Customers at our Napa shop sometimes ask us why we carry cinnamon chips, as well as the more familiar powdered and quilled (“stick”) cinnamon. This week’s recipes are part of the answer — but first, a little bit about where we get this magnificent spice.
Basically, cinnamon is tree bark — the most delicious tree bark in the world. Both Ceylon “true” cinnamon and its widely-used cousin, Cassia cinnamon, are harvested from trees in the Cinnamomum family. The bark of Ceylon cinnamon is more delicate than that of Cassia, which provides sturdier quills for cinnamon sticks. But when chipped or powdered, they both are bursting with cinnamon flavor and fragrance.
Our favorite of all is Saigon cinnamon: It’s the strongest Ceylon cinnamon available in America today, and we think it has the richest flavor as well.
In Vietnamese cuisine, Saigon cinnamon bark is an important ingredient in the broth used to make the noodle soup called phở. With traditional Western cinnamon recipes, such as cinnamon buns, the vibrant flavor of Saigon really shines: Because of its higher oil content, this cinnamon disperses more fully throughout your baked goods.
You can use any kind of cinnamon bark to make a simple syrup that will transform your next hot toddy, cup of cocoa, dessert or even breakfast oatmeal into a special treat. If you don’t have bark, use a rolling pin to crush cinnamon sticks into smaller pieces.