Friday, November 9, 2012

Macarons and Macawrongs

I'll let everyone know from the start that this post does not contain a recipe. Why? Because even though it works, it's not a fool-proof recipe (you'll see what I mean soon), and there are plenty of very, very good recipes by those who get it right every time online. Brave Tart for one has a great range of recipes, and tips, and advice when things go pear-shaped (or is it almond-shaped instead?).

I've had terrible luck with macarons in the past with disastrous results most occasions. Many things have been to blame: coarse almond meal, egg yolks contaminating the egg whites and ovens that are older than me. These tiny little, extremely fussy and petulant biscuits were not going to get the better of me, so here I was trying them again.

The story starts of fairly happily: I still had some Almond Meal left over from a package sent to me by Lucky Nuts so didn't have to worry about sourcing some, or worse, grinding almonds myself. I'm one of those poor people with insufficient bench space to get a food processor so you can imagine how much pain I would have gone through if I'd gone down the latter path.
Lucky Nuts Oven Roasted Almond Meal
Following the Italian method of making macarons requires slightly more effort at the start, but is supposed to lead to a more stable, and smoother macaron. Given past experience with the French method, I was willing to give it a try. I also stuck with an almost basic recipe, adding only a small amount of food colouring to perk things up a bit.

Boiling Sugar
The resulting meringue was perhaps slightly under-whipped, but I didn't think this would be an issue. Or rather, I didn't think I could spend any more time with the hand beater before my arms fell off.

What was more of an issue appear to be my non-smooth almond paste, which led to an un-smooth batter. Not to worry though, I soldiered on, and things worked out - in the end.

Macaron Batter
The first batch of macarons were piped onto a silicon baking sheet, which are usually guaranteed not to stick (you can see where this is going can't you?).

Macarons Piped - Batch 1
Pop them in the oven for 14 minutes, pull them out, and they should come off after easily cooling right? Not the case it would seem - they stuck to the bottom like their lives depended on it.

Macawrongs - Batch 1
All that was left were the miserable shells that were a shadow of their former self. So what was to blame? Not enough oven time? Not enough resting time? Inconsistent batter? It could have been anything.

So I tried piping batch 2 on baking paper.

Macarons in the Oven - Batch 2
These are starting to look better! No feet, but I can live with that. Pulling them out of the oven though left a crime scene reminiscent of a mini-earthquake.

Macawrongs - Batch 2 
Cracked tops, cracked bottoms, cracked everything. At least the bases didn't come off this time. So I bumped up the oven heat just a little bit, and let the piped macarons rest a little longer for batch 3. 

These. Worked. 

Macarons - Third Time Lucky
Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you are. They're nowhere near perfect, with bumps on their head and missing feet, but at least they aren't dismal failures. I'd still like to figure out exactly why these worked seeing as I used the same oven and the same batter for all four batches (and for the record, batch 4 worked as well). 

Macarons with Homemade Nutella Filling
Nothing like the sweet taste of success. This could be the start of a very long baking journey.

Thanks to Lucky Nuts and Nuffnang for providing the almond meal. This is part of a series of posts sponsored by Nuffnang.