The aromatic edible bark that is consumed globally, Cinnamon is the world’s most used baking spice. You may be familiar with using ground cinnamon but how to you use cinnamon sticks and is it any better than the ground version? Lets find out.
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You may already be using the worlds most popular spice which has made it’s way into kitchens and cuisines far and wide.
The most popular form of cinnamon used for cooking and baking is the ground form.
But did you know that uses of cinnamon sticks is perhaps far greater than cinnamon powder.
What is Cinnamon
Cinnamon is an ancient spice that comes from the inner bark of several species of tropical evergreen tree called cinnamomum genus.
Strips of the inner bark are carefully dried until they curl into rolls known as cinnamon sticks or quills.
Interestingly cinnamon is a loose relative of bay leaves as they belong to the laurel tree family heritage.
Primarily native to China and Sri-lanka, Cinnamon is now grown in many tropical climate countries of Asia, Europe and Americas.
What is Cinnamon Called in Other Languages
Cinnamon in English – Cinnamon
Cinnamon in hindi – Dal chini
Cinnamon French – Cannelle
Cinnamon in German – Zimt
Cinnamon in Spanish – Canela
What Does Cinnamon Taste Like
Cinnamon has a very distinctive sharp and sweet taste.
It is woody and fragrant.(not a surprise as it is essential a chip from the old wood)
It is used to add both fragrance as well as taste to any dish.
If you use cinnamon especially cinnamon powder in a dish you are sure to feel it.
Cinnamon falls into the warm/ sweet spice category.
Types of Cinnamon
Not many are aware but if you have been to an Indian kitchen or attended an Indian cooking class you may have noticed the frequent use of Cinnamon bark instead of ground cinnamon.
Cinnamon bark or quills as few call it is the whole form.
There are different types of Cinnamon barks used for cooking purposes.
Each type depends on the variety of cinnamon tree it comes from.
The 4 most common types of Cinnamon are
- Saigon, and
- Korintje Cinnamon.
However, for ease we will stick to the two varieties popularly sold.
That is Cassia and Ceylon
Difference Between Cassia and Ceylon Cinnamon
Cassia is the variety used in Indian cuisine while Ceylon is popular outside Asia.
They look different and taste slightly different as well.
Ceylon also known as ‘True Cinnamon’ is the type that in grown in Srilanka and parts of Southern India.
It is the commonly found cinnamon in most super markets.
It is tan brown in colour with a smooth skin and tighter rolls or quills.
The taste and fragrance of Ceylon cinnamon is mild and sweeter compared to cassia.
Ceylon cinnamon is also used in Ayurvedic treatments for its favourable medicinal properties.
Cassia is native to China and also known as Chinese cinnamon.
This is the type that is most commonly used in Indian or South Asian cooking.
They are dark brown, rough and have a more bark like texture. They come mostly in straight form instead of curls.
Cassia is considered the inferior or the lower grade cinnamon and is cheaper to Ceylon cinnamon.
It has a much stronger and woody taste compared to ceylon.
How to Make Cinnamon Powder From Sticks
Like most ground spices, all you need to make cinnamon powder at home from whole cinnamon sticks is to grind it into powder.
You can do this in two ways.
The easier way is to use a spice grinder or a coffee grinder and grind it into a nice fine powder.
The other option is to use a rough and heavy mortal and pestle.
The texture may not come as smooth and powdery but you can still turn it into a coarse texture.
How To Use Cinnamon Stick For Cooking
As mentioned cinnamon is one of the most used spice in the world.
Every cuisine use them for making some kind of dish.
Powder cinnamon is used for making desserts and bakes.
However the use of whole cinnamon sticks is a bit different to the powder form.
Unfortunately you cannot use whole cinnamon stick or quills for baking desserts and cakes. You are better off using ground cinnamon for that.
Here are few tips on how to use Cinnamon stick for cooking.
- One of the best uses of whole cinnamon stick is when it is added to any liquid base.
- You can use it in broths, teas, soups, stews and curries.
- Drop a whole stick when boiling rice, semolina, bulgar wheat, legumes or lentils for an aromatic fragrance.
- Use a whole cinnamon stick as a fancy stirrer for your cocktails or add a small piece to any drink
- Add a stick or two to pot pies and casseroles that is left to bake for a long period of time.
In whichever way you use a whole cinnamon stick it is best to remove it from the dish before serving.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice synonymous with festivities, bakes, cookies and fragrant warm days.
Knowingly or unknowingly you have been doing your food and yourself a wealth of good my adding this wonderful spice to your meals.
Cinnamon has been used for medicinal properties for centuries and has many health benefits.
So is Cinnamon good for you? You judge for yourself.
May help control Type 2 Diabetes – In a study of control trial with patients with type 2 diabetes it was found that cinnamon helped in reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity.
May help prevent cancer and Inflammation- The antioxidant properties of Cinnamon is far more than other superfoods. The polyphenols present protect against DNA damage and cell mutations associated with cancer and inflammation.
Maintain good oral health – The antimicrobial properties help in reducing bacteria that cause tooth decay and also act as a breath fresher.
May help fight against infections – Cinnamaldehyde is one of the main active components present in the spice that protects the body against infections. Although more research needs to be done on this, it is believed that Cinnamon can reduce the growth of bacteria like listeria, salmonella and yeast infection.
Reduce cholesterol – Some studies indicate that people who ate fatty meals but rich in spices such as turmeric and cinnamon had reduced about of tricycerides. Cinnamon may play a role to lower bad cholesterol levels and raise good cholesterol.
How Much Cinnamon Should You Take
Due to the different varieties of cinnamon, the composition of different components and the serving sizes it is difficult to say how much is the recommended cinnamon intake.
One can say that taking 1/2 to 1 tsp or 1 inch of cinnamon stick a day is sufficient amount.
It is also good to be aware of the the side effects of Cinnamon.
Cinnamon of all varieties contain blood thinning component called Coumarin.
The common ceylon variety has more of this compared to the other types.
High levels of cinnamon intake can lead to blood coagulation and can be toxic to the liver.
It is best to take your doctors advice before consuming cinnamon as a health supplement.
What Goes Best With Cinnamon
Being a mild strong aromatic spice, it is best to use cinnamon in moderation to prevent it from overpowering the dish.
Best food pairing: beans, red and yellow vegetables, potatoes, ginger,chicken, lamb, meat, dairy products, couscous, lentils, rice, soups, stews,curry,
Best spice pairing: asafoetida, bay leaves, cardamom, cumin, coriander, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, dry chilies, mustard seeds
Spice Substitute for Cinnamon
Since cinnamon has a very distinctive aroma and taste it is hard to replicate the same flavour with any other spice especially when it comes to baking.
Having said that, being a woody, slightly sweet spice it is easy to replace cinnamon with other similar spices in cooking.
The closest alternative to cinnamon for baking purpose are Mace and nutmeg.
For cooking purpose you can substitute cinnamon with star anise, black/brown cardamom pods or green cardamom.
Where to Buy Them
Depending on the type of cinnamon you wish to buy, they are easily available at most supermarkets.
You will find the ceylon variety in most super stores.
For cassia Cinnamon you will have to visit an Indian or Ethnic grocery store.
Wherever you choose to buy it make sure it is from a trusted source.
The sticks should be bright and in whole pieces with neat tight quills.
Check the manufacturer date before you buy as old cinnamon will taste a lot less stronger.
Ensure that the packs or jars are tightly sealed.
How to Store Cinnamon
Cinnamon sticks can loose freshness pretty soon if not stored properly.
Keep it in a tightly sealed glass container, or if it’s in a packet then close the opening of the packet tightly with a clip.
Store all it in a dark, dry place away from direct sunlight.
Well stored sticks will keep its character and flavour for a least 12 months.
Buy Cinnamon sticks and other types of cinnamon from the The Spice House online store.