The Daring Bakers Practice Their French Kissing – Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Macarons
When I was in elementary school, I had a neighbor who I always played with, N-. I looked up to her for most everything – she was smart, pretty, and just older than me to have unquestionable authority. Whenever we played, whether it was pretend school or board games, she set the rules and stage of everything we did.
One day a new bike appeared on N-‘s front lawn. At nine years old I thought it was utterly, undeniably the most perfect and beautiful bicycle I’d ever seen. The body was a seamless silver not yet smudged by fingerprints, with a shiny white seat and handles. Little blue glittery flowers adorned the spokes of the wheels, blurring into a pretty aqua streak when the bike smoothly accelerated. My own bike, which I’d cherished for years, suddenly seemed babyish in comparison with sparkles on its handlebars and a pink vinyl basket perfect for stuffed animals. But worst of all, my childish pink bike had training wheels – more shameful proof of my inability to match up to N-.
I waited for N- to come back from middle school that day, sitting on my front step. When she waved hello, I took a deep breath, and visualized the words I’d been reciting and editing and reciting again over and over in my head. What came out was simply, “Can I ride it?”
N-‘s smile faded and she looked back at the bike, back at me. There is something so irresistible about ownership, something that’s yours, something still new and shiny. Even as children we appreciated possession of something beautiful. Unfortunately, this meant N- was less inclined to share her new toy with an untrustworthy neighbor still in the single digits.
“No,” was all she had to say about that. When she saw my face crumple, she added hastily, “But only because you don’t know how to ride a two wheeler. That’s all. You’d crash it and break it and I just got it new.”
Naturally, then, there was only one thing to do – learn to ride a bike without training wheels.
I had only tried to ride a two wheeler once before. I owned a dark purple bike without training wheels that my mother’s co-worker had given us, but I had never been enchanted by it. With its unattractive black stripes, lack of sparkles, and too-tall seat, I had been more than happy to stick to my pink baby bicycle. Not only did it feel safer, I found it a much more beautiful way to get around.
When my mother initially brought the purple bike home, we did try to use it in the park. Mom held the back of the bicycle seat as I pedaled, but no matter how strongly she tried to convince me that she was holding on, I couldn’t help but constantly look back to make sure she was still there. I never gained the confidence or proper motivation to master the two wheeler. Even though mom bought me a full set of knee and elbow pads, I stubbornly gave up.
Having had a few years to mature and a chance to ride N-‘s bike was the perfect push. I immediately went to our garage and lifted out the ugly purple bike I’d never expected to ride again. I wheeled it over to a grassy slope near my house, and snapped on my helmet with a loud click. I was going to be riding this bike by the end of the day, or scrape my knees raw trying.
That day, I spent three hours on that grassy hill. I started by sitting on the bike and simply letting it roll down the slope without pedaling, until I could maintain my balance well enough. Then I repeated the process, this time pedaling the bike as I went. I fell over more times than I could count, staining my jeans green and scraping my palms, but every time I stood back up and got back on. When I could finally ride my bike on the sidewalk all the way back to my house without falling once, I knew I had finally done it.
As it turned out, N- still didn’t want to share, and I never did get the chance to play with her beautiful bike. But I’d learned something valuable in the process, something that I’ve kept with me long after that shiny new bike dulled and N- moved far away. Besides finally graduating to the two wheeled bike, I learned the power of perseverance. When I am truly determined, I can accomplish anything with enough effort, even if it means a few scrapes along the way.
Hugely, this concept has proved true for the Daring Bakers. The lavendar milanos that I made over and over before tasting success come to mind first, and the Dobos Torte that I had to attempt twice. When I saw the Daring Baker’s October challenge, I groaned.
The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
Macarons are among the most notorious desserts in the food blogging world, as temperamental and difficult as high school boys. They’ve been on my goal list for months, but to be truthful, I probably would have never been brave enough to attempt them. The Daring Baker’s challenge provided exactly the push I needed. Though I knew I would probably break some eggs, throw a spatula in frustration, and have to make macarons over and over – possibly without success – I felt up to the challenge.
So imagine my surprise when I made the macarons and they came out more beautifully than I would have believed, on my first attempt! I drew the first batch out of the oven and saw to my shock and delight that they had little ruffled feet. While they could have been smoother, taller, and had more perfect feet, I couldn’t have been happier with my results. And the flavor profile I chose evokes warm cinnamon rolls or snickerdoodle cookies.
And now, as a 17 year old in the kitchen, the smell of cinnamon and cream cheese is just as appealing as a gleaming new bike.
Many Daring Bakers this month did not like this recipe, and had much more success with Tartelette’s macaron recipe. Like I said, mine were not perfectly formed, and were a little moister/tackier than perfect. Overall, though, they were a success. I don’t know why mine worked – kitchen karma? Plain dumb luck? – but here’s what I did:
– I aged my egg whites in a bowl on the counter, covered with a paper towel, for 3 days.
– I used storebought almond meal (which is actually moister than almond flour).
– I sifted my almond flour/powdered sugar/cinnamon mixture 3 times.
– I have no idea how many strokes I used with the egg white/almond flour mixture. I just folded until combined.
– I doubled up on pans, but I don’t know if this made a difference.
– After piping, I rapped the pan on the counter to release air bubbles.
– I let the piped macarons sit on the counter for an hour before baking. No feet formed, but a slight skin did.
Since the recipe worked for me, I am reproducing it below. My one complaint is that I did find the macarons a bit too sweet, so I used a tangy cream cheese filling to balance it out. They were quite good!
Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Macarons
Makes 10 Dozen
2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.) icing sugar
2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.) almond flour
2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.) granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5 egg whites (Have at room temperature)
Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon, and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored. Cool on a rack before filling.
Cream Cheese Filling
Makes enough to fill the macarons
6 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat the cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar until combined, then mix in the juice and extract. Pipe a dollop onto one macaron and top with another.
Printer Friendly Version – Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Macarons
As always, I encourage you to check out every Daring Baker’s macarons. They are incredible!