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English Spice: A Search for Hot Cross Buns Update


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

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Nancy - There’s still a great spice shop on 9th St. in Phila, what used to be the “heart” of the Italian market. Don’t know if they sell English spice, but it is worth a visit if only to witness a store like you’re talking about. Yes, good candied orange peel is so different from the junk you buy in stores, and it’s not that hard to make. I posted about it too, for a pastiera recipe - here’s the link if you’re interested:http://ciaochowlinda.blogspot.com/2009/03/candied-orange-peel.html
Now I’m going to go look up Kalustyan’s, but I’ll bet your homemade version is better than any English Spice you could purchase.

    – ciaochowlinda (February 27 2010 at 12:22)

Thank you for this great comment, the recommendation of the Philly spice shop and the link to your beautiful and detailed candied orange post, which will be a big help to me when I post about it on Friday. I live in Philly in the summer sometimes and I will definitely find the shop you mention when I’m there next.

    – Nancy Ring (February 27 2010 at 1:30)

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