Bloom Spices In Your Roux For A More Flavorful Mac And Cheese

The key to a delectable recipe comes from a flavorful foundation. A good plate of mac and cheese starts with seasoning the cheese sauce, but the best one incorporates spices much earlier. The roux is the first building block for the cozy meal, so for better-tasting mac and cheese, bloom your spices in the thickening agent.

In many recipes, such as our simple mac and cheese, spices are added to the cheese sauce. While leaving them to simmer away in the golden liquid does help to infuse it with flavor, it doesn't unlock the depths of the spices like blooming does. When cooking with spices, you can heat them in a fat to coax out the more intoxicating elements of their flavor. Most herbs and spices tend to be fat-soluble, meaning their flavor compounds seep out when heated in oil, butter, or ghee, making a roux the perfect vehicle to carry out the technique.

An equal mix of fat and flour, a roux helps to thicken dishes with its velvety touch. Before adding the flour, you'll need to heat the butter — this is where the spices come in. As soon as the butter has melted, stir in your ground spices and herbs over low heat. Blooming spices can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes, so it won't lengthen your cooking time by much. Once the spices have bloomed, you can sprinkle in the flour.

Which spices should you bloom for mac and cheese?

The most important thing is to choose seasonings that bloom quickly. If they're left in the fat for too long, the butter can brown, meaning the roux will darken in color. Since a white roux is integral for classic mac and cheese, you'll want to maintain the butter's color and texture.

Red pepper flakes are an excellent spice to bloom, as they need to be heated for only 30 seconds before their flavor is fully released into the fat. You can sprinkle them into melted butter, along with ground black pepper and nutmeg for baked mac and cheese casserole with subtle layers of warmth spread throughout. If you prefer your mac and cheese a little woodsier, herbs also bloom within less than a minute. Add ground rosemary and thyme to the butter and stir constantly before incorporating the flour.

Another reason to be careful not to bloom the spices too long or at a high heat is that they're prone to burning easily. You may also want to add less seasoning than you're used to. The blooming technique amplifies their flavor, so it's best to be sparing with your use of already dominating seasonings like rosemary or cumin.