- scuzzo Nov 3, 2009 08:02 PM
What spices do you toast? How long? And why? What else do I need to know?
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.
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!
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.
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 :)
Jeez, I don't know what to say. Maybe buy your spices elsewhere (online, I suggest SpiceHouse.com), 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...;-)
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.
I pan roast whole and sometimes ground spices. Timing is everything. Nothing should blacken. If it blackens it is bitter and useless. You will have to play around with toasting to get used to the timing suitable for you pan. I have griddle and heat it until very hot, put the spices on, stir them around for less than a minute until I can smell them and see the color change, then immediately transfer to another dish to cool. By the way, if you plan to grind the spices post toasting, allow them to cool before grinding.
For some spices I need to roast the ground version, like cumin and red chile powder for raita. I always turn off the flame before I add the red chile powder, the transfer to cool dish. In powder for this burns the quickest. I also turn off the flame for red chile powder if I am tempering the spices in hot oil, then pour immediately into my dish.
Whole dried red chiles are not so sensitive. For tempering in oil, they are one spice that I sometimes allow to almost blacken so that it gets to this delicious point of crispness, and then diners can pick them out of their food and eat them for a crispy smokey bit of chile flavor.