The spice must flow!
My hands quivered as I typed those words. The spice must flow! The spice! The most valuable substance in the universe. The stuff known to extend lives and expand minds.
The spice! A commodity so precious men and women have been known to kill for it. The spice!
The spice … mélange.
What? You didn’t think I was referring to pumpkin spice, did you?
Mélange is the spice that is at the center of everything in Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel, “Dune.” Spice exists on only one place in the galaxy: the Planet Arrakis, a place fraught with danger and giant sandworms who guard the secret of mélange carefully.
The latest film adaptation of that book hits theaters around the nation this week, and so I’ve got spice on the brain. If you cannot tell I am very excited about it.
I am less excited about pumpkin spice. A mixture of multiple ground spices is a gimmick that is used to sell everything from Cheerios to yogurt to doughnuts. People compete with one another on social media to find the most outrageous pumpkin spice product.
Unlike mélange, none of them promise to expand your mind.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with spice — pumpkin or otherwise. In fact, every fall as the winter turns colder I seem to crave spice. I love it in a snack, a main course or — of course — in a dessert.
And there are so many spices to choose from. While mélange may be fiction, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger are all too real. Each lends something different to a dish, and they all smell heavenly in your oven while they bake.
In fact, back in the 1970s the other Michael’s mother sold her house in Detroit after dusting a frying pan with a little cinnamon and letting it heat gently over a low heat. The scent just smelled so homey and comforting that the buyer couldn’t resist. True story.
So I guess that maybe our earthly spices are magical.
Below you will find a few recipes to see just how magical spice can be. You should find something for every taste. Try one, and you, too, will be whispering, “The spice must flow!”
Crisp Spiced Nuts
These nuts from “Bon Appetit” magazine are the perfect things to munch on during any sporting event. They are a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy, and they are easy to make. Moreover, they are good enough that you could even serve them as an appetizer at your next dinner party.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a bowl with an electric mixer, beat whites with salt until very foamy and gradually beat in sugar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and cayenne. Stir in nuts and butter, combining well, and spread in a large shallow baking pan.
Bake nuts in middle of oven, stirring every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden, about 30 to 40 minutes (I find 35 minutes to be just about right). Spread nuts on a sheet of foil and cool. They also will “crisp-up” at this time. Break up nut clusters. Nuts may be made one week ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
Harvest Moon Brew
I must admit, I love this stuff, with or without the booze.
Few things are warmer on a cool fall evening than hot apple cider. This recipe goes basic cider one step better by mixing in orange and cranberry juices. Together, these three are dynamite and the dark burgundy color is beautiful.
My recommendation is that you use this brew as an appetizer. The sweetness of the cider might overwhelm dinner. And serve it hot, although it also is delicious cold.
The recipe comes from John Hadamuscin’s book, “Enchanted Evenings.”
Combine the cider, cranberry juice, orange juice, orange and cinnamon sticks in a large kettle. Place over low heat. Bring to a low simmer and simmer for two hours. Just before serving, add the orange slices.
Sugar and Spice Pull-Apart Bread
This is a really tasty bread that is perfect for breakfast or for coffee. In addition to being really tasty, it’s also really pretty.
This recipe is from the website, “Joy the Baker.” Note: I used instant yeast when I made it, but you can use active dry. It just may take a little longer for the dough to rise.
For the Dough:
For the Filling:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the butter and the milk until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and add the water and vanilla. Let the mixture sit until it is cooled to 115 to 120 degrees.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix. Add the beaten eggs and mix until incorporated. The dough will feel very sticky, but that’s OK. Add another ¾ cup of the flour and stir until combined.
Place the dough in a large greased bowl. Cover with plastic and place in a warm place until doubled in bulk (roughly 60-90 minutes).
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead in the remaining ¼ cup of flour. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
While the dough is resting, make the filling. Melt the butter. In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12×20-inch rectangle. Brush with the melted butter, and sprinkle evenly with the sugar and spice. Use your rolling pin to press the mixture into the dough.
Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into six strips. Stack the strips on top of one another (you will spill some of the cinnamon and sugar mixture). Cut the stack into six pieces.
Grease a loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.
Layer the stacks of dough side by side in the loaf pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour (or until the dough doubles in size).
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bread is browned and baked. Let the bread rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.
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