Thanks for your patience! The winner of the Bar&Bean giveaway is:
Reader 18, Grace! Congratulations and thanks all for entering!
From chocolate to spices: the holiday baking season is getting underway and I’m looking forward to filling my kitchen with the familiar scents of all things sweet. Recently, I was given two packs of cinnamon sticks from Cinnamon Hill, a company dedicated to selling the best quality cinnamon for cooks and bakers. Like most bakers, I have both jars of ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks in my pantry, but I wanted to see what difference some premium cinnamon made.
There are many species of cinnamon; Cinnamomum verum is often considered “true cinnamon” and is almost entirely sourced from Sri Lanka. Cinnamon Hill describes it as having a “subtle, warm, citrusy aroma”. Other species of cinnamon are often called “cassia” to distinguish them from true cinnamon – most of the ground cinnamon you will find in grocery stores in the United States are likely cassia. The cassia Cinnamon Hill provided is Saigon cinnamon, a well-known species distinguished by the high level of oils in the cinnamon tree bark. This gives the cinnamon a much stronger flavor than other species: both intensely sweet and slightly hot. Saigon cinnamon is a terrific choice for baking as the cinnamon flavor will stand out and not get lost among other flavors.
In order to fully appreciate fresh ground cinnamon, Cinnamon Hill created a special grater that lets you grind the sticks à la minute, just like you would with other spices like pepper or nutmeg. The honey oak-handled grater is pleasing to the eye and hand, and comes with own little holder for display. There’s a lovely visual and physical satisfaction to watching a fine rain of ground cinnamon fall down on your dish, accompanied by the sweet scent released from the grated stick. You can even smell the difference between the two cinnamons by grating them fresh – a fun little experiment.
So what to make with this bounty of cinnamon? Once I sniffed the freshly grated cinnamon, all I could think of was snickerdoodles, that homey, unpretentious little cookie that flies under the radar, but become all-consumingly addictive once you make a batch. They are the humble epitome of simple comfort baking, so what else to do but fancy them up and turn them into macarons? These macarons are made from my basic Italian meringue recipe and filled with a cinnamon-flecked buttercream. To take further advantage of the cinnamon grater, cinnamon is grated over the tops of the finished macarons. The result is almost exactly like a regular snickerdoodle – chewy, buttery, sweetly-spicy cinnamon. I liked the Sri Lanka cinnamon the best – it had a lovely, subtle sweetness that matched well with the elegance of the macarons. However, the Saigon cinnamon has distinctive boldness and I would love to use it in a pie, or cake, or pudding – all definite possibilities for the holiday baking roster!
Speaking of snickerdoodles, this post is also dedicated to our sweet Snickerdoodle! I know she’s taken a backseat on this blog since the baby’s arrival; here’s a recent photo of our little doggie with her Halloween collar – still garnering compliments everywhere we take her! Whenever I tell people her name they almost always get that we named her for her coloring – and perhaps her sweet disposition!
Thanks to Cinnamon Hill for sharing their love of cinnamon with me. Check out their website for more information on cinnamon’s production, harvest, and varieties. The holiday season is starting: is your pantry prepared?
I received a Cinnamon Lovers’ Pack from Cinnamon Hill for my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
- 200 g almond meal or ground blanched almonds
- 200 g confectioners’ sugar
- 200 g sugar
- 50 g water
- 150 g egg whites, divided into two 75 g portions
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
- 3/4 cup (165 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-in pieces
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the macarons:
- Stack two baking trays on top of each other. Line with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- Process almond meal with confectioners’ sugar in a food processor. Sieve out any large bits of almond.
- Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved.
- Meanwhile, place 75g of egg whites in a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment.
- Continue cooking until the sugar syrup reaches 118 C/245 F. While the sugar is cooking, begin whisking the egg whites. They should reach stiff peaks by the time the syrup is at 245 F. If it whips too fast, turn down or turn off the mixer.
- Turn the mixer speed to low. Carefully pour the sugar syrup in a slow stream into the mixer.
- Turn the mixer speed to high and let the meringue whip for several minutes until it has cooled and appears glossy and firm.
- In a large bowl, combine the almond meal mixture with the remaining 75g of egg whites until partially combined.
- Scoop the meringue on top of the almond meal mixture. Using a spatula or dough scraper, carefully fold the meringue in, trying not to deflate it. The final batter should be thick and flow slowly like magma. Do not overmix.
- Scoop the batter into a piping bag fitted with a ½” diameter plain tip. Pipe 1 ½” rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the sheets sit for about 20 minutes to let the shells harden.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 C/320 F.
- Bake one set of macarons for 15 minutes, rotating once. Let tray cool for a few minutes before removing from the silicone mat. Let finish cooling on wire racks.
For the buttercream:
- Combine the sugar and egg whites in a medium heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
- Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.
- Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.
- Switch to the paddle attachment and with the speed on low, add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating until smooth.
- When all the butter has been added, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed for about 6-10 minutes until it is very thick and smooth. Add in the vanilla extract and ground cinnamon, and beat to combine.
- The buttercream is ready to be used. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface until you are ready to use it to prevent it from drying out.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip with the buttercream. Place macarons on a sheet pan with their flat bottoms facing up. Pipe about 1 teaspoon buttercream in the center of half the macarons.
- Place the remaining macarons on top, pressing down slightly to spread the filling to the edges.