the man, the myth, the macaron!

IMG_3953The macaron: For many novice pâtissiers (i.e. myself), it’s like an elusive mythical creature.

These shells were the lucky survivors. This meringue for this batch was too runny, so the macarons spread out while cooking, or didn’t form properly. The two here had hollow shells and improperly formed feet. They were also too sweet for my tastes.

For the longest time, I couldn’t seem to get the sweet meringue-based sandwich cookie right. Last December was a disaster. And last weekend was an improvement but still not quite right.

But I’m not one to give up.

Like my trials making bread, I found that part of my inability to replicate these recipes comes from lack of patience and understanding. I want it, and I want it now isn’t going to work in the baking world.

A little bit of research, however, helped.

For instance, one reason my macarons never formed correctly before was that I didn’t really know what a stiff-peaked meringue looked like. Mine were too soft or runny, causing my macarons to deflate and spread in the oven.

This meringue is too soft. Beat it longer.
This meringue is too soft. Beat it longer.

Fixing that one step made all the difference. Although, if you are making macarons for the first time, there are more pitfalls to watch out for: cold eggs, overmixing, undermixing, not sifting the almond flour and sugar, not to mention oven temperatures.

It’s a delicate cookie that calls for delicate, precise movements.

Because you need to really understand what this recipe looks like at each stage, I recommend watching a tutorial before proceeding with your recipe. One of the recipes I looked at recommended a foolproof version by Entertaining with Beth. While I would not call my first attempt using her recipe and method foolproof, my macarons were a vast improvement over previous attempts. And with a few tweaks and a better visual cue of what meringue should look like, I finally mastered these tricky little sweets.

Raspberry buttercream is sweet and tart.

A note: I found my first iteration of Beth’s recipe too sweet. So I cut back the confectioner’s sugar by a half-cup and added a half-cup of almond flour, so the recipe is equal parts (1.5 cups each). This helped immensely.

I also liked her idea of making a raspberry buttercream, but I did not follow her recipe. I never follow recipes when it comes to buttercreams and frostings. Instead, I start with a good amount of butter (one stick in this case) and add powdered sugar to taste. The fresh raspberry juice adds some tartness, so you’ll want to decide what balance is right for you.

I really could not be happier with the final product. The macarons were in perfect form (little feet, smooth tops) and tasted amazing. I cannot wait to experiment with different flavor profiles — I have lots of ideas.

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