Today I decided to make French macarons.
“Wow, aren’t those really hard to make?” my friend mentioned when I told her of my plan. I told her the recipe looked easy. It did. I was using a UK recipe and bought UK ingredients — how could I go wrong? Well, let me count the ways. But first, this:
Read on for more about my affront to French pastries.
As I mentioned, I was following a UK recipe. I had previously had trouble following a US recipe with UK ingredients, so I found a good UK recipe for macarons. It required 175 g of icing sugar, so I bought the 500 g box — things were going great! Until I actually sat down to follow the recipe and realized I had no idea how to measure 175 g of sugar. So I had to use online calculators to determine how many cups 175 g is. That was probably the first mistake, since I’m not entirely sure the calculations were accurate.
Then the recipe required me to “whirl” the powdered sugar and ground almonds in a food processor. I don’t have a food processor. So I thought I’d just sift them instead… except I don’t have a sifter. And since they don’t sell food processors or sifters at the 99p store, I settled for this get-up — a grease splatter shield. It actually did a very good job sifting.
Then came the real fun part — beating the egg whites. My lovely boat motor hand immersion mixer is with my mom in the states because of the stupid voltage difference, so I had to beat the eggs with a whisk. A lot. It said to beat them until “soft peaks” formed. So I kept beating, switching hands, but no peaks formed. Bubbles did, but no peaks. The recipe clearly said to whisk to soft peaks, but I decided to amend the recipe to “whisk until hand hurts,” so I stopped when the meringue looked like this:
I’m going to call that reason number 3 why my macarons didn’t turn out. I folded the sugar and almond mixture into the meringue until it had a “ribbon-like consistency as it falls from the spatula.”
Close enough. (I added peppermint flavouring and green dye, in case you were wondering about the magical colour change).
Then I piped the mixture onto baking sheets. Once again I was missing a crucial material — baking paper — so I used aluminum foil instead. I also misjudged the runniness of the mixture. Before they were even in the oven the macarons started to run together. Not a good sign.
This is where problem number I’ve-lost-count happened. The macarons took up two baking trays. They are each supposed to bake for 15 minutes. But, you see, my oven has this weird thing where it only likes to work for 20 minutes. I have no idea why, but it does. So if I tried to bake the trays separately, the second one would only get 5 minutes before the oven shut off. So I decided to put them in at the same time. Easy fix! What could go wrong?
Well, the obvious, obviously. This:
That’s right, the macarons on top burned, while the ones on the bottom didn’t cook. I left them in for several more minutes and they finished, but were still thin and run together. I scraped what I could off the trays (eating all the broken ones, a decision Wii Fit is probably not going to like) and made the butter-sugar filling, because when I start something I like to finish it, even if that something is burnt, broken, flat sorry-excuses-for-macarons.
Here’s an aerial view of the finished product. The burnt ones look like hamburgers:
And that, friends, is why you don’t bake recipes in grams with measuring cups, use a splatter screen instead of a food processor, stop beating eggs just because your hand hurts, pipe your macarons close together, or try to bake two trays on top of each other.
Macarons are best left to Ladurée.