What Is Cinnamon? How To Use It In Your Cooking?


By: The Foodie’s Avenue

In the diverse and flavourful world of cooking, few spices can match the allure and versatility of cinnamon. With its distinctive sweet and warm aroma, cinnamon has become a beloved ingredient in countless dishes, both sweet and savoury. From traditional desserts to savoury stews and aromatic beverages, this ancient spice adds a delightful touch to cuisines from all corners of the globe.

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Photo: The Foodie’s Avenue

What is cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a popular and aromatic spice derived from the inner bark of trees belonging to the Cinnamomum genus. It is obtained by harvesting the inner bark of the Cinnamomum trees, which is then dried and rolled into the familiar cinnamon sticks, or ground into a fine powder.

Types of cinnamon and their origins

There are two main types of cinnamon commonly used: Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon, also known as “true cinnamon,” is milder and sweeter in taste, primarily originating from Sri Lanka. Cassia cinnamon, on the other hand, is more readily available in supermarkets and has a stronger, spicier flavour, hailing from China and Indonesia.

Cinnamon has been treasured for centuries for its delightful taste and versatile applications in various cuisines around the world. It is a common ingredient in sweet dishes like pastries, cakes, and desserts, as well as in savoury dishes, including curries and stews. Additionally, it is often used to enhance the flavour of beverages like teas, hot chocolate, and coffee.

Whole or ground?

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Photo: The Foodie’s Avenue

Stick cinnamon, also known as cinnamon quills or cinnamon sticks, consists of rolled-up pieces of the bark of the cinnamon tree. It is often used in recipes that require a longer cooking time, like stews, soups, and mulled beverages. The sticks release their flavour slowly during cooking and can be easily removed before serving.

Ground cinnamon, on the other hand, is made from grinding the cinnamon sticks into a fine powder. It is more convenient and suitable for recipes that don’t involve prolonged cooking or when you want the cinnamon flavour to disperse quickly, such as in baking, smoothies, oatmeal, and sprinkling on top of dishes.

Both forms of cinnamon have a similar taste and aroma, so the choice mainly comes down to how you plan to use it and personal preference. Some people prefer the control and aesthetic appeal of using cinnamon sticks, while others opt for the ease and convenience of ground cinnamon.

Flavour profile of cinnamon

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Photo: The Foodie’s Avenue
  • Warm: Cinnamon exudes a comforting warmth that lingers on the palate, evoking a sense of cosiness and comfort.
  • Sweet: Its sweet taste is pleasant and not overly sugary, adding a delightful sweetness to dishes without being cloying.
  • Aromatic: Cinnamon’s captivating aroma is rich and alluring, infusing dishes with a delightful fragrance.
  • Spicy (with a hint of heat): Cinnamon carries a gentle spiciness that provides a subtle kick to the taste buds, adding depth and excitement to the overall flavour.
  • Woody: A subtle woody note enhances the complexity of cinnamon, evoking a connection to the natural world.

The interplay of its diverse flavours allows cinnamon to harmonise and elevate the taste profile of dishes, creating a well-rounded culinary experience. Cinnamon’s unique and complex flavour characteristics have made it a cherished spice for centuries, enriching a wide array of culinary creations worldwide.

Common dishes showcasing cinnamon

Cinnamon is a key ingredient in various traditional dishes around the world. Here are some examples of culinary delights that showcase the versatility of cinnamon:

Cinnamon Rolls

The foodie's avenue - Cinnamon rolls
Photo: Beth Macdonald

A classic and common sweet treat in many countries, cinnamon rolls are soft and fluffy pastries filled with a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and butter. They are often topped with a sweet glaze or cream cheese frosting.

Chai Tea

Photo: René Porter

A popular spiced tea from India, chai is made with black tea, milk, and a blend of aromatic spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and black pepper.

Apple Pie

Photo: Deborah Rainford

A timeless dessert that combines the natural sweetness of apples with the warm and comforting spice of cinnamon. Nestled in a flaky pastry crust, each bite is a delightful blend of tender apples and aromatic cinnamon, creating a perfect harmony of flavours.

Storage & shelf life

To ensure the freshness and longevity of your spices, proper storage is essential. Here are some guidelines on how to store cinnamon effectively:

  1. Choose an airtight container: Transfer the cinnamon into an airtight container to protect it from moisture, light and air exposure. A glass jar with a tight-fitting lid or a sealed plastic container works well for this purpose.
  2. Keep it in a cool, dark place: Store the container of cinnamon in a cool and dark area, such as a pantry or cupboard. Excessive heat and light can degrade the flavour and potency of the spice.
  3. Check for freshness: Over time, the flavour of cinnamon may diminish. It is a good practice to periodically check the spice for any signs of deterioration, such as loss of aroma or a faded appearance. If the cinnamon has gone stale or lacks flavour, it’s best to replace it with a fresh batch.

By following these storage tips, you can prolong the shelf life of your cinnamon spice for about 1 to 2 years for a whole stick. Ground cinnamon, on the other hand, has a shorter shelf life and is best used within 6 to 12 months for optimal flavour.

Photo: Christina Rumpf

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