COOKIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS: SPRINGERLE

Springerle cookies have been around for more than 700 years, and just that thought brings me a smile. It fascinates me that after hundreds of years we still talk about them and so many bakers – particularly in Europe – preserve the tradition by baking batches and batches during the holiday season. The name translates from German as “little jumpers”. Some say that indicates the way they seem to jump in the oven when they bake. Others believe that in the beginning the images imprinted on the cookies showed men on horses, like little jumpers. We’ll probably never know for sure, but what we do know is that they are flavored with anise, leavened with a special ingredient (ammonium carbonate, aka Hartshorn), and the dough takes a large amount of eggs beaten for a long time. Back in the 1300’s, a baker not only had to make the cookies, but also carve the wooden molds they were shaped in. The reputation of a baker would rest not only on the cookies themselves, but in the complexity and beauty of the mold he had produced. Absolutely amazing. Disclaimer: I did not carve my own molds. Please don’t judge.

SPRINGERLE COOKIES
(scaled down from House on the Hill)

1/4 teaspoon baker’s ammonia (Hartshorn)
1 tablespoons milk
3 large eggs, room temperature
360g powdered sugar
57g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened but not melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of anise oil
454g sifted cake flour (I used Softasilk)
grated rind of orange

to paint the cookies (optional):
powder luster (mine are from Oh Sweet Art)
vodka or lemon extract

Make the cookies: Dissolve baker’s ammonia in milk and set aside (avoid the temptation to take a sniff, you will regret it). Beat eggs until very thick, this will take from 10 to 15 minutes. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, then the softened butter. Add the the mixture of baker’s ammonia and milk, salt, anise oil and orange zest.

Gradually beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the remainder of the flour to make a stiff dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a good print without sticking. Refrigerate for one hour, but keep in mind the dough can be refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days.

On a floured surface, roll dough depending on the depth of the carving in the cookie press you are using. Shallow carvings will need to be thinner while deeper carvings will need to be thicker. Flour your cookie mold for each and every pressing. Press the mold firmly and straight down into the dough, then lift, cut with the cookie cutter of your choice, and place the formed cookie onto a flat surface to dry.

Do not cover the cookies while they dry. The goal of drying is to set the design. Let the cookies dry at least for 24 hours. It is better to leave them alone for a couple of days, so the design will be better retained during baking.

On baking day, heat the oven to 255F to 325F (depending on the size of your cookie and how white you like to have them), for 10 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool and paint, if you so desire.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I cannot lie to you, Springerle baking can be tricky. I only do it in December, because it is so deeply associated with this time of the year. In fact, it is quickly becoming a personal holiday tradition for me. First thing to keep in mind, you need the special leavening agent. It has a crystal, grainy structure and gives the cookie its unique texture. If you bake them with regular baking powder, you lose that component. Second, be patient. These cookies cannot be baked on the same day you shape them because the pattern needs to set by drying, sometimes it can take 3 days, depending on your environment. I never had to wait more than 48 hours.

most of my molds are from www.springerle.com

If they are not dry, when they go into the oven, the pattern will be quickly lost as the cookie expands. If they are fully dry but the oven a little too hot, they will form cracks and might even explode, like you can see on my first composite photo above. That brings me to my third advice: always, always, ALWAYS bake a test cookie. I normally place three, one large, one medium, one small, and see how they behave. The temperature that works best for me (for all cookie sizes, in fact) is 275F. It might be different for your oven.

Painting them is the part I enjoy the most. It is a good idea to get very fine brushes so that you can highlight details. I think pastel tones, silver, white and gold are my favorites, particularly to decorate more classic designs.

But this year I pushed the boundaries a bit and used more dramatic colors in some of my cookies…

I also used more modern shapes, that would quite likely horrify bakers from old Swabia…

These were bought from Fun Food Tools (at etsy.com). They definitely take Springerle into a totally new direction… My apologies to the purists. Since they were already such a dramatic departure, I went crazy with the colors also…

As you know, the main flavor of these cookies is anise, which not everyone is fond of. For real anise lovers, you can go one step further and bake them over a layer of anise seeds. I like the flavor, but don’t care for the texture of the seeds at the bottom, so I always skip this step.

I hope you enjoyed this final post on Holiday Cookies. Springerle baking will definitely be part of my end of the year routine. As to the other 11 months, I will practice baking molded cookies using regular baking powder and different flavors. Stay tuned!

ONE YEAR AGO: Bread – Episode 2 of Great American Baking Show

TWO YEARS AGO: Apple and Sobacha Caramel Dome Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Cocktail Spiced Nuts

FOUR YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen

FIVE YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central

SIX YEARS AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Homemade Calziones

NINE YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

TEN YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye

SUGAR COOKIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Until my participation in a certain show, I was not too wild about decorating sugar cookies with Royal icing. Indeed, in the comfort of my kitchen I would always refer to that white, impossible to tame substance as Royal Pain in the Icing, which indicates how I felt about it. But those intense weeks of preparation for the different episodes of the show forced me into areas of baking I had happily ignored and avoided. Much to my own amazement, I now love everything about cookie decorating, from baking the base to planning the design and trying to make it happen. On that note, I highly recommend that you go through my trilogy of posts on the subject from last month and the detailed tutorials by Tanya which I shared at the time. For all the holiday cookies in this post, I went with a flavor that is deeply ingrained in the season: Fiori di Sicilia, the Italian magical potion that is the classic addition to panettone. As to the decorations, apart from the wet-on-wet which I find the most user-friendly, I will share three methods that were new to me, requiring just a tad more involvement: Crackled Gold Christmas Tree, Reindeer (a clever twist starting from a common cookie cutter), and Stained-Glass Cookies.

FIORI DI SICILIA SUGAR COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

360 g all-purpose flour (3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
200 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
227 g cup butter, cold and cut in pieces
1 egg
3/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia extract
zest of 1 lemon
¼ tsp cardamom

Heat oven to 350F. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, Fiori di Sicilia, lemon zest and cardamom, mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture in two steps, and beat just until combined.

Dough can be rolled right away in between sheets of parchment paper. Roll to about 1/4″ thick, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, freeze for 10 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before icing.

(for Royal Icing, I used Tanya’s recipe, which you can find here)

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is definitely my default recipe for sugar cookies because I adore Fiori di Sicilia and I do flips for cardamon. As far as extracts go, Fiori di Sicilia is not cheap, but it is hard to replace with something else. Some say that orange extract + vanilla does a good enough job playing its part. Your kitchen, your rules, feel free to flavor your cookies the way you like. Just make sure not to roll the cookies too thin. Thin sugar cookies don’t stand up to the icing.

With the basic Christmas colors (red and green, plus white for flooding) you can do a lot…

I used two cookie cutters, one for the basic shape, a smaller to cut a circle in the center, turning it into a wreath. From there, nothing fancy. Flooded with white, allowed to set for just 10 minutes and then a few green and red dots added on top. The little bow added in the very end. Yes, I realize that could be a lot better, and I intend to work on it.

A new cookie cutter I got this year stole my heart. I find it so cute and a bit unusual. A Christmas light bulb, which once again can be made quite simply with only two colors of icing and if you like to gild the lily, some luster gold painted on the “metal” part next day.

By bringing one more color – black – you can expand a bit more the horizons, so that Mr. Snowman has a nice hat and black, profound eyes. The baby deer are also super easy, flooding with white, waiting until it sets a bit and piping the details. The little snowflakes were flooded with white and immediately showered with white sparkling sugar. And one day I will understand why I seem to always type “spanking” sugar before getting it correctly (sigh).

And since there was black Royal Icing around… why not immortalize one of our faithful companions, who has been with us every step of the way in this crazy year? The black dots were placed before the white set (wet-on-wet), then the nose and the red collar were added later, just to have a bit of a 3D effect. Same process went into the snowflakes.

Holiday Baking is not complete without Christmas Trees…

Some of the designs were again wet-on-wet, but then I did something new that blew my little mind when I saw it on a tutorial on youtube. A technique called “Crackled Gold” and you can visualize better in this picture:

It is so cool, I cannot quite believe how creative people can be, figuring these little tricks. What you do is flood the cookie with the base color and wait until it starts to crust. Average will be 15 minutes. Then you use the handle of a painting brush, or what I used: a fondant ball-shaper. I have a set of several sizes and picked one to make the indentations that seemed most appropriate for the size of the tree. Press the ball gently to make a mark on the icing. Let it dry completely and if desired you can add details with gold luster. Or you can leave it without the gold accent, for a simpler look.

To see exactly how that is made, you can check the wonderful tutorial by The Graceful Baker in youtube clicking here. The “crackled gold” starts at 33 min and 10 sec. I already anticipate the same approach in other styles, like crackled heart shapes for Valentine’s…. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Moving on…. another technique I learned from Stephanie on youtube, and you absolutely MUST check her site. What I loved about this one is the clever use of a cookie cutter that most people have in their little treasure box: a gingerbread man, any size will do. If you turn it upside down you can use it to make a Reindeer!

Am I adorable or what?

I swear, I love this little guy! I admit his ears ended a bit pathetic, and if you watch her video you’ll realize I forgot to add the hair on top of his cute head, but overall I am thrilled with the way he turned out. I will make some more again in the near future, hoping to do a better job.

The final details (eyebrows and smile) are made with a very fine food pen but if you can also try royal icing, I don’t dare going for such fine details using it. Poor Reindeer, he would look like roadkill.

Please make sure you visit Little Cookie co. youtube channel. I already have three different techniques on my list of projects to try soon, in fact it is quite likely that by the time you read this I will be already working on one of them….

And finally… a technique I’ve been flirting with for the longest time: Stained Glass Window Cookies. First time I did it, I was not very happy with the outcome. I liked the overall design but the stained component was not as I expected.

To have the stained glass effect, many recipes will tell you to simply crush hard candy in the color you want and make a little pile in the cut out part right before you bake. I found it hard to time the full melting of the candy with the cookie baking, and also the candy shrinks quite a bit and gets cloudy. Just not the type of effect I had in mind. I consulted with Tanya about it, and she advised me to use a totally different method, her favorite. Essentially you make the sugar syrup yourself, dye any color you want or leave it plain, and spoon it gently in the cut out part after the cookies are already baked. The result is so much better! Nothing like getting advice from a pro…

Here is the recipe I used, it makes enough for many many cookies, but it is hard to scale it down, so I advise you to keep the amounts as written.

SYRUP FOR STAINED GLASS COOKIES
(from The Honey Blonde)

100g sugar (1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 cup water
gel food color, if desired

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water into a small sauce pan. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Do not stir sugar while boiling. Continue to boil until mixture reaches about 290-300 degrees. Remove from heat and gently stir gel food color.

Place the cookies on a foil lined baking sheet lightly sprayed with oil, or use a non-stick foil. Spoon the candy into the center of the cookie, using the spoon the spread the candy into the edges of the cut out region.

Let set for about 10 minutes, or until candy is completely hardened.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I hope you enjoyed this little collection of Holiday-inspired sugar cookies. Next I will share macaron ideas also inspired by this festive season. Stay tuned!

ONE YEAR AGO: Just a few hours to go!

TWO YEARS AGO: Broccoli Souffle

THREE YEARS AGO: Panettone Time!

FOUR YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen

FIVE YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central

SIX YEAR AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Homemade Calzones

NINE YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

TEN YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye

COOKIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS: GINGERBREAD

December. This is the time for baking cookies in all shapes and forms, but some are definitely more strongly associated with the holiday spirit. This posts opens a series of four chapters. I start with gingerbread, using a recipe from Tanya, tent-baker extraordinaire, aka The Gingerbread Queen. Subsequent posts will cover Sugar Cookies, Macarons, and Springerle. Gingerbread Cookies are not too hard as far as baking project goes, as long as you keep them as cookies instead of components of 3D sculptures (sigh). Because their flavor is so intense, they can be enjoyed with no decoration whatsoever, or with a very simple white Royal icing. So simple that you can even get by using a tip-less piping bag. And of course, sprinkles are always welcome. Always.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES
(very slightly modified from Tanya’s blog)

640 grams all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
226 grams unsalted butter, at room temp
200 grams granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1 large egg, at room temperature
120 mL (1/2 cup) honey
120 mL (1/2 cup) molasses
2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of stand mixer add the sugar with the orange zest and rub them well with your fingers, until fragrant. Add the butter, fit the machine with the paddle attachment and mix until well combined. Add the egg and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl at least twice during mixing. Add the molasses, honey, and vinegar and mix well.

Turn off the mixer and add about half of the dry ingredients. Mix on low just to combine. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Gather the dough together into a ball and then flatten the dough into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for about 3 hours or until firm enough to roll without sticking.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 3/16-inch thickness. Cut out shapes, carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets and freeze for 5 minutes.

Bake until the cookies are firm to the touch and lightly browned around the edges. A three-inch round cookie will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely before frosting and/or assembling with royal icing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

For most of my decorations, I used Tanya’s recipe for Royal Icing with very little water added. For gingerbread, I prefer not to fully cover the cookie, so instead of flooding them, I piped shapes and wanted them to stay firmly in place.

You can keep it all super simple….

or… while keeping it simple couple the design with some gold for a festive twist

The star was left fully white, the others were painted with gold luster diluted with lemon extract. It is a bit hard to see it in the middle ones, because the gold was just applied on the white decorations.

Even if I rather not completely cover a gingerbread cookie, sprinkles (in this case sparkling sugar) are hard to resist… Just add them before the icing hardens. Keep in mind that the thicker the icing, the faster it sets.

Now what if you dislike Royal icing with a passion? Here is a pretty sweet alternative (pun intended).

EASY NON-ROYAL ICING

1 cup powdered sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons milk
2 tsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (or almond, or lemon)

Whisk whisk whisk whisk…. If it flows as a thick ribbon from a spoon, it will be ready to use. You can flood the surface or make thick ribbons. Leave as it is, or go crazy with….. SPRINKLES!!!!

to print the recipe, click here

This icing will crust well in a few hours, but just to be safe don’t mess too much with the cookies for 24 hours, especially if you are going to pack them for gifts or shipping.

Stay tuned for Sugar Cookies next….

ONE YEAR AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

TWO YEARS AGO: White Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse Cake

THREE YEAR AGO: Panettone Time!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pistachio Creme Brulee

FIVE YEARS AGO: Fast and Furious Bison Chili

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, December 2014

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Braised Fennel with Saffron and Tomato

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Revenge of the Two Derelicts

NINE YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

TEN YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta




SPRINGERLE COOKIES


My love for macarons should be quite obvious, but there’s something about Springerle Cookies that speaks straight to my soul. These cookies, not unlike macarons, have been around for centuries. In terms of flavor, they are a lot more strict, as there is no filling to play with. But they are so elegant, so magical, and the anise oil makes them unique. Oddly enough I don’t like licorice but find the anise flavor of Springerle quite enticing. I share with you one authentic recipe for these cookies that is a bit of a labor of love, and also time-consuming, as the cookies have to dry for a couple of days before baking.  But, if you want to just use those beautiful molds in a simpler recipe, I’ll share my favorite also. A special thank you to my friend Margie, who sent me two beautiful molds, and perhaps not intentionally, turned me into a Springerle-mold-addict.

SPRINGERLE COOKIES
(traditional recipe, based on The House on the Hill)

for the cookies:
1/4 teaspoon baker’s ammonia (Hartshorn)
1 tablespoons milk
3 large eggs, room temperature
360g powdered sugar
57g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened but not melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of anise oil
454g sifted cake flour (I used Softasilk)
grated rind of orange

for the glaze (optional):
240g powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon flavoring of your choice (I used vanilla)
pearl dust colors and lemon extract

Make the cookies: Dissolve baker’s ammonia in milk and set aside (avoid the temptation to take a sniff, you will regret it). Beat eggs until very thick, this will take from 10 to 15 minutes.  Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, then the softened butter. Add the the mixture of baker’s ammonia and milk,  salt, anise oil and orange zest.

Gradually beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the remainder of the flour to make a stiff dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a good print without sticking. Refrigerate for one hour, but keep in mind the dough can be refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days.

On a floured surface, roll dough depending on the depth of the carving in the cookie press you are using. Shallow carvings will need to be thinner while deeper carvings will need to be thicker. Flour your cookie mold for each and every pressing. Press the mold firmly and straight down into the dough, then lift, cut with the cookie cutter of your choice, and place the formed cookie onto a flat surface to dry.

Do not cover the cookies while they dry. The goal of drying is to set the design. Let the cookies dry at least for 24 hours. It is better to leave them alone for a couple of days, so the design will be better retained during baking.

On baking day, heat the oven to 255F to 325F (depending on the size of your cookie and how white you like to have them), for 10 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool and glaze or paint, if you so desire.

Make the optional glaze: Combine all ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth.
Add more water if necessary. Brush glaze on each cookie after baking. Paint with pearl dust alone or with the powder dissolved in a little lemon extract.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The molds on the top left corner of the composite picture were a gift from Margie. Aren’t they gorgeous?  I love them!

 If you visit The House on the Hill  you can watch a very detailed video in which Connie, the author of the recipe, goes over all the minor details. Her recipe is for a really big batch, and I decided to make just half. I actually baked these back in December and took them to a departmental holiday party, but a full batch would be way too much. Keep in mind these cookies last forever, and although they can get a bit tough after a couple of weeks, the flavor keeps getting better (that’s what I heard).

Now, if you prefer to make a quicker version, and take it in different directions as far as flavor is concerned, I highly recommend King Arthur’s recipe.

SHORTBREAD SPRINGERLE-LIKE COOKIES
(slightly modified from King Arthur Flour)

227g butter, room temperature
106g brown sugar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 tsp anise oil
360g all-purpose flour

Beat together the butter, sugars, and salt until light and creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, and fold in the flour. Divide the dough in half, shape both halves as disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350F. Line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Working with one disk at a time, flour your work surface and roll the dough 1/4″ thick. To shape cookies using a springerle mold: Brush a very light coating of flour onto the dough and your springerle mold. Press the mold firmly into the dough, then remove and cut around the design with a cookie cutter.

Transfer the cut cookies to the prepared baking sheets. Freeze for 10 minutes. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool before painting, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: It takes a little bit of patience to get these cookies right, and each mold is a slightly different universe. You need to get the thickness of the dough and the pressure you use with the mold just right, so that the full pattern is transferred.  The main thing to keep in mind is that you need a cookie recipe with a very small amount of leavening agent, or even without any at all. Be careful with baking powder, and make sure you use a recipe that someone had success with before. You can use the basic recipe from King Arthur and change the flavors, as they suggest in the site. I really like using Fiori di Sicilia, and added it to the heart-shaped batch.

I hope you’ll consider baking a batch of these cookies during the upcoming holiday season. I am sharing the recipes early enough, so you can browse the many wonderful sites that sell Springerle molds (like this one) and keep me company in my latest addiction.

ONE YEAR AGO: Chickpeas and Zucchini with Tahini Sauce

TWO YEAR AGO: Mokonut’s Rye Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

FOUR YEARS AGO: Going naked, and my husband loved it

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cream Cheese Mini-Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

SIX YEARS AGO:  Star-Shaped Chocolate Brioche Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Blueberry-Banana Bread 

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Into the Light Again

NINE YEARS AGO: Five Grain Sourdough Bread

TEN YEARS AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Kaiser Rolls

WHITE CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT MACARONS


Peppermint is the flavor of the season, no doubt about it. Remember my peppermint candy cookies? So very festive… These macarons dance to the same beat, a bright red color, the delicate flavor of mint perfuming the white chocolate, and some green and white sprinkles to boot. They scream Christmas, and New Year celebrations. All macarons I’ve made so far used a French meringue. This was my first batch going for the – slightly more finicky – Italian meringue. I’ve been meaning to re-visit it for a long time, actually. Had one epic failure in the past attempting a recipe from Pierre Hermé, which traumatized me enough to keep Italian meringue at a safe distance. But finally, the light in the end of the macaron tunnel.

WHITE CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT MACARONS
(inspired by several sources)

for the shells:
150g almond flour (I used fine ground from Bob Mill’s)
150g powdered sugar
110g egg whites, divided (55g + 55g)
red food gel color (I used Americolor)
pinch of salt
150g granulated sugar
40 mL water  (a little over 2 +1/2 tablespoons)

for the filling:
200g white chocolate (I used Lindt)
68g heavy whipping cream
1 to 2 tsp peppermint crunch (to taste)

for decoration:
green and white sprinkles (I used nonpareils)

Prepare white chocolate ganache filling. Place chocolate cut in small pieces in a large Pyrex measuring cup. Heat the cream to almost boiling and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then gently stir. When totally dissolved, add the peppermint crunch, tasting as you go.  Reserve, cooling at room temperature for a couple of hours or sticking in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Make the shells. Heat the oven to 300 F. Line two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper, and prepare a pastry bag with a plain tip with 1/2 inch opening, or slightly smaller.

Grind together the powdered sugar and almond powder, using a food processor, to obtain a fine powder. Sift through a sieve into large bowl. Mix the first portion (55g) egg whites with red food color, then add it to the sieved mixture of almond and sugar. It will form a paste, a bit thick. Try to incorporate the color homogeneously, keep in mind it will be lighter when you add the meringue to it, so make sure you have a very nice red tone.

Make the Italian meringue. Take a deep breath first so you are relaxed (very important). Place the other 55g egg whites and pinch of salt into the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer.  Set aside while you prepare the sugar syrup. In a small saucepan combine granulated sugar with water and place on medium heat. Using a candy thermometer measure syrup temperature. When it reaches 230 F start whipping the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 244 F pour it over the whipped egg whites while mixing continuously. Continue beating until the bowl has cooled slightly, and glossy peaks have formed (see my composite photo).

Add the whipped whites over the almonds mixture and using a rubber or silicone spatula gently fold in until combined and smooth. Make sure to “paint” the mixture on the walls of the bowl so that you get a smooth, lava-like consistency. Transfer the mixture to the piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip. Pipe the batter to make macarons the size you like. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons and to remove air bubbles. Add sprinkles on top, if using. Let them sit at room temperature until a skin forms, about 30 minutes.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. They are ready when the top doesn’t move freely when you hold them and twist gently. Let cool slightly before removing from baking sheet. Marry two by two of similar size, add the filling and place in the fridge overnight. Serve them at room temperature next day.  They freeze well too.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: It all started with an impulse buy. A bottle of peppermint crunch that I found at Marshall’s. That store has amazing gems waiting for a loving kitchen. I had no idea what to do with it, but decided that once in the comfort of our home, I would find a way to make it shine. I thought about sprinkling some on top of the shells before the skin formed, and actually ran a test on a few. The crunch kind of melted in the oven and it didn’t look very good. But adding it to white chocolate ganache? That worked very very well. I more or less eye-balled it, and tried a tiny bit to see if the texture and flavor were the way I wanted. I definitely did not want to have macarons tasting like toothpaste! So if you make it, either with white or dark chocolate ganache, taste as you go and stop when you hit the jackpot.


The amount I used did not even make a dent in the huge bottle… see the problem I have now? Find other uses for my beloved peppermint crunch… There are much more serious problems in life, I’ll tackle this one with a smile. And a bite of macaron, because….

A final comment: French or Italian meringue for macarons? I think the French does a perfect job with a lot less hassle. However, if you live in a very humid climate, the added stability of the Italian meringue might be better for you. At any rate, I feel that mastering the technique of the Italian meringue will come in handy in plenty of recipes. So I’m happy I gave it a try.

Enjoy the holiday season, and grab a pin, because sharing is caring!

ONE YEAR AGO: Shrubs, a fun alternative to alcoholic drinks

TWO YEARS AGO: Date Truffles 

THREE YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Mousse from Baking Chez Moi

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brigadeiros

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf

SIX YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake

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