With all the croissants, quiches, granolas, and pumpkin French toasts, it can be easy to overlook the obvious: that sometimes the most satisfying, most delicious, most comforting food is that which takes only a minute, maybe two, to prepare.
For some (I plead the 5th), this may be a box of macaroni and cheese. For others, a cup of Kozy Shack rice pudding (5th again). Still others go for poached eggs (5th) or noodles with butter and parmesan (5th). I don't know what your go-to comfort food is, but I just rediscovered one of my own.
A few weeks ago, loyal reader Diana emailed me this Washington Post article on cinnamon toast. Happily, the writer, one Bonnie S. Benwick, did her research, so I don't have to. And I quote:
Mixing cinnamon with sugar and sprinkling it on bread might have been a 17th-century flash of culinary brilliance, as mentioned in a rare tome kept at the Library of Congress. But long before that, Egyptians used cinnamon to embalm their pharaohs, and spice traders returning from Sri Lanka introduced "true cinnamon," Cinnamomum verum or zeylanicum, to Rome and Greece, and later, the Netherlands and Mexico.
Mexicans retained their taste for the real thing; in 2008, their country imported about 8.4 million of its 8.6 million pounds of whole cinnamon from Sri Lanka. Nearly 70 percent of Sri Lankan cinnamon is exported to South American countries such as Peru, Colombia, Guatemala and Chile, a fact worth knowing once you realize the cinnamon many cooks use in the United States is quite different.
True cinnamon implies the presence of a false one, and American consumers who buy the spice in the form of three-inch, double-curled sticks and premixed in cinnamon-sugar bears usually are getting just that: cassia, or "bastard cinnamon." According to "The Field Guide to Herbs & Spices" (Quirk, 2006), it is illegal to sell cassia as cinnamon in England and Australia. Now that's a fine example of well-placed standards.
Spice guides list cassia-type cinnamon under several names: Vietnamese, Saigon, Indonesian, Chinese, Korintje, Dutch or Indian. It fails to compare to Ceylon cinnamon in several ways: Its flavor can be bold, bordering on bitter. It is brittle, darker in color and very fragrant, especially when it is ground and volatile oils are released. A tin of powdered cassia-type cinnamon will usher forth a promising whiff each time it is opened, years after it has lost much of its flavor.
When Carolyn of Food Gal mentioned a few weeks ago that mail-order spice giant Penzeys just opened an outpost in Silicon Valley, my craving took on an urgency last seen when, pregnant, I made Colin buy me a Sara Lee frozen pound cake back in 1999.
(By the way, Carolyn posted today about what she did with the Meyer lemons she won from my raffle.)
Anyway, on Monday I drove up to Penzeys to purchase true, Ceylon cinnamon, which is both rounder and milder than the cassia you're familiar with. Two minutes later, cinnamon toast.
Yesterday for a snack? Cinnamon toast.
Recipe for Ceylon Cinnamon Toast
If you don't feel all warm, cozy and, frankly, happy after eating this, I really don't have much else to offer. Seek out Ceylon ("true") cinnamon if you can find it.
2 pieces of sandwich bread (white, wheat, sourdough... who cares?)
1 tablespoon room-temperature butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Ceylon ("true") cinnamon
Toast the bread.
In a small ramekin, shmoosh together the butter, sugar, and cinnamon with the back of a spoon.
Smear on toast, thickly.