Fall is the season for pumpkin pie spice versions of just about everything - coffee, cereal, candy. In home kitchens, store-bought spice blends are used in desserts, pies, and pastries. Managing Producer Sally Swift talked with Tucker Shaw from America’s Test Kitchen about a highly flavorful, fragrant DIY recipe for Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice blend and scrumptious Pumpkin Spice Muffins in which to use the spice combination.
Sally Swift: I was with my teenage daughter in a Starbuck's the other day. This time of year, you can't walk in that place without being hit over the head with pumpkin spice smell. She turned to me and I said “Have you ever had a pumpkin spice latte?” She said, “Mom, their pumpkin spice is black gel.” Which is a pretty scary thought. I think it’s been ruined, but you’ve taken it on?
Tucker Shaw: Go ahead and get your licks in. Pumpkin spice deserves better than what it's got. Listen, if you've lost the teenagers, it's already past its prime.
Tucker Shaw (Photo: America's Test Kitchen)
SS: I know, you're in big trouble, that's exactly right.
TS: But here's the thing: pumpkin spice is a simple blend of spices. You probably have them all in your kitchen right now; they're favorites. I'm talking about ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg and ground allspice. Those are the scents and flavors of the holidays. Who doesn't want to have that?
SS: Right. And not a pumpkin to be seen.
TS: Usually, in most of the products where you find it now, there's no pumpkin at all. It has shown up in some silly and bizarre place like frozen waffles and sandwich cookies. We decided to bring it back into a simple recipe for pumpkin spice muffins.
SS: I want to talk about that recipe, but I want to talk about the spices too. Did you make your own blend or did you buy premixed pumpkin pie spice?
TS: We did both. We also sampled two or three versions that we found at the grocery store, which we liked quite well. You can easily make your own, though, by combining the four spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. If you do buy a version that's sold at the grocery store, take a glance at the label to make sure that it doesn't have any kind of weird stuff in it.
SS: Tell us about this recipe in which you're going to redeem pumpkin pie spice for everyone.
TS: The most important thing that we did here is that we brought pumpkin back. These spices belong with pumpkin. We created an easy recipe for muffins; this recipe will be familiar to anybody who's made a muffin of almost any variety before. You whisk together dry ingredients of flour, sugar, spices and baking powder. In a separate bowl, you whisk together canned pumpkin, eggs, melted butter and milk. Combine them together, scoop the mixture into your muffin tin, cover them with a simple streusel topping, and bake away.
SS: Sounds simple. And canned pumpkin over fresh?
TS: Canned pumpkin over fresh. You can certainly roast your own pumpkin and go that route, but the canned pumpkin is much easier. The great thing about pumpkin in a muffin recipe – or a quick bread recipe – is that it contributes body, moisture and a sort of richness. That means you don't need to use quite as much butter, and you don't need to use oil. You don't end up with greasy muffins. You do end up with flavorful muffins that have a lovely, tender, crumbly texture.
SS: Bake them up, and our kitchen's going to smell like Starbuck's?
TS: It's going to be amazing; you’re going to love it. It's so much better than any coffee shop you can imagine.
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The Splendid Table frequently visits with the test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen to discuss a wide range of topics including recipes, ingredients, techniques and kitchen equipment.