Mexico is now the largest importer of cinnamon in the world–but how do they use it that’s so special? Just how different is the Ceylon or True cinnamon used in Mexico from the Cassia cinnamon of Southeast Asia?
CINNAMON AND CORN MASA DUMPLINGS
Chochoyotes de Canela
Makes about 15 chochoyotes
1 cup corn masa flour, such as Maseca
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp lard or vegetable shortening
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
Mix the corn masa flour with water and knead until the dough is smooth and has no lumps, about a minute. Add the lard, cinnamon, sugar and salt and mix until it is well incorporated.
Make little balls of about 1 inch with your hands. Using your little finger, make a dip in the middle of the dumpling. One by one add them to the simmering sauce, mole or soup that they will be cooked in. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes for the chochoyotes to be fully cooked.
HORCHATA WITH CINNAMON AND VANILLA
Horchata: Agua de Arroz y Canela
2 cups long or extra long white rice
3 cups hot water
1 cinnamon stick, (ceylon or true cinnamon, if you can)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 cups milk
1 1/4 cup sugar
Ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top, optional
Place the rice in a bowl and cover with hot water. Roughly crumble a piece of True cinnamon into the rice mix (Cassia will not let you break it…) and let is all sit and rest anywhere from 2 to 8 hours outside of the refrigerator.
Place half of the rice mixture in the blender with half of the milk and vanilla and blend until smooth, then strain into a pitcher or container (if using Cassia cinnamon, remove it). Place the other half of the rice mixture in the blender with the remaining milk and the sugar, pure until smooth and strain into the same pitcher or container.
Stir well and serve over ice cubes, or place in the refrigerator until it is cold. Serve with more ice cubes to your liking, and sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top if you wish.
PIGGIES: CINNAMON AND PILONCILLO COOKIES
Chochinitos: Galletas de Piloncillo y Canela
Makes 30 medium sized cookies (with a 4-inch cookie cutter)
12 oz piloncillo, chopped or grated, or substitute for 1 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1 true or ceylon cinnamon stick, about 3″ long
2 sticks or 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp honey
4 1/4 cups all purpose flour, you may need a bit more
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
Butter to grease a cookie/baking sheet
2 to 3 tbsp all purpose flour, you may need a bit more or less, to roll out the dough
1 egg, lightly beaten to be used as a glaze
Confectioner’s sugar to sprinkle on top, optional
In a saucepan, combine grated piloncillo or dark brown sugar with water and cinnamon. Place over medium heat, once it simmers, lower the heat to keep it at a medium-low simmer for about 15 minutes, until it thickens to a light syrup consistency. Turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick. You should have now about 1 1/4 cups piloncillo liquid, need not be exact! Add butter and honey into the hot liquid and stir until it dissolves.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a hole in the center and pour in the piloncillo mixture. Mix it all together with a spatula until it is well incorporated. Combine the eggs into the dough, which will be sticky and gooey. Seriously: it will be GOOEY and that is OK.
Place plastic wrap in the bottom of a mixing bowl to have wings on the sides. With a spatula, push the dough onto the plastic wrap, wrap the dough, and refrigerate anywhere from 2 hours to a couple days.
When you are ready to make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a couple cookie or baking sheets with butter.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle a couple tablespoons of flour on a countertop. Rub a bit of flour on the rolling pin as well. Roll out the dough which will now be firmer, until you have about 1/4 -inch thickness. Using piggie cookie cutters (or other shapes, but then you may need to change the name!) press down on the dough, moving it a bit on the counter top, to make it easier to lift the shaped dough.
Place the piggies on the baking sheet as you shape them along. Gently brush the cookie tops with the remaining egg. Roll the leftover dough into a ball, wrap it with the plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before using it again, or it will be too soft and sticky. Repeat to make the remaining cookies.
Bake the cookies anywhere from 7 to 9 minutes. Remove them from the oven and place on a cooking rack. You may sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on top. Keep them covered so they remain soft.
My boys love to eat them with a tall glass of milk, I like them with a hot cup of coffee.
AMARALLITO MOLE WITH CHICKEN
Mole Amarillito con Pollo
Serves 6 to 8
2 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 lb or about 8 to 10 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 Roma tomato
4 garlic cloves
2 whole cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
3 tbsp vegetable oil
8 chicken pieces, with skin and bones
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
5 cups chicken broth
3 medium fresh hoja santaor 5 dried, optional
Cinnamon Masa Dumplings, optional (recipe in same episode!)
On an already hot comal or dry skillet set over medium heat, toast the chiles for about 10 to 15 seconds per side. They will become more pliable and release their aroma. Remove the chiles from the pan and place them in a cooking pot along with the tomatillos, tomato and garlic cloves. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, until they are soft and cooked. Transfer to a blender along with 2 whole cloves, ground cinnamon, oregano, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Gently add the chicken pieces skin side down first, and brown on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. Incorporate the onion and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until soft and translucent. Pour the reserved pureed sauce on top, add the hojas santas if using, and cook until it has seasoned and thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer and keep at a steady simmer on medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the masa dumplings one by one to the pan. Cook for another 12 to 15 minutes, or until the dumplings are cooked and the mole thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.