Attempt no. 22 – the pumpkin macaron

Let’s pick up where we left off at the end of Attempt 20.  After Socrates’ death, his followers were left to grapple with the definition of virtue.  Socrates had said that knowledge led to virtue, i.e., that the learned man would be a virtuous one.  However, he still never said what virtue was; instead, virtue was something “you’ll know when you see it.” Thus, three of his followers established their own schools after Socrates’ death, to (in their minds) complete his work: Antisthenes founded the Cynic school, Aristippus founded the Cyrenaic school, and Euclid founded the Megaric school.

Antisthenes the Cynic, Aristippus the Cyrenaic, and Euclid the Megaric

Antisthenes the Cynic, Aristippus the Cyrenaic, and Euclid the Megaric

Socrates, in his pursuit of the philosophy of virtue, had eschewed all other comforts and forms of knowledge. The Cynics, grasping at that part of the elephant, elevated the means of disengaging with everything that wasn’t philosophy into an ends. “Virtue is sufficient for happiness,” said Antisthenes, and his Cynics therefore rejected all possessions as being antithetical to virtue. Moreover, whereas Socrates was indifferent to public opinion because public opinion wasn’t relevant to his pursuit, “the Cynics, to show [emphasis added] their indifference, flouted public opinion, and gave frequent and disgusting exhibitions of indecency.” Unfortunately, the author provides no examples of these disgusting exhibitions of indecency; Wikipedia only says they didn’t bathe much.

The Cyrenaics grabbed a different part of the elephant, based on Socrates’ dictum that only virtue led to happiness. If one is supposed to be virtuous and lead a virtuous life, and virtue leads to happiness, then one is supposed to be happy; and from there, it takes only a small leap (or a quick grope of the elephant) to say that the sole purpose of life is pleasure.

Obviously, what you do with this philosophy depends on what you decide is pleasurable: good works, or very naughty ones. According to Stace (my source for all of this), “The Cyrenaics by no means wholly ignored the pleasures of the mind [i.e., intellectual pursuits], but they pointed out that feelings of bodily pleasure are more potent and intense, and it was upon these, therefore, that they chiefly concentrated their attention.” The only thing that kept them from complete depravity was their belief that “in the pursuit of pleasure, the wise man must exercise prudence.” One man’s prudence is another man’s box of prophylactics, however, so if this is what Socrates’ disciples did with his teachings, it is no wonder that the Athenians condemned him to death for corrupting the youth.

Finally, the Megarics seemed to have missed the elephant completely.  Virtue is knowledge, but knowledge of what?  Euclid influenced by philosophers such as Zeno, and he decided that what one had to know was the indivisible Being that we discussed four attempts ago.  Stace doesn’t have much to say about the Megarics, but it seems like a serious regression to me.

So what does any of this have to do with macarons?  Not much, actually, except clearly that if knowledge leads to virtue, then knowledge about how to make macarons will lead to virtuous macarons.  And if I want to enjoy making and sharing macarons, it would be prudent to learn more.  So, less philosophy and more YouTube videos.

Because it is nearly Thanksgiving, I’m going back to a website I’ve used earlier, to make these pumpkin macarons.  The ingredients for the shells are

  • 1 cup (100gr) almond flour
  • 2/3 cup (100gr) powdered sugar
  • 2 large egg whites (about 70gr)
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup (50gr) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin spice bakery emulsion
  • Orange gel food coloring, optional

and for the filling,

  • 3 tablespoons (40gr) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (130gr) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

I put it all together in the usual way.

By now, I've learned that this picture gives no indication of how the shells actually will turn out.

By now, I’ve learned that this type of picture gives no indication of how the shells actually will turn out.

And, to cut to the chase, they came out looking like this:


Not bad, and kind of tasty, but too deflated and bumpy. As far as I can tell, it is specifically the macaronnage stage – the point of mixing the dry ingredients into the meringue –  where I get lost.  Socrates’ point is proven, and he shares the victory with the meringue.


About cohn17

Photographer and baker of macarons.
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