Diacetyl: The Molecule Responsible for Butter Flavor and Popcorn Lung


Illustration of butter being poured on movie theater popcorn

After about a year of working at the Glister-Mary Lee microwave popcorn factory in Jasper, MO, Eric Peoples started having breathing problems his doctors couldn’t explain. Eventually, he was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans and informed he would likely need a double lung transplant in the future. A suspiciously high number of his colleagues at the same factory received the same diagnosis. Lawsuits followed and, because he had the worst symptoms, Peoples’s case was heard earliest. In 2004, he and his wife were awarded a total of $20 million in the first so-called “popcorn lung” case.

The culprit of Peoples’s ailment turned out to be diacetyl, the exact chemical that used to makes buttery popcorn so delicious. It’s found naturally in dairy products like sour cream, buttermilk and, yes, butter, and before the Peoples case, it was a common ingredient in artificial butter flavoring. (If you enjoyed “buttered” popcorn at a movie theater or out of the microwave before the mid-2000s, you almost definitely know what diacetyl tastes like.) It’s safe to eat, but it can cause permanent damage to the bronchioles—the narrowest parts of the branching airways in the lungs—if you inhale it. Like if, say, you’re a microwave-popcorn-factory employee working over the giant tank of flavorings.

Dozens of popcorn factory employees (and even one consumer—a Colorado man who ate two bags of popcorn every day for 10 years) won millions of dollars in lawsuits over the chemical, and diacetyl became molecule non grata in the processed-food world. Orville Redenbacher’s declined an interview for this story, but a spokesperson said that it stopped using diacetyl in its products in 2007, along with all other popcorn products produced by companies owned by its corporate parent, Conagra Brands, which include ACT II and Jiffy Pop. Diacetyl is still entirely legal (and safe!) to use as a flavoring, but it would be rolled up in “natural flavorings” or “artificial flavorings” on an ingredients list: You’d never see it named on a label. (I reached out to Jelly Belly, whose buttered popcorn-flavored jelly beans may use diacetyl—or may have used it in the past—but the company also declined an interview.)

Givaudan, the world’s largest maker of flavorings and fragrances, also stopped using diacetyl in the US in 2007. “Although it has been designated as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in food by the FDA, we made the decision based on the ongoing threat of litigation and the related public perception,” says Stephen Collins, head of communications for Givaudan Taste & Wellbeing North America.

But if you’re a wine drinker, diacetyl has a very different reputation. “In wine, there’s a sharp acid called malic acid that tastes like green apples,” says Maggie Campbell, a wine and spirits expert who is president and head distiller of Privateer Rum, a member of the boards of the American Craft Spirits Assocation and the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, and a frequent speaker at drinks conferences about things like yeast physiology. “If you want to soften that, you can do a bacterial fermentation called malolactic fermentation that turns malic acid into lactic acid, and that also produces diacetyl.” One of the more common white wines to use malolactic fermentation is Chardonnay, which means that when a wine geek calls a Chardonnay “buttery,” it’s literally true.

And she’s been technically trained as a taster to pick out individual molecules.

In addition to being a huge fermentation nerd, Campbell has been technically trained as a taster to pick out individual flavor molecules, and she notes that esides Chardonnay, nearly all red wines undergo malolactic fermentation, and the subtle hint of movie-theater-popcorn that produces is actually useful for sommelier-level wine analysis. “If I’m tasting a red wine and notice a note of diacetyl, that can help me figure out the balance of malic and lactic acid, which helps me figure out how ripe the grapes were and the climate where they were grown,” Campbell says.

glass of white wine being poured

Buttery Chardonnay is a good thing, but buttery lager, less so. “Diacetyl in general is hated in beer,” Campbell says, explaining that it’s produced there by yeast fermenting very quickly or with insufficient nutrients. Sometimes, makers of slower-fermenting beers like lagers even include a “diacetyl rest” period during production that lets the yeast break down any diacetyl that might be around and get rid of any lingering buttery flavor. But there are a handful of beer styles where a little bit of butteriness is a good thing. Take British-style stouts (like Guinness): A bit of diacetyl contributes butterscotch notes and a slightly oily mouthfeel.

Will drinking too much Chardonnay give you lung disease? No. Campbell hadn’t even heard of “popcorn lung” before our interview, and isn’t aware of any safety regulations about diacetyl for beer, wine, or spirits producers. Fermentation produces it at low concentrations, and even then, the diacetyl is unlikely to get into the air where it can be inhaled.

“Popcorn lung” associated with actual popcorn has pretty much disappeared in recent years, but bronchiolitis obliterans has reared its ugly head as a flavoring agent in the world of nicotine vapes. A 2015 study at Harvard University found diacetyl in more than 75 percent of the flavored e-cigarettes and refills tested. And late last year, a Canadian doctor published a paper on a 17-year-old with “popcorn lung” apparently caused by vaping. The FDA banned flavored vape products at the beginning of the year, but that was done to keep teens from getting hooked; the announcement makes no reference to diacetyl.

So the next time you catch a whiff of that old movie theater popcorn flavor, it’s a good bet that what you’re sniffing is diacetyl, whether you’ve got your nose buried in a Chardonnay, a glass of badly fermented beer, or a bag of butter-flavored anything, even if you can’t find it listed on the ingredients. But you’ve been warned: delicious as it is, you may not want to breathe that sweet, sweet scent in too deeply.

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The Best Kitchen Shelving: Metro Racks


a close up of a metro rack shelving unit filled with kitchen equipment from the Serious Eats test kitchen

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik and Sasha Marx]

After six months of working from home in a studio apartment, my wife and I recently decided that for the sake of our marriage and mental health, we had to move to a bigger place with at least one room with a door that isn’t the restroom. Not only did we manage to find a flat that accommodated that big ask, but it also came with a major kitchen upgrade. I now have a lot more room to cook, and, thanks to not one but two windows, plenty of natural light and cross-ventilation to keep the smoke detector from having a fit every time I sear a steak.

Gaining windows did mean sacrificing cabinet space, which is already at a premium in New York City. So when I began working on turning a nook in the new kitchen into a hybrid at-home test kitchen and office space, I knew that it had to feature extra storage for equipment and ingredients. The alcove also needed to fit a workbench, pegboard, and leave enough room for me to comfortably stand and sit, which meant that this storage system had to have a very specific slim footprint. Fortunately, the perfect solution does exist, and unlike living room furniture, it’s pretty affordable: Metro shelves.

Metro shelves, or “racks” if you’re familiar with American kitchen lingo, is the common name for the metal wire shelving units found in restaurant kitchens, suburban garages, warehouses, and homes all over the place. Just as Kleenex and Scotch became genericized trademarks for facial tissue and clear adhesive tape, the Metro brand name is synonymous with these sturdy, no-frills shelving units, even though not all are made by that company.

We use them in our Serious Eats test kitchens for storing all kinds of equipment—from stand mixers and pasta rollers to stacks of cheesecake pans. Our visual director Vicky Wasik also has a few sets for storing all the props and plates for photo shoots. Low on cabinet space for storing dry goods? These shelves do the trick. I’ve even seen them used to hang salumi for dry-curing (the wire racks are easy to tie string around and open build allows for plenty of air circulation), and as cooling racks for freshly baked loaves of bread. There aren’t many storage tasks that Metro shelves can’t handle.

The Pros

What makes these shelving units so great? Here are the features we love most.

Adjustable Shelf Height

a photo collage of a small metro rack shelving unit in a tight space in a small New York City kitchen

One of the biggest headaches of kitchen organization is finding a home for every awkwardly sized piece of equipment, giant box of cereal, and five-liter can of olive oil. In an ideal world, we’d all have access to thoughtfully designed and installed kitchen cabinets with plenty of usable storage space. Instead, most of us are more familiar with trying to jam a food processor top into the depths of a below-counter corner cabinet, only to be ambushed by an avalanche of pot lids that come flying off the janky lazy Susan shelves.

Metro shelves can be a huge help in this department, thanks to their adjustable shelf height design. Units are sold unassembled, with four legs, the shelves, plastic shelf supports, and leveling feet for the legs. The legs have horizontal grooves etched at one-inch intervals up their length, to which the shelf supports are clipped on, spaced at your choosing, to set the height of each shelf. I can’t overstate how great it is to have control over the spacing between shelves.

As shown in the photo above, it’s easy to set up a unit to fit your needs. In my case, I wanted a snug home for the bulky Breville Pizzaiolo on the bottom shelf, a shelf above it with a little more vertical clearance that can fit an assembled food processor and a tall blender jar, and an even more spacious waist-height shelf for cutting boards, a Baking Steel, and large trays. There are very few kitchen shelving solutions that allow for this level of customization at an affordable price.

How easy it is to readjust shelf height spacing once the shelves are assembled depends on the type of unit you buy. Basic affordable models are generally more difficult to adjust because the plastic shelf supports are locked in by the shelves themselves, so you have to loosen the shelves to unclip and move the supports. Some higher-end models are designed with easy-release locking mechanisms that allow for on-the-fly shelf height adjustments. It’s a nice feature, but not an essential one by any means; so long as you think through the spacing before assembling a set of shelves, your needs probably won’t change that much over time.

Items Are Visible and Within Easy Reach

Cabinets are nice for keeping stored items tucked away, but that can be a nuisance as well. Maybe it’s just me, but I am a lot less likely to use a food processor if I have to dig it out of a cupboard every time, and I definitely don’t want it taking up valuable counter space when it’s not in use. Storing commonly used countertop appliances on a metal shelving unit gives you the best of both worlds: they’re easy to access, but aren’t cluttering up your workspace.

The same goes for ingredients and kitchen utensils. For example, if you’re a baker or pizza maker, having flour and sugar at the ready is a plus, along with proofing containers, mixing bowls, baking dishes, a scale, and measuring cups. It’s nice to not have to rummage through drawers and cupboards for these common items. I also like to store plastic deli containers on my shelves so I can grab a stack for portioning out mise en place while recipe testing, or packing up leftovers after a meal.

Units Are Available in Many Sizes and Configurations

The kitchen in my new apartment has a lot more usable space and natural light than the cramped windowless galley kitchen at our old place, but the little nook that I’ve turned into a condensed at-home test kitchen is still a squeeze. To fit everything that I wanted into the space—a workbench, metal pegboards, trash can, and a Metro rack—while still having enough standing room to work, I had to find pieces of equipment with very specific dimensions. Fortunately, these shelving units come in a ton of sizes, which allowed me to find the perfect fit for height, width, and depth. Whether you’re in the market for a waist-high rack with a wood top, or need a skinny and tall set of shelves like me to take advantage of vertical space provided by high ceilings, there’s a shelving unit out there for you.

They’re Affordable

Metal wire shelving units may not win any beauty contests, but it’d be hard to beat their functionality-to-cost value. As with most purchases, going with name brand Metro shelves will be the priciest option, running at least a couple hundred dollars a pop. On the plus side, Metro units are very well constructed, come with nice features like the easy-adjust shelf clips mentioned earlier, and tend to boast best-in-class weight-bearing capacity. But we’re talking about using these shelves for holding kitchen equipment, bulk ingredients, and maybe some plateware—not for inventory storage at a shipping distribution center. Given that, you can do without the bells and whistles by picking up a very solid set of shelves for under a hundred dollars.

Weight Capacity

Even the affordable shelving units can shoulder a pretty heavy load. The unit I have at home has 12- by 24-inch shelves that can hold up to 350 pounds per shelf. Even if you’re a cast iron skillet collector like Daniel and load the unit up with pans, these shelves can take the weight, no problem.

Easy to Assemble

Moving to a new apartment usually comes with a lot of frustrating furniture assembly. After cursing the way-too-smiley cartoon handyperson that taunts DIY furniture-makers from the pages of IKEA instruction manuals, you develop a great deal of appreciation for easy-assembly items, and these shelves fit the bill. All you need is a rubber mallet, or if you’re like me and don’t own one of those, a hammer wrapped in a sock to prevent damage to the shelves and legs when you’re knocking them into place.

The hardest part of assembling the shelves is deciding on the spacing between them. I recommend using the lower shelves for heavy items that won’t be used every day, and keeping your most frequently reached-for items at waist and chest level, with the top shelves reserved for stuff that won’t cause any life-threatening injuries if items were to fall while you’re grabbing them or putting them back.

Easy to assemble, free-standing shelving units are especially nice for renters. Installing a bunch of floating shelves on a wall sounds nice in theory, but that’s just another series of holes you’ll need to patch up if and when you move to a new place. And who knows if those shelves will fit in nicely in a different flat. Metal shelves don’t require any drilling into walls, and can be taken apart when it comes time to move. Even if you move to a place with a different kitchen layout that doesn’t work with the shelving unit, it can be used in any number of rooms for storing anything from electronics to linens, or the shelves can be sold second-hand if you don’t want to take them along.

The Cons

Of course, no piece of equipment will work for absolutely everyone. Here are the main drawbacks of these shelving units.

The Aesthetic Won’t Work For Everyone

a wide shot of a metro rack shelving unit with kitchen equipment next to a wall-mounted wire grid for hanging kitchen tools

Metro-style shelves are definitely a look, and if I’ve learned anything from binge watching Dream Home Makeover during the pandemic, it’s not one that will work with every interior design aesthetic. The polished chrome legs and wire shelves are perfect for people who are going for an industrial vibe, but they won’t blend in seamlessly with country farmhouse decor. That’s not to say that these units aren’t handsome in their own way; the few guests we’ve had in our new home, including my mother-in-law who is an interior designer by profession and not one for false praise, have all complimented the look of my little kitchen nook, starting with the Metro rack.

There’s No Hiding Disorganization

These shelving units share one of the main drawbacks to the ubiquitous “open kitchen” design concept: With everything on full display, there’s no way to hide clutter and disorganization. At some point in our lives we’ve all done the “Oh crap, we have company coming over” mad dash of jamming piles of clothes, stacks of half-opened mail (for me it’s always those explanation of benefits notices), and reusable bags into closets, desk drawers, and kitchen cabinets to create a temporary illusion of Kondo-esque order. With their open-display design, Metro shelves won’t help you in this regard; they will only look as tidy and organized as you keep them.

Before purchasing a shelving unit, it’s a good idea to take a moment for an honest self-assessment of your (and your living companions’) kitchen organization style and goals. Maybe you don’t need everything to be perfectly neat and tidy all the time, and looking at a chaotic shelf or two won’t bother you. Great! Or you could be the type that thrives on order, and maintaining a well-organized system is already second nature. Even better. But if you don’t like visible clutter but also don’t have the time or patience to deal with maintaining order, this might not be the best option for you.

Not Child- or Pet-Proof

Having frequent-use countertop appliances and dry goods within easy reach is a huge plus for people who do a lot of cooking, but poses a potential hazard for anyone who shares a home with a curious toddler or a cat that considers every tall ledge to be a free solo climbing challenge. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision worst-case scenarios of falling cast iron skillet injuries and frustrating clean-up of a knocked-over Cambro of flour.

What to Look For, What to Avoid, and How to Accessorize

With so many different options for metal shelving units on the market, choosing among brands or even distinguishing product lines from the same company can be a bit daunting. The good news is that you don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars on a name-brand Metro unit. There is a baseline standard of quality that’s pretty consistent across the board; if you’re looking for a little extra pantry storage, pretty much any shelving unit will be able to handle that task without a problem. On the other hand, if you’ll be loading the shelves up with heavy and expensive equipment, it’s worth it to spend a little more on shelves with a 300-pound or higher weight capacity.

Think Twice Before Putting the Legs On Casters

Putting shelves and kitchen islands on wheels always sounds like a good idea: “It’ll make the kitchen so much easier to clean! Just roll that sucker out of the way, sweep and mop, and roll it back into place.” But what you gain in mobility, you sacrifice in stability and weight-bearing capacity. Casters can’t shoulder the same load as the legs can without them. With additional shelves, the unit that I own has a maximum weight capacity of 4,800 pounds with just the legs. Adding casters to the same unit reduces its weight capacity to 1,000 pounds, with each caster being able to support a maximum weight of 250 pounds.

Even if that lower weight limit is more than sufficient for your needs, putting the shelves on wheels makes the whole unit less stable. Wheel locks aren’t perfect, and wheels don’t allow for the shelving feet to be leveled, which poses a problem for kitchens with floors that aren’t perfectly flat (we found out quickly that the floors in our apartment are on a slight slant). Cleaning the wheels themselves is also a pain in the neck, and I find it much easier to clean around stationary legs instead. If you plan on loading the shelves up with heavy equipment, odds are you won’t be able to move the unit that easily even if it did have wheels on it.

Invest in S-Hooks

a close up of a small metro rack shelving unit with kitchen equipment and ingredients

One of the guiding principles of maximizing space in tight kitchens while keeping items accessible: hang as much stuff as possible. I’m a big fan of pegboards for organizing kitchen utensils, as well as hanging cast iron and carbon steel cookware from hooks rather than stacking them in my oven when not in use, which makes for a serious arm workout every time I retrieve one to make focaccia or sourdough discard pancakes.

There are two big issues with hanging cast iron skillets: they’re heavy, and they take up a lot of room. Traditional wood pegboards are not built to withstand the weight of cast iron, and hanging skillets from a metal pegboard eats up a ton of real estate that could be used for storing other utensils. Installing wall-mounted pot rack bars requires power tools and a little DIY know-how. However, with the purchase of a few hefty s-hooks, you can take advantage of the unused vertical space on the sides of a metal shelving unit.

Each shelf perimeter is made of two horizontal rails running parallel to each other with a zig-zagging metal piece between them for strength. This design makes it simple to attach hooks to the sides of the shelves for extra storage, a perfect spot for hanging heavy cookware and other kitchen gear. Currently, the s-hooks on my shelves are holding two cast iron skillets, two carbon steel pans, a shower cap that I use for covering doughs during proofing, a couple of wooden cheese boards, two pizza peels, and an apron. Not too shabby.

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15 Sweet Cinnamon Recipes to Spice Up Your Life


Collage of sweet cinnamon recipes

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik, Lauren Rothman, Yvonne Ruperti]

We don’t often look to the spice rack to inspire a recipe roundup, but cinnamon deserves a deep dive, given its ubiquity in fall and winter baking. Also known as cassia, the cinnamon you’re most likely to find in the US is bold and spicy-sweet (in contrast with milder Ceylon cinnamon). Sure, we love it in a warm, gooey cinnamon roll fresh from the oven, but there are many more ways to take advantage of the spice, including plenty of everyday uses that don’t require making and proofing a yeasted dough. Baked oatmeal with cinnamon and apples, cream cheese–stuffed wontons tossed with cinnamon sugar, horchata steeped with coffee and cinnamon sticks—keep reading for 15 of our favorite recipes starring this heady spice.

Cinnamon-Apple Baked Oatmeal

[Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

Your default method for making oatmeal is probably on the stovetop, or maybe you prefer the microwave. But don’t forget that there’s a third option: baking. Though you may be loath to turn on your oven just for breakfast, baked oatmeal is an incredibly easy, hands-off meal, and it scales up well if you’re serving many. We add tart Granny Smith apple and cinnamon to this version, along with half a cup of chopped walnuts for crunch and light brown sugar for warm sweetness.

Cinnamon-Apple Baked Oatmeal Recipe »

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One-Bowl, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

[Video: Natalie Holt]

Maybe there are a few lonely souls out there who don’t like sweet, fluffy cinnamon rolls, but none of us have met them yet. This recipe is perfect for a lazy morning, since all the prep work is done the night before and only requires one bowl. The dough incorporates Greek yogurt to keep things light, while the filling is a sweet mixture of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Let the prepared rolls refrigerate overnight, then come morning, just bake and finish them off with some homemade cream cheese frosting.

One-Bowl, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls Recipe »

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Monkey Bread

[Photograph: Alexandra Penfold]

Monkey bread is like the larger, pull-apart cousin of the cinnamon roll. To make it, simply roll individual balls of yeasted dough in a cinnamon and brown sugar mixture, then pile them up into a Bundt pan to bake. Once they’re a deep golden brown, drizzle the monkey bread with a vanilla-scented powdered-sugar glaze. The eating gets a little messy, since it’s generally done by tearing the bread apart with your hands—but you probably won’t want to wait for utensils anyway.

Monkey Bread Recipe »

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Chocolate-Cinnamon Swirl Meringues

[Photograph: Nila Jones]

Not only are these meringues beautiful to look at, they’re impressively easy to make. The only real tricks involved are using slightly melted sugar and incorporating it into the beaten egg whites one spoonful at a time, in order to keep the meringues as airy as possible. After forming the meringues, dust them with cocoa powder and cinnamon, then bake them until they’re light and crispy—depending on the humidity level, that can take anywhere from two to four hours. But we promise they’re worth it.

Chocolate-Cinnamon Swirl Meringues Recipe »

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Crispy Cinnamon Sugar-Coated Cream Cheese Wontons

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg]

This recipe is proof that wonton wrappers can and should be put to use beyond the savory realm. To make these sweet and simple dumplings, just stuff the wrappers with a blend of cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla; fry them until they’re crispy and golden, but still a little chewy; and toss them with cinnamon sugar. A Nutella- and dulce de leche–infused dipping sauce on the side makes them even richer.

Crispy Cinnamon Sugar-Coated Cream Cheese Wontons Recipe »

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Cinnamon-Raisin Puff Pastry Waffle

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

For a treat that’s reminiscent of cinnamon raisin toast, but much more special, try this delectable filled waffle, made by rolling cream cheese, raisins, cinnamon, and sugar inside a spiral of puff pastry dough. Press it in a waffle iron for 10 minutes, until the waffle is flaky and crisp outside, hot and buttery inside.

Cinnamon-Raisin Puff Pastry Waffle Recipe »

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Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Brownies

[Photograph: Carrie Vasios Mullins]

It’s hard to go wrong with rich, fudgy chocolate brownies, but we like them best when they incorporate a little kick to offset the chocolate’s sweetness. Smoky ancho chili powder, hot cayenne, and earthy cinnamon do the job nicely in this recipe. A combination of unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate gives the brownies an intense chocolate flavor and won’t leave them too sugary.

Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Brownies Recipe »

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Apple Oatmeal Cookies

[Photograph: Carrie Vasios]

We use both unsweetened applesauce and chopped Granny Smiths to cram these cookies with lots of fruit flavor. Because the applesauce provides plenty of its own moisture, just a couple of tablespoons of butter are needed. Hearty, nutty oatmeal turns the cookies pleasantly chewy, while cinnamon rounds out the flavor.

Apple Oatmeal Cookies Recipe »

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Roasted Sweet Plantains With Cream and Cinnamon

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

You’ll need just four ingredients to make this custardy Colombian dessert: plantains, crème fraîche, cinnamon, and sugar. Combine them all and roast for about 30 minutes, until the sugar has started to caramelize and the cream is soaked into the plantains, turning them soft and rich, almost pudding-like. If you don’t have or can’t find crème fraîche to substitute for thicker, lightly sour Colombian heavy cream, a mix of heavy cream and sour cream works well.

Roasted Sweet Plantains With Cream and Cinnamon Recipe »

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Coffee-Cinnamon Horchata

[Photograph: Lauren Rothman]

Horchata, the nut- and rice-based Mexican beverage, has a creamy consistency (despite containing no dairy) and a mild flavor that plays nicely with all sorts of other ingredients. Infused with dark-roast coffee beans and cinnamon sticks, this refreshing caffeinated version will perk you right up.

Coffee-Cinnamon Horchata Recipe »

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The Best Apple Cider Doughnuts

[Photograph: Sarah Jane Webb]

Unlike the cake-like batter of most apple cider doughnuts, our version uses a yeast-raised dough to create a lighter crumb. To ensure a bright apple flavor, we reach for fresh apple cider, adding rose water and almond extract to enhance its aroma. The finishing touch? A generous coating of apple cinnamon sugar for the ultimate sweet-tart flavor.

The Best Apple Cider Doughnuts Recipe »

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Easy One-Bowl Coffee Cake

[Video: Serious Eats Video]

You can always count on coffee cake to bring on the cinnamon with its crumbly streusel topping. In this recipe we use tangy Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, which makes a light and tender cake. Meanwhile, the streusel uses whole wheat flour for a subtle graham cracker–like vibe. Not only is this an improved version of classic coffee cake, but it’s also an easy one—if you make the crumb topping and then the batter, you only have to use one bowl.

Easy One-Bowl Coffee Cake Recipe »

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New-Fashioned Snickerdoodles

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

These are snickerdoodles as they’re meant to be—crispy on the outside, chewy and tender in the middle. To achieve this consistency, we substitute the hydrogenated shortening used in most recipes for virgin coconut oil, which makes a richer cookie. Baking the cookies under high heat for a short amount of time helps them crisp on the edges without drying out the middle. For a brighter, fresher cinnamon flavor, we like to use freshly grated cinnamon in addition to the commercially ground option.

New-Fashioned Snickerdoodles Recipe »

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Moist and Chewy Lebkuchen (German Spiced Christmas Cookies)

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

These German Christmas treats are rich with warm spices, toasted nuts, and candied fruit, and they’re glazed to perfection. In addition to cinnamon, the dough include spices like nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cardamom. Though the cookies can be baked and cut into bars, you can also chill the dough for at least four hours, then scoop them into smaller cookies before baking. Whether you opt for bars or cookies, you’ll want to let them sit for some time before enjoying (if you can!)—their flavor gets better in the days following baking.

Moist and Chewy Lebkuchen (German Spiced Christmas Cookies) Recipe »

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Waffle Iron Churros

[Photograph: Daniel Shumski]

For easier churros at home, we turn to the waffle iron instead of a pot of hot oil. The batter consists of a simple mixture of flour, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, butter and water, which is heated on the stove and then scooped onto the waffle iron. Once the churros are cooked, brush them with butter and dip them in cinnamon sugar. Their nooks and crannies provide the perfect space for the chocolate sauce to pool.

Waffle Iron Churros Recipe »

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