Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Et tu macarons?

2 days, 6 aged egg whites, and 4 pans of macarons. My first and second attempts at making these delicate, immensely sweet french cookies, were filled with apprehension, excitement, disappointment, pride, betrayal, and a little bit of swearing...okay a lot of swearing.

I have seen the beautiful pictures of these cute little sandwiched cookies all over the blogosphere, and although I had never even tasted one, I knew I had to give them a go. I made these purely for superficial reasons, they are just so pretty, plus I love a challenge.

Any of you who know me knows I am not a big sweets person, but I truly enjoy the process of baking. I love the repetition, and the preciseness of baking. I didn't always feel this way, but have come to think that the tediousness of baking is a great way to hone your skills in the kitchen. The focus and attention to detail that is required in making something like macarons is something that can be applicable to other areas of cooking.

I think of it almost like doing yoga. When holding a pose in yoga, you have to completely clear your mind and focus on the pose itself, because if you are thinking about tomorrow's to-do list, you will fall on your ass. Lose your focus in a macaron-making kitchen, and you will wind up with meringue in your hair, and pistachio powder in your slippers (don't ask me how I know this).

They are known for being fussy, and boy did they live up to their reputation. After the first two attempts, I am only a little closer to making perfect macarons. The first batch was much too liquid-y and did not hold their shape on the pan, nor did the batter stay in my piping bag very long before dripping out all over the floor.

I attributed this to not whipping the eggs whites long enough. I baked them anyway, and lo and behold, they got their feet anyway.

The 'feet' are the little ruffles that form when the macarons are baked, and they are usually a good sign that you did something right. So I had the feet, but unfortunately between the feet and the glossy domed top, they were hollow and missing their light cake-like mid section. That is a sign that I did something wrong. So deceptive, these little creatures. They can look perfect from the outside, but poke the top and the crumble into a thousand little shards of pistachio-flavored betrayal.

My second attempt went much more smoothly and was much less emotional than the first.

The egg whites were whipped into oblivion and the batter in turn, actually held together when it was piped onto the baking sheets.

The two pans went into the oven and they were flipped top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Even as I tried to get even cooking between the two pans, they still came out of the oven completely different. One of the pans was lopsided and hollow, and the other was the closest I came over these two days of macaron-making to actually succeeding.

Since I am FAR from being an expert on macaron making, and haven't really nailed down a reliable process and recipe, I am going to turn you, my dear readers, over to one of my favorite blogs, Tartlette. She is the macaron expert, and her recipes are tried and true. She takes beautiful pictures of these lovely cookies. So until I prefect these little critters, and by god someday I will, I shall defer to her:

Pistachio Macarons with Lemon and Raspberry Buttercream Filling by Tartlette.

I used her pistachio shell recipe to a T, and modified her basic buttercream recipe, adding lemon zest and juice to half, and homemade raspberry jam to the other half. Even though some were hollow, some were gooey, and some were lopsided, they all still tasted wonderfully like pistachio sugary goodness.

This will not be the last time we meet my little macarons, but I may need a little time apart before our next encounter.


cupcakes.gr said...

I love your account of macaron experimenting! I have some eggs whites age-ing on the counter at the minute because I too have determined that I MUST conquer the macaron! (even more so after Bakerella made them look so easy recently!)

Bret Bannon said...

I too am on a quest to master the macaron. I believe I am on round 5, but I think I lost count. If you figure out how to prevent them from becoming hollow, please let the world know. Best of Luck!

HollowPeas said...

Cupcakes & Bret -

As we speak I have just finished round 3 of macaron making. I made two batches tonight (so technically rounds 3 & 4) and the second batch was pretty near successful. I will count only a very small hollow space and a 1/4 inch thick cake like bottom a success. I think one more go at it and I will have it down.

These things are addicting huh? Best of luck to both of you, let me know if you conquer these little buggers.

L.L. said...

I just saw your little copyright policy after I found your macaron picture on google! I had already published my blog post with the picture on it (attributing it to your blog) but when I saw that I thought I had better double check. If you want me to remove the photo I have no problem with that, just let me know. :) Also, I love your recipe and am thinking I am going to have to muster up the courage to try and make it myself one of these days.

Laura said...

Love your post. "pistachio flavored betrayal" - awesome phrase.

Anonymous said...

Love your description about why you like to bake & it's benefits/ addictiveness. I, too, love the tediousness of the process as well as a culinary challenge. I am mentally gearing up for trying my hand at the French Macaron.

Does anybody have a recommendation for any macaron cookbooks? I have read that Macaron Magic was written by a engineer for NASA who loves to bake.. and that her book breaks down EVERY step of the process IN DETAIL. Maybe we should all invest in this book? Happy Baking!!

Anonymous said...

What is the ricipe?

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