Winter Flavors

For many, winter signifies falling into comfort, spending time with loved ones, and celebrating the holidays. That means a lot of cozy meals, warm baked goods, and fun holiday drinks. If you want to soak in all of the joyous feelings of winter, a great place to start is through food. We listed out the best winter flavors to use for emulating the season.

1. Hazelnut

image of hazelnut brownies

Hazelnuts are sweet, nutty, and creamy, so this rich ingredient is a great winter flavor. Hazelnuts pair well with winter fruits like pears, persimmons, and figs, as well as other flavors like toffee, nutmeg, and especially chocolate, which makes the iconic Nutella product.

Hazelnuts can easily be added to seasonal drinks through the hazelnut liquor Frangelico. Otherwise, incorporate hazelnuts by toasting and sprinkling them on crunchy winter salads, or dragee hazelnuts (coat and cook in sugar) to top winter cake flavors or French pastries. Hazelnuts are also great with duck, turkey, and various kinds of cheese.

2. Pomegranate

Pomegranate is the quintessential winter fruit. Tart and sweet mingle together seamlessly, bringing the bursting arils to life as soon as they are split open in the mouth. While pomegranates take some work to break open, the reward is well worth it every time.

Chocolate, honey, clove, and specialty vanillas pair with pomegranate. As far as meats and cheeses go, lamb is a great protein contender, while goat cheese, brie, and feta make pomegranate taste its very best. If you’re looking for alcohol pairings, vodka, port, and tequila are best.

3. Toffee

Often getting confused with butterscotch and caramel, toffee is its own character. Buttery with a brown sugar-sweetness, toffee is a beautiful winter flavor for the baking season.

In England, toffee is used a lot during the cold months to make the iconic British dessert sticky toffee pudding. Toffee also pairs well with different types of brandy, coffee, rum, and robust red wines. As far as food goes, you’re safe to pair toffee with hazelnuts, pecans, different chocolates, and vanillas.

4. Roasted Chestnuts

image of roasted chestnut dessert

A holiday flavor so iconic, it'll leave Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Chestnuts lose their bitterness when they’re roasted and pick up a new note of buttery sweetness. If you don’t have an open fire, you can roast chestnuts in the oven to unlock their sweet potato-like taste.

Roasted chestnuts are delicious when candied or covered in chocolate. They’re also unbeatable when pureed into soups or chopped into casseroles. For desserts, invest in chestnut flour for the ultimate winter cakes, cookies, and truffles.

5. Oranges

While one may usually think of citruses for the summer, they’re actually in season during the winter! (But that doesn’t mean they don’t pair well with all of the tropical fruits!) Oranges pair extremely well with chocolate, as well as cinnamon, cloves, cranberry, coffee, mascarpone, beef, chicken, vodka, champagne, and tequila.

The great thing about oranges is that you can utilize the entire fruit. Measure the juice for baking, cooking, or cocktail making. Zest the skin for added orange flavor. Or, slice the oranges and dehydrate them for a beautiful garnish or holiday ornamental garland decoration.

6. Rosemary

If you’re looking for a savory winter flavor, rosemary is it. Rosemary has notes of pine, mint, sage, and pepper. If you’re using this ingredient in your winter cooking and baking, we highly recommend using fresh rosemary only. It makes a difference!

Rosemary pairs well with other fresh herbs, like thyme, sage, oregano, parsley, and chives. Use these herb pairings when cooking vegetables, stews, fish, chicken, steak, lamb, and lentils. When using fresh rosemary in a drink, combine with rum, vodka, and different whiskies.

7. Peppermint

image of peppermint cocktail

Peppermint is one of the obvious Christmas flavors, but it goes far beyond candy canes. Peppermint is a type of mint hybrid that crosses the flavors of spearmint and watermint. While it may not be a great savory winter flavor choice, there are a ton of baking and cocktail uses for peppermint.

Try pairing peppermint with white and dark chocolate, lavender, sage, vanilla, and coffee. For alcoholic drinks, try stouts and vodka. Make a great holiday punch using peppermint or fun holiday cocktails to attract customers to your bar in the winter. Peppermint also makes a great winter cake flavor when used with dark chocolate.

8. Clove

Clove is a powerful spice, and a little bit goes a long way. Using this winter flavor sparingly, you can add an intense and warm flavor to your cooking. It also makes a great transitional flavor from fall to winter as it pairs well with many fall flavors.

When pairing ingredients with clove, try using sweet flavors like oranges, apples, pears, and hazelnuts. You can also pair clove with other powerful ingredients, like Szechuan peppercorns, curry, star anise, coriander, nutmeg, and fennel. For alcohol, pair clove with hard cider, bourbon, brandy, and whiskey.

9. Praline

image of praline being filled into a baking mold

Praline is a French confectionary that is a mixture of nuts (usually almond, hazelnut, and pecans) that is cooked with sugar, vanilla, and sometimes butter or cream. The mixture is ground into a paste to use as a filling, or, with some slight modifications to the ingredients, is used to make New Orleans-style pralines.

Apples, chocolate, most nuts, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, honey, pumpkin spice, and caramel all pair exceptionally well with praline. Praline is mostly used for dessert making, like cheesecakes, cupcakes, macarons, truffles, and with feuilletine fillings for upscale pastries. Whatever dessert you make pralines with, serve a glass of sweet dessert wine alongside for the ultimate after-dinner drink and dessert pairing.

10. Nutmeg

We saved the best for last. Nutmeg is the ultimate winter flavor. Warm, nutty, a little sweet, and a bit woodsy, nutmeg’s flavor is both bold and cozy. Nutmeg can come pre-ground or whole, but zesting off fresh nutmeg as needed is incomparable to the more convenient pre-ground solution.

Nutmeg pairings are plentiful: cinnamon, clove, cardamom, ginger, allspice, and cumin, to name a few. Use nutmeg with your baked goods, roasted winter vegetables, or with chicken and lamb. Nutmeg is also exceptional in dairy-based recipes, such as a beautifully shingled potato gratin or Thanksgiving mac and cheese. Remember: a little bit goes a long way!

Although it may not be everyone’s favorite season, utilizing winter flavors can make the weather feel so much more bearable. Embrace winter cooking and baking this year by trying a new recipe that uses these beautiful winter flavors. A nice winter beer goes a long way, too!

Posted in: Bakeries|Holidays|Seasonal|By Val Goodrich
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