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Adventures in Macarons (and my 2010 baking resolutions)

Almond Macarons with Bittersweet Ganache Filling

There are a few things I am determined to conquer this coming year. Call them by 2010 baking resolutions, if you will. Pie crust (I WILL make a successful pie crust even if it means baking pumpkin pies in July). Caramel (or any cooked sugar for that matter). Fondant. And now you can add French Macarons to that list (not to be confused with Macar-oo-ns, which are completely different creatures).

Don’t let their cute appearance fool you, these are tricky little suckers. The four you see in the pictures are about the only somewhat photogenic cookies we ended up with. Out of dozens. And even those have their (numerous) flaws.

This is a cookie that should not be attempted alone, especially for the first time. Which is why I was extra excited (and oh so lucky) when the lovely Erin of ErinsFoodFiles agreed to join me for a day-long macaron-athon.

And let me tell you, when food bloggers get together…

Erin of ErinsFoodFiles

Good times are had by all. :)

We attempted two different kinds of macarons. The first batch was plain, we thought that not adding extra flavorings would increase our chances of success (right). I think we under-whipped our egg whites and the resulting batter was extremely watery. Think like flowing out of the piping bag before I could get it over the baking sheet watery. Yes, we made a nice big mess. But somehow we got them on the pan in somewhat circular blobs, and into the oven they go. We watched in anticipation as the things actually grew FEET! Feet! That must mean we succeeded, ON OUR VERY FIRST TRY!

Not so fast…

Macaron Fail

I think we must have undercooked them, even though we followed the recipe precisely. Because when we tried to take the cookies off of the pan, the outer shells separated completely from the overly-gooey centers. Big mess. Somehow we salvaged a few cookies that didn’t separate, most of the others just became lunch.

Coffee Macarons with Bittersweet Ganache Filling

The second batch, we whipped longer and baked longer at a lower temp. They came out looking slightly odd, but with feet nonetheless (hooray!). Yet, again the problem with the sticking. These things just didn’t want to come off the pans.

We persevered, and rather than giving up and trashing the rest of our sticky and lopsided cookies, we made the ganche filling anyway. And even though many of the cookies were practically just a paper thin shell that could barely support their own weight, let alone heavy ganche, we filled them anyway. And you know what?

Best. Cookies. Ever.

Especially the coffee ones (recipe found here, except we did a bittersweet ganache filling a la these instead of the nutella). Unbelievable.

Whatever. So our macarons weren’t the cute little pastel colored buttons that are all the rage. But I don’t care. I would much rather make an amazingly delicious ugly-duckling of a cookie, than a flawless and flavorless pile of blah.

I am going to make these again. I am going to figure out why the heck they stuck. I’m going to get them unstuck so I can pile on even more rich chocolate ganache. And I am going to eat them. All. Or split them if Erin is willing to bake en-tandem again (oh if only we had a double oven we could be a macaron factory, just about). Be sure to check out Erin’s blog today for another POV on the whole experience. :)

2010 will be the year it’s all going to happen. I am going to master the things that intimidate me most. Pie crust better watch its back!

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22 CommentsLeave a Comment →

  1. 1
    Posted On December 20, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I will say that the macarons I sampled from your macaron-a-thon were not the least bit unattractive, and quite tasty! I especially liked the coffee one- and I am VERY hard to please when it comes to french style pastries because to be quite honest, they just aren’t my thing. You girls make a fabulous team :-)

    Reply

  2. 2
    Posted On December 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    LOVELY blog you have here! love love love it ;)

    looking forward to reading more

    Reply

  3. 3
    Posted On December 20, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Ahhh, so there is a difference between Macarons and Macaroons – I just thought it was an odd spelling that had suddenly taken off. What exactly is the difference. These certainly look neat.

    Reply

  4. 4
    Posted On December 20, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Macarons and macaroons are similar… both almond flavored meringue based cookies. Macaroons are denser, often made with coconut. Macarons are lighter and sandwiched will delicious fillings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macaron

    Confusing… I know…

    Reply

  5. 5
    Posted On December 20, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Yum. I won’t even attempt. ;)

    Reply

  6. 6
    Posted On December 21, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Um… feet? I don’t really understand what you mean here.

    Then again, I’m the girl who made cherry almond squares for a work potluck today and ended up with “cherry almond gooey mess”. Tasty mess, though. ;)

    Reply

  7. 7
    Posted On December 21, 2009 at 9:40 am

    ‘Feet’ are the little puffed bases of the macaron cookies. The tops are (should be) nice and smooth, but the side/base of the cookie gets sort of ruffly where it rises. hehe.

    Glad it was at least a tasty mess! Those are the best kind! :)

    Reply

  8. 8
    Posted On December 21, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Beautiful pictures! I too want to learn to make a good pie crust:)

    Reply

  9. 9
    Eleana
    Posted On December 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    My gosh, I tried to make macarons a year ago as well … it was a horrible experience. A lot of laughing at the end, but I tried three batches, three days in a row – they ALL FAILED. And I’m not a bad baker! I had the same problem where the filling was too runny, and then they were overbaked. Underbaked. Perfect in the middle but burned at the bottoms. Somehow burned at the bottoms, but undercooked on top??

    Finally I threw all three batches away and now I happily pay the $1.30-1.75 for each one because I know how hard they are to make. Good thing Los Angeles has a ton of places to choose from, and I’m very picky about those places.

    Ahh my macaron dream will never come true now. I had foolishly hoped that my coworker would try one, and exclaim “Wow these are better than the ones we had in Paris!” … instead she said “These aren’t yummy” and threw the offending macaron into the trash can – right in front of me hahaha.

    Reply

  10. 10
    Posted On December 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Macarons are on my New Years Resolutions list too! This past year was the year of the pie crust for me, so I understand your phobia. I had success with Martha Stewart’s recipe, so I recommend that one to get you started. Good luck!

    Reply

  11. 11
    Posted On December 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Ooo, that was really funny… having just been through very similar experiences I finally managed to make one successful batch at long last… Sigh… It “only” took me 5 batches before I got it right. I found that the essential secret to non sticky and not too thin macarons lies in the mixing of the eggwhite and the dry ingredients. One beat to many and it’s disaster. I also let mine sit in the oven for much longer then the regular 20 or so minutes. I get to 30 minutes mostly (my oven sucks, so that’s why)
    Can’t wait to see your next macarons! Good luck!

    Reply

  12. 12
    Posted On December 21, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I’ve never eaten a macaron, much less made one. I’m very apprehensive bc it seems like SO much work. But if you guys enjoyed the challenge that’s all that matters!

    Reply

  13. 13
    Posted On December 22, 2009 at 3:45 am

    So macarons and macaroons are two different goodies! Now , I know! I hope 2010 will be a nice and year for all of us!

    Reply

  14. 14
    Liz Anderson
    Posted On December 22, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I’m a pretty good baker, but from what I’ve read on the Net, these cookies sound like torture!

    StickeyGooeyCreamyChewey attempted them not to long ago, and posted her results. Perhaps you can learn something from her attempts:
    http://stickygooeycreamychewy.com/2009/10/27/macaron-madness-with-the-daring-bakers/

    Reply

  15. 15
    tc
    Posted On December 30, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    you need to age your egg whites. dry them.
    i baked 3 batches and no feet. your feet aren’t real pretty but if you leave your egg whites uncovered for 24 hrs (in fridge or out in room temp) and follow your recipe, your macarons will have the prettiest feet ever. the most perfect feet. dun need to bang on the baking sheet and all.

    and use 2 baking sheets when you bake stacked on top of one another.

    use parchment paper.

    if they stick to the parchment paper after baking, leave them overnight, they slide off after. usually, my macarons slide off after 10-20 mins or so.

    hope it helps.

    Reply

  16. 16
    Posted On December 31, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for the input, TC. We did age the egg whites for 24 hours at room temperature, AND we used parchment paper under the cookies. We did let the cookies sit for a while after baking, didn’t seem to help at all with the stickiness. :( Oh well!

    Reply

  17. 17
    Posted On December 31, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    I, too, have committed to mastering macarons in the near future. While on a trip to Victoria, BC, I found a book that is beautiful to look at and made the macarons endeavor seem less intimidating. Granted, I haven’t tried yet, but i am optimistic.

    Check it out:
    http://www.eatmedaily.com/2009/11/cookbook-review-i-heart-macarons-by-hisako-ogita-sweet-fluffy-and-imperfect/

    Reply

  18. 18
    auntie sal
    Posted On December 31, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Lindsay, when you come to SF, I will take you to Miette, at the Ferry Market Plaza, where the macaroons remind you of Paris!

    Reply

  19. 19
    Posted On January 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Hi ! I’m French and I know how to make macarons, if you want I can give you some trips to master them :o) You can see my macarons on my blog here :
    - lemon curd : http://nothingbutmaybe.canalblog.com/archives/2008/06/28/9688419.html
    - pistachio : http://nothingbutmaybe.canalblog.com/archives/2008/08/10/10174859.html
    - milk chocolate and passion fruit : http://nothingbutmaybe.canalblog.com/archives/2009/12/24/16180277.html

    Reply

  20. 20
    Katy
    Posted On April 22, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    This makes me feel much better about the attempt my sister and I made at with macarons last month. We are both well rounded bakers an cooks and ours looked just like your third image. We read many recipes, watched videos and tried our best. Maybe we tried too hard… we plan to attempt again soon.

    Reply

  21. 21
    Posted On August 20, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Hi Lindsay,
    I was reading your post on this and my roommate had the same problems. She tried them 3 times and gave up but I made her make it the italian way and she got super pretty feet the 4th time :) I believe egg whites are better off left on the counter and at room temp then in the fridge. You can just cover them with a paper towel or towel. I’m not sure if you do this or not but add a pinch of salt when you’re first beating your egg whites. I’ve read that it helps the meringue form faster? I don’t know if it’s true but it works for me! Also, the size of the circles you pipe definitely matters. I’ve learned that when I pipe circles that are a little bit bigger, they don’t cook all the way through and lead to a sticky mess in the middle. I’ve never baked mine over 330 degrees. I think the temperature varies depending on where you live and what season it is. Make sure all the shells are completely dry before you stick it in the oven. I’ve learned that they crack at the slightest part of the shell that’s not dry. The macaron batter should be like a brownie batter consistency. Maybe a little bit more watery. If it’s too thick, add 1/2 a teaspoon of water and stir and just repeat if it needs it. Also if you’re having trouble getting the macarons off the parchment paper, don’t use a spatula to get it off. Take the parchment paper and turn it over so the macarons are on the other side and carefully peel the parchment paper back using one hand and let your other index finger guide the peeling. So basically you don’t want to pull the macaron off the paper, you want to push it from the bottom if that makes sense. If it still sticks then add a little water to the bottom of the parchment paper where the macaron is stuck and it should come off in a few seconds. Sorry for writing an essay! I hope this helps :)

    Reply

  22. 22
    Katherine
    Posted On April 14, 2012 at 3:58 am

    When I made my far from perfect macarons I found the ones that stuck the least were the ones on a silicon mat; nothing can stick to that. They are hard work, but I must persevere!

    Reply

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