My attempt at Macarons

For those who know me, when I get an idea in my head I become obsessed and need to accomplish it, like, yesterday.  Typically this happens with decorating, home projects, or cleaning but the other day I decided I was going to not only just make, but successfully make, enough macarons to give them as gifts to my extended family.

This all started back when I went to France for work and ate Macarons while sipping champagne with some local customers.  In general I like “cute” food (bite-sized, colorful) and I also like things that are a bit unique.  I got to thinking, hmm, what is a macaron made of which sparked an aggressive Google search.  In case you don’t know, they are basically just eggs, powdered sugar, patience, almond flour, and more patience.

My interest in trying to make them only grew when every blog post I read explained that they are VERY finicky.  “They can’t be that hard” I said.  “It will be fun” I said.

OK so once I got the hang of them, they weren’t terrible.  But “fun” isn’t the word I would use.  There truly is a science to these little buggers and some prep-time needed.

I decided to go with French Macarons (apparently there are multiple kinds?) and pulled the recipe from this site as I found it easiest to read.  I also had this AWESOME troubleshooting guide pulled-up to reference what I did wrong each batch and how to fix it (Shinee knows what’s up, and is a true macaron expert).

My first couple of batches I was cocky – you just have to mix it together and bake it, right?  I was also multi-tasking (remember that sauce?).  A bad move, they require your full focus and some serious attention to detail.  I basically spent all day making them, and only 2 of the 5 batches turned out.  I had to fill 8 round tins and literally only had 24 “good” cookies before I was 100% over it.

Being a stubborn individual I couldn’t leave my project incomplete, so I went back and tackled the macarons again (like a week later, I needed a break).  Round two went MUCH better, and here were some key findings for me:

  1. Set your eggs out in advance: I didn’t age my egg whites like some sites recommend, but they do HAVE to be room temperature which can take some time.  I determined how many batches I was going to make in advance and set ALL of the eggs out that I needed.  That way when I was ready to make another batch, I could just go.
  2. You have to actually wait for stiff peaks: I was very worried about over-mixing and a big part of my problem was that I wasn’t setting the meringue correctly.  It takes awhile for the soft peaks to form and you HAVE to wait to add the color/flavoring until you have soft peaks, and also HAVE to wait to combine with the almond mixture until hard peaks form.
  3. Oven temperature varies: Different sites show different temperatures, but for my oven 275 degrees worked the best (they were too crispy at 300).
  4. Sift and prep ingredients while the macarons set: Sifting the almond flour / sugar and letting the unbaked batter set to form a “skin” (super gross word, but fitting once you see it) are also two key steps.  I found it worked best when making multiple batches to sift and set-out pre-measured ingredients while the macarons set.  This way I gave the macarons adequate time to set, but also was ready to mix while they baked and avoided a bunch of down time.
  5. Get a back-log of your favorite podcast and drink some wine: It is a process, so some vino and My Favorite Murder (yes, I’m a murderino) helped to keep me entertained.

I ended-up making a few different kinds (from this site) and had enough to fill the 8 containers.  The fam loved them but more important for my pride I proved I could actually successfully make them (even if I never make them again)!

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