Third time is a charm….well almost…. you see, I just HAD to make macarons for Christmas. Mainly because the recipe I was using for dessert, poached apples filled with frangipane pastry cream, called for crushed macarons. While I could have “cheated” and bought some at the store, I have had a really hard time here finding macarons that were not also produced in a facility made with wheat. And I have not seen any local bakeries here make them. So, I resolved myself to attempting the ever elusive macarons, again. My first two attempts earlier this year were so/so as far as success. The first was a downright failure, and I made macarons monsters instead of cute little cookies. My 2nd attempt looked much improved, but still left a bit to be desired. For one, I used pre-ground almonds rather than grinding my own, and they weren’t fine enough (see all the bumps I had??). And the feet were lopsided. But they tasted good.
This time, like before, I followed the tutorial written in 101 Desserts mag by Helen of Tartelette – I read it all through twice, and then had it in front of me making this, double checking each step of the way. I am convinced that I get can her recipe right one day.
I ground the almonds myself, with the powdered sugar. I actually sifted them this time! When I had larger bits that didn’t fit, I ground them again, and resifted. I think I did this step really well, everything was of very uniform consistency.
Next comes the tricky part – the meringue. This time I actually had a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Woohoo! AND even a copper bowl to properly whip up egg whites in. I used a copper bowl before with my hand mixer, so I doubt this changed anything. But it was really nice to use my parents’ Kitchenaid. Believe it or not, they actually gave me their extra stand mixer when I left for grad school and I gave it back to them haha. My kitchen was too small to be able to have one out, and so I found myself always using the hand mixer instead. My hand mixer worked fine, but it is nice just pouring into the kitchen aid and letting it do the work. Though if you really want a good workout you could always get out a whisk and try it yourself…I beat the egg whites until they just passed the “hold the bowl upside down over your head” test. Maybe I was a couple seconds too long here and I overbeat them? I don’t know.
And then came the part of all parts where I am most sure to have messed up – the folding. Someone told me that the problem is likely to be that I over folded. This is probably true. But I only used 35 strokes and Helen explains in her article that you should not need more than 50. Well I did make a 2/3 recipe so I guess that would translate to 33…..maybe I did overfold a bit.
Piping out the cookies worked really well. In fact, it went the smoothest that it ever had. As they sat, they spread out and flattened a bit, exactly like Helen’s tutorial said they would. I’m glad that I gave them just enough space to be able to do this without them running into each other!
It definitely helps to hold the pastry tube steady, and to pipe into the center. When I had piped enough for one cookie, I put my finger underneath the tip to keep the cookie batter from running out. This is also why my hands got all goopy. Oh well, that’s what soap and water is for. As you can see I am not the neatest person ever, and I dribbled macaron batter all over the parchment sheet while doing this. I made sure to clean those up before baking.
Let them rest 45 min. One thing I did do wrong was I didn’t tap them well enough, and air bubbles formed as they sat. Now it’s time to bake. In the oven they were beautiful! I totally did a happy dance for joy, and my husband looked at me like I had lost my mind. That’s ok haha. If you’ve ever made macarons you totally understand. Maybe he will try them one day. And if he does, he will do a happy dance for joy too when he gets beautiful feet on his cookies. Aren’t they beautiful? I was so proud of myself….
Until I took them out. They totally collapsed. Instantly. I was SO depressed. They were PERFECT! What happened??
Uggh. When they had completely cooled, I peeled them off the parchment, except that they were total goo on the bottoms and clearly had not cooked enough. The first batch that I did was at 300F for 10 minutes, and then the 2nd one I extended to 13 minutes. Neither were cooked through, and both collapsed immediately. I have very good confidence in the accuracy of the oven I was using based on my previous experience with it. I cannot imagine that Helen wrote an incorrect temperature in her famous tutorial, especially when she specifically talked about how much she had done to figure out the perfect temp.
So what went wrong? I think I overfolded, and they clearly didn’t cook long enough. So I set out another egg white, and this morning made a new batch. Things went much better this time – at the suggestion of Julie I raised the temp 25 degrees to 325F. Some of them cracked a little but that’s because I couldn’t let them sit out any longer or I would lose my precious oven time. But for the most part, they worked well. They puffed up a bit more than at 300F and so were a bit more rounded than before, but at least the feet didn’t collapse this time! We filled some with peach amaretto jam and ate them with breakfast.
I think I can officially say I’ve got a handle on these. A little more tweaking and practice, and I will have them down pat. But for now, I’m comfortable with making them and am confident in my technique. The main accomplishment is that making macarons no longer scares or intimidates me, because I KNOW I can do them now. A feeling of self-accomplishment is a great present for the holidays, and now I can’t wait to use these to make some frangipane pastry cream (yes, another 1970s Gourmet cookbook classic!) for dessert tonight!
Hope you all have/had a great holiday !!