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Cinnamon, the magic ingredient

May 28th, 2015 · No Comments

How to spice up the kitchen this spring

Nothing seemed more delicious to us as kids when we got in the door right after school on a cold day than hot buttered raisin bread toast lavishly sprinkled with cinnamon and white sugar with a cup of hot chocolate.

In Mexico and Guatemala, Mayans make drinks from barred chocolate specially prepared with granulated sugar and densely peppered with cinnamon. The texture is ready to mix easily with hot milk or coffee.

When I lived in Costa Rica, an agrarian paradise, I researched and wrote articles on locally grown products and I wrote about cinnamon.

I was surprised to find out that commercially grown cinnamon or “canella” is not cinnamon at all but a hybrid called cassia.

Ground cinnamon is more difficult to distinguish from ground cassia.

True cinnamon is tan in colour with a warm, sweet flavour, whereas ground cassia is a reddish brown, usually coarser in texture, with a more bitter, stronger flavour and a more aromatic bouquet. Cassia comes in peeled and unpeeled quills, as well as ground.

For health benefits, you must use true cinnamon. If you’re ready to start taking cinnamon as a natural remedy, check with a naturopath for dosages and origins.

True cinnamon is available in Toronto at various spice specialty stores. House of Spice in Kensington Market is an excellent location.

The origin countries of cinnamon are Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Ingesting cinnamon will lower cholesterol, aid in blood sugar regulation, offer yeast infection help, provide cancer prevention, and give anti-clotting and arthritis relief. It is antibacterial when added to foods. Smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive brain function. It also fights E. coli in unpasteurized juices, and it is high in the following nutrients: manganese, fibre, iron, and calcium.

The Cinnabon chain has a pretty good gimmick. They pipe their smell out into the areas outside the store doors to get you in. Their buns are very rich and dense. A bit too much sometimes for my lactose intolerance issues.

I am leaning toward the West Indian bakery these days at the Bathurst subway station to get a roll on the run. They are only $2.50 and they are huge. The bread dough is great and I can slice, toast, or freeze them.

When we went to sleepaway camp as kids, there were weekly menus.

Fridays at lunch we always had homemade “Chelsea buns”. They were so fresh and yummy — I can still smell that mess hall aroma — and so will you when you try this recipe. You can make as much of the sticky stuff as you want and you can add or subtract the cinnamon you add to taste.

Cinnamon buns

Makes 10 large ones. This is not that hard, just requires a bit of organizing.

  • Easiest homemade white bread
  • 1 package or 2 teaspoons dried yeast — the longest expiry date             possible
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water

Sprinkle yeast over water. Let stand 8 to 10 minutes. Stir to dissolve then add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 3/4 cup warm milk or cream to yeast mixture. Stir well.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix these next 3 dry ingredients well. Little by little add everything together. Knead on lightly dusted board until a smooth ball forms. Round up in a large greased bowl, cover with foil, let rise till double. I use a glass bowl (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down for a second rising. It gives a finer texture.

Sticky bit

  • 1 cup brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 4 teaspoons finely ground cinnamon (or more if you prefer)

With a hand-held pastry cutter or food processor cut butter into sugar and cinnamon only until mealy. Place 1/3 of mixture into a greased 9 by 12 baking pan.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over and blend. Set remaining 2/3 aside. Roll white bread dough out on lightly floured board — not too thin — rectangular.

Sprinkle remaining cinnamon mixture over. You can scatter on some moist raisins and bits of peeled chopped apple, roll up jelly roll style.

Cut into about 10 pieces and place cut side up in pan leaving ample space to rise. Cover with a damp towel and let rise again about 1/2 hour. Bake at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes. Invert and cool.


Optional frosting. When completely cool using a butter knife spread on the top.

Blend with a wooden spoon:

  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Just enough milk to spread easily over pan of rolls

Seaton Village resident Susan Oppenheim is Java Mama, an independent coffee roaster, baker, avid traveller, and activist. She is the mother of three adult children and the grandmother of three. Susan can be reached by email:?javamama.

Tags: Annex · Food