The Epicke Tragedye of the Macarons

This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was so so so lovely. I was delighted. I had plans. To do several batches. Why? Because. They were French macarons. sighhhhhhhhhh.

Even if you’re not a foodie, a baking blogger or a follower of menu trends, you still probably haven’t missed the phenomenonal Rise of the Macaron. It’s like… Stieg Larson to the publishing industry; Brad and Angelina to the gossip mag trade; wide belts to fashion; Susan Boyle to TV. Such is the French macaron to baking in 2009. Little multi-coloured arrays of them adorn every patisserie from Paris to Cape Town. Lemon, chocolate, rose water … even green tea has become pretty standard as a flavour. There seems to be a worldwide trend to break into ever-unheard-of flavour combinations. I’ve seen recipes for purple ones crusted with sugared violets, for pumpkin and spice macarons, for blue cheese, pear and walnut macarons. It’s big, man. And a bit crazy.

But I was so up for it. And confident. ‘Cos I’ve made them before, and they were just gorgeous. It was around Christmas last year, and I packaged them up in gorgeous tins and purple tissue paper. They were lovely.

So this time, I couldn’t decide amongst all the adventurous flavour combinations that were making the rounds on the Daring Bakers forum. I figured I’d go relatively simple: one batch of lemon macarons, and one batch of chocolate. (In fact, I realised later that this was one of my mistakes: do plain macarons first. Master plain ones. Then try the flavours, which introduce a myriad of new problems. Ha.)

First problem: I didn’t trust all the seasoned macaron bakers that advised to age the egg whites for three days on a counter top. It just sounded… a bit gross. And more to the point, I live in a household where four other adults regularly poke around in the kitchen and throw away anything that looks difficult to identify (a reasonable strategy, but not one conducive to successful egg-white-ageing processes). Anyway, so I figured one-day-old eggs would be okay. No no no.

Then there was the glitch in egg white beating. For some reason, I lost faith in my egg whites. They were getting to a stiff-but-still-fluffy-looking stage. Not thick, glossy and meringue-like. Why I thought they looked done enough, I do not know, but when it came to piping out my little lovelies, they were less than lovely. They seemed to lack… something. Surface tension. Solidity. I don’t know.
Worst problem was the lemon batch. The addition of the lemon zest seemed to cause the mixture to … weep. Little droplets of water (or, to be precise, an unctuous watery liquid that resembled protoplasm) seemed to seep out of the piping bag, and all over each piped item.

I could go on. They didn’t rise so much as spread. They didn’t crisp up so much as turn into a sticky mess on the wax paper. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph them. My book club girls quite liked the sticky almondy cookies that emerged, but we agreed that they were about as epic a macaron failure as you can get, without burning down the kitchen. I couldn’t even bring myself to take out another 5 eggs and start over. Maybe this month.

So. That’s my Daring Bakers tragedy of the month. Perhaps of the year.

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About Lisa

I live in South Africa with my husband and two small children, doing things, thinking about things and sometimes writing about them.
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2 Responses to The Epicke Tragedye of the Macarons

  1. I weep for you and the train-wreck that was this month’s recipe. Sorry to hear that it was a macaron failure but at least they tasted great which is a little bonus. I think the recipe is an advanced version of the French it uses so little sugar in the meringue and so little icing sugar in the piping mixture (the macaronage) that a small fault turns the batter to milanos cookies. You did complete successfully the challenge remember it is the journey the DBer forums are about not so much the end results, If you want to try again I suggest Helen of Tartelette recipe it is much more user-friendly for 1st timers. I like your honesty. Cheers from Audax in Australia. Also if you go to my blog I have a whole host of tips and hints that might help you master these French cookies.

  2. Pingback: The Epicke Tragedye of the Macarons « Relentless abundance : Manifest My Desire

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