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The Sweet Spice

cinnamon swirl breadBy Elke Probkevitz

While the weather figures out what season it is, and the climate goes from warm to brisk, we don more cozy clothes and yearn for more comforting meals. When I think of fall, one of the flavors that come to mind is cinnamon. That sweet spice, so flavorful and versatile. Colder weather just begs for a hit of earthy cinnamon. I wanted to learn more about the source and uses for this unique, warming spice.

Source. Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest known spices. It is the brown bark from a cinnamon tree, available dried and rolled as a quill or ground into powder form. There are two varieties of cinnamon: Chinese cinnamon, which is what’s most commonly found at the market, and Ceylon cinnamon, which is slightly sweeter and more refined.

Benefits. Cinnamon can be used medicinally as well as in cooking. There are essential oils found in the bark that contain healing properties. It is an anti-inflammatory, helps prevent unwanted blood clots, and is also antibacterial and can be used as an alternative to preservatives. It can control blood-sugar levels and the scent can boost brain function. It helps remove nervous tension and memory loss. It is also noted as a cure for headaches: drink some hot milk with honey and cinnamon.

Storage. Sticks can be stored for longer than the powdered form, but the powder has a stronger flavor. The cinnamon should have a sweet smell, indicating freshness. Keep cinnamon in a tightly sealed glass container and store in a cool, dry place. Ground cinnamon is good for six months and cinnamon sticks will last for about a year. Keep in the refrigerator to extend shelf life even longer.

Uses. Experienced cooks know that cinnamon can enhance sweet and savory dishes, but its flavor can overwhelm if not used correctly. Use it moderately to control the intensity added to your dish. Most common cinnamon pairings include apples, pumpkin pies, rolls, toast, coffee cake with cinnamon streusel, and bread pudding. In drinks it is used to add spice to hot cocoa, cider, or mulled wine. In savory dishes it is delicious in marinades, and used often in Middle Eastern stews, Indian curries, and Moroccan dishes like tagine. v

Cinnamon Bread


6 Tbsp. butter substitute, plus 2 Tbsp. melted

1 cup milk or almond milk, plus 2 Tbsp. for brushing

2½ tsp. active dry yeast

3½ cups flour

1 tsp. salt

⅔ cup sugar, divided

2 whole eggs, plus 1 egg for brushing

2 Tbsp. cinnamon


Melt 6 tablespoons butter with 1 cup milk until hot but not boiling. Wait until only warm. Sprinkle yeast over top and stir gently. Allow to sit 10 minutes.

Combine flour and salt in separate bowl. In an electric mixer combine ⅓ cup sugar and 2 eggs, and mix with paddle. Pour in milk–yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add half the flour and beat on medium speed. Add other half and continue to beat until combined.

Switch to dough-hook attachment and knead dough on medium speed for 10 minutes. Add up to ¼ cup flour if dough is too sticky. Warm a metal or glass bowl and drizzle with canola oil. Place dough inside bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in warm place for 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto work surface. Roll into a rectangle the width of the loaf pan and about 20 inches long. Combine ⅓ cup sugar with cinnamon. Smear with 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle evenly with cinnamon mixture. Roll dough tightly and pinch seam to seal.

Place dough in prepared pan, seam down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350°. Mix 1 egg and 2 tablespoons milk and brush top of bread with mixture. Bake 40 minutes on middle rack. Let cool; slice and serve. Use to make cinnamon toast or french toast as well.

Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook that you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to, or visiting

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Posted by on October 17, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.