Maybe quarantine isn’t so bad guys!!! Look at all this free time I have to make beautiful desserts and share them with my beloved family and rediscover the joy within! I’m kidding, quarantine sucks and every day we’re in here is probably going to be represented as a grey hair on my head. But I like to desperately cling to optimism and positivity (you know, as a coping mechanism) and this week happened to be one of my best friend’s birthdays!!!! Since we can’t celebrate together I decided to bake her something, of course, and since I had leftover almond flour from making bear claws (and ample time to fix any horrible mistakes) I decided to make macarons for the first time!
Making anything new and difficult as a gift for someone is a risky move, but I like to live my life on the edge and I had leftover almond flour from making bearclaws. Also and more crucially, they don’t require wheat flour or yeast, which are scarce right now.
When I say I’m making macarons, I mean that little pretentious French cookie sandwich thing that they sell for like $2 each at a bakery. Honestly, it’s just a complicated Oreo. They’re not to be confused with macaroons, which are made out of coconut, nor with Macron, who is the president of France. Here’s a detailed explanation, if you care:
Macarons, like croissants, are one of those baked goods that food bloggers and pastry chefs guarantee as a “fuck-up on the first try” food. There are dozens of posts about how to prevent macaron problems, and you know it’s always fun with a recipe comes with a bunch of WARNINGS about how stupid you are and how easily you can fuck up the whole batch. So, like with the croissants, I did my research. I landed on this post from Indulge with Mimi (I guess I’ll have to) that troubleshoots just about any possible macaron problem, and includes an EXTREMELY thorough recipe. You know I love an excruciatingly detailed recipe.
Honestly, after the croissants the prep work for these suckers was like a breeze. The only real “prep-work” at all was separating the egg whites a day in advance and leaving them to “age” in a covered bowl in the fridge, which really sounds disgusting but apparently makes them easier to whip into stiff peaks. After that it’s a series of stressful tasks that can go wrong within seconds, including:
- Making a meringue
- Folding almond flour and sugar into the meringue the EXACT amount of times so that the batter is not too dry or too liquidy, and so that the air doesn’t get knocked out but also somehow doesn’t have too much air left in it?????
- Piping the batter into perfect little circles
- Waiting for thirty goddamn minutes to see if your perfect little circles form a SKIN on top, because if they don’t your batter is fucked and your macarons will probably be fucked
The part I was definitely the most nervous about was folding in the almond flour, because this is the part everyone says is super easy to go both overboard and underboard with. I took it VERY slowly, making sure to fold and not mix. The difference between folding and mixing can be kind of confusing, but basically folding is a way of incorporating ingredients without knocking too much air out or over-developing the gluten in a batter because you’re very gently folding the batter onto itself with a spatula and therefore not agitating it to much. If that makes sense. I’m not totally sure I got it exactly right, but I did my best and my batter ended up fLoWiNg lIkE lAvA which is apparently correct, so I don’t think I fucked up too bad.
Since these macarons are for a birthday I made them “birthday cake” macarons, which just means I put some sprinkles on top and left the macarons white so it looks kind of like a funfetti cake. I traced a template onto my parchment paper so that I could pipe perfect little circles, but I’m not that talented so they were kind of uneven in size. I wasn’t using a piping tip, so I did have less control over the flow of the batter. I was very worried about the skin formation, but after 30 minutes they had a skin!!! I was very pleased with myself. Macarons don’t take very long to bake, only about 14 minutes, and when I checked on them I GASPED because they had feet!!!!
Whether or not your macarons develop feet is a VERY big deal for people who care about macarons. The feet are basically little ruffles around the edge of the macaron shell that indicate that the batter was mixed and baked properly. And look at those little feeties on mine!!! Adorable. My one problem was that they were sticking to the parchment, which I guess means they are underdone, so I just kept sticking them back into the oven for like a minute at a time until they slid off of the paper easily.
I am so incredibly pleased with these. They were a birthday present so I didn’t get to taste the final result, but I did have an extra half of a shell leftover so I did taste that and it was very yummy!! Kind of marshmallowy and chewy in the center with a very crisp exterior. I’m not going to lie and say these were perfect though, my shells did kind of have a “hollow” in them which means there was a little gap between the top of the shell and the chewy interior. Honestly I don’t think it’s that big of a deal because they taste good anyway and the hollow is on the inside so it doesn’t even affect the appearance, but again, for people who are actually good at making these there’s a lot of clout associated with not having a hollow.
Apparently macarons are the rare baked good that are actually better eaten the next day. This is because the shells themselves don’t really have that much flavor (other than sweet) so almost all the flavor comes from the filling, and if you let the macarons “mature” in the fridge over night the shells absorb some of that flavor. I want to again stress that I am not the expert on this, I literally learned this like yesterday.
Sticking with the birthday cake theme I whipped up some really quick basic buttercream for the filling (with more sprinkles of course) and then on a whim decided to put some leftover lemon curd I had lying around in the center of the macarons because the buttercream was VERY sweet and I wanted to have some balance.
Regardless of whether or not these are perfectly made macarons, I think they’re pretty good for a first try, and my friend liked them so that’s all that really matters anyway. In terms of the complicated baking projects I’ve done recently, these are actually WAY simpler than, again, croissants. Other then aging the egg whites you can do everything in one day, and even though they are finicky and challenging they were overall way easier than I thought they would be, while still looking very special. I think it’s way more doable to whip these up on a whim than it is to just whip up some laminated dough. I think if you’re a very very beginner baker (I am intermediate???? I guess?????) I would still not recommend starting with these because it does require you to already know some baking techniques and skills, and they still are kind of tricky, but if you’re looking for a fun little challenge that’ll build your skills I’d say macarons are a worthwhile project.
So there you go, my first and surprisingly successful try at making macarons. I’m not sure what I’m going to bake next. Bagels??? Stay tuned for possible bagels. Summer is also coming, which means summer fruit, which means summer pies. As always, hope you’re all staying well and pulling through. We’re gonna make it!