Fall is more than pumpkin spice

Celestina Blok

Pumpkin spice — at its core an innocent blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves most commonly used in pumpkin pie — has become a seasonal tyrant. Often presented as orange-hued and artificial, for many, the flavor is no longer a novelty but a nuisance. The true flavors of fall — those that harken changing leaf colors, crisp mornings and a warm fireplace — can’t possibly be captured in a commercially prepared pumpkin spice latte.

We asked a barista, a baker, a pastry chef and a kolache maker to create elevated versions of popular pumpkin spice products. They pulled forward ingredients including cardamom, turmeric and sweet potatoes to offer a more well-rounded profile of seasonal flavors.

Cardamom Pecan Sweet Bread

With its distinct, complex flavor that’s spicy, herbal and citrusy, cardamom — a spice made from the seeds of several plants native to India — is often underutilized as a fall spice. It pairs well with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, as well as citrus zests and preserves. Petra Lively, owner of BreadHaus (www.breadhaus.com) in Graprevine, Texas, uses the exotic spice in her cardamom pecan braided sweet bread, an alternative to pumpkin bread that’s easy to prepare.

Makes: 6 loaves

12 cups flour

11/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons ground cardamom

4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant yeast (not active dry)

2 eggs

11/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

31/3 cups water

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil

2 cups chopped pecans, plus more for garnishing top of bread

Egg wash, as needed

Mix all ingredients except pecans and egg wash in a mixer with dough hook for 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Add pecans and mix 1 minute longer to incorporate.

Divide dough into six even pieces and cut each piece into thirds. Roll each third into an 8-inch long rope and braid six separate loaves, tucking ends under. Lay on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Proof for approximately three hours until dough has doubled in size.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush egg wash over loaves and sprinkle with remaining chopped pecans. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Harvest Spice Kolache Filling

Pumpkin spice flavor has also crept its way into kolaches, the popular Czech pastries filled with fruit, custard or cream cheese-based fillings.

But Erin Duffey of Duffey’s Kolache Bakery (duffeyskolachebakery.com) in far north Fort Worth offers an autumn-inspired alternative he calls Harvest Spice, made with allspice, honey and buttermilk. The result is a sweet and creamy taste of fall that’s as aromatic as it is addicting. Try his kolache filling recipe with any basic kolache dough recipe.

Makes: Enough for about 30 kolaches

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons cornstarch

Pinch salt

4 egg yolks

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In a mixing bowl, combine sugars, buttermilk, heavy cream, cornstarch and salt, and blend until smooth.

Transfer mixture to a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat to bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until all sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens. (Add more cornstarch, if needed, to reach desired thickness.) Continue cooking at low boil for an additional five minutes, stirring constantly.

In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg yolks lightly, then temper by adding small amounts of hot mixture into egg yolks until combined. Add vanilla, honey, allspice and butter. Mix until combined. Refrigerate before use.

Turmeric Latte

Popular in Australia, London and in some parts of the West Coast, turmeric lattes are invading coffee shops and social media feeds. The ancient spice has long been believed to have various health benefits. Barista Christopher Craft at Mudsmith (www.mudsmithcoffee.com) in Fort Worth says the drink is a spicy, fall-inspired pick-me-up, infused with cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of black pepper. Try it caffeine-free, if desired, by replacing the espresso with two more ounces of almond milk.

Serves: 1

10 ounces almond milk

11/2 ounces fresh turmeric juice (see note)

1 teaspoon honey, or more for desired sweetness

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch black pepper

Pinch nutmeg

2 shots espresso

Steam the almond milk using a milk frothing wand, or heat in a small saucepan.

Add turmeric juice, honey and spices and gently stir to combine. Pour over two shots of hot espresso.

Note: To make turmeric juice, use a juicer to grind 2 to 3 small pieces whole, peeled turmeric root.

Sweet Potato Ginger Cheesecake

Substitute the now ubiquitous pumpkin spice cheesecake for Laurel Wimberg’s sweet potato ginger cheesecake. The new pastry chef at Bird Cafe (www.birdinthe.net) in Fort Worth shares an easy recipe for the crust-free treat that can be made as a whole cheesecake or as 12 individual portions in ramekins. For cheesecake lovers who can’t fathom the thought of no crust, Wimberg recommends crushing gingersnap cookies to create one.

Serves: 10-12 (Use one 10-inch spring-form pan or 12 individual ramekins)

11/2 pounds cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sweet potato puree

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Zest and juice from half an orange

4 eggs

1 cup sour cream

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream the cream cheese, sugars, spices and salt with a mixer set on low until smooth. Mix in sweet potato puree, vanilla extract and orange zest and juice. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl. Mix in sour cream.

Grease pan or ramekins and line with parchment paper. Pour batter into molds and bake in a water bath for 25 minutes for individual cheesecakes or 50 minutes for a 10-inch cheesecake. Cheesecake is done when surface jiggles as a whole. If the center is more jiggly than the edges, bake a little longer. Chill completely before unmolding. Serve with toasted pecans and whipped cream or marshmallows, if desired.