This is one of my favorite spices! Although it’s “cinnanomous” with the holidays, I love it because it reminds me of both of my Grandmother’s and their amazing Mexican desserts. My “Little” Grandma, a native of Agua Calientes, Jalisco, Mexico, would make her Buñuelos for New Year’s Eve. These fried flour tortillas would be crispy and coated in a lovely homemade sugar syrup, or my favorite way to eat them, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
My “Big” Grandma, a native of El Paso, Texas, would on the other hand make delicious anise scented cookies called Biscochitos. For years her original recipe evaded me, until one year I enlisted the help of my brother’s and sisters to find a substitute. Of course someone did have her recipe tucked in their files somewhere, but I’ve kept using this recipe by Maria Cordova: http://recipes.foodnetwork.com/?redirected=true. Although my relatives swear my Grandma never used sweet table wine in her cookies, I do! Also against tradition I’ve begun to implement coconut oil. It’s the one substitute for lard that allows the cinnamon sugar to stick to the warm cookies and not slide off the way super refined shortening does.
My only ‘must have’ in both cases is freshly ground cinnamon. The two most common varieties are Ceylon and Mexican cinnamon. Mexican cinnamon tends to be less strong than Ceylon, and is my go to when making rice pudding, cinnamon tea or any baking where I want the flavor as an accent. Ceylon on the other hand is smaller, stronger and has a better punch to balance against the fresh ground Anise for the Biscochitos. Although my Grandmother’s both used a Molcajete (mortar and pestle) to grind their spices, I have a coffee grinder specifically for these spices. It has never been washed, after the initial use, and is cleaned only with a brush to remove all the ground spices. This keeps the essential oils ‘pure’ so that my baking never tastes like another savory spice I’ve previously used.
Try these additions and tweaks in your baking and let me know how it works for you! Have a great weekend!