July 11, 2014

Cinnamon: The Great Uniter

Finding a solid recipe is always a joy. Solid, in my book, equals easy, fast, adaptable, and, of course, delicious. Enter cinnamon cake, or torta de canela, as it would be called in Spanish. I found the original recipe at Cocina facilisimo.com, a site that compiles recipes from various blogs. At the time, I was very excited to find a recipe that was in Spanish, used metric measurements (good luck with cups and teaspoons outside the U.S.) and appealed to both my and my Paraguayan family's taste buds. Let's talk about the power of cinnamon.

Cinnamon has a long and storied history, and if we were comparing spices like they were superheros, cinnamon would probably have a Superman-level ranking. Originally prized for its aroma (and magical powers, maybe?), cinnamon has since become a principal spice in both sweet and savory foods around the world. Cinnamon is the inner bark of the cinnamomun trees, and curls up when it dries. While most cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka, other countries like China, India, and Vietnam contribute to its production. As if it's aroma and flavor weren't enough, cinnamon is used in traditional medicine and some research has been done to investigate its supposed healing abilities with regard to diabetes and other illnesses.

What's clear is that cinnamon is liked by a lot of people. As an expat, it's always interesting to see what kinds of flavors reign in your new country. I mentioned peanuts in my last post and how differently they are utilized here vs in the U.S. Some of my favorite herbs, like basil and rosemary, are lacking in the Paraguayan kitchen, while oregano is almost overused. It's also really important to understand the role anise plays in Paraguayan cuisine. The prevalence of anise is quite baffling to those of us who rarely use it, but I have grown quite fond of the spice. In Paraguay, it appears in bread as well as traditional foods like chipa and m'beju. It's also used as a tea (I drink anise tea, like, 2-3 times a day. Too much?) and added to mate for both it's flavor and as an aide to digestion. (Side note, did you know yerba mate is part of the holly family? Well, now you do.)

Anyway, back to the cake. Or bread. It's a cross-cultural crowd-pleaser and that's a win in my book. Also, my dog Pepper likes to watch while I bake it. And I like having her company. I bake when I'm happy-sad, when I've reached that emotional midpoint and I want to shove something sweet into my face and wash it down with a glass of milk. There's something nostalgic about that. The cinnamon cakebread is mild in flavor but makes you warm and happy for a few minutes. And that's what a good cakebread is all about, right?

Pepper watching me bake. In her usual crossed-pawed position.

Here's my take on the recipe (the original is buried somewhere on the Cocina facilisimo website, sorry):

120g vegetable oil
2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
300g white sugar
2 eggs
300g self-rising flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
160ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a large bowl, beat the oil, vanilla, sugar and egg together. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix the flour and cinnamon together. Slowly add the flour mixture to the oil mixture, alternating with the milk, until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Pour into a greased cake pan and stick in the oven for 30 minutes. When the knife comes out clean, it's done. Try to wait for it to cool down, but end up cutting out a big piece while it's still hot and enjoy with a glass of cold milk.

Cinnamon cakebread. Fresh out of the oven and half eaten already.

No comments:

Post a Comment