Sunday, 17 November 2013

Baking Class - Introduction to Nutmeg and Mace

This is a little bit of an odd Top Ten list, but I thought I'd take you through my baking cupboard (yes, I have an entire cupboard dedicated solely to baking supplies...um, and another cupboard...and a 4-tier rolling rack...but I digress). Since a Top Ten list would make this blog post too long, I'm splitting the posts up into several individual posts, showcasing one spice at a time.


Next up: NUTMEG AND MACE!


The nutmeg tree is an evergreen tree that is native to both the Spice Islands of Indonesia, and Kerala, India, and is important for two spices from the same fruit; nutmeg and mace. 
 
Nutmeg is the seed of the tree, and mace is the dried, lacy, waxy red covering around the nutmeg seed, commonly known as the aril.  They both have similar, yet distinctly different flavour profiles; nutmeg is described as slightly sweeter, whereas mace has a more delicate, sweet-spicy, peppery flavour.

Like most spices, nutmeg is recommended to be purchased whole, then ground or grated with a fine-holed grater as needed. Whole dried mace is referred to as a blade, and is preferred for fine cooking and baking but is not readily available whole. However ground mace is still very fragrant and worth buying.  Mace is often used for dishes to impart a bright mustard yellow hue, and nutmeg is used in many sweet and savoury dishes; nutmeg is a traditional ingredient in mulled wine, mulled cider, and eggnog. Both spices are even main ingredients in Scottish haggis! (*blergh*)

"If it's no' Scottish, it's CRRRAP!"
Many people have heard that nutmeg can be a drug; however, in low doses, nutmeg has no drug-like effects. In its raw form, large doses of freshly grated nutmeg can induce a psychoactive response, such as delirium, hallucinations, visual distortions, euphoria, and paranoia. However, before anyone starts injecting or snorting heroic amounts of nutmeg on the strength of my breathless prose (/sarcasm), the downside to a nutmeg "high" can include dizziness, nausea, convulsions, palpitations, dehydration, dry mouth, bloodshot eyes, and memory disturbances.

Woo, good times...

Ok, enough about that! Let's get some recipes on this post so you too can experience the (totally legal) joys of nutmeg and mace!

Spicy Gingerbread Cake

Yield: One 9-inch square cake (12 to 14 servings) 
Original recipe courtesy of Stephanie Jaworski at joyofbaking.com
Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 45 minutes 
*Note: All ingredients (except whipping cream) are presumed to be at room temperature*

  • 2 1/4 cups cake & pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground mace
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon (outer yellow skin of lemon)
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 cup (240 ml) milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven.  Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan with 2 inch sides. 
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and all the spices.
  3. In bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the lemon zest and molasses and beat to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the dry ingredients and milk, alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat just until incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing cake from pan.  Let cool completely.
  5. To serve, whip cream with vanilla until thickened, then sprinkle icing sugar over cream in steady motion until cream is at a medium to stiff peak. Serve squares of gingerbread cake with dollops of sweetened whipped cream.