baking, General Blog

Macaron Dreams and Disasters

We’ve all seen the fancy little sandwich cookies. Whether it was scrolling through Facebook, admiring a food blogger’s post on Instagram or in person, French macarons are hard to get away from and even harder to make.

The delicate cookie shells are nearly impossible to get right. If you don’t whip the egg whites enough, if you don’t fold the almond flour in well enough, if you don’t let them sit out long enough. The list goes on and on. But something had compelled me to make them. I figured what’s the worst that could happen?

Nothing. The first time anyways. Beginners luck, a fluke, whatever you call it the first time I made these finicky cookies, I nailed it. They were surprisingly perfect. No cracks in the cookie shells, they all had the little trademark foot, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Unbelievably perfect. I had made pistachio and buttercream ones and then a more traditional vanilla and buttercream combination. I was incredibly proud and shocked that I had managed to create such good macarons the first go. And according to my roommates and boyfriend and work mates, they were pretty delicious. My boyfriend still can’t stop talking about how good the pistachio ones were.

These were the first ones, beautiful. It just went downhill from here.

After that I was feeling pretty good about myself. How hard was it really to fold in almond flour? I must be a great baker if I can achieve such success after one attempt. So I tried another flavor combination a few weeks later. These would be even better than the first.

I was wrong.

First my egg whites wouldn’t whip up. I must have gotten a bit of the yolk in there, or there was left over grease somewhere in the bowl. So I restarted that and got something more similar to what I was hoping for. Then I didn’t leave them to rest long enough, or I let them rest too long. Maybe the oven was too hot, but either way they came out bloated and cracked. Some were hollow in the middle, some just browned and turned to crispy burnt bits.

So I tried again. Not horrible, but still not as great as the first ones.

Second attempt, all cracked and hollow
Another unknown attempt, more cracking and hollow shells.

And then I tried again. And again. Same results. Okay, but not great.

Then finally I thought I figured out what I was doing wrong, and decided on a new flavor combination. A new flavor might inspire the baking gods to be kind to my macarons. Orange flavored cookies with a buttercream-creamsicle filling. These were going to be great.

And then they weren’t. I couldn’t even say what went wrong. Not enough folding of the batter, maybe it was too much folding of the batter. Maybe the oven was at the wrong temperature, or maybe I didn’t let them dry long enough. Whatever the reason was I ended up with half burnt, half under done, partially ruined macarons and a lot of left over batter.

As much as I wanted to just throw everything in the trash and open up a bottle of wine instead, I couldn’t. I had to finish something, even if it was far from the original image I pictured.

I salvaged as many cookie shells as I could, filled and topped those guys, hoped that with enough filling they’d turn out okay. Took the rest of the shells and mashed them up, after they stuck to the parchment paper they were basically mashed anyways. Mixed them together with the rest of the buttercream filling and pressed them into a muffin tin.

I took the rest of the batter, mixed in some regular flour and piped them onto another parchment sheet in the shape of whoopee pie domes. Popped those in the oven until they looked done. Not exactly the perfect macaron cookies I was hoping for, but still everything came out all right.

Orange creamsicle whoopee pies and orange mini tarts, not too disastrous.

Out of yet another disastrous macaron adventure I managed to create something that was at least somewhat more edible than burnt macron shells. The muffin tins were the perfect size for mini orange cream tart shells. I later filled them with an orange curd filling and a bit of whipped cream. The whoopee pies came out better than expected and I had delicious orange cream whoopees. And according to my boyfriend and roommates, the tarts and whoopees were delicious. And they were, I might have had a few too many to cope.

I haven’t tried making macrons since the orange cream incident, but I know when I do, even if I make a horrible disaster, I can always fall back on making more tart shells and whoopee pies.

I recently made yet another batch of macarons. After messing up the sugar syrup (it crystalized twice), and not whipping the egg whites enough (they were sad syrupy things), I managed to pull out another decent batter. Which cooked into some decent macarons. Which I’m pretty proud of.

Maybe I won’t quit this whole macaron thing just yet.

The most recent batch, vanilla cookies with white chocolate butter cream and a strawberry filling.

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