Desserts/Pastries

French Macarons…..The Holy Grail of Pastries

 

Chocolate Macaron with Chocolate Espresso Ganache

 

I finally did it. Or more accurately, WE finally did it.

I, along with thousands of other aspiring bakers, have been meaning to try my hand at the elusive French Macarons. But for some reason or another, I always found myself pushing it off. “Why?”– you ask. Well, as the song goes….

“At first I was afraid, I was petrified……….”

It’s true. These finicky “Cookie Sandwiches” had me extremely intimidated. Simple in the number of ingredients—yet so much room for possible error. The amount of precision required to create them was simply daunting. But ever since I had my first bite of a Macaron from the famed Bouchon Bakery, I’ve been dreaming about them….Macarons—The Holy Grail of Pastries.

I cannot recount how many posts and articles I have read about Macarons to prepare myself for the day that I could muster up the courage to make them. But reading can only do so much—as I highly doubt I could fly a plane by just reading instructions alone! If I wanted to make Macarons, I’d just have to do it! Time to put on my big girl panties (or apron, in this case) and face my fears!

I entered this daunting experiment with my friend Carol and her sister Christine. Both ladies are quite the bakers and I figured it may be better to attack in numbers. In fact, the few days leading before our big baking day were filled with emails back and forth with various recipes and grocery lists. Heck, we were prepared!

I will not bore you all with the nitty gritty details of all 4+ hours we had in the kitchen but I will simply fast forward to the results (and some pointers). After all the stress and the worry, we were pretty darn successful!! We ended up making two types of Macarons that day. The first, a Chocolate Macaron with Chocolate Espresso Ganache (care of Annie Eat’s) and the second, a Lemon Macaron with Lemon Buttercream (care of Tartlette). Our Chocolate Macarons were the highlight of our day, warranting in my opinion a B+. Unfortunately, our Lemon Macarons were not so successful—-actually kind of a hot mess! The shells (or cookie) were suprisingly quite flavorful but just looked terrible….C- . Strangely enough, we did better with our first Macaron (chocolate) then our second batch (lemon)! We’re hoping it’s not beginners luck!

Here are some notes from our Chocolate Macaron with Chocolate Espresso Ganache:

  • We used Almond Meal that was ground with their skins intact (figured it was going to be chocolate so the speckles should be ok). Next time, I’ll try the Almond Meal without skins as the shells were a tad bumpy;
  • We had VERY good success using silpat mats but did not try parchment paper. Hey, why mess with a good thing?;
  • Getting a stiff peak with the egg whites is quite important before incorporating dry ingredients;
  • We tried both piping methods—piping “straight with a point” and as “commas”. The straight point yielded better tops – don’t worry about the points as they flattened anyhow;
  • We piped our shells on the slightly larger side–almost 2.5 inches. I’d recommend a little bit smaller…perhaps 1.5 inches;
  • Cookies were left for about 30-40 minutes to get the “hard shell” before baking
  • We baked each sheet for 9 minutes but it could have gone another 1-2 minutes (unfortunately there is no way to tell if they’re done than taking a bite into it). Also, the Macarons appeared to taste better the next day. “Aging” may possibly assist in texture/consistency;
  • If filling with Ganache, a thicker consistency is much easier to handle;
  • Using a scale to weigh things (as opposed to measuring) makes a difference.

Allowing the batter to rest after piping is imperative to achieve the macaron “crust”

Hallelujah!!! We have FEET!

Chocolate Macaron with Chocolate Espresso Ganache…..these little guys make me smile.


Here are some notes about our Lemon Macaron with Lemon Buttercream:

  • We didn’t weigh out everything but measured with cups, spoons, etc. to see if it made a difference. Turns out, it does.;
  • Egg Whites may not have been the precise measurement (see above);
  • We ground Almond Slivers instead of using Almond Meal and could not get a fine enough grind that resulted in grainy batter;
  • By using Almond Slivers, there potentially could have been more natural oils in the mixture thus causing inconsistency in the batter;
  • The meringue we added was very stiff….perhaps too stiff;
  • We could have used more confectioner sugar in the buttercream.

At this point, they still looked like they had potential…..

AGGGHH!! These aren’t French Macarons—they look like shiny cookies!

Ladies and Gentlemen…..this is what you call a HOT MESS! EEEeekk! (Photo by Carol Le)

I do have to reiterate that although our Lemon Macarons looked a bit crazy, it tasted REALLY yummy! The freshly ground almonds gave a wonderful, “true” almond flavor to the shells. We even considered just calling them a cookie versus a macaron. That way, we’d feel better about it 🙂

Our Little Babies (Photo by Carol Le)

Now, with the first attempt out of the way, I’m happy to report that it wasn’t as ridiculous as I had expected. Tedious, yes…but not impossible. It did help TREMENDOUSLY to have two great gals to work with (a little sparkling wine didn’t hurt either!) to whom we could each bounce back ideas and suggestions to. Thanks Carol and Christine–I’d bake with you two anytime!

The Moral of the Story? I’ll have to quote Julia Child on this one:

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

I’m am sure that other attempts are in my near future 🙂

 

 

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25 thoughts on “French Macarons…..The Holy Grail of Pastries

  1. Big girl panties, LOL.
    I think you did a GREAT job! For a while I said there’s no way i’d ever make macarons, and that i’m quite happy just paying for them but after seeing more and more bloggers attempting them, i am getting closer to trying! i don’t have a food scale though so first i have to get one of those. maybe THEN i will seriously consider making them.

    1. Roxan I was just like you! 🙂 Other bloggers gave me the courage and when I realized that I already owned a scale, I had no more excuses! This sounds like a perfect project for you once you do get a scale though! I’ll be rooting for you 🙂

      Cheers and Happy Friday!

  2. I knew you ladies could do it! Well done. Thanks for the tips and suggestions! I have a feeling no dish is too fearful for you to attack now! Keep up the Julia Child attitude.

    1. Hi Anonymous,May I know how to address you?Crack on mocnraas may due to the oven temperature which is too high or your egg whites has been kept for too long (egg white must not be more then one week old). Rough surface is due to your ground almond which is not fine. What I always do is that I will sift the ground almond first then I’ll weight the amount which I needed. The way to test for the right consistence of the batter is that when you drop some batter onto a flat surface, a stiff peak will appear and disappear after a few second.Hope this will help. 🙂 Do try again.

  3. Yay! Thanks again so much for a great day! I’m so glad we had a good batch to make us happy, and a bad batch to keep us humble. 😉

    1. Hi Linda!
      Thanks so much for the kind words 🙂 I know your Macs will be delightful once you give them a try.

      By the way, your photos from the “How To Make Roasted Peppers” posts were absolutely lovely. The colors were gorgeous!

      🙂

    1. Thank you so much! We were quite proud of the Macs—even the less successful ones as it drives us to try it again 🙂

      Ahhh the “feet” on macs. I honestly think we kind of lucked out a bit. I know that “feet-less” macs can be caused due to the almond meal (not finely ground, amount) and oven heat. But I know that your persistence will pay off 🙂

      Cheers to you 🙂

  4. Well done! They turned out just beautifully. I have been making macs for some time now and yes they are finicky but once you understand the elements of technique and the ingredients, it becomes easier to achieve the pied (feet) and texture. You should join us in the Mactweets Challenge sometime if you haven’t already done so. Fun way to get to know other macaron lovers.

    1. Thank you so much Vivian!

      I just saw the upcoming Mactweets Challenge–HOW FUN! But I think I need a little more practice before I do it 🙂

      By the way, I love the concept of your site—hard too be an island gal when you’re surrounded by endless land 🙂 Hopefully you get back often to visit.

      Cheers to you 🙂

  5. hmmm. i am intrigue!!! never really thought much of macarons but now, after seeing these beauties and reading all the hype about them, i think i must find a good baker and try them. ah, that is, unless you want to send me some?!

    btw, next time you make “ugly” ones that are feet-less, i’d be happy to take them off your hands. : P

  6. The chocolate macaroons look sooo amazing and yummy. I want some now. They are so enticing. I don’t know if I would have the patience to make them but they sure look worth the time and energy. I am glad that at least one of them worked well. I guess you have some work to do with the lemon ones.

  7. wow! I’m so glad I came across your site. i’ve been wanting to try my hands on making these macarons, but I couldn’t find a good recipe.
    I will surely try them ASAP, I will let you know if I am as successful as you were with your first attempt….my bestfriend would be soooo happy if I am. She was the one who requested for me to learn this cookies. Her boss brought macarons from France as a gift to her and she’s been dreaming about them since.
    Thanks!

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