Cinnamon vs. Cassia: different types for a range of flavors

cinnamon chips and chai
cinnamon chips and chai

Did you know there are over 250 types of cinnamon? I didn’t until I researched it after having a rousing discussion on the topic of cinnamon with my favorite taster, my hubby. That’s when my deep dive into cinnamon began.

He mentioned that he thought the cinnamon we had was old because the flavor was weak. I knew that I had recently purchased that particular cinnamon because I buy in bulk due to our intense love of the sweet spice. When I buy bulk cinnamon I choose the Ceylon variety because I have noted that I like the flavor. The company I get cinnamon from was out of it for awhile so I had to break down and get a jar from the market.

The one from the grocery store noted that it was pure Cassia Cinnamon. An article from Bon Appetit explained that “there are three specific types of cassia cinnamon—Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon—all with different levels of flavor.”

The magazine’s post also mentioned that “Ceylon cinnamon, a variety sometimes referred to (as) ’true cinnamon’ … (has a) flavor and aroma (that) are extremely mild and delicate—it definitely reads as ‘cinnamon,’ but with subtle, almost floral notes.”

This could explain how hubby saw the fresh cinnamon as stale. The recent batch of cinnamon wasn’t stale but it did have a more mild scent. This was due to its variety, being the Ceylon type, and not its freshness. So, in comparison, the Cassia cinnamon we had before was perceived as fresher because it had a stronger smell. He was looking for the scent of Red Hots cinnamon candies.

Now I was onto something. I realized that not only did the flavors of the cinnamons change from mild to robust, but the aromas of the cinnamon varieties could be seen to range from subtle to powerful.

Okay, I know this is a baking blog, but this is important in baking. The type of cinnamon you purchase can have an effect on the outcome of the baked dish. The taste will still be essentially of cinnamon, but it may be more floral than in-your-face depending on the cinnamon you pick.

cinnamon vs cassia
cinnamon vs cassia

The recommendation from the Cinnamon Vogue spice shop says, “For fine desserts Ceylon Cinnamon is an absolute must because it is subtle, smells very mild and is slightly sweeter in taste. It never takes center stage in the recipe but adds a very complex flavor.”

Admittedly, I agree with these cinnamon purveyors, although they may be biased because that is the variety they specialize in. But I know that if you want pungency, then you should look to the Cassia varieties of Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon.

Furthermore, it dawned on me that when one of my recipes lists “1 teaspoon cinnamon” in the ingredients, that your experience may differ if you use the more robust Cassia. You should test the amount and see what works for you with your spice brand and selection.

Then there’s the matter of taste preference. I’ll keep my complex Ceylon and leave the hot Cassias to my hubby. Whew! All this talk of cinnamon has made me thirsty, so I’m headed to the kitchen to make a sweet spiced chai. And then maybe some cinnamon muffins.

Oatmeal Spice Cookie Sandwiches

oatmeal spice cookie sandwichesI collect recipes. I have thousands of them. They usually sit for awhile before I dust them off and use them, but some I refer to immediately. This recipe is one of those. I crave warm spices this time of year, so I thought a spiced cookie would taste good. When I came across this recipe with chai spices I baked it up pronto.

To veganize the original recipe, I used vegan margarine and yogurt subbed for an egg. For altitude adjustments, I added flour and reduced baking powder and oats. I thought they were tasty as is, but my husband thought they were lacking in dessert finesse (due to the lack of chocolate). To elevate them from what he deemed a breakfast cookie, I slathered vanilla frosting between two cookies and made them into cookie sandwiches. Now they were fancy enough for dessert.

Oatmeal Spice Cookie Sandwiches adapted from the Mountain Rose blog
Cookies
1 cup + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Chai Spice – 3/4 tsp cinnamon powder, 1/2 tsp cardamom powder, 1/4 tsp ginger powder, 1/8 tsp clove powder, 1/8 tsp nutmeg powder
14 TBS vegan margarine, softened
1 cup vegan sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup vanilla soy yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Filling
4 TBS vegan margarine, softened
4 TBS vegan shortening, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp soymilk
Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chai spice together. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat margarine and sugars until fluffy and creamy. Add yogurt and vanilla to butter mixture and beat until combined. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture and stir until it just becomes smooth. Gradually add oats and mix until well combined. Roll balls of 2 TBS of dough and place on baking sheets. Gently press down each ball. Bake until cookies are golden brown, for 16-18 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheets to wire rack to cool.
Make filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together margarine and shortening. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until well combined. Beat in vanilla and soy milk. When cookies have fully cooled, slather the flat side of a cookie with frosting. Top with another cookie and push down slightly. Makes 12 dessert cookie sandwiches.

Until next time, happy baking!

Chai Spice Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

Chai Spiced Pumpkin BreadThe idea for this has been rolling around in my brain for weeks. After meeting the folks of Hanuman Chai at a local market, I decided that the heavenly scented ground chai needed to be incorporated into my baking.

I had been high altitude tweaking a recipe called Pumpkin Cinn-a-zag Bread and knew that it would be a great vehicle for the chai spices. I added a few of my signature adjustments and came up with this recipe.

Chai Spice Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek
Bread
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 TBS whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 TBS plus 1 tsp Hanuman Winter Karha Chai Spice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 3 TBS vegan sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 TBS almond milk
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces soy cream cheese, room temperature
2 TBS margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a pan with cavities for four mini loaves. In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking soda, chai spice, and salt. Stir in sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, apple sauce, and milk. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
Pour the batter evenly between three of the four mini loaf pan cavities. Add a few spoonfuls of water to the empty cavity. Bake for 35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let loaves cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 45 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and turn bread out of the pan to finish cooling on the rack.
For Frosting: cream together cream cheese, margarine, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed. Slowly add powdered sugar. Put in a plastic zip bag and cut a corner off the bag to pipe a design onto the breads. You can also slather the frosting over the top of each bread with a spatula. Cover and store bread in the fridge. If unfrosted, bread can be stored at room temperature. Makes 3 mini loaves.

Until next time, happy baking!