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Nov 3, 2009 08:02 PM

Toasting spices...

What spices do you toast? How long? And why? What else do I need to know?


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    1. re: scuzzo

      Cumin, coriander, mustard seed, fennel, star anise, cinnamon (whole or broken stick), chilies, peppercorns; toast in a hot saute pan or cast iron skillet, tossing or stirring frequently until a shade darker and a nice aroma has filled your kitchen. Usually a few minutes does the trick. Be careful not to burn them.
      Toasting spices intensifies their flavor and deepens the flavor of the dish they're used in.
      So totally worth doing.
      Same goes for nuts.
      That's all you need to know.

      1. re: bushwickgirl

        Can I toast peppercorns and then keep them in the pepper mill for a while? Or is this just for immediate use?

        I have a lot of dry mustard powder...I suppose I can toast that too?

        BTW, thanks for the info!

        1. re: scuzzo

          No to toasting the mustard powder, use whole seeds for that. Make mustard with the powder, sorry to state the obvious, but it keeps a lot longer in that form than the powder, since you said you have a lot. I just saw a Chow mustard making video but couldn't get the link. Anyway, mustard recipes abound.
          I toast spices as I need them, more for immediate use and store leftovers, if there are any, in the freezer.
          I don't normally toast peppercorns for daily use, just for specific dishes, but why not try it!

    2. I'm still experimenting with the what, how and how long part all I can say is don't turn your back! I do like the richer flavors. The one thing I have learned is to grind my spices in the blender instead of a coffee grinder, its washable and doesn't transfer flavors. I even ground coffee in it when my coffee grinder broke.

      1. I don't toast spices. Maybe if I lived somewhere where the spices were super fresh and not completely dried, I might toast them, but toasting the old dry spices I have access to doesn't restore them to their prior glory, it only makes them dull tasting and bitter. I especially dislike toasting chilis- again if I had freshly dried chilis, perhaps, but toasting old dry chilis removes a lot of whatever bright notes they might have and gives them a very dark irony taste- much like overcooking tomato sauce. Paste has gotten so dark over the years that I've completely stopped simmering tomato sauce.

        I somewhat halfheartedly subscribe to the Ayurvedic principle that dried spices are raw and need to be cooked, but rather than toasting them dry, I tend to cook them with other ingredients or with water. For instance oil infused dals- where the spices are heated fairly gently in oil- those I endorse wholeheartedly :)

        1 Reply
        1. re: scott123

          Jeez, I don't know what to say. Maybe buy your spices elsewhere (online, I suggest, and, BTW, it's not about toasting to restore the spices or chilies to their former glory, it's about enhancing what they've got. If they've got no glory to start with, throw them out.
          "again if I had freshly dried chilis, perhaps, but toasting old dry chilis removes a lot of whatever bright notes they might have and gives them a very dark irony taste"-I would venture to say that dark irony taste you're experiencing is because they are old in the first place.
          Dal is a different deal, the spices are roasted in the oil first, which is another way of enhancing their flavor.
          I have a challenge for you, if you're willing to accept it-try toasting your (freshly bought whole) spices next time you make a, say, a rub or a masala or a chili and then tell me you can't taste the difference. And don't tell me you don't make chili...;-)

        2. Toasting spices can be useful, but it’s just one way of bringing out their flavour. According to the cookbook 660 Curries, it's possible to extract eight different flavours from a single spice. Using coriander seeds as an example:

          1 - When you use them whole and uncooked, you get a certain flavour.

          2 - When you grind the uncooked seeds, the flavour is quite different.

          3 - Dry-roast the whole seeds, and you get a nutty, citrusy aroma.

          4 - Grind those dry-roasted seeds, and the smell is entirely different.

          5 - Roast the whole seeds in a bit of oil, and they become pungent-smelling and smoky.

          6 - Grind the seeds after roasting in oil, and they lose the citrus smell.

          7 - Soak whole, uncooked seeds in a liquid, use it in a curry, and its presence is subtle.

          8 - Grind seeds after soaking, and they take on the liquid's taste, whilst the citrus aroma reappears, enhanced by the flavour of the liquid.

          1 Reply
          1. Thanks for all the replies...I'm finding this very interesting.