Wednesday, February 1, 2012

First on the First: Macarons

There are a number of Pastry Pinnacles that I have yet to scale.  At least successfully.  Puff pastry.  Strudel.  Dobosh tortes.  Up until now macarons were on that list.  In fact, I'd never had a macaon before, and I wasn't really sure what all the fuss was about.  But, macarons are by their very nature gluten-free, so it was high time I got around to it.
It's certainly true that there are lots of horror stories out there about macarons and how difficult they are.  It's also true that I enjoy a good "nerd pun."  So when I happened upon the Brave Tart's blog, and her post on Macaron Myths stated "Um, guys? We’re talking about a cookie here, not the Heisenberg uncertainty principle," I knew I'd found my sensei.  I used her recipe, and really had some fun.  In fact, maybe this weekend I'll try her blood-orange version....


 My first batch were made with pumpkin seeds and were plain vanilla, filled with the Brave Tart's German Buttercream (my go-to Buttercream recipe for a lot of reasons).  Aren't they cute?  Little feet and everything.  They were a tad undermixed, judging from the little peaks.  But all in all, not bad for a first try, eh?
Then I got a wee bit overconfident for a beginner.
My next batch I made with hazelnuts and cocoa.  Which was probably the issue - cocoa tends to alter batter texture and make it seize just a bit.
Because I sifted.


I mixed.


I checked batter consistency.


Then mixed a bit more.  When I THOUGHT I was ready, I piped.


I banged them on the counter.  I baked, rotating the trays halfway through.
And this happened.


Stella, (The Brave Tart herself) is a delight and a wonderful resource.  She lets you post pictures to her Facebook page for troubleshooting.  Her judgment was that I had a streak of unincorporated meringue in my batter that caused the cracking.
Know what?  I took the rest of the buttercream from the vanilla batch, threw in 1/2 c. of Nutella...  and they were still delicious, cracks and all.


Undeterred, I went on to make another batch.  These are again made with pumpkin seeds.  I added some lemon zest, lemon juice, and yellow food color to the batter, and filled them with lemon curd.


Still slightly undermixed - little peaky tops - but still delicious.
Why did I share the failed batch?  Because you learn more from the failures, and you might learn a bit from mine.  I know now what undermixed batter looks like.  It crossed my mind to deliberately overmix the lemon batter, but in the end I couldn't quite bring myself to do it.  I suspect that I will eventually do it anyway - and then I'll know what overmixed batter looks like.  I suspect that if I can do 8-10 batches of macarons within a 6-8 week period (so I don't forget what things look like) I'll have a lock on the macaron.  And at least I'll succeed more often.  Maybe there's a new goal.
So, what have I learned?  I need to make more macarons!  Because they taste fabulous no matter what they look like.
Special thanks to Stella at The Brave Tart and the wonderful folks who put on the First on the First Blog hop for giving me the tools I needed and the little "push" necessary to join in the Macaron Madness.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for clearing up my macaroon vs. macaroon confusion! (good think my blog co-author took up the challenge this moment.) Just noticed your bio and had to send a comment - I have a 4.5 year old daughter with ASD. Nice to have found you thru #firstonthefirst!

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  2. I've never heard of dobosh tortes - do tell! Your macarons are lovely - love that you threw in the Nutella, those probably would have been my favorite batch :)

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  3. Yay! Yes, there is a lot to learn from practice. I need to make these more often and at least I've figured out where I went wrong--carton egg whites are not for macarons. I love that you tried something other than almonds for your base. :)

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  4. Thanks everybody for all the delightful comments! (even though Blogger allows threaded comments now, looks like my template doesn't support it, so we'll just go along with it.)

    Yeah, carton egg whites might be a bit too watery. Mine were a bit aged... just because the husband had made pasta and used 14 (?!?!?!) egg yolks.

    A Dobosh torte is layers of a crispy variety of genoise and chocolate buttercream, usually covered with ganache or more buttercream. But it's a bit fussy to cut all the layers from the sheet pan before they get TOO crispy and break. I've been wimpy about it, thus far. :-)

    Deanna - so great to meet you! We might have to exchange notes someday!

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