Macarons. They scare me. A lot of people have said that they were intimidated by the idea of making macarons. Lots of bloggers have said it, in fact. And even though lots of bloggers have already said it, I’m going to say it too, because it’s true. I was intimidated by macarons. I decided to tackle making them, though, for a bake sale that was held to benefit the St. Croix Animal Welfare Society.
Guess what? I’m still intimidated by them. And defeated…but only barely. I did not achieve perfect, beautiful, adorable macarons, but the ones I did get were still delicious…I can’t wait to try again and get them right!
For those of you who have never had a macaron, or don’t know what they are, just look at them:
Photo courtesy of sparkleskitchen on Etsy
Aren’t they just about the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen?! You can tint them to be any color in the rainbow, and filling possibilities are endless!
Photo courtesy of Tartelette
The interior of the cookies are soft, while the exterior has a thin, crisp crust. And that little edge around the middle of the cookies, where the filling is? That’s called the cookies “feet.” Seriously, these get more and more adorable, the more learn about them.
I’ve been wanting to make macarons for a very long time, but, like I said, I was afraid. And my first foray into the world of macarons hasn’t really done much to alleviate those fears, but not because they weren’t relatively easy to make. And, even though my cookies failed (this time), I learned a lot of important stuff that can help you out.
Macarons only need a very few basic ingredients: sugar, egg whites (aged 1 to 4 days), food coloring (optional), almonds, and confectioners’ sugar. That’s it. Unless you want to make chocolate macarons, then you add a little cocoa powder. All of the recipes I found are pretty much entirely by weight: 25 to 50 grams of sugar, 90 grams of egg whites, 110 grams of almonds, and 200 grams of confectioners’ sugar (all my weight). Apparently, it’s pretty important to be quite accurate when making these.
Not everybody has a kitchen scale, though (but you should, by the way, they’re The Best). Which is way I weighed and re-weighed, measured and re-measured all of the ingredients to come up with fair conversions from grams to cups, etc. (by volume).
90 grams egg whites = 3 large egg whites
25 grams sugar = 2 tablespoons
200 grams confectioners’ sugar = 2 cups
110 grams almonds = 1 cup, plus 3 tablespoons
Now, if you don’t have a scale, you don’t have to worry!
As for me, I had great plans to make Tartelette’s macarons, fill them with the my own delicious peppermint frosting recipe, and roll them in crushed candy canes. Then, just because I love chocolate and mint, I decided to make a chocolate macaron too! These would be filled with a yummy Andes mint ganache, dipped in semi-sweet chocolate, and again garnished with crushed candy canes. Sounds pretty irresistible, huh? But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
I got started this past Sunday, by cracking and separating my eggs (I did enough eggs to make two batches of cookies). Macarons require egg whites that have been aged for one to four days. Since I was making the cookies yesterday (Thursday), I got the eggs ready and out of the way as early as possible. Yesterday morning, I got up and got to work. Halfway through making the macarons, I felt totally justified in my intimidation. The situation was ugly.
I had batter all over my hands, bumpy cookies in the oven, and a batch of raw cookies basically separating on their cookie sheet. But, like I said, I learned a lot to pass on to you.
First of all, every macaron recipe I researched says to use a pastry bag and large round tip to get the batter on the sheets. Theoretically, you could just use a spoon to drop batter onto the sheets, but using a bag and tip gives you a perfectly round cookie. What none of the recipes I researched did tell me was that you really should not fill the bag up more than halfway. Otherwise, you lose a lot of control over what the batter will do, and you end up with a mess like the one above. Only fill your bag up about halfway, you can always add more.
Now, here’s the result of my first batch. Before I even put them in the oven, I knew there was a problem, but what could I do? I just had to see it through, and wait for the results. They weren’t pretty. What on earth had I done wrong?! They didn’t have that smooth, satiny, crisp finish. Where were their feet?? Not to mention the fact that they were a bitch to get off of the Silpat mats. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was very upset.
I proceeded to scrape the cookies off the mats and into the garbage while I racked my brain for what the problem was. I kept telling the hubster that I had done exactly what I was supposed to do, what could the problem be? But then it hit me like a Mack truck…..I forgot to put in enough confectioners’ sugar! I had measured out half of it for my ingredients photo, and forgot to add the other half! So, chalk this ruined batch up to my own forgetfulness. Dammit.
But that’s not where the story ends. I still had aged egg whites, so I could make another batch! I was so relieved too, because i was sure that this batch would turn out perfect.
But no, it really wasn’t meant to be. As you can see, my chocolate macarons are cracked and sad looking. This photo shows a lot of good things, though. First of all, the fact that my cookies cracked is proof that I was able to establish the thin, crisp crust that is ideal in macarons, score for me (if you keeping track, though, it’s macarons: 2, Darla: 1). I did a little research on cracked macarons, and the consensus seems to be that the cause is over mixing the batter (thereby breaking the egg whites). While this is true, that actually wasn’t the cause of my cracks. These actually cracked when I tried to remove them from the Silpat mats. For some reason, these suckers were stu-uck. I still have no idea why. It was just the chocolate ones, and they seemed to be slightly uncooked in the middle (even after cooking them slightly longer than recommended). Thoughts, anyone?
You will notice, though, that both the chocolate and the plain (red) cookies, did try very, very hard to grow some feet! This photo gives me great hope! A smooth, shiny, thin crust, and the smallest appearance of feet at the base of the cookies. I’m clearly on the right track (score- macarons: 2, Darla: 2 [woo-hoo!]).
Pull these babies off the sheet, though, and this is what you get. A sort of hollow and bubbly base, that looks glassy and clear. This is not right. They should have a lovely, solid base, and in the middle of that crisp top crust and the smooth bottom there should be a soft cookie (final score- macarons: 3, Darla:2). It’s important to point out, again, that these tasted wonderful! They were just chewy and sticky…and the texture was all wrong. What went wrong, then?
Well, I know I tend to rush to the plate and try to blame humidity every chance I get, so this time, I decided that I wouldn’t. It had to be something else…I can’t keep blaming humidity for everything. Unfortunately, upon further research into all of my poor macarons’ flaws, I learned that the problem is indeed humidity. Again. One of the steps in making macarons is to let them sit after piping them onto the baking sheet. This allows the tops to dry out a bit and promotes a better crust on top. That crust helps lock in the moisture, etc. necessary to achieve that soft cookie interior and smooth bottom, as well as the ruffly little feet.
In the end, I’ve established that I need access to an air conditioned kitchen to make these. Or I have to wait until we leave the Virgin islands. I won’t give up, though! I’ll try these again…hopefully I’ll get a stretch of low humidity days and I can work something out.
Until then, have you ever made macarons? How did you do, and how were they? Is there anything that you’ve tried to make that you just can’t seem to defeat? Looking forward to hearing from you, and have an excellent weekend!