One of my absolute favorite things about France is macarons. They’re the epitome of everything I love in a dessert: both slightly crunchy and chewy, like a mixture of cake and cookies with a fabulous texture, small enough that I can eat several of them and try tons of different flavors and diverse enough that they never get old. Even though they’re incredibly expensive, buying a small box of macarons always seems worth it and makes my day. Macarons are a notoriously tricky pastry to make at home and up until now I’ve mostly been content to buy them in specialized shops. Recently I learned a trick that seemed as though it might help me conquer the home-made macaron and decided to give it a go at home.
Now, here’s the disclaimer: even with my new knowledge of how to get that perfect macaron “foot,” the fact that I did everything exactly according to the recipe and followed all the tips I’d been given in culinary school, these macarons were far from perfect. The only sure-fire way to get a perfect macaron every time is to use the cooked sugar method, where the meringue is made with a warm sugar syrup and thus much more stable than just whipping up egg whites in a stand mixer. I don’t even own a kitchen thermometer so for now, this method isn’t for me. The recipe I used, however, gave very satisfactory results. The macarons rose like they should have but had a slightly grainy shell and uneven appearance. But despite their less-than-perfect look, they were delicious and definitely an improvement on the last macarons I made at home.
The thing about these particular macarons is that they combine two of my best-loved ingredients: chocolate and cinnamon. I’m pretty sure I’ve been obsessed with cinnamon since a very young age when my Mom used to make me cinnamon sugar toast as a snack. I remember making French toast for the first time as a teenager and covering it in ground cinnamon and maple syrup. As I’ve grown older, I’ve started adding cinnamon to savory dishes as well. One of the best possible combinations that I’ve come across is definitely cinnamon and chocolate, and these macarons highlight it perfectly.
Cinnamon chocolate macarons
(Because macarons are so touch-and-go, it’s best to make the measurements in grams for added accuracy)
100 g egg whites, room temperature
50 g sugar
125 g almond meal
175 g powdered sugar
2 t cinnamon
3 t cocoa
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of cream of tartar
Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a non-stick mat.
In a food processor, blend the almond meal, cocoa, powdered sugar and cinnamon until you have a fine powder. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on high until they just begin to stiffen. Add the sugar, salt and cream of tartar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Sift your almond meal mixture directly into the bowl of your stand mixer and fold the ingredients together until the mixture is smooth and no more streaks of white appear.
Fill a pastry bag with your mixture and pipe the macarons onto your cookie sheet. Macarons, like cream puffs, should not be piped in a spiral shape, but rather by holding your pastry bag vertically and about 1/4 inch from the parchment paper, pipe the macaron without moving the pastry bag until you’ve reached the desired size, in this case about 1.5 inches in diameter. Once you’re done piping, make a quick circle motion with your pastry bag to finish off the macaron, then smooth using your finger (dipped in a bit of water). Let your macarons rest on the cookie sheet for about two hours before baking. If you’re in a hurry, preheat your oven to its lowest settings and leave the macarons inside for about 30 minutes. Once they’ve set and are no longer sticky to the touch, preheat your oven to 300° and bake for 12-15 minutes.
Once the macarons are finished, let them cool completely before removing them from the cookie sheet. Make your favorite ganache recipe (mine is here!) and fill the macarons with it. You can even add a bit more cinnamon to the ganache if you like. Placing the macarons in the fridge will help the ganache to set. Remove a few minutes prior to eating.