Gingerbread Macarons, Two Ways

A few weeks ago, Hermit and I tried some (French) macarons from a local bakery. I had a Groupon ($5 for 10, sweet). They weren’t very good, which is sad for a bakery that only does cupcakes and macarons. Yech!

Anyway… I figured maybe it was just that bakery; I’ve read so many good things about how good macarons are. I figured, why not try baking some for myself? What could it hurt?

I am so glad I didn’t give up on macarons! When made correctly (?) (tastily? fresh?) they’re delicious. The recipe I borrowed  was paired with a lemon-ginger type buttercream. Which, while this sounded fantastic, I wanted to try a zingier lemon. So I made this lemon curd recipe. Why lemon curd? I have no idea. I can’t even recall ever eating lemon curd on it’s own, didn’t really know what it looked like, or how it tasted. Oh, it’s a zingy, sweet, thick mass of deliciousness. The macarons with lemon curd were a little unstable right away. After setting them up, I let them rest in the fridge overnight and the curd became thicker and held the cookies together nicely.

Then I made these cupcakes and had some Rum Buttercream frosting left over. So I put frosting on part of the macarons and lemon curd on the rest. They were both great – each in their own way. The rum buttercream is made with meringue and egg nog and reduced rum, so it pairs nicely with the gingerbread macarons. But the flavors are also very similar.

Macarons are the bane of many bakers’ existence – they can be super finicky and impossible to master. Half of mine didn’t rise appropriately, didn’t get the characteristic ‘feet’ on the bottom, and cracked somewhat on top. Meh, they still tasted fantastic. If you don’t own a kitchen scale, invest in one. You can get a decent scale for $20 or so. It’s worth it in this recipe because you want your measurements to be exact with macarons.

I”m looking at some blueberry macarons next… we’ll see. I just found freeze-dried blueberries (no sugar added) at Trader Joes.

Gingerbread Macarons with Rum Buttercream -or- Lemon Curd

Gingerbread Macarons

Source: Anne’s Food

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, or 90g, aged*
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 200g powdered sugar
  • 110g almond meal/flour**
  • 1 tsp. each ground cinnamon, ginger, cardamom

* The egg whites need to lose a little moisture so they’ll bake properly. At least the night before, or up to 5 days before you make macarons, put the egg whites in a bowl in the fridge (outside of the shell), with a loose paper towel on top. You can also leave them out on the counter overnight with a paper towel covering, to help them age quicker.

** Almond meal is expensive. I used natural/raw almonds (I like these because they don’t process peanuts or other tree nuts in their factory, which is important for family allergy reasons. And they’re reasonably priced –  Target frequently has 16-oz. bags on sale). Put the almonds in a wide bowl, pour boiling water to cover the top of the almonds, and let sit for 1 – 2 minutes. Drain the water and rinse briefly in cold water. Pour out onto a towel on a baking sheet and partially dry. The skins should slide off with a little pressure.

Method

1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Mix together powdered sugar, almond meal, and spices. Whisk well and then sift together. The almond pieces may be bigger than than the holes in the sieve so you’ll have to whisk again after sifting.

3. Prepare the bowl and whisk attachment of a stand mixer by wiping each with a little lemon juice or white vinegar. If there’s any leftover oil from your hands or something else you made in there before, the egg whites won’t form the peaks like you need.

4. Combine the aged egg whites and granulated sugar in the prepared bowl. Beat on medium until you have a thick, glossy meringue (think: shaving cream-ish).

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add the almond mixture to the bowl and carefully fold into the meringue. Make sure to count your folds and do not do more than 45 or 50. I’m usually around  40 – at about this point, drop a little on the prepared baking sheet – if the top folds over on itself, the batter is ready to pipe.

6. Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a large round tip, or a gallon ziploc bag (cut the corner off after filling) with the dough. It’s going to leak out of the end when you’re filling. Remedy this by either holding the bag closed with a hair pin just above the tip, or use some other device.

7. Holding the pasty bag completely vertical, pipe 1 1/2″ circles on the baking sheet, about 1 1/2″ apart. Set the baking sheet aside for about 45 minutes, to allow the macarons to form a skin on top of the cookies. (I wait 15 minutes before piping the macarons onto the second sheet, as it will sit on the counter an extra 15 minutes while the first batch bakes).

8. Bake in a 280° oven for 14 – 16 minutes. If you’ve done everything ‘right’, the cookies should get ‘feet’ about 6-8 minutes into the baking. This is the little, rough-looking layer at the bottom of the cookie – mine aren’t perfect but they still taste wonderful. The cookies are done when the tops are dry to the touch and can be removed from the baking sheet with just slight pressure. (Pick an ‘ugly’ macaron to test this out on, in case it’s not done, you’ll destroy the cookie – better to ruin an ugly one).

9. Remove the cookie tray to a cooling rack. Let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheet.

10. Once cool, ‘pair up’ cookies with similar sized cookies. Flip over one of each pair, and pipe your choice of filling, below, on the upside-down half. Carefully pair up the halves – they can easily crack if you press down with too much pressure.

Rum Buttercream

Source: Savory Simple’s Eggnog cupcake recipe

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups spiced rum
  • 3 egg whites
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, room temp and cut into small pieces
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup eggnog (optional)

Method

1. Add the spiced rum to a small saucepan. Heat until boiling over high heat. BE CAREFUL and watch closely – rum is very flamable. You might accidentally set the rum on fire (flambé) – carefully remove the pan from heat and put the lid over the top for a few seconds. Once extinguished, return to the stove top.  Cook until you have 3-4 tbsp. of liquid. Cool completely.

2. Here you have to be coordinated – it helps to have your mixer near your stove, if possible. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Over high heat, boil the mixture until it hits ‘soft ball’ stage, or 235 – 240°.

3. While the sugar mixture is coming to temperature, add the egg whites to your stand mixer (make sure your bowl and whisk attachment are grease-free by wiping down with lemon juice/vinegar). On medium/medium-low speed, whip your egg whites to a soft peak. (Ideally, you want the sugar temperature to hit 235° at the same time your eggs hit a soft peak.)

4. With the mixer on high speed, carefully, slowly, pour the sugar mixture into the mixer bowl. Try and hit the very edge of the egg whites with the stream of sugar without hitting the beater. Whip on high speed until the mixture is room temperature and you have stiff peaks. Wrapping your mixer bowl with ice packs will speed up this process.

5. Slowly add the butter, once piece at a time until all incorporated. Add the egg nog, cinnamon, vanilla, and cooled rum. Beat until well mixed and the frosting has a smooth texture. (Sometimes I switch to the beater attachment to create a smooth texture here.)

Lemon Curd

Source: Ina Garten

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

  • Peel of 3 lemons (peel with a carrot peeler, avoiding the white pith part)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Juice of 3 lemons, about 3/4 cups (leave at room temperature to get more juice)
  • 1/8 tsp (kosher) salt

Method

1. Put the lemon peel and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until you have a fine zest incorporated into the sugar.

 

2. In the bowl of a food processor, cream the butter with the lemon sugar mixture. Once combined, add the eggs one at a time. Once incorporated, add the lemon juice and salt and process until smooth.

3. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and heat over low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. If you have a candy thermometer, the mixture will be just around 170° when it thickens. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.

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