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Posted on Mon. Nov. 19, 2012 - 12:09 am EDT


Secret Ingredient: Cinnamon

Warm, homey flavor of dried bark adds spice to sweet, savory dishes

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In the mix

•Secret Ingredient is a monthly feature that highlights an ingredient and its uses. If you are a chef or home cook with a favorite ingredient and would like to be featured, email

The soft dough rises and a warm, sweet aroma wafts from the oven.

Yeast-dough cinnamon rolls can be an involved, time-consuming process. But for Susie Myers, the smell of cinnamon “is worth the work of making them.”

“There is something about the smell that gives a warm, cozy feel,” says the managing partner of For Goodness Cakes, 6017 N. Clinton St. “It smells like ‘home.’ ”

Myers’ love affair with cinnamon began at an early age, recalling how her mom sprinkled cinnamon-sugar on leftover scraps of pie dough and baked the pieces in the oven. When Myers had her own family, she saw a recipe in a church cookbook and wanted to learn how to make them so they “would be something my kids would remember me for.”

“My kids always looked forward to the mornings that we would have fresh, hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast,” she says. “And now that is what they ask for when they come home for holidays.”

Her popular cinnamon rolls are available Wednesday at For Goodness Cakes, and she incorporates that warm flavor of cinnamon into a variety of desserts – from the seasonal Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream Cake to the Snickerdoodle and French Toast and Bacon cupcakes.

What is it: Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree, and it is harvested during the rainy season when pliable. The bark is dried into curls and sold as sticks or ground into powder.

Flavor: Cinnamon adds a sweet, warm flavor to dishes. “It is such a distinct flavor that you can always identify it when it is in something,” Myers says. “It is a rich, homey flavor … you know it will be good!”

Where to buy: Cinnamon is available at most grocery stores and discount shops. Artisan varieties can be found at specialty food shops and online. Myers buys cinnamon chips for the bakery’s Cinnamon Roll Cupcake (butter yellow cake with cinnamon chips, cinnamon cream cheese frosting and pecans) at an Amish store in Grabill.

Cost: The price varies greatly depending on quality, from $1 for a jar of ground cinnamon to more than $7 for Saigon cinnamon.

Uses: Cinnamon is a workhorse in the kitchen and is widely used in sweet concoctions. But it is also an ingredient in savory dishes such as curries and stews. Myers suggests mixing cinnamon into the batter of a recipe, using it as a garnish or adding it to a streusel mix.

Tips and tricks: “Just be careful to not use too much or too little,” Myers says. “Too much can overpower what you are making and too little will leave you feeling like you missed something.”


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