Cinnamon is commonly used this time of year in Canada. It is the ubiquitous spice found in pumpkin and apple pie and its sweet and warming tones are ideally suited for comforting fall weather foods. But did you know…
…most cinnamon sold commercially in Canada and the US is not actually cinnamon but cassia? The former is usually sold under the name ‘true cinnamon’ and the latter is often sold under the name Saigon/Vietnamese Saigon cinnamon.
origin: Sri Lanka (formerly named Ceylon)
botanical name: cinnamomum zeylanicum
It is an evergreen tree that is part of the Laurel family.
It indigenous to Sri Lanka.
The inner bark is stripped away, laid out to dry at which point it curls up into quills. These are packed like Russian nesting dolls, one inside the other, to form sticks and sold as is or in ground form.
Popular uses: in savoury dishes and meat sauces during the Middle Ages and in spice blends in Eastern countries eg ras el hanout (Morocco), berbere (Ethiopia), curry (India). In the West, it is most often used in sweet dishes.
The Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Portuguese, Dutch and British all vied for trade in cinnamon.
It is true cinnamon that is recommended for its effect on blood sugar regulation. Check out this post from Healthline for its other health benefits. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-cinnamon#section11
origin: Myanmar (formerly called Burma)
botanical name: cinnamomum cassia
It is an evergreen tree, sometimes called bastard cinnamon, and processed the same way as cinnamon.
It is cheaper and easier to produce than true cinnamon.
Cassia is much more pungent than true cinnamon and therefore favoured in baking for its strong aroma and taste.
Cassia contains a significant amount of coumarin, a chemical compound that may cause liver damage in certain individuals when taken in high doses.
It’s Easter time and that means chocolate eggs and hot cross buns! Traditionally eaten on Good Friday, hot cross buns are enriched bread made with spices and citrus zest/peel. They are marked on top with the symbol of the cross, made from either a flavourless flour water mix or a mix of powdered sugar and milk.
This weekend I undertook a hot cross extravaganza and made hot cross cookies, scones and my signature buns known as hot cross bunnies; obviously made in the shape of a (Easter) bunny.
Previously I have made hot cross brownies and plan to make hot cross pancakes and muffins for next year.
Many recipes for hot cross buns call for ‘mixed spice’. So what exactly is in this blend?
Hot Cross Bun spice mix:
2 teaspoons of true cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon clove
This quantity will be more than sufficient for one full batch of hot cross buns. Use the leftover spice blend to make cookies, scones, cake or whatever else you can think of to ‘hot crossify’.
*For best flavour, grind the spices fresh just before using in a recipe.
*For more pungency double the amounts of allspice, nutmeg and clove.
The ginger love is well underway! Scones, decorated cookies and ginger lemon curd to name but a few creations. (Although the ginger is not so pronounced in the curd. Note to self: next time use fresh ginger and infuse it into the curd while it cooks. Strain out afterwards.)
botanical name: Zingiber officinale
where it originated:
South East Asia
where does it grow now:
Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia
Anti-inflammatory, digestive, useful for nausea
Other spices of the holiday season are clove, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Clove pairs well with cranberry, orange and mulled cidre/wine. Nutmeg is the signature flavour in eggnog while cinnamon goes well in mulled drinks, hot chocolate and apple desserts.
All four (ginger, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon) make a great spice blend for a variety of seasonal treats eg mincemeat tarts, cakes and cookies. Make sure to use minute quantities of clove and nutmeg. Your pinches and dashes will come in handy here. These are potent spices and a little goes a long way. Be generous with the ginger and cinnamon. A 2:1 ratio is a general guideline when using both spices depending on which flavour you want to dominate.
In gingerbread, use at least twice as much ginger as cinnamon.
Stay tuned for individual posts on clove, nutmeg and cinnamon….