Monday, December 22, 2008

Family Winter Holiday Macarons

Happy Chanukah!
Or as my friend Stacey would say, Happy Family Winter Holiday!

I love Chanukah, and have already had two latke parties to go to, which is a very good thing. Fried potatoes are excellent. Chanukah is also a great time to remember that one man's religious extremist terrorist is another man's Maccabee. (The way most people tell it, the Maccabees were fighting for their own right to religious expression, which had been outlawed, rather than trying to impose on others, but the point is historically dicey.) Just makes you think.

But when I think, I like to think about light. And miracles. Two years ago on Chanukah, crushed and lonely, I bested my better judgment and called Matt and asked him to tell me again about his theory of the third night. He believes that there is a tipping point for miracles, the moment when the miracle hits the mind, when it starts to dawn on everyone that this is more than just some high quality oil or a really good rainbow. He was surprised to hear from me (maybe) but he told me all he could, and when I asked, promised to round out the religious instruction with a multi-borough Christmas tree tour.

Somewhere in the cold wind and rain and snow of that winter, another miracle happened, and we found ourselves able to find each other again. Christmas and New Year are special times for us--fraught with darkness and fear and light and miracles.

This year, I'm leaving town for both holidays, flying on Christmas day to see my little sister in Uganda, where it's hot and modest. I won't be back until mid-January. Part of the trip anxiety, or just my wish to cram everything in, has been an immodest amount of cooking and baking. (I have to leave Matt well-fed, don't I? Actually, I know he's looking forward to a little unsupervised time to get to know the kitchen.)

I made lasagne and spanikopita, braised ribs and roasted chicken, and produced a large number of cookies. There were world peace cookies and there were NY Times chocolate chip cookies, and then there were these:
These are gingerbread macarons, from Tartelette. Macarons are notoriously temperamental to make, and the proper hard shell with a little fuzzy 'foot' on the bottom can be hit or miss. In fact, the first time I made this recipe, which mixes ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg into the dry ingredients, the taste was great but the shape was a flop. (No disrespect to Tartelette, I have a feeling my conversions were off.)

I re-made the recipe the following morning using the recipe I've had best results with, David Lebovitz's. I just omitted the chocolate powder and didn't replace it, helping the dough to remain a little wetter. These held their perfect shape and I filled them with gingerbread buttercream. I brought them to one of the aforementioned latke parties and one guy fell for both kinds, exclaiming over and over that they were different, but he liked both.

Today, I mixed it up a little, and made plain nutmeg macarons with a filling made of cream, chestnut jam from Chile (thanks Miriam), and the leftover gingerbread buttercream. Here they are:
They look just like little UFOs, don't they?
The filling was great, and as a bonus, they are gluten-free, so I can give them to my aunt.

I love sweet things in my mouth and sweet things in my life. These are the dark days of the year, but I feel very lucky and well lit.

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