Cinnamon or Cassia? The True Story
Cinnamon is one of the "must-have" spices. Whether you're a frequent cook, or only drag yourself into the kitchen on special occasions, it's a pretty safe bet that you have cinnamon in your cabinet or spice rack. But how much do you really know about cinnamon?
John Raven, Ph.B. - one of Texas Cooking's resident experts - listed some basic information in his article, The Spices of Life. It piqued my desire to learn more about my favorite spice.
Cinnamon or Cassia?
By comparison, cassia is a medium to light reddish-brown and is thicker and harder in texture than cinnamon. Cassia has a more bitter taste. It comes from the cassia tree, an evergreen that belongs to the laurel family. It's found in China, where the buds are used to add cinnamon flavor to sweet pickles and candy.
If a recipe calls for stick cinnamon, you can identify cinnamon sticks (also called quills) by their many thin layers and fine texture. Cassia sticks are harder and comprise one thick, rolled layer. When in powdered form, it's harder to tell them apart. In the United States, much of the spice we know as "ground cinnamon" is actually a blend of cinnamon and cassia. Look for the color difference - cassia is the darker of the two.
Spices don't keep indefinitely. Cinnamon should be replaced after two to three years. Store it in a cool, dark place in your kitchen or pantry.
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Here's a hint you might want to try. If exposure to insecticide products makes you ill or causes allergic reactions, try using cinnamon as an insect repellent.
Now that you know more about cinnamon, it's time to put it to good use.
Rum-Raisin Applesauce Cake
On waxed paper, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and allspice; set aside.
In a large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat the brown and granulated sugars with the butter until blended, scraping bowl often with rubber spatula. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until creamy (about 3 minutes), occasionally scraping bowl.
Reduce speed to low; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in rum and vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and applesauce, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in raisins.
Spoon batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
More:Cool cake in pan on wire rack 15 minutes. For fluted pan, loosen cake from pan. Invert cake directly onto wire rack to cool completely. For tube pan, with small metal spatula, loosen cake from side and center tube of pan. Invert cake onto plate; immediately invert again (top side will be up) onto wire rack to cool completely. Glaze cooled cake with Rum Glaze if desired. Makes 16 servings.
Immediately pour glaze over top of cooled cake, letting it run down sides. Let cake stand at least 20 minutes to allow glaze to set before serving.
Mix the raisins with the Kahlúa and set aside.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the baking powder until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the salt, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. When all ingredients are well mixed, start adding the masa alternately with the milk. Do not add all of the milk until you check the consistency of the masa. It should be light in texture, thick enough to hold its shape in a spoon, but barely plop off the end of the spoon. A small ball should float in a glass of cold water. If the consistency seems too stiff, add milk by teaspoonfuls until the desired consistency is reached.
Mix the pecans in with the raisins.
Spread 2 tablespoons of the chocolate masa dough evenly over the inside of a cornhusk. Put a rounded tablespoon of the raisin/nut mixture down the center of the dough and fold the husk over so that the dough covers, or almost covers, the filling. Roll up and fold ends of husk towards each other to close. Repeat with remaining husks and filling.
Stack tamales upright (vertically) in the tamale steamer, firmly but not tightly, and steam for about 1-1/2 hours or until the dough comes cleanly away from the husk. Makes about 36 tamales.
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