Yeah, I’m way behind the curve on this one, but whatever. I’ve been reading for a while about the wonders of macarons (not to be confused with American macaroons). I finally bought some recently at La Baguette, a French cafe at the Stanford Mall. I’m sure they were somewhat (ok, hugely) inferior to the famous ones you find on the streets of Paris, but I thought they were still pretty tasty. They’ve been in the back of my mind for a while now of something I need to try, but they are notoriously difficult to get right. They must be mixed for exactly the right amount of time so that they have a perfectly frilly “foot” at the bottom, but are not too dense. Some say they must be left out for up to a couple hours before cooking to develop a “skin” to help form that beautiful domed shape and ruffled foot, etc., etc.
So when I finally decided to try my hand, I of course carefully looked back at all the detailed directions I had seen of what to do to produce the perfect macaron, right? No, of course not. At 10:00 pm on a recent Saturday, I felt a sudden urge to bake. I was getting started kind of late, so I didn’t want anything that would take too long, but any type of cookie I had made before just didn’t seem exciting enough. I was sure David Lebovitz would have a recipe for macarons, and of course he did. Last time I tried something from his site it turned out pretty well, and I had all the ingredients on hand, so I was good to go. These actually come together pretty quickly, so 45 minutes or so later (including cooling) I had myself some very un-authentic macarons. (Though apparently I should’ve let the flavors meld overnight instead of eating the entire plate that night … I’m only barely exaggerating.)
The good news? Despite my inattention to detail (the tops are peaked, they are too narrow and tall and shaped somewhat like acorns, many of them cracked on top, but miraculously, some of them do have a decent-looking foot) they still taste pretty delicious, even if they don’t look anything like they are “supposed to.” The even better news? I’m sure I’ll be trying these again (perhaps with a more creative flavor), and when I get it right, I’ll fill you in on the results!
If you want some more details on what to do to have adequately-tasting but ridiculous-looking macarons, here’s what I did wrong that I will correct next time:
- Since our freezer is still filled with Honey-Lavender-White Chocolate Opera Cake, I halved the recipe. This meant folding the dry ingredients into only one egg white, which was very difficult to do.
- Fold the ingredients together more thoroughly. I was super-worried about overmixing, but based on these tips, I think my batter was too stiff. (Hence, I ended up with the peaked-top acorn-shaped cookies.) Apparently the batter should “flow like magma”, not hold any shape you pipe it into exactly.
- Pipe out bigger circles. (This could’ve been partly from the too-stiff batter.) I realized after the fact that David says 1″ circles and about a tablespoon for each cookie. (I just read the 1″ part the first time.) I don’t know, maybe when you move to France your definition of an “inch” shifts. At any rate, my 1″ circles were way less than a tablespoon, and I think they should’ve been a bit bigger and also flatter. Though the almost-bite-size result was kind of cute.
- I used leftover ground almonds from the opera cake, which I realized later had a little bit of flour in them. I don’t know as much about baking chemistry as I would like, but my guess is that’s probably not kosher (sorry, I know that’s a terrible pun, I’ve been hanging around Matt too long), so next time I will add a bit of the powdered sugar instead of flour to keep the almonds from turning to butter.
- Let egg whites come to room temperature. I have no idea what effect it did or didn’t have on the end result (in fact I saw one recipe saying to keep the egg whites chilled), but next time I’ll follow what most recipes seem to say and use room temperature eggs.
- Don’t grab unsweetened instead of bittersweet chocolate from the pantry for the filling. (Yep, that’s how little attention I was paying. Amazing, huh?)