The Little Macaron (er, Macaron-Baker) That Could

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

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6 thoughts on “The Little Macaron (er, Macaron-Baker) That Could

  1. Jen – yum! Laduree is my family’s favorite. Your chocolate macaroon recipes looks wonderful. Now I just have to find the time…..or maybe you could just call when you need a taster for your new cookbook – looks like it’s going to be fabulous!!…xo Denise

    • I need tasters – all this testing has not done my waistline any good! Try the recipe, it’s not as complicated as the violet one for some reason. Besides, it’s a long flight to Paris!

  2. The reason your macaroons don’t turn out like Laduree is because you are way too nice.

    You have to adopt an arrogant, uptight, and mean disposition to pull it off. And make sure to have a fit if anyone tries to take snap a photo of them. Then I imagine your macaroons will be perfect.

    I’ve learned to sift everything – anything that will go through a sieve, I sift sift sift – then sift it again : )

    Remind me to tell you the story of the $200, ten-hours-in-the-making gingerbread house that collapsed like the Northridge earthquake (for a stupid school project!). Oy! Thank god for styrofoam.

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