The aroma of cinnamon instantly transports me back to childhood days of waking up to my grandmother’s cinnamon rolls. It’s such a warm and fragrant spice that permeates the kitchen and tantalizes the taste buds. Cinnamon has been a prized ingredient as far back as 2700 B.C. It is one of the earliest spices mentioned in Sanskrit texts and the Bible, used as incense and in wine. Cinnamon is made from the outer bark of a tropical evergreen tree. Actual true cinnamon, called Cinnamomum zeylanicum, grows only on the island of Sri Lanka. When cultivated, the trees are pruned to produce shrubby plants that contain a double bark. The bark is cut and sold as sticks or ground into powder. Most of the cinnamon we know is Cinnamomum cassia and comes from China and Indochina. It is much less expensive than true cinnamon.
Cinnamon was once more costly than its weight in gold. The discovery of the Spice Islands by the Magellan expedition made cinnamon to be the most widely desired and used spice in Europe. During the Renaissance, it was used extensively in Italian and English dishes. Today cinnamon is still used in cuisines around the world. You will find it in Indian curries, Greek stews, Moroccan tagines, and in American pies, puddings, sweet rolls, and cookies.
This wonderful book from 1994 is one of my favorites to pull out for fall baking. The recipe for cinnamon-sugar spiral twists is just like my great-aunt Margery’s recipe. The twists are layered with a spiced sugar that melts into a delectable glaze during baking. The apricot caramel coffee cake uses fresh apricots or plums. My daughter, Kara, loves rice pudding, and this one has honey and candied ginger added. And I am a lover of any kind of creme brulee, so the cinnamon one with cognac is on my to-make list.
You can never go wrong with cinnamon. I read somewhere that a poll was taken by perfume developers to determine what aroma men loved the most. Cinnamon and vanilla were at the top of the list. No wonder my husband loves me. Or is it just my prize-winning apple pie?