Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EPIC FAIL Macarons

Dang it!

It was beginners luck.

In my previous post, you may have read about my first attempt at making macarons. They came out absolutely perfect, and I was mighty proud. "What's the big deal," I thought. They're a snap!

Well, as the proverb says, "Pride goeth before the fall."

And boy, did my macarons fall.

After my first batch of lovely macarons, I decided to make more to impress friends and family, and in keeping with the Christmas theme, I decided this time to make green shells. I had visions of delivering boxes of macarons to colleagues, friends, and neighbors. I would watch the look of total amazement come over their faces as they bit into their first macaron. And then, I would humbly accept all their praise and compliments.

Ooops. I think there is a life lesson to be learned here.

I thought I followed the exact same method of making the macarons as before. But, something went horribly wrong. Even Ms. Humble's blog post dedicated to troubleshooting macarons could not explain...


As we say in Utah, "What the heck?!"
I give you my entry for the Ugliest Macaron Contest.

I won't tell you what my kids think is on top of that macaron on the right, but I bet you can guess. I have no idea what happened, but interestingly enough, the cookies tasted great. It didn't take any time at all for the family to finish them off, and we all had a good laugh.

Will that be my last attempt at macarons? Noooo. I'm planning to get back on that horse and try again. I will not be defeated! Macarons, here I come!

Stay tuned...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Macarons—Peppermint with Chocolate Ganache Filling

I finally gave them a try—macarons.

I would venture to guess that 99.9% of Utahns have never heard of these cookies, and I only learned of them about a year ago when I discovered a fun food blog, Not So Humble Pie. After long experimenting and perfecting, Ms. Humble has written multiple blog entries about macarons with amazing sounding recipes and photographs. I think it was her exhaustive troubleshooting post that made me most apprehensive about attempting to make the cookies. If so many things could possibly go wrong, they must be difficult, right?

I then discovered that macarons have been the trendy thing among food bloggers for a while now. When I googled "macaron recipe," it came up with 75 pages. So many different colors and flavor combinations, so many wonderful photographs, so many detailed descriptions of these little confectionery delights—I knew I must try one for myself.

I began my hunt. And, it wasn't easy. Utah tends to usually be a few years behind when it comes to trends. I first looked in all the grocery stores. Nothing. I moved on to the bakeries. Nada. I even went to a French bakery. Absolument rien. Finally after six months, I found a box of macarons at Trader Joes while on vacation in California. And even though some of the shells were cracked, the family and I thought they were pretty darn fantastic.

The ideal macaron is perfectly round. The shells are characterized by smooth, domed tops with ruffled bottoms. This bottoms are called the feet, but I find that kind of gross because it reminds me of dissecting a clam in junior high biology. The shells should have an egg shell-like crust with a moist and airy interior. They should practically melt in your mouth. Macarons are commonly filled with a frosting, ganache, or jam filling which is sandwiched between two shells. The Mecca of Macarons seems to be the Pierre Herme bakery in Paris. Someday, I hope to check it out.

So, for this first attempt at making macarons, I decided to go with the easiest looking recipe I could find. I decided to set my expectations very low. I would consider the venture a success if my cookies turned out somewhat round, and it would be OK if they didn't have the all-important feet ruffles. As I searched through recipes, I immediately threw out anything metric. Not only am I a mathematically challenged American, I do not own a kitchen scale. I decided I'd invest in a scale, if this first attempt was marginally successful.

Since it's the Christmas season, I decided to go with a recipe from Gourmet or Gourmand for peppermint macarons with chocolate ganache filling. I modified it slightly after reading tips from Ms. Humble and others.

And the result? Total perfection! I don't have a clue how I did it, but I've got pictures to prove it. The kids absolutely love them. We could have easily devoured all of them. However, I managed to box up some for coworkers, who also gave them rave reviews. These may even surpass sour cream cookies as my all-time favorite cookie. I'm now excited to try more.

I think I'll even add a kitchen scale to my Christmas wish list. Actually, it's probably too late for that; I'll just go buy one at an after-Christmas sale.


I'm nervous about one thing. Was this beginners luck?

Not bad for my first try. I'd be willing to put them up against Pierre's.
Perfectly smooth, domed shells. And feet!