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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cannelle - Cinnamon. Cinnamon on French Cuisine. Cinnamon on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman.

Ceylonese Cinnamon
Cinnamon is traditional in certain French desserts and pastries and absolutely a must in hot punches; nevertheless, its use is a fraction of that seen in recipes from one-hundred years ago.

Despite cinnamon’s drop in popularity, it will still be in many pastries and desserts, and powdered cinnamon will also decorate cappuccino coffees while whole sticks of cinnamon will be used in pickling.

Cappuccino with Cinnamon
Cinnamon on French Menus:

Pomme au Four à la Cannelle  - Baked apples flavored with cinnamon.

Salade d'Oranges Fraîches Parfumée à la Cannelle – A salad of fresh oranges scented with cinnamon.

Cinnamon Rolls
Photograph courtesy  of Daryn Nakhuda
Tarte Tatin et sa Glace Cannelle Tarte Tatin served with cinnamon flavored ice-cream.

Crêpe, Poire  Pochée au Gingembre et Cannelle, Sauce Chocolat Chaude – A crepe served with a poached pear flavored with ginger and cinnamon and covered in a chocolate sauce.


Cap'n Crunch Cinnamon Roll Crunch

Glace a la Vanille de Madagascar et Mirabelles Poêlées a la Cannelle De Ceylan –  Ice cream flavored with vanilla from Madagascar and served with France’s own Mirabelle plums cooked with Ceylonese cinnamon.

The island of Sri Lanka

The island of Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon), southeast of India is home to this popular member of the cinnamon family.  Several attempts have been made to transplant cinnamon trees to other parts of the tropics, but outside of Sri Lanka, in commercial quantities, it has only been successfully transplanted to the Seychelles where it also grows wild.

Ceylonese Cinnamon Quills

Cinnamon, for the French, is the bark of Ceylonese Cinnamon tree. Despite that, four-hundred years ago the Chinese Cinnamon, called Cassia, was the cinnamon that was used in France.    Then with the discovery of the route around Africa Ceylonese Cinnamon became available in quantity and at competitive prices and by the early years of Haute Cuisine, 200 years ago, Chinese Cinnamon, Cassia, was pushed into the background

Cinnamon quills in the market in Lyon
There is a large family of cinnamon trees, but the Ceylonese cinnamon has a stronger aroma, and it is sweeter, with none of the kick of Chinese cinnamon. The Egyptians were the Ceylonese Cinnamon importers who brought Cinnamon from India to Egypt on camel trains. Their wholesalers to the Mediterranean countries were, as usual, the Phoenicians and they made Ceylonese Cinnamon a sought after spice.  The long overland trek to Egypt and the additional costs involved in the subsequent secondary distribution limited quantities and made Ceylonese cinnamon very expensive, but despite that the Egyptians used Ceylonese cinnamon in cooking and even in their embalming fluids!
Until the Europeans found their way around Africa, only the wealthy could afford Ceylonese cinnamon.   The beautiful part about both cinnamon trees is that their bark is cut down, and that supplies the cinnamon quils. Then the bark grows back, and one year later it may be harvested again.
Cinnamon Bread
Ceylonese cinnamon has a sweet taste and clear aroma that is missing in all other cinnamon family members.  Try both Chinese Cinnamon and Ceylonese Cinnamon in a blind test and you will immediately sense the difference.
Sri Lankan Cinnamon (Ceylonese) in the languages of France’s neighbors:
 (Catalan - canyella),  (Dutch   - kaneel),  ( German – zimt, echter zimt, zimt Cinnamomum),  (Italian – canella),  (Spanish – canela).

Cannelle de Chine, Casse, Canéfice
Cassia, Chinese Cinnamon.
The Cassia tree is larger than that of the Ceylonese Cinnamon tree, but that does not mean the Ceylonese tree is small, it grows to over 12 meters. The Cassia has pale yellow flowers that are pollinated mostly by flies, and birds, which swallow the soft black fruit as soon as it is ripe and scatter the seeds.

In Chinese cookery, cassia is an essential ingredient and used in the famous Chinese five spice powder and in spice mixtures used for slowly simmered dishes. Together with other spices, cassia is also essential for several Chinese cooking techniques.  Nevertheless, Ceylonese cinnamon is making its way into the Chinese kitchen and even into the Chinese five spice powder.


Chinese Cinnamon, Cassia on French Menus:

Crumble de Fruits de Saison à la Cannelle de Chine, Glace aux Gousses de Vanille – A crumble made with the season’s fruits, flavored with Chinese Cinnamon and served with ice-cream flavored with vanilla pods.

Filet de Canard Rotî aux Cinq Parfums Anis Étoilé, Graines Fenouil, Girofle, Cannelle de Chine, Poivre Sichuan – A cut of roast duck breast flavored with five spices: star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, and Szechuan pepper.  (This menu listing came from an excellent French-Chinese restaurant).
Cassia, Chinese Cinnamon, is still today the cinnamon mostly widely used in Asian cuisine. However, I have seen it advertised in French homeopathic pharmacies where the essential oils of Cassia are offered along with other Cassia potions.

Chinese Cinnamon
Chinese Cinnamon, Cassia in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan -  cassia  cinamom xinès,  ), (Dutch -  kassie, bastaardkaneel, valse kaneel), (German - Chinesischer zimt, kassie, cassia), (Italian -     cassia, cannella della cina),  (Spanish - casia, canela de China).
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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