Christmas is only a week away now!
Where did this year go?!
It was winter all of about five minutes ago. It was cold and rainy and wet and miserable.
Then before I knew it, it started getting warm. And the sun started rising earlier. And summer came along with a bang.
The stores put up their Christmas decorations. And trees. And Santa popped up in all the malls.
And now, Christmas carols are playing everywhere.
I’ll let you in on a little secret?
I love them. I am a Christmas sop.
Miracle on 34th Street and all the Home Alone movies and songs like It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
All I need now is to be on the opposite hemisphere and for there to be a little snow outside and I’d be in heaven at Christmas.
This past Sunday it was a little chilly, it rained a bit, the sky was grey and I had the day off. So I turned on carols and spent the morning baking in my pyjamas. Christmas baking. The best kind of baking.
Last year I made you some absolutely delicious Gingerbread Men for Christmas.
This year I went one better. I made you gingerbread spiced macarons. With spiked eggnog buttercream. The best of both worlds.
Don’t you just love me right now?
Yeah, I thought so.
Happy Christmas baking! What’s happening in your kitchen these holidays?
GINGERBREAD MACARONS WITH EGGNOG BUTTERCREAM
For the gingerbread macaron shells
300g almond meal
300g icing sugar
110g egg whites
30ml strong coffee
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g caster sugar
110g egg whites
1 tsp dutch cinnamon
pinch ground ginger, extra
pinch sea salt
Line 4 – 6 trays with baking paper.
Sift the almond meal and icing sugar into a large bowl and mix well with the ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
Pour 110g egg whites, the coffee and vanilla over the dry ingredients. Do not mix. Set aside.
Make an Italian meringue. Put the remaining 110g egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Do not turn on.
Put the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir. Place over a medium heat and fit with a candy thermometer.
Watch the sugar as it boils. When the mixture reaches about 110 C, turn the egg whites onto a high speed. Whip these until they form very soft peaks. The sugar should be 115 C at this stage.
When the sugar reaches 115 C, turn off the heat. While the egg whites are still beating on high, pour the sugar syrup, very slowly, into the eggs. Aim for a point in between the side of the bowl and the moving whisk. Continue to beat until the mixture cools (feel it through the bowl).
Fold the Italian meringue into the almond meal mixture in three batches, until well incorporated and smooth.
Spoon into a piping bag fitted with medium round nozzle and pipe small 1 inch rounds of mixture onto the lined trays, allowing a little room for spreading. Tap each tray onto the bench a few times to remove air bubbles. Repeat until all the mixture is used.
Set the trays of macarons aside for about 30 minutes so they can develop a skin. Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F).
Combine the dutch cinnamon, extra ground ginger and sea salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle a little over each macaron right before baking.
Bake the macarons for 11 – 12 minutes, opening the door at the 8 minute mark and the 10 minute mark, in order to let out any steam. If they grow and develop little “feet”, they have worked. They are ready when you can gently lift one off the tray without leaving its foot behind.
Set the macarons aside to cool completely while you make the buttercream.
For the eggnog buttercream
Seeds from 1/2 a vanilla pod
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
200g unsalted butter, softened
50g icing sugar, sifted
1/4 cup brandy or rum
First, make a pastry cream. Pour the milk and vanilla into a small saucepan. Heat over a medium heat until just beginning to boil.
While the milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl.
Combine the caster sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Whisk this into the egg yolks a little at a time.
Once the milk is beginning to boil, slowly pour it into the egg mixture, while constantly whisking.
Pour the custard back into the saucepan and return to a medium to low heat. Whisk constantly to avoid lumps, until the pastry cream is thick.
Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap right on the surface. Place in the freezer to cool.
Meanwhile, beat the butter and icing sugar using an electric mixer until very light and fluffy. Add the alcohol, about a tablespoon at a time, beating well between each addition.
Once the pastry cream is cool, beat it into the butter.
Match the macaron shells up so they have partners of similar size. Upturn one shell of each pair of macarons.
Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a medium round nozzle.
Pipe a little buttercream onto the center of each upturned macaron. Sandwich it together with its partner.
Keep refrigerated. Makes 50 – 60 macarons.