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Baking with Nutmeg

  • Aug 31, 2015

The sweet aroma of the fall and winter holiday seasons is a mix of pungent evergreen and the sprinkling of nutmeg that kisses every cup of eggnog and infuses every slice of pumpkin pie.

But nutmeg is not a strictly seasonal spice. Revered for its complex, earthy flavor, nutmeg should be a critical component in any baker’s repertoire. (A word of caution, however—a little goes a long way. It has been known to induce dizziness and nausea in large quantities.)

The Spice Islands of Indonesia are home to an evergreen tree species that provides much of the nutmeg we use today. Grenada and Malaysia are also home to these evergreen trees, which take around seven years to bear fruit. The history of this spice proves to be as exotic as its geographic origin. Prized in medieval times as well as the Middle Ages, nutmeg became one of the most lucrative of all the spices, and there were bloody struggles over who would trade and control it.

Nutmeg has been revered over the years not only for its anti-inflammatory properties but also its sweet, spicy taste. That taste can further enhance even the sweetest and spiciest of dishes. Use it in cakes, puddings, cookies, and custards, and keep in mind that it matches well with desserts containing walnuts and fruit. Sprinkle it evenly over any dessert as soon as you remove it from the oven. You can even reduce the amount of sugar you use, as nutmeg brings its own natural sweetness to the table, both during the holidays and all year long.

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