Hello, blog readers. I am Sarah, Andrew's wife. We are doing a special Creepy Days thing here where we post things that are fall-themed / Halloween-themed. I offered to Andrew that I would help out with recipes, because I am the recipe person in our relationship. [This is true. I do most of the cooking, but my inclination, often, is to just wing it. Sarah researches and provides recipes to keep me more on track.] So here is your first recipe for Creepy Days: Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte!
First, what is a pumpkin spice latte? Historically, it's a flavored espresso drink invented by Starbucks and first sold in 2003. [Link] It has a pretty rabid fan following, and also inspires non-fans to become snarky about "the PSL" (as those in the know dub it, apparently). I don't really know why people become snarky about it, because 1. it's a coffee drink that no one is forcing anyone else to drink, 2. "pumpkin spice" is a delicious melange of flavors generally, 3. the PSL feels autumnal, right? are these people who are snarking actually FALL-haters, and wouldn't that mean they are anti-American?? 4. the eggnog latte seems to slip under everyone's radar and not come in for any abuse at all, despite being a legitimately gross concept, [She says this in a house in which all of her children love eggnog and, though none of them have discovered having it as coffee, they will probably love that, too.] and 5. who even has enough energy to waste on getting cranky about an espresso drink, unless they are in a circumstance where the barista just spit in it? Oh you're not in that circumstance? Then maybe stop being snarky about freakin' coffee!
Whew! OK. I myself do not care for the PSL as it is formulated by Starbucks; however, I am not going to snark at people who like it that way. More power to them in their chosen method of enjoying the seasonal spirit of autumn. For my own preferences, I want a PSL that is more pumpkin-y and less sweet. A lot less sweet, both because I don't like things that are overly sweet and also because I want to avoid consuming a lot of sugar. If you like the idea of the PSL but you would prefer not to have to visit your dentist and cardiologist after each one you consume, then this recipe may be right up your alley.
Now, this recipe is more of a formula than a recipe per se. I recommend that you adjust the formula components to suit your own desire; this could take experimentation. Delicious experimentation. [We do a lot of that.] I consider that a feature rather than a bug as regards this recipe. So does Andrew.
Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) Formula
Pumpkin flavor. Once upon a time, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte did not contain any actual pumpkin, rather it was artificially flavored. In 2015, in response to consumer pressure about the drink not containing "real" pumpkin, it was reformulated to contain some quantity of pumpkin; Starbucks doesn't indicate how much. To me, this is not a knock against the drink itself (because, I mean, come on--any of Starbucks' sweetened drinks are really just dessert in liquid form, and extracts are often used in desserts to supplement flavor), though to some people it might matter. Rather, I say this in order to make you aware that you have two basic options as regards flavoring your own personal PSL:
- Pumpkin flavor. Pros: Can be purchased here from my favorite baking-supply company, King Arthur Flour; using a very small amount will apparently give you a big flavor; won't add any texture to your drink as real pumpkin does. Cons: Waiting for your flavor to reach you in the mail; isn't "real pumpkin."
- Real pumpkin. Pros: It's real pumpkin!; it's easy to find in the stores this time of year; adds some Vitamin A and other nutrients to your coffee drink. Cons: It will add texture to your drink, depending on how much you add in; some people don't like the "raw" taste of it (you can cook it before using it in your drink if that is an issue). [We go for texture. Just sayin'.]
Milk base. Totally up to you what to use here. If you like your lattes made with milk, do that; if you prefer almond milk or coconut milk or something else, that is also fine. Just maybe no goat's milk, that doesn't seem like such a great idea.
Coffee. Do you have an espresso machine? Use a shot of espresso! [If you don't have an espresso machine, you should totally get one. It's well worth it and will provide you a reason to redecorate.] Do you keep instant coffee in your cupboard? It's OK to use that too! (We have both, because we love espresso but sometimes we're lazy and/or I need the instant for baking with.) Or are you a kid or someone else who hates the taste of coffee? NO COFFEE FOR YOU!
Sweetness. Andrew and I are sugar-avoiders, so I use sucralose to sweeten our homemade PSLs; a little less for him, a little more for me. You can use sugar or honey or stevia or maple syrup (that sounds interesting!) or agave or whatever you want. I recommend starting with less and going to more because, as my mom always said, "You can put more in, but you can't take it out." (Good advice for cooking AND pretty good advice for managing your retirement account, too.)
Spices. If you have "pumpkin pie spice" in your cupboard already, you may as well use that. If not--e.g., if you are a crazy baker like me [She is the baker; I just do the cooking.] and have a collection of 30+ spices and herbs that are getting regularly used (ok, except for the ghost chile curry powder that Andrew bought on a whim, that stuff is never going to get used up because no one in our household, mysteriously, wants to have their tongue burned off) [Not true! I use it when I make things that require curry powder! It's just that I didn't buy it until the end of our run on Indian food experimentation so haven't had a lot of opportunities to use it since then.]...anyway, if you have the individual spices you can just use those, and if you have the individual spices then you also probably know that you want to be using some combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and/or allspice. Or, if you enjoy masala chai (AKA "chai tea" to Americans), a bit of cardamom will add that flavor. Or try turmeric and black pepper if you're feeling adventurous and want to add an extra dash of warm color and heat to your PSL (black pepper boosts the beneficial effects of turmeric).
Vanilla extract. Why a flavor other than pumpkin and spice and coffee? Vanilla is a great balancer and rounder of other flavors.
Salt. Salt is an enhancer of other flavors. It also moderates the bitterness of coffee.
Whipped cream. Totally optional, unless you are our daughter, in which case whipped cream is literally the most important part of this drink or, indeed, of any dessert. In fact, if we were to allow her to put whipped cream on her breakfast cereal, she would probably be really eager to do that; but please, no one put that idea into her head, because we are already exhausted from saying "NO, YOU MAY NOT PUT WHIPPED CREAM ON YOUR WHIPPED CREAM, THAT IS ENOUGH WHIPPED CREAM."
Pumpkin Spice Latte - 2 servings
4 oz canned pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 to 1/2 tsp blend of other spices such as cloves, nutmeg, mace, allspice, cardamom, black pepper, turmeric
2 cups milk
2 to 3 tbsp sugar or substitute
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 to 2 shots espresso
In a small saucepan, heat up the pumpkin, along with your chosen blend of spices.
Add in milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir to combine, then heat up. If you're using instant coffee instead of espresso, this is the time to add it in to your mixture, so that it dissolves. If you want your drink frothy, you can use a hand-held blender to do that when the milk is warmed up.
Pull espresso shots and pour into your favorite mugs. Top with the latte mixture, and whipped cream if that's your thing.
Then, enjoy your fall-themed hot beverage!