I had my first cinnabon around 9 years ago. It was at a mall in Dubai, not a place that I would otherwise care to remember. The first bite and I was in lurve! For the uninitiated, cinnabon is a chain of American bakeries and kiosks spread all over the world known for its freshly baked, moist cinnamon rolls. At first glance it looks like a massive bun, with oodles of cream slathered on it, and some chocolate sauce for good measure. When you bite into it you get a strong cinnamon kick. Actually it's difficult to tell in this case what comes first, the aroma or the taste. In India, we are used to adding whole cinnamon sticks in our cooking. I only realized the delicacy of this spice, when a master chef in ITC who was known for his legendary Galouti kebabs introduced me to a batch of cinnamon that he had especially sourced from an old Delhi market. The aroma and bite was way superior to any cinnamon I had encountered before; and after that, I have never bought the spice over-the-counter.That's when I decided to investigate the story behind these rolls. It turns out that in order to make the world's greatest cinnamon rolls, cinnabon buyers traveled far and wide to all the spice-growing regions of the globe in search of the best, most flavorful cinnamon. They finally found what they were looking for in the Cassia trees high up in the mountains of Indonesia. For those of you who don't know, Cinnamon is the dried inner bark of an evergreen tree.
At cinnabon they took this spice to a new level by introducing the world-famous Makara Cinnamon.
To carefully prepare the cinnamon, they use an exclusive temperature controlled grinding system that enhances the warm taste. Then they use a secret cream cheese based frosting, farm fresh eggs and pure vegetable margarine. The result - no imitation can compare with the original cinnabon flavour. Coming back to my hunt for cinnabons, my obsession only grew over time, to the extent that I would pack them and carry them across the seas in my handbag to share with the family. Whenever, wherever I have traveled, I have secretly been on the lookout for my favourite hot rolls - in fact there have been instances where I have even sacrificed duty-free shopping to grab a bunch of them. On one of my trips a year ago, to my joy and surprise, I found them in the heart of Cairo. ! That too, bang next to my hotel. I couldn't believe my luck. Faced with a grueling shooting schedule that left me free only at night, I managed to bribe my crew to accompany me to the outlet well past midnight. Little did I know I wasn't going to forget this visit for reasons that go beyond the culinary imagination. We placed our order, making small talk with the chap behind the counter, and waited for our freshly put together roll. And then it was all one big blur. The glass on the window smashes, a young boy with blood on his face runs in; he was obviously trying to escape and find a place to hide. About a dozen young men barge in and we can tell they are baying for his blood. I stand frozen till an arm pulls me back behind a pillar, lest I get caught in the crossfire. The men see us and ask us where the boy is. If ever I have had fantasies about being in a film, it ended right there and then. We pretended to know nothing, and after they searched the shop, they left without finding their victim. Within a few minutes we heard police sirens, and the blood faced boy was escorted out. We kept wondering late into the night what he had done and whether he was innocent or not.
It was one of those rare occasions when my appetite dwindled, so we packed our respective cinnabons quietly and left. The aroma filled our hotel room within minutes and I wondered whether the brawl had masked our taste buds. Luckily it hadn't and we all greedily chewed away through the layers of flour and chocolate and cream. Forward to 2010. cinnabon is opening in a mall next to my house. No way! It was like a huge event in my gastronomical world. I waste no time, and make my way to this Mecca of rolls and swirls. I was now ready to go to heaven, if you know what I mean. And now the breaking news. After 25 years of making the best cinnamon rolls, the company is apparently ready to take on a new challenge of making the best cupcakes in the world. Or so their ad-line says, "Watch out for the all new cinnabon cupcake - anything else is a cupfake." Let's see if the hype will be justified, and what the secret ingredient will be this time.