If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
This phrase is a good one to remember when cooking… or in my experience, baking. Whenever you try something new and challenging, there is a chance that you will fail. So what?
Truth be told, I’ve had my share of kitchen disasters throughout the years. A spinach-ricotta gnocchi that turned to glob, Crème brûlée that wouldn’t set, a chicken tikka that I had marinated in VANILLA yogurt, badly burned toast… you get the idea. Still, strangely undaunted, I pressed on.
My co-author and I are currently testing recipes for a meringue cookbook we are writing (Gibbs-Smith 2012), which will include those sweet clouds the form of cookies, pies, pavlovas, vacherins and marjolaines… just to name a few desserts.
Which brings me to the other day. I wanted to create a Violet Macaron recipe in honor of those I have eaten at Laduree in Paris. I have a few recipes for macarons already, but for some reason, when I started baking, the violet macarons just weren’t turning out. At all.
Test #1 – The meringue whipped up perfectly, and became a beautiful shade of violet from the few drops of food coloring. The almond/powdered sugar mixture was ground finely and I made sure to fold it carefully into the meringue. Perhaps too carefully, because the cookies came out lumpy. They also didn’t have enough violet essence.
No matter how I tried to style the assembled cookies, they looked awful.
A bit of research, and I had the answer. I would sift my almond/powdered sugar mixture next time, and add a drop or two more of violet essence.
Test #2 – The second batch tasted better, but were ugly! They had turned brown around the edges and didn’t have the pretty shine I was looking for. Grr. I set about separating more eggs and leaving them out to get to room temperature.
Test #3 – I was getting frustrated by now. How many eggs had I gone through, anyway? Maybe my oven wasn’t calibrated correctly… Never mind. I repeated the steps once again, whipping, sifting, folding, praying… This batch wasn’t awful, but where were the coveted macaron feet? I had left them sitting on the baking sheet for a full 15 minutes before baking them! Not only that… they were also flat.
I called my co-author to suggest the possibility of dropping the violet macarons and substituting chocolate instead. I had made chocolate macarons many times with great success.
Though she was perfectly open to chocolate, and I could have ended my misery there, something stopped me. Was I really going to let cookies beat me? I got my eggs out of the fridge, ready to try again.
This time, after combining the almond/sugar and meringue, I gave the batter a few extra “folds” with my spatula. As I let the mixture fall into the bowl, it seemed slightly more liquid. I carefully piped perfect rounds onto my parchment paper liner, and this time I left them sitting out for nearly 30 minutes to get the desired “feet.” For good measure, I placed another baking sheet under the first to make sure they didn’t brown. I popped them into the oven and crossed my fingers.
The fourth try was a success!! The macarons came out perfectly, with those darling little “feet” that the ones at Laduree have. The color was pretty, too: violet, not obnoxiously purple. The violet essence against the fluffy vanilla-violet buttercream was perfectly balanced.
I found an old Laduree box and couldn’t help myself. I snapped a shot of my final product on top of the box (SEE PHOTO AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE – YES, THAT IS ACTUALLY A MACARON THAT I MADE!). While Laduree doesn’t have anything to worry about, I felt proud that I finally achieved success.
The violet macaron recipe will be in our new cookbook, but here’s a chocolate one to try in the meantime (see RECIPES FOR ADVENTUROUS YOUNG CHEFS).
Be brave. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed… hopefully, there is a macaron shop around the corner J