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DIY Spice Blends + Cinque Épices Gingerbread #KitchenMatrixCookingProject

December? How can it be December?!? Well, that means that the Kitchen Matrix Cooking Project - really Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, and I - wraps up this month. Can you believe it's been a year? I can't. You can read more about our project here.

And this month, Karen picked the recipes. This week, she selected Spice Blends + 10 Ways. Bittman offers universal instructions for toasting spices, letting them cool, then grinding them until powdery. He suggests ten different spices that include Adobo, Chili Powder, Nori Spice, Jerk, and more. I've been blending spices for years and love how I can customize them to our tastes. I'm going to share some of our favorite spice blends along with ways I use them. But first...the rest of the #KitchenMatrixCookingProject crew's blends...

Chinese Five Spice

I actually made a batch for a February #KitchenMatrix when I made Chinese-Style Roasted Chicken Parts. And I've used it in my Sticky Hoisin Duck Burgers. The star anise, cloves, and peppercorns add a delicious depth of Asian dishes and match poultry really well.

Garam Masala

Garam Masala is a pantry staple in our house. We use it in Keema Matar, Butter Chicken, and a fusion dish of Garam Masala Lamb Naan-chos - yes, that's nachos made with crisped naan bread instead of chips! Yum.

Ras el Hanout

What Garam Masala is to Indian cuisin, Ral el Hanout is to Arabic North African dishes. I love the spicy complexity with a little bit of heat that comes from this spice blend. I have used my homemade version in Ras el Hanout-spiced Lentils and Greens and even use it as a spice rub on Grilled Shrimp.


This might just be my favorite spice blend. I always have a jar on my counter and I made it with my students when I taught a 'Spices of the Souk' cooking class - think 6 weeks of cooking with different spices with a dozen middle schoolers. I usually use za'atar to encrust things - Hamachi, Ribeyes, and more.

DIY Mulled Wine Kits for Teachers

A couple of years ago, the boys and I blended spices and created DIY Mulled Wine Kits for their teachers' Christmas presents. I have no idea if the teachers used them or enjoyed them, but we had fun making them!

Cinque Épices Gingerbread

And though I didn't really know there was a name for this spice blend, this combination is in constant use during the holidays as gingerbread is a favorite. Bittman calls this Quatre Épices. So, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg are a familiar scent wafting from my kitchen. Okay, just realized that that is five spices, not four. Not sure where I, or he, went wrong...but you get the idea. And I've changed the name to Cinque Épices to be accurate!

  • 1-1/4 C butter, plus some for greasing
  • unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting pan
  • 1 C unsulphured molasses
  • 1/2 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 C ginger syrup (you can substitute maple syrup, if needed)
  • 2 t ginger paste or freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 t each ground mixed peppercorns, ground allspice, ground cloves, ground nutmeg (that plus the ground ginger, below, equals 1 T Cinque Épices!)
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 2-1/2 C flour
  • 1 C ground almonds or ground hazelnuts (I use whatever I have on-hand)
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • organic powdered sugar for serving

Lemon Curd
  • 1 C fresh lemon juice
  • 4 t fresh lemon zest
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 12 T butter, cut into cubes

Lemon Curd
Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Butter pan and dust the pan with unsweetened cocoa powder to prevent sticking.

Melt the butter. In  large mixing bowl, whisk together molasses, sugar, ginger syrup, ginger paste, eggs, and sour cream. Pour in the melted butter and stir until well-combined.

Add in dry ingredients and stir till completely moistened. Spoon into buttered cake pan.

Bake for 1 hour or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack. Let cool for another 10 to 15 minutes.

To serve, spoon a dollop of lemon curd onto your serving plate. Top with a square of gingerbread. Dust with powdered sugar.


  1. I love that you have already posted so many of the spice blends. this gingerbread sounds amazing.

  2. I went with the Quatre Epices too but eliminated the Allspice. Your gingerbread sounds amazing.


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