Sweet-salty-spice has become something of a culinary phenomenon in the United States. Consider, for example, the “golden milk latte” – a simple combination of milk and a heavily spiced turmeric concentrate that has taken coffee shops by storm. Savory cookies made with tahini and miso paste no longer turn heads. The message foodies are sending here is clear: savory spices pair well with sweet desserts. Now it’s time to try garam masala.
Not just for tikka masala and tandoori chicken, this reddish-brown spice from North India might just be the dimensional ingredient your desserts are calling for. Store-bought is fine, but you can make your own homemade garam masala by toasting cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, coriander, cumin and nutmeg, then pulverizing the mixture to combine. Ginger, bay leaf, fenugreek and chili powder are also sometimes added to the mixture. Many home cooks in India have personal secret recipes for their garam masala ingredient ratios.
This spice can make a big difference to your desserts. As you experiment, go slowly; less is more, and this tangy spice will go a long way. Afterwards, prepare your garam masala spice blends in small batches, or if you buy them in the store, avoid the big one and buy small jars at a time. This aromatic spice will lose its potency over time. As a starting point, start with ¼ or ½ teaspoon per dessert and adjust to taste.
Read more: 12 Tips You Need to Cook with Spices
Just one garam is enough
Garam masala means “hot spices” in Hindi, and this definition can serve as a guideline when brainstorming ideas for incorporating this ingredient into your desserts. You can add a pinch of garam masala to pie crust or snickerdoodle cookie dough, for starters. Slip some into brown butter cookies or butterscotch blondies. For a fall dessert, you can sprinkle garam masala over roasted pears with brown sugar or stir it into spicy bundt cake batter. Garam masala would be delicious in apple pie or pumpkin cobbler; it might even add some spicy depth to this brilliant pineapple and coconut poke cake.
Garam masala works wonderfully as a tasty finishing garnish. In fact, the spice is traditionally added after cooking just before serving. For example, add a pinch to dress a plain cheesecake. Use this perhaps unlikely spice to balance out a cabbage pie or gooey monkey bread. Likewise, garam masala could complement the profile of almond croissants with a sweet, nutty filling. Try adding it to salted caramel sauce, almond paste or pistachio bars. For a confectionery creation that is both Indian and French, use garam masala in gougères or a tarte tatin.