home > article > English Spice: A Search for Hot Cross Buns Update
- by Nancy, February 26, 2010
English spice: too bad I couldn’t just walk into a spice shop and buy some. I love a good spice shop. But rising rents and big corporations have driven them out. Penny candy, tackle for fishing where my grandfather Max used to take me, pickles, handmade jewelry, spices — I remember them all fondly. Exotic treasures, narrow aisles, creaking wooden floors, tinkling bells on the swinging doors. Knowledgeable proprietors. This is what I thought of when I received a comment from food historian Rachel Laudan recommending that I find English spice in response to my last post about my search for a great Hot Cross Buns recipe.
In addition to English spice mix, similar to pumpkin spice in this country, Rachel suggested that I find
good bitter candied orange peel for the Hot Cross Buns. She even gave me her recipe for the candied peel, which I will make and post this coming Friday. Having no good spice shop nearby, I went online for English spice. My favorite online source for all things spicy and ethnic, Kalustyan’s, had nothing similar. Next I looked for recipes. No surprise: this search yielded as many variations as there are cooks. So I studied them and made up my own.
I have two electric grinders; one for coffee and one I keep just for spices. Some people prefer a mortar and pestle though I wonder how difficult it might be to grind up some of the spices that really are hard and fibrous like the cinnamon stick. For the spice mix, whole cinnamon stick is preferred over ground, and ditto for whole berries or seeds of cloves, allspice and nutmeg if using. Coriander and cardamom were often listed as optional, but since I love them I included some. In most recipes, the ground versions of ginger or mace seem acceptable. Equal parts of every ingredient are included except for coriander and cardamom which are added to taste. The goal is an aromatic mixture of spices like what one finds in apple or pumpkin pie, but ground together rather than measured separately. The end result was quite beautiful in color and aroma.
Here’s what I came up with if you would like to have some too.
Nancy’s English Spice
Note: you want to grind this up well: it would be very unpleasant to get a hard bit of spice in a bite of pastry.
1 T. whole cloves
1 T. whole coriander
1 one-inch piece of a cinnamon stick
1 T. whole allspice
1 T. ground mace
1 T. coriander seeds
1 T. cardamom pods, broken open and seeds removed, hulls discarded.
Grind all ingredients together until the mixture is powdered and has no solid bits left in it. Store in airtight container.
see also: A Search for Hot Cross Buns