Gourmet Food Source
Dating back thousands of years when this highly prized spice was a vital part of rituals and various potions, cinnamon is the dried and rolled bark of the tropical and evergreen cinnamon tree.
Native to Southern India and the West Indies it is the Sri Lankan variety, which has long been considered the best.
Cinnamon is available in two forms, quills and powdered and whilst both have their uses I prefer to use the quills. Powdered cinnamon is a classic example of the importance of buying spices in small quantities. It has a relatively poor shelf life in its powdered form and easily looses its flavour. The one advantage that powdered has over bark is that grinding the bark into a powder can be time consuming and difficult particularly when making an Indian masala for example. I prefer to gently roast the bark before snapping it in two and dropping the quills into my sauce or stew.
As important as cinnamon is to many savoury preparations it is best known for its use in desserts and baked goods, from cakes to buns it is also especially good in ice creams, flavoured custards and coffee. For a simple and delicious way of trying cinnamon little beats Elizabeth David’s method of ‘crustless English toast dripping with butter and liberally sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar’.
Finally, do not be tempted to substitute cassia bark for cinnamon, it is the poorer relation and sweet recipes in particular would not thank you for it.
Content and picture © Miles Collins