Cinnamon: The World’s Most Popular Baking Spice

Cinnamon’s distinctive taste and aroma can be enjoyed solo as in cinnamon rolls, or in tandem with other warm spices like cloves, nutmeg, and allspice: in cakes, cookies and fruit crisps, breads and pies, puddings, ice cream—you name it!

It’s also common in savory dishes—like soups, sauces, chutneys, curries, catsup, pickles, squash, potatoes, green beans, red beets, applesauce, vinegars, meat, fish and poultry glazes and marinades and grains. Or try it in hot drinks like cider, coffee, tea, and cocoa, too.

It depends on the cook developing the blend, of course, but because it complements so many foods and other spices, you can often find cinnamon in many spice blends, such as curry powder, garam masala, sambhar powder, and five spice powder. Baking blends like apple pie spice and pumpkin pie spice, as well as many pickling blends, seafood boil blends, tea blends (like Chai), and mulling spice blends also rely upon cinnamon.

While the names cinnamon and cassia are often used interchangeably—and the plants are related—there are botanical and practical differences. Cassia is reddish-brown and pungently sweet; it’s grown primarily in China and the Indonesian islands. (The outer bark isn’t removed during the harvesting of cassia.) True cinnamon, on the other hand, is buff-colored and mild; it generally comes from Sri Lanka (ancient Ceylon, from which it gets its name) and the Malabar Coast of India. Cinnamon is considered a more complex flavor, spicy rather than sweet, with woody undertones. Each holds its place in various ethnic cuisines and kitchens. Most of the powdered cinnamon sold in supermarkets today is cassia.

By the way, you can tell cinnamon sticks from cassia sticks by the way they curl: cinnamon sticks roll from only one side, but cassia sticks curl inward from both sides toward the center.

About our cinnamon: Our Indonesian cassia (Cinnamomum burmanii) — considered the most flavorful in the world — comes from Mt. Korintje in Sumatra, where the altitude contributes to the spice’s intense, reddish-brown color and strong flavor.

In the mountainous regions of North Vietnam, farmers harvest Frontier’s Vietnamese cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureirii) from trees that have matured at least 20 years. Its pungent aroma and rich flavor is the result of the high oil content; we purchase cinnamon cut from the base of the tree, where the highest concentration or oil is found. We also offer Cinnamomum verum, or “true cinnamon,” from Sri Lanka.

Now that we’ve got you craving this delicious spice, here’s a simple way to enjoy it — perfect for a winter’s day. Wrap your hands around a mug of this wonderful hot beverage. No baking required!

Cinnamon Soother

2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon favorite green or black tea
1 teaspoon dried chamomile leaves
2 teaspoons honey (or to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon cinnamon granules
2 cinnamon sticks (for stirring)

Pour boiling water over tea and chamomile leaves. Steep, covered, for about 10 minutes. Strain. Stir in honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon granules. Pour into two cups and add cinnamon stick stirrers. Serve hot or iced.

Of course, since cinnamon is so popular for baking, here are some other recipes containing cinnamon you may want to try.

We’d love to hear your favorite ways to savor the flavor of cinnamon.

New Twists on Everyday Spices

As we seek healthier eating habits while dealing with tighter budgets, cooking and eating at home is more attractive than ever. If you’re an at-home cook looking for an easy way to expand your culinary horizons, you might try creating some new taste sensations in familiar dishes by using new versions of your favorite spices to liven up family favorites.

Here are some to consider:

Cinnamon is an especially popular spice that comes from the bark of an evergreen tree. For an even sweeter seasoning, try Vietnamese cinnamon. Compared to the more familiar Indonesian types, Vietnamese cinnamon has a distinctly sweet flavor and exceptionally high volatile oil content, the key flavor component. Gourmet cooks rate it as the highest-quality cinnamon in the world. Try using it in everything from oatmeal and baked goods to desserts, beverages and savory dishes.

If you love heat in your food, you’ve probably learned the ways of cayenne. Cayenne adds color and flavor to Southwestern salsas, Indian chutneys, Thai curries, Mexican enchiladas, Chinese stir-fries, Texan chili con carne, Cajun hot sauce and many other recipes. But for a smokier flavor, try chipotle peppers, which are actually dried, smoked jalapeno peppers. Their smoky-sweet flavor is often used in Southwestern and Mexican dishes. Add a dash to liven up everything from chili to barbequed fare.

Freshly ground black pepper is popular in a wide variety of foods, works well in combination with other herbs and spices and is commonly found in spice blends. To change things up, try using Sichuan (Szechuan) pepper instead of black pepper to add an exotic twist to recipes. Gourmet Sichuan pepper is grown in China and offers an unusual, pungent flavor that begins as warm and lemon-like with woodsy overtones and finishes with a more intense bite. It intensifies the flavor of fish, poultry, cheese, and vegetables.

You’ve probably been using vanilla extract to flavor all kinds of desserts, beverages and other dishes. One way to ramp up the flavor is to switch to vanilla beans instead of using the liquid extract. Simply substitute one vanilla bean for each teaspoon of extract, cooking it with the liquid used in the recipe and then removing it. The most common type of vanilla, Bourbon vanilla beans, are grown in Madagascar and are very aromatic with a full, rich taste. But to bump up the flavor, try Papua New Guinea vanilla beans, cultivated in the lowlands of the Pacific Basin. They have a fruitier taste than that of the Bourbon beans, with some notes of cherry that add a deep, longlasting flavor to ice creams, frosting, and many beverages.

Nutmeg is the dried seed of the fruit of an evergreen, which most often comes in ground form. However, nutmeg, like many spices, loses both flavor and aroma after it’s ground. Instead, buy whole nutmeg and grind it yourself using a special nutmeg grater or a fine grater. Grinding it fresh produces a much more robust and fresher flavor. Warm and sweet, nutmeg adds depth to desserts, cheeses, savory dishes and a variety of vegetables. Don’t forget to sprinkle it on eggnog, mulled wines and punches. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are delicious with a light dusting of nutmeg, too.

With just a few simple substitutions like these, you can go beyond the everyday with your spices and create a whole new meal experience. You’ll be amazed at the difference small changes like these can make — and you’ll have fun bringing new, creative flavors into your cooking.

Don’t forget, it’s easy to try these spices by buying from the bulk section, because you only buy the amount you need.

Here’s an easy recipe that allows you to experiment with some varieties of the spices above.

Pumpkin Parfait

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons sugar
6 ounces lowfat vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup granola with raisins

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, milk, and sugar. In 2 small bowls or ramekins, layer the pumpkin mixture and yogurt. Sprinkle with granola.

Layer in a parfait glass for a fun visual treat.