I have an apple pancake recipe I would like to add cinnamon to. Cinnamon is not part of the original recipe. How can I determine a good starting amount for cinnamon in any recipe?

The original recipe uses 3 tablespoons of sugar. Comparing this to another recipe, I eventually went with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. My wife says it doesn't need any more but I'm wondering if I should step it up to 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons).

EDIT: In his book "Ratios", Michael Ruhlman says there are fundamental ratios between ingredients that can be applied to cooking and baking. I am wondering if there is a fundamental ratio that can be used for cinnamon and, perhaps, sugar content in a recipe.

And, no, cinnamon is not in the book.

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    How much do you like cinnamon? This is simply about taste. – moscafj Oct 5 '18 at 10:45
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    You kind of created your own starting point by using 2 tsp. Now it's up to you to adjust the amount according to your liking. – Cindy Oct 5 '18 at 11:08
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    I rolled the edit back. Either way, I think the answer is that there is no hard and fast rule. Recipes are subjective guidelines, created by someone to their liking. That's why one can find so many different recipes for the same dish. What you did was to create a starting point based on your reasoning. When creating a new or altered recipe, that's all you can do. And, by the way, well done! – Cindy Oct 5 '18 at 13:47
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    @Cindy Stating there is no such thing would be fine as an opinion and a comment but it isn't an answer unless we know it to be fact. I'll see where this goes the rest of the day or two. – Rob Oct 5 '18 at 15:59
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    @Rob, unfortunately, it's not possible to prove a negative. – Marti Oct 6 '18 at 3:42

There aren't really any hard and fast rules when it comes to deciding how much cinnamon to start with. There are certainly considerations when thinking about how much flour, milk, fat etc. to use in recipes and this is thrust of the book to which you refer. Baking is essentially chemistry and you need to get the proportions of the chemicals right to produce fluffy pancakes and light sponge cakes etc. When it comes to flavouring the results of that chemistry there is less restriction but balancing the flavours should be a consideration.

One thing to think about is 'what do I want to end up with'? For example, are you aiming for apple pancakes, apple and cinnamon pancakes or cinnamon and apple pancakes. If you only want a background cinnamon flavour to an apple pancake, then start with a smaller quantity of cinnamon. If you'd like something that's more balanced in apple and cinnamon flavours then add more cinnamon to the same quantity of apples you used before. If you're after something that's essentially cinnamon in flavour but with some apples there to add body then have at it with the cinnamon and go easy on the Bramleys'.

I've done some reading in the copies of Larousse Gastronomique and McGee on Food and Cooking we have at home and also consulted a book called The Flavour Thesaurus. None of these suggest any ratios of cinnamon to other ingredients. The addition of flavouring will always be subject to both personal taste and the needs of the recipe. The proportions of the 'building blocks' of a recipe, particularly baking, can be much more easily defined and, to a degree, calculated. Consider this, if you left the cinnamon out of your apple pancakes completely, they'd still be pancakes and have flavour. If you omitted the flour you'd have an mess.

As an addition, in series 2 episode 3 of Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals, he raves about sprinkling cinnamon over Sicilian fish dishes. This is an example of there being no set rules about how much of a flavouring to use or where to use it.

I'll try and add some inline references to this tomorrow.

  • This may just be the answer I was looking for. I've done some investigating, too, that says the same as you--especially your first paragraph. Yes, McGee says nothing about it. I also forgot that I have an acquaintance who owns a high end restaurant. – Rob Oct 6 '18 at 10:52

In your original question you created a starting point by using two teaspoons of cinnamon. You also have the reference of feedback from your tasting, and your wife's tasting and comments. So, in this case, you basically estimated, and used "trial and error." You can easily adjust from there. Had you asked the question before you made the recipe, I would have suggested finding similar recipes to see amounts others have used. Beyond that, having enough experience with foods and cooking to estimate a useful starting point for incorporating flavors to your recipes is really all I think we could give you.

  • This doesn't answer my question, "Is there a method", and only repeats doing what I already said I did. – Rob Oct 5 '18 at 12:44
  • @Rob...it is the method. Maybe you stumbled onto it by mistake, but those are your options. They are the same procedures a "professional" would follow, though, as I point out, experience can make your initial experiments more precise. – moscafj Oct 5 '18 at 15:00
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    @Rob, by the way, I use Rhulman's ratio app and am familiar with his book. These are ratios of fundamental ingredients. So, for example, you might find a ratio for pancake batter, so that you can produce a pancake...that is, flour to liquid to leavening..but flavoring is a separate issue. Since it is preference based, such guides would be hard to produce. – moscafj Oct 5 '18 at 15:04
  • Looking up other people's recipes is not a method. How did those people find the right amount? Someone, somewhere, knows to try two teaspoons and not a quarter teaspoon for some reason. – Rob Oct 5 '18 at 15:53
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    @Rob, this will be my last comment: You did not ask for a guide, you asked how to determine a starting point. That has been answered several ways, but the answers are generally saying the same thing. Your approach was correct, and probably the best you can do. – moscafj Oct 5 '18 at 16:02

Without years of cooking experience, the best advice that I can give is to look for recipes similar to yours, but have the ingredient you're trying to add, and use that as a starting point. (you may have to adjust based on the number of servings or amount of other ingredients ... if yours makes 4 servings / uses 2 cups of flour, and the other one makes 6 servings / 3 cups of flour, you'll use 2/3 of what they call for).

You also need to look at other similar ingredients -- if yours are plain, but the other calls for cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice, you'll likely want a little more than it calls for (unless you also add in the others)

For more obscure recipes, where you can't find anyone who's tried what you're planning, you can try to look at not-quite-so-similar recipes, and adjust based on number of servings. (eg, I want pancakes that taste like cinnamon rolls ... look at the amount of cinnamon per roll, and use that amount per serving of pancakes ... although I'd probably make a compound butter or spiced syrup in that case)

  • I already said I did that in my original question, but that was edited out. – Rob Oct 5 '18 at 13:14
  • @Rob : then you did the best that any of the rest of us (who aren't professional chefs or been baking for 30+ years) would have done. – Joe Oct 5 '18 at 13:22
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    I was hoping to get such an answer from one who would know based on his experience, education and knowledge. What would a professional chef do in his kitchen at the last minute with no chance for a re-do? – Rob Oct 5 '18 at 13:25
  • @Rob: The question was open for everyone to answer. The original question never said that you are expecting an answer from a professional chef. I really hope you get an answer you were expecting. – Ess Kay Oct 5 '18 at 13:40
  • @EssKay I never claimed such a thing. – Rob Oct 5 '18 at 15:50

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