You can tell that Christmas spirit has taken over, can’t you? Although the weather is not playing along and giving us dull, gray, rain and sludge instead of cold, crisp air with snow topped roofs and iced trees, at home we’ve hung up the straw stars, wooden carved figures, baubles and tinsel.
The kitchen perpetually emanates the fragrance of warming and sweet spices that linger like incense in the air. While I am a summer girl right to the core and prefer peep toe heels to knee high boots, the holiday season does make my heart fuzzy and warm. The merry spirit absorbs me completely, sucking me into all it's glittery glory. Walking down the cobblestone streets of Weimar, Soeren and I like peering into the shop windows all decorated in sparkling tinsel and colorful baubles. There really is that magical spirit in the air!
We’ve already sent off our Christmas wish list to the North Pole, which I think will be sending Santa’s helpers scuttling around the toy stores in Weimar for the next few days!
In the meantime we’re baking in the kitchen. The oven radiates it’s heat almost continuously and all sorts of treats keep coming out of it. Little cakes, cookies or puddings – all getting elegantly packed for gifts to family and friends.
This year I am quite excited to be adding macarons to my repertoire of gift treats. I’ve been riding on the wave of success with macarons and just had to include these soft and chewy bites of joy into the gift boxes.
Of course the motivation of the MacTweets macaron event helps me keep at my toes for new flavor and combination creations. MacTweets is a monthly macaron baking challenge put together by two very dear girlfriends Deeba and Jamie.
Flavor wise, it was not difficult for me to decide on the direction to go with these macarons, I knew I wanted to make them fitting for the seasonal festivities using spices that pretty much epitomized Christmas.
It’ll have to be “Lebkuchen Gewürz,” a lovely German spice blend often used in Christmas baking, especially for Lebkuchen. I recently used it in my Chocolate Lebkuchen Fudge Burfi that I made over at Mowie’s, fusing a traditional Indian sweet with a classic German spice. It worked so brilliantly that I decided to blend some Lebkuchen spice with these delicious French macarons too.
The filling was actually already sitting in my fridge since November! I knew the minute I tasted the caramelized quince jam that this would be the perfect macaron filling. With the filling basically out of the way all I really needed to do was tackle the shells.
There’s still an uncanny excitement when I make macarons and while I am getting more routined each time I make them, I still have a lot of respect. One really never knows what might go wrong and of course one is always appealing to the higher macaron Gods for perfect feet.
This time round I had to leave my macarons to dry for a little over an hour. As I completed piping the macaron batter, it was already lunch time. I had not planned anything so decided to pack up Soeren and meet Tom in town for a bite to eat. “The macarons will be OK!” I thought.
However, it was not entirely a good idea. I’ve always wondered what exactly happens to macarons that are left out too long to dry. Well I did get my answer on a few of them. The batter dries up too much and as they bake in the oven the tops kind of get overdone. Once they come out of the oven the tops are fairly brittle and crack off the rest easily. Luckily this was only the case with the smaller batch.
Adding slices of candied ginger was a last minute stroke of genius. It pepped up the entire flavor giving it a delicious bite.
Note: If you are making macarons for the first time please read my comprehensive collection of macaron tips. All the way from the prep work to removing macarons from the baking paper, you’ll find valuable tips and tricks for perfect macaron making.
Lebkuchen Spice Macarons with Quince Jam and Candied Ginger
Printable version of recipe here
For the Lebkuchen macaron shells
90g egg white (approx. 4 eggs), aged for a little over 24 hours on the countertop or 5 days in the refrigerator
30g fine granulated sugar
200g icing sugar
1/4 tablespoon Lebkuchen spice* (see note below) – or you can adjust this amount to your own taste
few drops of red and green food coloring, mixed to give a slightly brown/gingerbread color
For the filling
a portion of Caramelized Quince Jam with a Sprinkling of Cinnamon
a small handful candied ginger – sliced
For the Lebkuchen macaron shells
- Prepare your baking tray and baking sheets with a stencil of circles. Draw circles on some baking paper using a (mathematical) compass about 2 cm in diameter. Then place some white parchment paper on the baking tray and flip the baking paper back around.
- In a large mixing bowl mix the egg whites with an electric hand beater (alternatively you can use a stand mixer with the whisk attachment) until it is thick and frothy. Gradually add the granulated sugar, whisking all the while, until the mixture turns into a thick glossy meringue. Incorporate the Lebkuchen spice blend into the batter. The consistency of the macaron batter should be similar to hair mousse or shaving foam. Make sure the meringue is not over-beaten or else it will be too dry.
- In a food processor pulse together icing sugar and almonds until the nuts are finely ground and powdery. Sift the mixture to make sure there are no lumps.
- Place the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the meringue and give it a quick fold using the macronnage technique described in my macaron tips section. Fold a few times to break the air. Continue until you get a smooth and supple mixture, thick in consistency so that when you lift the spatula it flows back in thick ribbons. Test a small amount on a plate – should the tops fall back and flatten by themselves then it is ready, if not give it a few more folds.
- Fill a piping bag with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (2 cm in diameter) on your prepared baking paper. Leave the macarons to rest and dry for about 30 - 45 minutes.
- In the meantime preheat the the oven to 140 degrees C. When the macarons are ready bake the shells for 10–15 minutes depending on their size. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Use a flat offset spatula to gently remove the shells from the baking paper and allow to cool further on a rack.
* Note: If you cannot find premixed "Lebkuchen Gewürz" from a German store, you may mix your own. Here are the spices that make up "Lebkuchen Gewürz"
2 T. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground anise seed
If you are not going to be using them right away you can store the shells in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.
They freeze well too but it is recommended to freeze them unfilled. To fill them take the shells out of the freezer 48 hours prior to serving and without defrosting fill them. This way the flavors will be allowed to blend as they thaw.
Assembling the macarons
Using two spoons place small dollops of the caramelized quince jam on one of the shells then place a slice of candied ginger in the middle and gently cover with another shell. Do not press. Continue to do this until you have used up all of the filling and shells.
A single bite and “it’s Christmas time!” These macarons bring out the best of the season. They are the perfect spiced treat, warming you with the sweet heat of coriander, cardamom and cinnamon. The fruity quince jam was so sensual with it’s cinnamon-y aroma highlighting the spices of the Lebkuchen blend. Finally that little sharp heat from the candied ginger made us all go “ooooh!” Soeren is quickly becoming a macaron connoisseur, suggesting a few interesting ideas for the next challenge. He devoured several of these so quickly that I literally had to pull him away from the kitchen. Tom really enjoyed these macarons, mentioning that spiciness curbed the sweetness intermingling with the fruity jam perfectly.
Big day for us tomorrow – so I hope you’ll all be crossing your fingers and everything else that can be crossed for Tom. He defends tomorrow afternoon and if you hear cheers of joy you know we’re through it! I’ll be back next week with a few more Christmas time treats and a warming soup for the Monthly Mingle.
You might like these treats from WFLH:
|Salted Macadamia Nut and Chunky White Chocolate Cookies||Ginger Shortbread||Saffron Macarons with Cardamom White Chocolate Ganache|
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