Food & Drink » Food & Wine

Pumpkin Spice Latte — with Corn?

A twist on the PSL — made with corn.

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When people say they like pumpkin spice-flavored foods, what they mean is they like pumpkin pie-flavored foods.

If people want to consume pumpkin pie spices, and clearly they do, I suggest combining them with corn. Corn is sweeter than squash, and if prepared properly, creamier as well. So sweet and creamy, in fact, that corn, pumpkin spices, and a pinch of salt are all you really need to make a pumpkin pie-flavored drink.

Pumpkin pie spice is a mix of ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. These roots, seeds, and bark share the trait of somehow tasting sweet without actually being sweet. In the presence of actual sweet ingredients, they really pucker up.

DIY PSL kit starts with (clockwise from bottom left) cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves - ARII LEVAUX
  • Arii levaux
  • DIY PSL kit starts with (clockwise from bottom left) cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves

Back to that corn spice drink. When my wife took a sip, what she said was music to my ears. Our kids swarmed into the kitchen, took sips, and said the same thing she had: "It tastes like pumpkin pie!" This was encouraging, but one question remained: Could I use my corny concoction in a pumpkin spice latte, aka the "PSL"?

I took a trip to Starbucks and paid five bucks for the smallest cup they had. I didn't taste any coffee, only pumpkin pie, but the barista claimed she added a shot. I took it home and added a shot of homemade espresso, which made it taste kind of funny. Apparently, too much coffee makes the funny taste that pumpkin can have stand out, which is the opposite of what pumpkin spice does.

The corn spice latte (CSL), meanwhile, had none of that funniness, no matter how much coffee I added. And I added plenty. And when I added chocolate powder to the corn-coction, the resulting corn spice mocha (CSM) made me smile like a goofy jack-o-lantern.

This recipe for corn spice drink that tastes like pumpkin pie includes a chocolate option, as well as directions for adding either variation to coffee drinks. To my taste, the CSL and CSM don't require added sugar or milk because corn is so sweet and creamy. But if you want Starbucks-level decadence, adding sweetener and creamer is the easy part.

For simplicity, I used a commercial mix of ground pumpkin pie spice. For the extreme DIYers, here is a recipe for the mix: three teaspoons each of cloves and allspice, four teaspoons each of nutmeg and ginger, and six tablespoons cinnamon, all ground.

Makes 2 servings

2 ears sweet corn, shucked (or 2 cups frozen corn)

2 cups water

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin spices

Optional: 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

For corn spice latte or mocha base: ¼ cup (or more) heavy cream, 2 tablespoons (or more) sugar

Cut off the tip of the cob and hold it tip down on a cutting board. Place a filet knife or the narrowest knife you can find about halfway down the cob and cut straight down, as close to the cob as possible, slicing off a sheet of kernels. Rotate your grip and slice off another sheet. Repeat until you've removed all the kernels (about a cup and a half from an average size ear).

Add the corn, along with the salt, spices, and chocolate, if using, to a pot with the water. On medium heat, stir together with a fork and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, covered. Turn off heat and allow to cool. When cool enough to work with, add to a blender, preferably a powerful one like a Vitamix. Start on the lowest speed, gradually increase the speed to high, and blend on high for about 60 seconds in a Vitamix, longer in a lesser blender. Keep going until it's utterly smooth.

If you wish to make a coffee drink, instead blend for 30 seconds on medium, and strain out the corn chunks and fibers. If you have a weak blender, do this, too.

Pour the liquified or strained corn spices back into the pot and return to a simmer. Serve hot or cold.

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