It has been one of those weeks. Husband has his Man Cold. Okay, I like to tease, but he has whatever is going around and it ain’t pretty. Son battled his oncoming sore throat valiantly and scurries off to school, jacket and sweatshirt open, neck bared to the winter wind. Sigh. My mother’s heart does that funny little pitter pat of guilt-ridden worry but teeth firmly bite tongue as I watch him slip out of the apartment. Marty marches on courageously and stout-heartedly as only little pups can do, with nary a complaint (minus the soulful eyes). His health wavers, we have our doubts, but each time he curls up in our lap, warm and soft, and each time he looks up to make sure it is indeed maman or papa on whose lap he is cuddled just to reassure himself before settling back into sleep, well it goes without saying that we put off that impossible decision one more day. As for me, a little upset tummy that I stoutly claim was due to boxed mushroom soup while husband places the blame squarely on three days spent at Le Salon du Chocolat eating nothing but, well, chocolate.
Once again, son approaches me and introduces the subject abruptly, as is his way, as if I have been following his train of thought all along. He asks while demanding, demands while asking, making that lilting statement of Well, if you want to bake cupcakes or something again, my friends will eat them. Friday night I’ll be at Martin’s for dinner. He states it casually, almost off-handedly, with that familiar, barely perceptible shrug of his lanky shoulders. It somehow comes out that they have requested something homemade, or maybe he has made it known that I am free to offer up dessert whenever they desire. A chocolate layer cake for his friend’s birthday party, cupcakes for a dinner and muffins for their workgroup at school of an afternoon, and a new generation, a new gang of friends has come to know – and apparently crave – my baked goods.
Well, okay, no problem, I declare, heaving that motherly sigh of sacrifice while secretly thrilling that my baby boy, usually so embarrassed by my being so, well, I don’t know…American? Outrageous? A nudnik? Embarrassing? has actually offered my treats to his friends, once again, and is answering their young call of the wild for snacks from my kitchen.
But there the problem lies. What to make? Now, my son, my Simple Simon, would be quite happy if I made the same three things over and over again and into eternity. I highly doubt that he even partakes of what he brings to his friends. But where is the excitement or challenge in that for Old Mom? Or for his friends? And so I ask him to ask them what they would like. And he does. And comes back with the most astonishing of requests: macarons. Do they even know that I make these delicate, fussy little concoctions? Has he bragged? Happily I happen to have two jars of fresh egg whites floating around the back of my refrigerator and let the games begin!
I turned back to one of my favorite flavor combinations, my favorite macarons, les Macarons Pains d’Épice, the Gingerbread macarons. I adjusted the flavoring by omitting the extra ground cinnamon and doubling the cocoa for a more pronounced chocolate sensation highlighted by the gingerbread spice blend. I filled the macarons with a simple chocolate ganache. So when he dashed into the house precisely at 7, dropped his backpack on the floor and demanded I pack up the macs in foil vite vite!, grabbed the foil package and dashed back out the door, his thank you a breathless wisp caught in the breeze of the swinging door, hidden among his embarrassment to acknowledge my good deed… well, I had to smile. I know how hard showing his appreciation is for him. It is enough that he wanted me to bake for his friends.
* Better to reveal a weakness than be suspected of a vice.
CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD MACARONS
With Chocolate Ganache
7 oz (200 g) powdered/icing/confectioner’s sugar
4 oz (112 oz) finely ground almonds
3 large eggs whites (about 3.5 oz / 100 g)
1.2 oz (35 g) granulated white sugar
1 tsp ground pain d’épice or gingerbread spices
2 tsps unsweetened cocoa powder
FOR THE FULL RECIPE DIRECTIONS, PLEASE JUMP HERE AFTER READING THE FOLLOWING NOTES.
Sift the powdered/confectioner’s sugar and the ground almonds into a large mixing bowl.
Blend the cocoa powder and spice together with the sifted powdered/icing sugar and ground almonds and whisk to blend. Whip the granulated sugar in with the aged egg whites and carry on from there! I baked these at 145°C in my never-ending quest for the perfect oven temperature for my own oven. And in my new oven it took much longer than the average 20 minutes. Watch closely, check often and see what is best for your own oven.
½ cup (125 ml) heavy cream
3.8 – 4 oz (110 - 115 g) dark chocolate
Coarsely chop the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl. Heat the heavy cream just to the boil and pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth and creamy. Allow to cool until desired piping consistency.