French macarons, the very popular and trendy Parisian cookie, often confused with coconut macaroons, are seen all over the big cities. Les macarons were first popularized in the 1930's by the famous pastry shop Ladurée, in France, where the invention of the double-decker macaron came to be. This light and sweet cookie contains a center filling of butter cream or jam filling which is sandwiched between two dome shape meringues that come in many different flavours. Raspberry and pistachio seemed to be the most popular, but I thought gingerbread macarons would be very appropriate for the holiday season.
When properly made, the dome of the cookie should be a smooth and glossy top with a moist interior that melts in your mouth. There should also be a ruffled ridge around the cookie, the foot of the cookie or le pied in French. Don't worry about mastering these cookies the first time you make them. Not until recently has the recipes been written for chefs at home, it has mainly been for professional chefs where recipes measurements are in weights as oppose to volumes.
But if you intend on becoming a master pastry chef, make sure you follow these tips, they will prevent kitchen break downs and wasted batter.
- Use pasteurized liquid egg whites as oppose to separating egg whites and make sure it is at room temperature.
- When whipping the egg whites, add the sugar in once foam has formed and beat at medium high speed until the egg whites are firm and glossy. Try not to stop and start to mixer and don't worry about over whisking the eggs. It is better to get stiff peaks then no peaks at all. I like to mix in a glass bowl.
- Make sure you sift each dry ingredient at least twice (or "shift" as my mom says). Once before you mix the dry ingredient together and then once again when you add it to the egg whites.
- When folding in the almond mixture with the egg whites, fold one way to keep as much air in the batter as possible.
- Do not use wax paper, the cookies will stick to it, use parchment paper.
- Once you've piped the raw cookies on a baking sheet, dip the back of a spoon in warm water and smooth out any peaks left by the piping bag.
- Let the piped, raw cookies stand for 30 minutes at room temperature before baking to promote a glossy top crust.
- Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the paper with a thin spatula. You can add drops of water under the parchment paper to help remove the cookies as the macarons will release more easily with steam.
Makes 24 Macarons
- 2 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
- 1 1/4 cups finely ground almonds
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground cloves
- 1 ginger snap cookie
- 3/4 cup egg whites at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- For macarons, preheat the oven to 300°F
- Line 2 large baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw 24 circles, 2 inch in size on each sheet; flip the parchment over. Place each prepared tray on top of another baking tray.
- Combine the icing sugar, almonds, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a medal blade. Blend for about 30 - 60 seconds or until the mixture is fine powder; transfer to another bowl.
- Place gingersnap cookie in the food processor and blend until finely crushed. Sift through a medium sieve. Discard larger crumbs trapped in sieve. Reserve the fine crumbs.
- Place the egg whites and vanilla in a large bowl. Use an electric mixture on medium-high to beat until white are foamy. Add the granulated sugar by the spoonful, beating until firm and glossy. In 2 additions, gently fold the reserved almond mixture into the egg white until the mixture is streak free. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a plain tip that is about 1 cm wide.
- Pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheets by placing the tip into the center of each circle, squeezing just until the batter reaches the outer edge. Use the back of a spoon dipped in warm water to smooth out any peaks. Sprinkle each cookie with a little of the finely ground gingerbread cookie crumbs. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes but no more than 60 minutes.
- Bake, on the center rack, 1 sheet at at time for 15-16 minutes or until the surface is set and bottoms are light golden. Cool completely on pan. Gently transfer to cooling rack until ready to fill. The cookies can be stored in an air tight container for up to 3 days.
- For the filling, combine the sugar and egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer or another large heatproof bowl. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring the bowl and the water do not touch. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture feels warm to the touch and is light, fluffy and white, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer; fit with the whisk attachment. add the spices and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed, or until mixure cools and forms a thick shiny meringue. Beat in the butter, adding 1 tbsp at a time until very smooth. Beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until very thick and light, about 6 minutes. spread an equal amount of filling on the bottoms of 24 cookies; sandwich with an additional cookie.