Since I seem to have spices on the brain, it feels like a good time to compose an ode (or at least a post) about autumn's favorite: cinnamon.
There is really nothing that smells and tastes more evocative of the season than cinnamon. It comforts and enlivens all at once.
Allegro produces two sweet wines which are finished with an infusion of cinnamon: Fusion, which is a sweet spiced red, and Apple Cinnamon. Way back in the day (in the early 2000s, and even before our time here), Allegro made an Apple Wine. Looking for gift ideas around the holidays, I started ordering spices (cinnamon, clove, orange peel) in bulk and making little spice sachets to bundle with a bottle of that Apple Wine.
While that gift bundle was certainly a success, Carl decided to release me from my sachet-tying days and add the spices to the wines themselves. Thus were Fusion and Apple Cinnamon born, released in late September of 2004.
Both Fusion and Apple Cinnamon can be warmed gently and served as mulled wines, a favorite comfort beverage as the weather turns colder. Serving wine this way always brings to mind Germany's famous Glühwein, which we have enjoyed together at Christkindlmärkte in Aachen, Köln, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
For me, cinnamon has associations which date back to long before I was a part of a winery making spiced wines. I actually named my first cat Cinnamon, an homage to her coloration. (She was a beautiful cat but a rather spicy one, likely due to my tendency to squeeze her a bit too tightly. Here is photo proof...)
One of my favorite breakfasts growing up was my mom's cinnamon swirl bread, the recipe taken from her trusty Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book. She would make it for Christmas mornings and other times as well, and would toast our slices by putting them under the broiler for a few minutes. I remember choreographing the eating of a warm buttered slice, following the swirl from the outside in, so that my last bite would have the optimal amount of cinnamon and sweetness.
Recently my son and I went on a noble quest to figure out the very best French Toast recipe. We thought for a while about what kind of bread might make the best recipe, and it wasn't long before we hit upon the idea of using cinnamon swirl bread as the base.
I baked two loaves of my new personal favorite Cinnamon Bread recipe (from The Pioneer Woman) and, for brunch a couple of weeks ago, Dylan turned it into French Toast by dipping the bread into a whisked mixture of 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, 1 T. sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, and a pinch of salt. (There wasn't a need to add cinnamon to the wet ingredients, since the bread is already loaded.) I can honestly say that it's the best French Toast I can remember having.
Now I'm craving cinnamon bread...
I have also really grown to appreciate cinnamon in savory dishes, particularly Indian ones. When I am cooking Indian recipes, I add cinnamon sticks, cloves, and cardamom pods to the rice, and the scent of the rice cooking is like a pre-dinner aphrodisiac. Cinnamon is a prominent member of garam masala, as well, which seems to find its way into nearly every Indian dish.
Some of my other favorite sweet recipes showcasing cinnamon include:
-Blueberry Muffins: I enjoyed sharing these jumbo muffins, topped with a cinnamon sugar blend, with Allegro's employees this week. Trying to help keep people's energy up through harvest...
-Homemade Applesauce: Now that fresh apples are rolling in from my CSA (this week we got Fuji and McIntosh), I have dusted off my recipe for homemade applesauce. It's really just a ratio of apples to water, sugar, and cinnamon, quite easy to make. Nothing makes the house smell better.
-Cinnamon Granola: I have tweaked this recipe through the years, and this is a lovely crunchy (but not too crunchy) version, flavored generously with cinnamon and vanilla.
-The. Best. Apple. Crisp.: This recipe contains cinnamon both in the caramel sauce which is tossed with the apples and in the oat crumble that goes on the top. Yum.