Upgrading to a quality cinnamon may be the easiest improvement you can make in your baking and often, the quality of the cinnamon makes a dramatic difference in the quality of your product. But how do you know what cinnamon to buy?
There are three types of cinnamon to consider. Korintje cassia cinnamon comes from Indonesia, usually Sumatra. It comes from the cassia tree, not the true cinnamon tree, and is the cinnamon we are most familiar with.
Good quality Korintje cassia is sweet and mellow. Lower quality cinnamon, the B and C grades commonly sold in the stores, is often bitter and astringent. You can tell the difference by tasting it. Dab a little on your finger and put it in your mouth. Premium Korintje cassia cinnamon will be smooth with an almost citrus tone.
Chinese and Vietnamese cinnamons also come from the cassia tree. Botanically, Chinese and Vietnamese cassia cinnamons are the same but they are harvested and processed differently resulting in a little different flavor. They tend to be stronger and spicier than Korintje.
Ceylon cinnamon is true cinnamon coming from the cinnamon tree. In some parts of the world, it is preferred over cassia cinnamons. It is less flavorful and has a more citrus overtone.
So which do you buy? Korintje cassia is less expensive and can be very good. Be certain that you buy premium or grade A cinnamon. Look for the volatile oil content; that’s what gives cinnamon its flavor. It should have at least 2% volatile oil. (The cinnamon that we sell does.)
You have probably noticed that you can buy spices in bulk for much less than in small quantities. Handling and packaging is expensive. If you are confident in the quality of the cinnamon you are purchasing, buy it in quantity. However, keep in mind that cinnamon will lose its potency. As it becomes older, you may have to use more of it to get the same flavor in your goods. We recommend buying what you can use in a year.
Copyright 2003-2007, The Prepared Pantry (http://www.prepraredpantry.com ). Published by permission
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Dennis Weaver is a baker, a recipe designer, and a writer. He has written many baking guides and How to Bake, a comprehensive baking and reference e-book--available free at The Prepared Pantry which sells baking supplies and tools and has a free online baking library.