Though pumpkin spice takes America by storm every autumn, the famous combination of cinnamon, cloves and ginger is not so much a thing in Australia. Fortunately, Australians don't have to miss out on spicy autumn treats, as any recipe that uses pumpkin spice works just as well with five spice powder.
Making your own spice blends isn't particularly challenging, but buying a single bottle of a blend is both more convenient and fiscally responsible than buying five bottles of five different spices. Plus, if you're just getting into the world of seasonings and spices, blends can be a bit less intimidating.
This spice blend, which is used primarily in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine, is usually made up of — surprise! — five spices: Star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and fennel. It’s warm, a little savoury, and a little funky, and it makes everything you sprinkle it on much more interesting.
Though it’s a natural in meat rubs and marinades — particularly duck and turkey — it’s delightfully surprising in both drinks and desserts.
You can make a syrup by adding a tablespoon to a 1:1 Demerara simple syrup, or you can infuse it directly into a spirit, like Portland’s Jeffrey Morgenthaler does here for his Dark ‘n’ Stormy. (Just add a teaspoon of the spice to a 750ml bottle of booze, shake it, let it sit overnight, then strain it through a coffee filter the next day.)
For pies, use it like you would any autumn spice blend. If your pumpkin pie calls for a teaspoon and a half of pumpkin pie spice, try a teaspoon and a half of Chinese five spice. (If you don’t want to fully commit, you can try half and half.) It’s also particularly nice in apple, quince and pear pies.
If you’d rather introduce this blend to your baking in a more gradual way, you can flavour the topping instead of the filling by whipping half a teaspoon of the powder in half a cup of cream, along with a tablespoon of honey.