Cinnamon sticks should not be relegated to holiday decorations, mulled wine, or spiced cider. I keep them in a jar in the cupboard for use year round.
Freshly grated cinnamon lifts all kinds of desserts, from the simplest dish of sliced oranges or stone fruit to a warm brownie. I‘m not talking about grating the stick every time a recipe calls for ground cinnamon—I know you wouldn’t stand still for that. I am talking about grating a bit of the stick over finished desserts—even to order, at the table. Or pass the stick (and microplane grater) just as you might pass a chunk of Parmesan with certain pasta dishes or salads. It’s homey and stylish at the same time. I do this for family dinners so everyone has a choice.
You might be thinking, why not just put some ground cinnamon into the recipe in the first place and be done with it. Nope, grating cinnamon on top is an entirely different experience.
Grating the stick puts the scent of cinnamon in the air, creating anticipation and a top note of flavor. Like swirling and sniffing a glass of wine before sipping—your senses are engaged and the fragrance enhances the flavor of the wine when you finally sip. Cinnamon in the air and on top of a dessert adds a layer of flavor without overwhelming the dessert with that flavor. The result is simultaneously nuanced and dramatic! It’s boring to read about, but fun to try.
Here’s how to use your cinnamon sticks all year round. (While you’re thinking about it, the same list is good for those whole nutmegs in your spice drawer—why not use them more often as well?)
Grate the stick over a platter of brownies—it’s positively breathtaking over warm brownies—or over the whipped cream atop a slice of chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, pudding, etc. Ask each guest first.
Grate the stick into a fresh fruit salad (add grated lime or lemon zest while you are at it, with lime or lemon juice to taste).
Pass the stick and grater with other toppings and syrups for pancakes or waffles.
Grate the stick over cookies just out of the oven, or over a platter of cookies just before serving. Try this on coconut macaroons, oatmeal-raisin or chocolate chip cookies, and many other cookies and bars too, whether or not the recipe includes cinnamon!
Grate the stick over cup of hot chocolate (duh).
Grate the stick over a cocktail (and or the rim of the glass).
Grate the stick over cocoa dusted Chocolate truffles.
Grate the stick over a dish of rice pudding, flan, crème caramel, or butterscotch pudding.