Our adventure into the treacherous world of macarons began the day before we were going to start baking. Laura was at a club meeting in a cafe, and got a text from Mel. Trying to be polite, she ignored the message, only to receive a frantic call two minutes later. Sure something terrible was happening, Laura rushed out of the meeting and promptly called Mel back.
She was running up and down the Bulk Barn aisles trying to find almond meal, but could only find almond flour. She had called to ask if there was any difference between almond flour and almond meal. I looked it up and found that if there’s a difference it is minimal, so we bought what was there and a crisis was averted.
The day of baking dawned warm and wet, and after a morning workout to prepare for the ingestion of copious amounts of sugar, we got to work. Step one was to procure a kitchen scale, an essential part of accuracy which is a key part of successful macaron making. Mel magically conjured one out of a drawer, and we were in business.
The first problem we ran into was the size of our food processor. The almond flour needed to be ground with icing sugar, but the quantities were far greater than capacity of the processor. So we had to do the job in batches, sifting each time, because one recipe we read required it, and an extra sift never hurts.
“I’m spanking it. BAD SIEVE!” -Mel, while sifting
While Mel was swapping unground, unsifted almond-sugar mix between a plethora of bowls, Laura got to work beating the egg whites. We had some issues with these too. The egg whites in macarons are supposed to be ‘aged’, meaning they were left out of the fridge overnight.
The problem was that we hadn’t weighed the whites before aging them, which meant that when we weighed them before beating we realized we were about 30g short. We certainly weren’t going to wait another night for a fourth egg to age, so Mel ran it under warm tap water for a while to bring it to room temperature before throwing it in with the rest.
Laura: “It’s so strange that this works as a thing, you know?” Mel: “I do know!” -referring to the fact that beaten egg whites turn fluffy and stiff.
This seemed to work well enough, for the eggs formed stiff peaks with no trouble at all. Then we had to fold in the sifted granulated sugar – gently, because everything you do with macarons should be gentle. But here we ran into a bit of trouble – the two recipes we were following gave un conflicting advice.
One said to simply fold in the sugar, and the other said to beat it in, until it formed a nice meringue. A more careful read of one of the recipes revealed a step that simply said ‘beat in any flavour or colour at this point’. We took that to mean we could beat the egg/sugar mixture, so we did just that.
And then came more folding, when the almond flour was added to the meringue in three stages. Mel and Laura took turns doing this, folding 50 times each addition. It was a lot of folding!
Luckily the next step was an easy one – the batter was supposed to sit for 10-30 minutes. We took this opportunity to wash the many bowls we had used, thanks to our habit of grabbing the wrong sized containers for our ingredients.
Then came the fun part, piping the batter onto baking sheets (lined with parchment paper, of course!). This was all Mel, because Laura is completely useless with a piping bag. After carefully putting the batter onto our prepared templates, and banging the baking sheets to release any air bubbles (a fun but loud step) it was time for another break, to let the macarons dry. This step is a critical one, and gives macarons their characteristic ‘feet’. We spent the time painting, because it seemed like the best thing to do.
We had to wait extra long because the numbers on Mel’s oven are worn off, and so the only way we could get the right temperature was to fiddle with the knob, wait a while, and then check the oven thermometer. Finally it was ready, and we held our breaths for the next five minutes as we waited to turn the tray and discover if our macarons were successes or failures. And Lo! We had succeeded. Laura pulled the tray out with a triumphant cry of ‘It’s got da feets!’ and there were celebrations all around.
Laura: “I don’t know why I’m taking pictures of all of them…” Mel: “Each cookie is important” -After realizing Laura was taking a picture of every cookie Mel iced
Things were not as well as they seemed, however. The first two trays of shells were marvellous, but we encountered some problems with the third. These were undercooked, likely do to the opening and closing of the oven needed for the first two trays. When we tried to peel these off the parchment paper, the outsides came off fine, but the insides were left stuck to the paper.
We solved this problem by filling the empty shells with icing (a simple but lovely buttercream recipe — we added almond flavour) and greedily eating the insides with our fingers. It was very classy.
But finally, we were done, and these guys looked and tasted great. Some were more icing than cookie, but we gave those ones to our friends and saved the good ones for ourselves. Next time we make these we’re hoping to try some flavour and colour decorations — it should be fun. We’ll let you know how it goes!
Here are links to the recipes we used:
And here’s some final shots of us enjoying our icing: