A great way to add flavor to home-baked bread is to use a variety of herbs and spices. Whether you're looking to use up extra basil or rosemary before it loses flavor or interested in bringing cloves, nutmeg, or poppy seeds into your bread baking, there are many possibilities and inspirational recipes.
When stocking your cupboard, try to only buy the items you know you will use. Not only can herbs and spices be pricey, but they retain their full flavor for just a few months even when stored properly. As you gain more bread-baking experience and explore more flavors, you can add ingredients to your pantry and then narrow them down to the ones you like the most.
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The expeditions of Christopher Columbus uncovered Indigenous peoples' use of allspice, which made its way to Europe during the early 17th century. Primarily grown in Jamaica, Allspice is frequently incorporated into Caribbean and Middle Eastern cuisines, either dried and ground or fresh (leaves are chopped and cooked into recipes).
When ground, it is more often an ingredient in sweet quick breads. You'll often find allspice alongside other spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, as seen in recipes for pumpkin banana bread and iced cinnamon dessert bread.
For successful yeast bread, add no more than 1/4 teaspoon of allspice for every cup of flour.
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Native to the eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia, anise seed is loved for its strong licorice flavor. It's also renowned for its health benefits as a decongestant, expectorant, and calming aid for upset stomachs.
In baked goods, it typically appears ground in yeast and quick bread. Try it in traditional Christmas breads and other regional baked goods (anise seed balls from the UK, pizzelle from Italy, and pfeffernüsse from Germany). Anise is also a popular flavoring in South American bread, including Peru's pan chuta and pan de anis (an anise-flavored bread roll recipe).
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Caraway's root is consumed whole, like carrots, and the leaves are known for their fragrance and flavor. It's the dry seeds, however, that are most commonly found in recipes, including sweet and savory preparations.
Caraway seeds are typically added to rye bread, bringing in a good amount of flavor to contrast the darker grain. You'll find it as a decoration on top of rye bread, and it's a key ingredient in pumpernickel bread. The seeds also add a nice punch to corn bread, orange yeast bread, and biscuits.
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Known for its medicinal properties, cardamom made the journey to the Western world from India and Indonesia, and it's a fairly common spice in many cuisines. It is best stored as a pod because it loses its flavor fairly fast once the seeds are removed and ground.
Cardamom pods—green or black—play a role in sweet bread, gingerbread, and some coffee cake recipes and as a popular Christmas baking spice. You'll find cardamom in many Scandinavian bread recipes, including a Swedish bread called vetebröd and a Norwegian school bread called skolebrød.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tree and is used in its ground form or as a whole stick in a variety of foods, from savory to sweet. Ground cinnamon is a popular spice in bread baking and pairs with yeast and quick breads, waffles, and pancakes. Dry cinnamon loses its flavor rapidly, so buy good quality whole sticks and grind it right before using for the best results.
Often incorporated into dessert bread, cinnamon pairs beautifully with chocolate and apples (try apple cinnamon batter bread). While it's probably best known for use in cinnamon rolls, recipes like country cinnamon swirl bread and cinnamon tea rings are similar and fun to bake up as well.
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Cloves are the aromatic buds of a tree native to Indonesia. Popular in African and Eastern cuisines, they have a very pungent flavor and are found in beverages, pickling and spice mixes, and recipes that include cinnamon, vanilla, and anise. Oranges and limes decoratively punctured with cloves are a beautiful way of spreading their aroma around the house.
Ground cloves appear in yeast bread, but they are more popular in quick breads. This spice often appears in fall-themed and Christmas loaves, including the popular gingerbread spice mix, as well as spiced pumpkin bread and spiced apple bread. Cloves also perk up waffles, pancakes, and muffins.
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This small bulb, native to central Asia, stars as a seasoning or condiment. Fresh or dried garlic is featured in bread preparations, savory dishes, and sometimes by itself as a side dish when roasted.
Garlic bread is extremely popular in many forms. It may be included in the dough of yeast bread, biscuits, and pizza dough, such as a garlic onion bread and rosemary garlic bread. Garlic powder or minced garlic is a must-have when making toasted garlic bread.
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Known for its digestive properties, ginger is related to turmeric. It is a frequent component of many Eastern cuisines in both savory and sweet dishes. Found in the root form, dry, powdered, and candied or crystallized, ginger is a very versatile spice. Its peppery flavor goes well with all kinds of meats.
While it is sometimes an ingredient in yeast bread, it is more common in quick breads, muffins, pancakes, waffles, and coffee cakes. Try it in pumpkin tahini gingerbread and a flavorful peach bread to get a taste of its versatility.
Keep in mind that cooking tames the flavor of fresh ginger, so add more than you might think you need.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Ground nutmeg and mace come from the same tropical evergreen tree, but nutmeg is more common in baking. Often added to sweet bread, nutmeg enhances quick breads, French toast, muffins, waffles, pancakes, and coffee cakes as well. You'll often find it paired with its traditional companion spices like cinnamon in recipes such as a butter pecan bread, date and apple quick bread, and zucchini bread.
Nutmeg preserves its flavor for about four years when stored whole and ground before using. When you buy it already ground, it keeps its properties for about two years if well stored in an airtight container.
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From the mint family, rosemary has needle-shaped leaves and commonly enhances Mediterranean cuisine as a fresh or dried herb. It's a favorite herb to add to meats because of its woody flavor, and it bakes well in bread without changing its aroma.
Yeast bread benefits the most from this herb, including toasted garlic, onion, cheese, white, and wheat breads. It even makes an appearance in gluten-free bread, such as rosemary walnut bread.
Be mindful that this herb, unlike others, carries a strong flavor even when dried, so overusing it can hurt the flavor of your bread. With rosemary, less is more.
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Also a member of the mint family, sage is a mild herb often appearing in bread stuffing recipes and holiday meat preparations thanks to its fresh, peppery flavor. Fresh sage can be used in cooking, but because of its texture, it's a tricky herb to add without throwing off the overall texture of a dish.
Fresh sage is milder in flavor than dry but using dry sage is typically recommended for bread baking. Ground sage is a delicious addition to orange bread and herb bread. It's also delicious in recipes like brown butter and sage biscuits.
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These small seeds are nutrient dense and full of health-promoting properties, high in fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants. Like poppy seeds, sesame seeds commonly decorate the tops of white bread, wheat bread, and rolls. Many dishes—including a Thanksgiving sesame seed white bread recipe—call for them inside the preparation and not just as a final touch.
Tahini comes from sesame seeds. It can be used as a bread filler when combined with other ingredients.