Monday, June 7, 2010

attempt #1: macarons

I did it. I finally worked up the nerve to make these super twee cookies. I think my motivation was mostly due to the egg whites. Lately, I've been trying to get rid of some of the older things from my freezer, and I remembered I had a bunch of egg whites frozen in an ice cube tray (I don't remember why, though). On hindsight, freezing them in an ice cube tray isn't a really good idea. Unless you plan on covering them because I found they dry out quite a lot. So, anyhoo, I defrosted them, strained them, and put them in a container in the fridge; until yesterday, when I hesitantly took them out and set them on the counter. Tomorrow I'm making macarons. Tomorrow. I can't go back now, the egg whites have been on the counter for more than 4 hours. It's on.

I did a lot of research on macarons leading up to today. Probably more than necessary, but I heard rumours they were hard and finicky and stupid. I've read blog posts from people who sounded like they had a mental breakdown after making numerous batches and having them all fail miserably. It scared me, I'm not going to lie. I narrowed it down to a few recipes that looked 'simple' and finally decided on this basic macaron recipe. Mostly because it's basic (I don't want to get all fancy and stupid on my first go of something that might not even turn out), it's got some nice pictures to follow along with, and it's a nice small manageable recipe (I definitely didn't want to have 50 cookies to junk if things didn't work out.)

Everything went really smoothly up until piping. I've finally realized why I'm having so much trouble with this skill. I fill the bag too much. I don't know where my brain was, but I was filling the bag and I kept thinking, ok that's probably enough, then I'd look and I'd think, oh I just have one more spoonful left, I can fit a bit more in! And the result was macaron batter oozing out the top and the bottom. I knew it. I could see it coming. I wanted to stop myself. I was just too focused on being efficient instead of being smart. So. Lesson learned. It's better to underfill rather than overfill.

After figuring that out the hard way, I squoozed (it was a combo of squeezing and oozing, thankyouverymuch) half of it back into the bowl and soldiered on. As soon as I piped out 2 rounds, I realized something was wrong. It looked a little thick and under mixed. It definitely did not look like the pictures provided. I should have squoozed the rest back into the bowl, but I finished out the bag instead. I folded the remaining macaron mix a couple more times until it seemed a little smoother, filled my bag, and piped away. This half, I think, was slightly over mixed. I fretted about it terribly as they sat developing a shell on the counter. They seemed too flat.

I can't tell you how excited I was to find that feet had developed after baking! They may not be the most perfect feet, but seeing them there is the most exciting thing ever! Even the ones that had been undermixed, developed little (if not slightly awkward) feet.

I reduced some lemon curd jam to fill them. I should have planned for making ganache or something, but I wanted to focus on the shells first. I figured I'd be able to throw something together if the shells turned out any way decent. I tasted the under mixed shells first, and they had a delightful crunch with a nice soft middle which I think is pretty close to how they're supposed to be (I've only tried bakery macarons once don't forget). They did have a pretty big air pocket, but you know, they're already wrong, I'm aware of that. The flatter ones also have an air pocket. It's very small and not as noticeable as the under mixed shells. To be honest, I'm just happy with the crunchy shell and chewy interior. That's a win in my book. Also the lemon curd tastes really nice, too. It's had some time to sit and dissolve into the shells which probably also contributes to the chewy texture.

I'm going to attempt these again. Firstly, I need to change my folding technique. I think I can get the batter right the second time now that I know what I'm looking for (and now that I know I don't have to be so gentle). Obviously I'm not going to overfill my piping bag, but one thing I realized is that these cookies are a lot better if they're smaller. I made them fairly large and I don't like it. It's too much and they look odd. Like bulls in a china shop, you know? And I know I complained that the store-bought ones were about the size of a loonie but I take it back, ok!? 40 lashes with a wet noodle. I get it now. I'll probably trace some circles on to my parchment paper as a guideline, too. It was hard to match some of my shells up so I can see the need for uniformity.

honestly, it's worth it just for the pictures. who cares about eating them?


Betty said...

I have never tried them, althought I have been hearing lots about macarons. And it is true, they look too cute to ignore them -I am not very good at baking sweet treats, I am all easy things, but I can picture myself trying the macaroons one of these days. If I get to try them, I'll look in my cupboards for any beautiful china too :)

Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot said...

Awesome! They look great and I'm sure even the not to great looking ones were tasty. I really must try these! I'm such a chicken!