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Ingredient

Cinnamon

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A.K.A

cassia, canela

What is it?

Warm, tingly, sweet cinnamon is a spice recognized by just about anyone who has enjoyed French toast, a snickerdoodle, or an aptly named cinnamon bun. But the spice sold as cinnamon is actually the bark of two different species of trees (genus Cinnamomum).  Ceylon, or true, cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum or Cinnamomum zeylanicum) comes from Sri Lanka and has a more subtle flavor with floral and citrus notes.  Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia), grown in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, has a stronger, more aromatic flavor (think Red Hots), and is the most widely available variety in the United States. In both cases, the bark is rolled and dried into sticks, or ground.

Ceylon cinnamon sticks are recognizable by their thinner, more delicate bark, which is easier to crumble and grind. You may also see Ceylon cinnamon labeled as “Mexican cinnamon,” (or canela, the Spanish word for it), because it is so integral to Mexican cuisine. If you’re looking for Ceylon cinnamon, Latin grocery stores are a good source.

Don’t have it?

You can substitute cassia for Ceylon cinnamon, and vice versa, but there will be a slight variation in the dish’s flavor.

How to choose:

For cassia, look for names such as Korintje (from Indonesia) or Saigon cinnamon (from Vietnam), varieties that tend to possess the fullest and finest flavor. While ground cinnamon may be added right to a batter, pie filling, or streusel topping, whole cinnamon sticks are best for infusing subtle flavor into liquids like custard sauce, hot cider, and poaching syrups.

How to store:

When fresh, cinnamon should pack an aroma that beckons you to use it. Store in a cool, dark, dry place, and its fragrance should last a year or two.

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