Stick cinnamon, the thin, curled inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka, possesses an aromatic, sweet yet tangy flavour. Used extensively in the eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and South America for savoury dishes, it also spices many desserts, baked goods, tea and coffee drinks. While convenient for many recipes, ground cinnamon lacks the intensity of stick cinnamon. Whole cinnamon quills keep their flavour almost indefinitely, so buying cinnamon whole and grinding it yourself produces a fresh cinnamon powder with a greater depth of flavour than pre-ground cinnamon.
Pestle and mortar
Choose a heavy-duty granite mortar and pestle to grind cinnamon by hand. Place cinnamon sticks, broken into smaller pieces if possible, inside the bowl-shaped mortar. Grinding the cinnamon against the mortar releases the oils and volatile compounds responsible for cinnamon's flavour and aroma.
Position the pestle on top of the cinnamon and apply downwards pressure, then grind the cinnamon using a circular motion. Force the whole cinnamon pieces against the surface of the mortar with the pestle, carefully pulverising the pieces using the circular motion.
Fry whole cinnamon dry in a pan about 30 seconds before grinding it in the mortar and pestle if you want the make the grinding process less laborious.
Wash the mortar and pestle after each use. These are easily cleaned when constructed from stone.
Use a high-quality, small-hole microplane, a kitchen tool with a serrated face, to grind your cinnamon sticks easily and efficiently by hand. Grasp the microplane's handle, firmly setting the edge of the microplane on a chopping board, flat plate or flat surface. Move the cinnamon stick steadily and carefully up and down against the trenches on the microplane's face, applying greater pressure on the downwards motion.
Avoid moving the microplane tool against the cinnamon stick, as this action may lead to injury of your hand or fingers.
Rinse the microplane with warm water after each use and properly store it in its protective case.
Use an electric coffee/spice grinder reserved specifically for use with spices, preferably lined with a metal interior rather than plastic to prevent absorption of the spices' smell and flavour.
Break the cinnamon quill into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces and drop them into the grinder. Pulse the grinder until the cinnamon powder reaches the desired consistency.
Brush away the residue and wipe the detachable containment piece clean with a cloth after each use.
Things you need
- Cinnamon sticks
- Microplane grater
- Coffee or spice grinder
- Mortar and pestle