This is a little bit of an odd Top Ten list, but I thought I’d take you through my baking cupboard (yes, I have an entire cupboard dedicated solely to baking supplies…um, and another cupboard…and a 4-tier rolling rack…but I digress). Since a Top Ten list would make this blog post too long, I’m splitting the posts up into several individual posts, showcasing one spice at a time.
Next up: CINNAMON: The Hardest Worker in Culinary Show Biz.
Cinnamon is a very accomplished multi-tasker; it’s not only used in a multitude of both everyday and holiday-themed baking recipes, but it’s also featured in several exotic cooking and drink recipes. And if that weren’t enough, it also has starring roles in health promotion as a digestion, circulatory, and respiratory aid, and is even considered an antiseptic! (NB: I need that recipe for the homemade hand sanitizer that’s mentioned in the link (Thieves’ Oil); It sounds awesome!)
Update: After searching for a while, I found a recipe… it was hard to locate as it’s some kind of trade secret…so for all of you who are interested, here it is!
In any case, it goes without saying that in the baking world, cinnamon is used in a huge number of recipes, and is almost as common as vanilla. There are two most popular types and qualities of cinnamon; actual, or true cinnamon, and the cheaper “knock-off”, Cassia. (North Indian and Chinese cinnamon variants are far less commonly found in North American stores, and so shall not be mentioned).
What’s the Diff between Cinnamon and Cassia?
The differences are subtle, but distinct; Cassia has a hard, thick-ish bark and is difficult to break into small pieces, whereas true cinnamon is made of thin, fragile layers rolled into a cigar shape and is easy to shred into tiny pieces. Cassia is a dark reddish colour, is sweet, spicy, and has a mild aroma. True cinnamon is usually light brown in colour, is slightly sweeter and has a delicate yet persistent fragrant aroma.
There are several varietals of “true cinnamon” which originate from many exotic locales, such as Java and Sumatra in Indonesia (where it is called mayu manis, or “sweet wood”), Sinhala in Sri Lanka (where it is called kurundu), and many other places around the world. Of the dozen or so tress that produce cinnamon-like bark, most commercially-used cinnamon is a blend of only a few of them.
Of the premium cinnamon spices, my favourite type would definitely have to be Ceylon Cinnamon; it has a fantastically mellow, almost floral spice note, and is not nearly as harsh as the standard grocery store cassia; having said that, it’s hella pricey, and I had to order mine online. So, for any “standard” baked goods I make where cinnamon will be only one of the spices included, and therefore the delicate floral notes of Ceylon Cinnamon would be lost, I usually just use the harsher Cassia.
Ok, enough of the mystery-history lesson: on to my recipe of AWESOME, Cinnamon Buns!!
I love making Cinnamon Buns, but I don’t make them often; this is for self-defense purposes. If I make them too often, I will eat them. A lot.
And then I won’t be able to fit into my pants.
Or moosh myself through my front door.
Be warned: these are addictive and ridiculously delicious!
Yield: 12 rolls
- 1 cup 2% or whole milk
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 tbsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
- ½ cup Thompson or golden raisins
- ½ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
- 1 (3 oz.) pkg cream cheese, room temperature
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cups icing sugar, sifted
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, and then remove from heat. Add the butter and stir until melted; let cool until lukewarm.
- In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk mixture. Add the sugar, 3 cups of flour, salt and eggs; mix well. Add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough starts to cling/pull together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes.
- Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare the baking pan: grease a 9”x13” baking pan, or two 8” round cake pans. Set aside.
- Gently deflate the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10”x 14” rectangle. Lightly brush one of the long edges with water. Brush the remainder of the dough with melted butter.
- Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar, and sprinkle over the entire buttered rectangle, avoiding the water-brushed edge. Sprinkle the raisins and chopped nuts (if using) over the dough. Roll up the dough into a log from the side opposite the water-brushed edge, and seal the seam.
- Cut the log into 12 equal pieces; nestle the pieces cut side up in the prepared pan(s), cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until fully risen, about 1 hour (Alternatively, you can let them rest, covered, in the fridge at this point, overnight).
- Preheat oven to 375° F; if rolls were left to rest overnight, remove them from the fridge and let them stand, covered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Remove plastic wrap and bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, beat together all frosting ingredients until smooth. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.