Holiday seasons are probably the best times to make cute looking stuff. I admit that when it comes to baking (or probably everything else) I am more of a practical than a decorative person; I would rather spend time on techniques that could enhance the texture or the flavour the food, than to spend the same amount of time decorating it. It is probably also because I am not an artistic person; I am not good at making stuff look nice.
But sometimes I reckon presentation is a key element too; people start enjoying nice looking food before tasting it. I feel particularly motivated to decorate my food a bit more when there’s a special occasion; whether it’s someone’s birthday or when there’s a festival.
I attended a macaron class just before Christmas last year and so wanted to put what I had learnt in class in practice. I was hoping to make “something Christmas” but would also like to make something that wasn’t “too ordinary”. So that’s how I came up with the idea of making some gingerbread macarons!
I adapted the White Chocolate Ganache Filled Gingerbread Macarons recipe from Dessert Now Dinner Later. Instead of making round shaped macarons, I made some gingerbread man shaped ones, I also used the leftover white chocolate chips from the ganache and some multi-coloured icing bits for decoration ; they were such great stuff to hide the cracks and flaws on the little gingerbread men; good for people like me 🙂
White Chocolate Ganache Filled Gingerbread Macarons
Yield: About 36 gingerbread men
Gingerbread Macaron Shells
… 3 egg whites, room temperature
… pinch of salt
… ¼ tsp cream of tartar (I didn’t add any)
… 50g white granulated sugar
… brown food coloring
… 200g powdered/confectioners sugar
… 120g almond flour
… 1 tsp dried ground ginger
… 1 tsp dried ground cinnamon
… ¼ tsp dried ground cloves
… ¼ tsp dried ground nutmeg
White Chocolate Ganache
… 170g good quality white chocolate chips
… 5 Tbsp heavy cream
… 1 tsp pure vanilla
Make the filling by melting the white chocolate, heavy cream & vanilla in a steel mixing bowl over boiling water. Stir until smooth & melted. Allow mixture to cool and put into the fridge to further harden it. Keep a close eye on it, it can harden quickly.
Trace the shapes of the gingerbread men on a baking sheet with a pencil and a gingerbread man cookie cutter, then flipped the baking sheet over before piping out the batter.
Preheat the oven to 150*C
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt, cream of tartar, & white granulated sugar for 8 to 10 minutes. Whip until they form a stiff peak that stands straight up. Add food coloring & mix until desired shade.
Sift the powdered sugar & almond flour. It’s okay if some almond pieces don’t sift through, just toss them in the garbage. You want a really fine powder to create a smooth top to your cookies. Add the spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg) & mix together with the dry ingredients.
Add the dry ingredients half at a time to the whipped egg whites. Fold with a spatula a total of 65 to 75 turns. Under-mixing can cause lumpy cracked cookies. Over-mixing will create flat cookies that have no feet. Go for just enough turns to not see dry powder; the batter should look shining and it should slowly flow down like a ribbon when you lift it up with a spatula.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag. I started with piping out the head of the gingerbread man first like how we usually make round shaped macarons, then the two arms and the legs, lastly I piped out a bit more batter to the bodies to finish off. I put a piece of kitchen towel under the baking sheet when I was doing the piping so that the pencil trace of the shapes could be easily seen, then I carefully transferred the baking sheet back to my baking tray before putting it into the oven.
Tap the pan hard, 2 to 3 times, to release any air bubbles, which prevents the tops from cracking. Allow them to sit out for 20 to 30 minutes or even up to 1 hour to dry out & be tacky to the touch. This helps develop the feet. When they are dried out they can’t spread outwards, & will be forced to rise upward when they bake, creating the feet.
Bake at 150*C until the feet forms, take the baking tray out and turn it around (front to back), put it back in and the total baking time should be around 20 minutes. Touch it gently to check if the shell feels hard; if so, the shells are ready.
Reverse cookie shells on their backs & pipe the ganache to cover the base. Top with another macaron shell to create a macaron sandwich.
Melt some leftover white chocolate buttons by putting the steel mixing bowl over boiling water. Pour the melted chocolate into another pastry bag and cut off a bit of the tip, then draw different facial expressions on the little gingerbread men. Also use the white chocolate as a glue to stick on the coloured icing bits. (that was also a trick to hide the cracks on my macarons :P)
* the ganache piping part was the most difficult part out of all; it was because the ganache was very ‘runny’. I could imagine that it wouldn’t be such a huge problem if I was making round maracons, by which you only have to pipe an adequate amount of ganache in the middle of a macaron shell and gently press the two shells against each other for the ganache to spread out nicely and evenly. But gingerbread man shaped ones were so much more challenging as the ganache tended to squeeze out from different spots: the two sides of neck area, the armpits etc. I suggest you guys to refrigerate the ganache a little bit longer, but like the original recipe suggests, to keep a close eye on it and take it out before it hardens. I think it would be a good idea to make the ganache before you make the macaron shells.
* this is a macaron recipe using a French meringue method (in oppose to Italian meringue), which is an easier way of making these yummy little cookies. The macaron shells will be very ‘crispy’ when taken straight out of the oven. Leaving the assembled macarons with ganache filling for a few hours or overnight would create that “crispy outside + soft and chewy inside” texture like what we usually get from the store bought macarons, which is perfect!
* this recipe calls for spices like ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. These spices can cost a few tens of dollars in places like city’super, but they could also be found in South-East Asian grocery stores like Indo Market, prices ranged from less than $10 to around $30! They are great for other recipes like home made chai latte and real gingerbread men. Ginger powder can be purchased in baking supplies stores, but remember not to mix up turmeric powder with ground ginger! Turmeric powder is the one you see at Indo Market and that is NOT the one you use to make gingerbread men. I got the brown food colouring from the baking supplies store too.
The two baking supplies stores that I visit most often are Twins Co (二德惠) in Wan Chai and Ichi-cake in Kwun Tong, one is close to my workplace and the other close from home 🙂 They sell a wide range of products; from ingredients like superfine almond powder for macarons to Fox candies for stained glass cookies; from baking wares like ramekins to tools like electronic scales. I am sure you will find at least most of the stuff you need after browsing one of these shops!