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Test Kitchen tips: Storing and dating spices for freshness

January 11, 2013|By Noelle Carter
  • Store your spices in a cool, dry place, and date them after opening.
Store your spices in a cool, dry place, and date them after opening. (Noelle Carter / Los Angeles…)

Nothing can kill a good recipe faster than a lack of spice.

Even kitchen staples such as dried herbs and spices have an expiration date and can lose their potency over time. Properly stored, spices can last a year or two at most, with whole spices generally lasting longer than ground. Store your spices in a cool, dry place, away from moisture, and keep them tightly sealed.

Whenever I open a new spice jar I date the back so I can keep tabs on how long it's been open. Once a year, I'll rummage through the collection and check on them. Spices that still have some potency should have their original color, with a vibrant smell and fresh taste. Old or expired spices often lose their color, becoming dull, and have very little, if any, smell or flavor.

Nothing tastes -- or smells -- better than baked goods using good spices. Keep reading for the recipe for the cinnamon rolls pictured at left.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at


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Cinnamon rolls

Total time: About 1 hour, plus rising time

Servings: 12

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Zest of 1 orange

2 eggs, at room temperature

4 cups (17 ounces) and 1 tablespoon flour, divided, plus extra as needed

1/4 cup sugar

2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) softened butter, cut into cubes, plus 6 tablespoons melted butter, divided

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

1 tablespoons orange juice

1/4 cup milk

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, orange zest and eggs. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, sugar, yeast, baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and the softened butter. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and mix on low speed until the mixture comes together, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough is soft and smooth, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes, adding a little flour if the dough is too wet (up to 1/4 cup).

3. Scrape the dough from the bowl and form it into a ball — it should be very soft, like brioche dough — and place the dough in a large, buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

4. While the dough is rising, make the filling. In a small bowl, sift together the brown sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 tablespoon flour and 1 teaspoon salt.

5. When the dough has risen, remove it to a well-floured work surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle 1/4 inch thick, and approximately 17 inches long and 12 inches wide. Brush the dough with 1/4 cup melted butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over it, keeping 1 inch clear along one of the long edges. Loosely roll the dough into a long tube, pressing the clear edge along the length of the dough to seal the tube. Place the tube seam-side down on the cutting board.

6. Cut the tube crosswise into 12 evenly sized rolls using a length of unflavored dental floss (slide the floss under the roll and then pull both ends tight, which doesn't squash the dough as much as a knife would). Place the rolls, spiral side up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced approximately 1/2 inch apart.

7. Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap and set aside until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour. Half an hour into the rise, heat the oven to 375 degrees.

8. Bake the rolls until puffed and golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the tray and cool on the parchment paper.

9. Meanwhile, make the icing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, orange juice, milk, remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter and a pinch of salt. The icing should have the consistency of very thick syrup, add additional milk or sugar as needed to adjust the consistency. Ice the rolls by dipping a whisk into the icing and drizzling over the rolls. The rolls can be iced either warm (the icing will melt and spread a bit) or cooled.

Each cinnamon roll: 446 calories; 7 grams protein; 77 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 13 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 67 mg. cholesterol; 43 grams sugar; 280 mg. sodium.

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