 pint buttermilk
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Preheat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Beat egg whites in a glass or metal bowl until soft peaks form. Lift your beater or whisk straight up: the egg whites will form soft mounds rather than a sharp peak.
Beat egg yolks, buttermilk, pumpkin, and butter together with a whisk in a large bowl until smooth; add flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, salt and cloves. Stir the mixture with the whisk just until you have a smooth batter.
Fold the egg whites into the batter just until combined.
Prepare cooking surfaces of your waffle iron with cooking spray. Ladle about 2/3 cup batter into the prepared iron and cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate
Yield: (2) 12 ounce mugs
Prep: 15 minutes
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin spice (see recipe)
1/4 cup whipped cream
Whisk milk, cream, chocolate chips and cocoa powder together in a saucepan over medium heat until chocolate chips are melted and hot chocolate is smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice until fully incorporated.
Pour hot chocolate into 2 mugs. Top with whipped cream; Optional – grate fresh nutmeg over whipped cream.
Frozen Pumpkin Spice Cocktails
Yield: 2 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup pumpkin spice coffee-flavored liqueur (such as Kahlua(R))
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
8 cubes ice cubes
Combine cream, milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin liqueur and pumpkin pie spice together in a blender. Add ice cubes. Blend until smooth, 30 to 45 seconds.