The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can we test cinnamon's effects on yeast together?

HeidiH's picture

Can we test cinnamon's effects on yeast together?

I just read some comments in a TFL forum thread on bagels that talked about cinnamon causing dough not to rise properly.  This struck me as odd since I was, coincidentally, just eating the last slices of some whole wheat bread into which I had thrown 2 tsp or so of cinnamon.  It had rise just like any other whole wheat I'd made with the same formula.  Hmmph, methinks. 

Cinnamon as we know it is not the same to each of us.  There are several different species of plant and which one forms the common cinnamon varies by country.  In the US, Cinnamomum aromaticum (AKA cassia) is the common source but in Mexico, the common source is C. zeylanicum.  In Europe, various health agencies have come out against cassia because of the higher presence of coumarin, which is toxic.  C. verum is the more common cinnamon in Europe.    The cinnamon I used was Penzey's Vietnamese cinnamon so presumably C. loureiroi

Since there are different cinnamons with different chemical makeups, could it be that cassia-based cinnamon (the common one in the US) is more likely to prevent bread from rising than some of the others?  A quick search in PLOS pulls at least one article wherein coumarin is found to kill off viruses and yeasts.  Other web wanderings indicate that US herbalists recommend cinnamon for yeast infections.  Hmmph?

Time for an experiment.  I'm going to start a small concoction of water, sugar, yeast and my presumed C. loureiroi and see if the yeast bubbles away merrily as it should.  I'm thinking 1 cup water, 1 Tbs. sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a tsp. of yeast.  Might any of you try the same experiment with other cinnamons and see what happens and share here?

I'll report back shortly.

nicodvb's picture

I remember reading somewhere that chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) has a much higher concentration of coumarin than other cinnamon plants, causing the concern of various health agencies.

HeidiH's picture

C. aromaticum and is commonly called C. cassia but  "cassia" and "Chinese cinnamon" are both common names for C. aromaticum.  (Or at least as far as this non-botanist can determine.)

I have two brews working on the counter.  Identical except for the presence of cinnamon in one.  I will take pictures showing the difference in yeast activity.

jcking's picture

Chinese Cassia Cinnamon is an all-purpose cinnamon which adds classic flavor to
all types of baked goods. It is more intense, sweeter, and spicier than
Kortintje Cinnamon (which is the cinnamon traditionally used in America).

Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon is the strongest, richest, and sweetest of the
various verities of cinnamon. It is best used in baked goods which showcase
cinnamon's characteristics such as cinnamon rolls or cinnamon-nut rugelach.
Baked goods which do not feature cinnamon as an ingredient should reduce the
weight of the cinnamon added to the formula by 1/3 if using Vietnamese Cinnamon.
Because of the high oil content of Vietnamese Cinnamon, it adversely affects
rising in yeasted baked goods. The percentage of yeast in a formula which
includes Vietnamese Cinnamon will probably need to be adjusted in order to
compensate for the cinnamon's oil content.

Kortintje Cassia Cinnamon is the traditional cinnamon used in America. It is as
strong as Chinese cinnamon but smoother and not as spicy. It pairs well with

Ceylon Cinnamon, is complex and fragrant, with a citrus overtone. It is less
strong than Chinese, Vietnamese, and Kortintje Cassia cinnamons. It lacks the
bite of those more classically used cinnamons. Ceylon Cinnamon is preferred in
English and Mexican cuisine. It facilitates the flavor of rice pudding, apple
pie, banana bread, muffins, and cookies.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Really nice jc, brief but plenty informative!

I'm probably going to try and get some V. Cassia out here in the Los Angeles/Orange County area. First off, are there specific places that carry it? For instance, would I run into it at a Smart & Final or a Whole Foods? How about shops in predominantly Vietnamese neighborhoods? We have a Little Saigon area in Westminster. It's not so 'little'... problem is, literally, I cannot read the signs on the storefronts, so I can't really tell what each place is selling (besides Pho every 3rd store). I'm close enough to LS that it would be an easy trip if that's the best place to find it...

Secondly, what should I expect to pay? Is this stuff a premium to what I usually buy, or should it be close enough in price to not be worth mentioning?


- Keith

Chuck's picture

My impression is cinammon really does slow down (not "stop", just "slow down") yeast, and that's one of the big reasons why you usually see "cinammon swirl" bread or rolls. By concentrating the cinammon in the swirls, most of the yeast in the dough between the swirls is far enough away from the cinammon to not be affected at all.

HeidiH's picture

Sorry it's taken longer than I expected to get back with pictures of my little cinnamon test but here they are, showing a vicious yeast-murder by cinnamon. 

All measurements are approximate.  Two pyrex cups, each with 1 cup water, 1 Tbs sugar, and 1 tsp yeast.  One of them with an addition of 1 tsp Penzey's Vietnamese cinnamon, set on the counter to do their thing with the AC set to 76. 

The cinnamon brew at the start:

Although it bubbled up a bit at the end of 3 hours it looked like this (you can see evidence of it bubbling up a little and then receding):

The view from the top (dead as doornail):

Whereas the brew without the cinnamon was creating a nice little swamp monster:

And from the top:

So, I guess my whole wheat cinnamon bread that rose okay was a lucky fluke.  It didn't have quite enough cinnamon in it or quite enough time for total yeast-murder to occur.

Lesson learned.  From now on, I will sequester the cinnamon between the layers as I form the loaf.   Very interesting.  I learn something new all the time.  Such fun.

(oh, and that oven mitt is clean -- it's just permanently scorched & yucky)

nicodvb's picture


thanks for the test, but I wanted to point out one thing: non-trivial amounts of sugar exercise osmotic pressure on the microflora, with the result that they can kill the yeasts. I would have used only water, flour and cinnamon.

HeidiH's picture

Guess I'll need to try again.

jcking's picture

From food chemist, Shirley O. Corriher's "Cookwise" pg 70
With most of the spices, however, the old German "good pinch" is appropriate. Some spices improve yeast activity when added at low levels but retard it at high levels. This is especially true of cinnamon, which improves activity when used in amounts from 5 to 10 percent of the weight of the yeast but much less at 50 percent of the yeast weight. At a weight equal to the yeast, it dramatically reduces activity.