It's that time of year again. Fall has different meanings for different people, but in the past few years, it's meant the introduction of Pumpkin Spice everything. When Starbucks decided to develop its Pumpkin Spice Latte back in 2003, the craze took off, and they couldn't keep up with the demand. Since then, there have been a slew of pumpkin-themed treats hitting the market in the past few years: chips, cookies, marshmallows, coffee creamer and even chocolates. M&Ms even hopped onto the pumpkin spice bandwagon with pumpkin spice M&Ms, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Speaking of bandwagons, hey there! I'll admit, I'm a sucker for pumpkin-flavoured things, but that's because I moved to another country and I really only get pumpkin once a year when I make pies, and a can of puree costs about $20. I think Starbucks is fine and everything, but a single coffee here costs well over $10. So when I was looking though Pinterest for decorating ideas for Thanksgiving and saw "Crock Pot Pumpkin Spiced Latte", I knew that I had to try it!
The original recipe, found at thrivinghomeblog.com, states that the recipe served approximately 15 people and filled the home with a warm, vanilla-cinnamon-pumpkiny aroma with no syrups or fake flavours added. Sounds tasty enough. Let's find out, shall we?
The author states that the mixture does not reheat well.
I cut the recipe in half, since there are just two of us and it was 9 p.m. I'm not a huge coffee drinker and a cup means I'm up at midnight writing a blog while running to pee every 10 minutes. The final result tasted pretty darn good, and it would certainly be a great alternative to those expensive, syrupy Starbucks drinks, but I found there was a slight bitter aftertaste. I also think there could be some fine tuning as far as flavour balance goes. Be careful with the strength of the coffee and the amount of cinnamon used because both of these things can contribute to the bitterness. Also, the recipe only calls for a single spice: cinnamon. Pumpkin spice is a mix of cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg, so I really believe that the "spice" part was tasty, but one dimensional.
I give this recipe a solid 3.5 out of 5.
A note about vanilla
The original author in the recipe simply wrote "vanilla extract", and stated in her comments section that it should be real vanilla extract.
To be honest, I was a bit surprised at the amount of vanilla extract used in her recipe, at a half cup (which is approximately 24 teaspoons). Normally, about two teaspoons of extract would equal one vanilla bean, and one bean is enough to strongly flavour an entire batch of ice cream. Considering this is a pumpkin spice latte, and not a vanilla latte, I opted to use a single pod rather than extract, since I only had the option of fake vanilla essence or beans.
Vanilla essence is often fake vanilla. It contains a flavour compound that imitates vanilla called vanillin, which can either come as a byproduct of processing the pods, or can be artificially created. It can also contain lignin, a byproduct of the wood pulp industry. Essence can leave a "medicinal" or "chemical" aftertaste. Best for products that are baked, but lose some of its flavouring.
Pure vanilla extract (read the label to avoid fakes) is made by macerating vanilla pods in alcohol and water. U.S. food standards states that there must be a minimum of 35% alcohol and 100 g vanilla in the mixture, however double and triple strengths exist. You can make vanilla extract yourself at home.
Natural vanilla flavouring comes from scraping the innards of vanilla pods without alcohol.
Keep in mind that real extracts and beans are much more expensive than essences, but real vanilla has a sweet warmth, roundness and depth of flavour that also works to enhance the other flavours in a recipe. If you find that real vanilla is too expensive, then add a splash of alcohol, like rum to your latte to mask the bitter, chemical flavour of the essence.
Tweaking the recipe
As you can see, I opted to use real vanilla instead of an overwhelming amount of extract. The recipe is pretty darn good as is, but there could be some small improvements:
Hey there! My name is Lea, and I'm a Canadian Culinary student trying to survive chef life in Denmark. I want to share my journey, and some great food and experiences with others. I believe that anyone can be quite chefy!