Mastering Macarons, Attempt #2

finished beauties
Don’t worry about that wonky guy on the right. He was the last of the batter, and I sort of cobbled him together with a spatula and my finger.


ICYMI, I’m a dumb-dumb and decided that a really cool thing to try and do before I turned 30 was master the art of making what one person has called “the hardest cookie to make” or something like that. (Sorry, it’s Friday and I’m too lazy to go back and actually pull that quote.)

Macarons are finicky, and they just aren’t worth it, except that they totally are, because one of those addicting little sandwich cookies will cost you upwards of $2, depending on how fancy the place you buy it from is. I’m talking about saving money here — if I can manage to unlock the secret of macarons, why, I’ll be a rich lady.

Right.

Moving on.

Here’s the thing guys: I think I’m close. No, I’m just gonna say it. Gonna claim it. I am close. I’m so close I can taste the victory that is my planned next batch of pumpkin spice macarons. So close that every time I visit the fridge to eat my most recent attempt, I am filled with a sense of awe, wonder, and pride rather than a sense of despair.

So what did I do differently? And what did I do wrong?

The Different

First of all, I followed a different tutorial. I decided to turn to YouTube for a more visual walkthrough and found Beth’s Foolproof French Macaron Recipe, which had over 4 million views and enough likes that I was satisfied. Plus, the word “foolproof” really instills confidence, you know? A bonus: the filling was a tart raspberry buttercream, which looked both totally do-able and insanely delicious. I’ve been shying away from adding the next level of complexity with flavor in the macaron shells, and so I was happy to find a recipe with a filling to make that basic almondy sugar flavor really pop.

Second, I actually used eggs instead of effing Egg Beaters, and started off with the hand blender instead of my stand mixer. (Love u KitchenAid, but not for this.) I had a theory that this combination of changes would yield better results, because last time I really had trouble getting a good stiff peak on those Egg Beaters.

The Results

stiff peaks i hopeFirst off, I was totally right about using egg whites. I let them ripen (and ripen, and ripen) and then blended them up with the hand blender. The toughest thing was deciding when they’d reached stiff peak consistency, but eventually they got there. Or at least, I thought they did. I added in the coloring, which seemed to take the peaks down from stiff to soft, so I tried blending again, just to be absolutely sure that I’d covered all my bases.

Great. So then the next step was to mix in the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture (which I hadn’t sifted, because ain’t nobody got time for that) until the mixture was sticky and flowed like “molten lava.” Um. I think I got that right? It was a tough call, because I don’t generally hang out around molten lava, but I mixed the recommended amount of stirs and called it a day. Didn’t want to overmix that batter, goodness gracious no.

molten lava macaron batter

After an epic struggle with getting the batter (is that what it’s called, by the way?) into the pastry bag, I piped out my cookies. Immediately I knew I’d done a better job than last time: instead of the batter just falling out the bottom, I actually had to squeeze it out onto the parchment paper-covered baking sheets.

prebaked shells

They held their shape. They looked good. They looked real good. I wanted to pop them in the oven right then and there.

But! Guys, I didn’t. Because the tutorial told me to cool my jets and wait a hot second for them to get tacky and dry on top. So I banged my sheets for air bubbles and sat on my hands for a half hour until it was time to stick the macarons in the oven.

And?

Then?

baked shells

Guys, it was the most beautiful sight in the world. The feet! I’d created feet on my macarons! And they lifted off the sheet beautifully, and they had that marvelous chew! I let them cool! I piped in the buttercream that probably wasn’t made correctly but still tasted fantastic! I took a grainy gleeful selfie with my front-facing camera at 9 p.m.! I HAD MASTERED MACARON-MAKING!

happy happy macaronExcept, um. Then I started to really assess my finished product. And realized that I still had a couple more tries before I could truly accept the title of “macaron master.”

The Wrong

There were two errors in my macarons: the hollow centers, and the nipple on top. (Yeah, it’s called a nipple. Act your age, not your shoe size.)

According to Cooking With Beth’s troubleshooting page, the hollow center can be attributed to either a too hot oven, or letting them go for a bit too long in the oven. I honestly think the first batch on these was fine — at this point it’s sort of hard to tell — so I’m going to go with the too-long-in-the-oven tip and hope for better luck next time.

But it’s confusing (argh, macarons, you confusing beasts!) because this page tells me that it can also be due to under-whipped egg whites. So. I don’t know who to believe. But gosh darn it, I’ll make sure I get a good stiff peak my next try.

The nipple, then? That was caused by me not mixing the batter enough. I guess it just didn’t flow like lava. I’ll have to watch YouTube videos of volcano explosions before my next attempt.

The Takeaway

The takeaway is that I’m confident. In spite of my cookies’ flaws, they legitimately taste good. It takes willpower not to grab one every time I open the fridge. And I’m actually looking forward to my next attempt — which will be soon, I hope. Because it’s September, which means that it’s officially the seasons for all things #pumpkinspice. #blessed #basic #canteven

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