Sunday, July 29, 2012

Macaron Madness!

When it comes to baking, there are some goodies that are just notoriously hard. Of course of anything I could make, these things are the ones that I want to try the most, just to see if I can make these "impossible" treats. I guess I just think if I can make these, I can make anything!

One of these "impossibilities" is, of course, macarons. Every dessert blogger worth talking about has made them at one time or another. I'm no exception, with the difference that my first time was a failure, so I never really told anyone about it and I never tried again. Until now.

My failed first attempt at macarons.
The flavour was ok, but the texture was all wrong!
My friend Jacqui from Fashion & Pho and I occasionally have baking days, which usually end up being pretty successful. You might remember such delicious Jacqui and Jenny creations as our Baklava, and of course the infamous Gingerbread Mausoleum. Obviously with such past achievements, when Jacqui suggested that we make macarons, it seemed like a recipe for success!

First things first, we had to dress the part. Jacqui brought these fabulous frilly pink aprons for us to wear, complete with pink lipstick. The aprons look really girly from a distance, but if you look closely, this is the pattern!

We started with this recipe from Not So Humble Pie (on a recommendation from another baking friend, thanks W.B.!) but the only problem was that we didn't have a scale, so we ended up making some educated guesses on the amounts. I know guessing is usually a recipe for disaster when you're baking, but it worked anyway! We also added about 1/2 tsp of raspberry extract, to go with the pink colour we chose.

Jacqui totally looking the part of the 1950's baking housewife,
complete with frilly apron and pearls!
After I'd whipped the egg whites and added the sugar, food colouring, and flavouring, we folded the dry ingredients that Jacqui had mixed (and spent a loooooong time sifting) into it. This was weird, because it was almost like they stayed separate for the first several folds. I don't know how to explain that any better, but it was strange.

Then I piped it out onto the silicon baking mat that I bought at home, which Jacqui cut into pieces that would fit my two small baking pans.

The only problem here was that the pans are far too small to fit all the macarons we made, so I piped more out onto parchment paper, but I wasn't very prepared and I ran out of parchment before we had them all piped out! We couldn't just leave it and pipe more after we'd baked the first ones, because they have to sit for an hour or so before you bake them. So Jacqui went searching on the internet, and came up with the fact that cupcake liners can be used instead of parchment.

So that's what we did, but they were far less successful than the others due to the papers moving around while I was trying to pipe them. We ended up with some pretty funny shapes!

When we had them all piped out, we counted them so we'd know just how many we had. The recipe says it makes about 100 halves, and strangely, when we counted we discovered that we had EXACTLY 100!
After leaving them to sit for an hour so they can form a kind of crust over the top, we baked them for about 15 minutes. One of the signs of a good macaron is a "foot" that it grows on the bottom as it's baking. If you look at the picture of my first attempt, you'll see that there's no foot, so you can imagine my excitement when I looked into the oven after about 5 minutes and saw our macarons growing feet!

Unfortunately, although the funny shaped ones did grow feet, they were not exactly picture perfect!

Also, in case you were wondering, cupcake liners do NOT make a good substitute for parchment. Most of these stuck to the paper pretty badly.

So, after all of the baking was done, it was time to fill them! We chose to make two different filings: a basic chocolate ganache with a bit of hazelnut flavouring, and a lemon buttercream.

Jacqui's about to sample the first one, filled with chocolate!

We probably should have let the ganache cool down more before we filled them, because it was still too runny and we couldn't put much in, but we just couldn't wait!

When we had all of the nice looking ones filled, we looked at the deformed ones and the amount of fillings we had left, and decided they didn't need to be sandwich cookies, and that they didn't need to be shared with anyone else. We put both chocolate hazelnut filling AND lemon buttercream on each one, and then concluded that we should have done that with ALL of them, because it was soooooo good!

We were pretty happy with our macaron attempt. The dangerous thing is that now we know we can do it, and the possibilities for flavour combinations are ENDLESS!

Check out Jacqui's blog post about our macaron-making day HERE.

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