Wherein the third time is not the charm.

24dec09-8.1

It’s Christmas Eve! And we all know what that means.

Time to plug in the lights on the Christmas tree, put on some Nat King Cole and spend the day baking in my PJs. That is, time for the annual shitfest that is my attempt to make macarons. Let the total failure begin!

I hope I can get this post out before I curl up under a blanket to weep softly to myself as I ponder the depths of my ineptitude.

24dec09-1

Here I go, carefully measuring my ingredients to the GRAM. Almond meal, check.

(Now would be your time to leave a comment about how I should grind my own nuts. You know what? Go grind your own goddamn nuts. That’s right, I went there.)

24dec09-2

Confectioners’ sugar, check.

(Now would be the time when you leave a comment asking whether I used organic confectioners’ sugar, because did I know that mass-market confectioners’ sugar has corn starch in it, and that could affect the finished macaron? To which I say, yes I know, and I’ll starch YOUR corn, and you can see how peeved I am at my third consecutive macaron failure because THAT DIDN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE as an insult. I’m sorry, you deserve better.)

24dec09-3

Freshly ground spices for eggnog-flavored macarons, check.

Egg whites and sugar being whipped, check.

(Here’s the part where you leave a comment asking did I age the egg whites? No, I didn’t. You know what else I didn’t do? WEIGH THE GODDAMN EGG WHITES. Because if you tell me “90 grams, or approximately 3 egg whites,” I am going to be lazy and use 3 egg whites. Note to recipe writers: assume that people are lazy and pay no attention to detail. I assume everyone is like this, yes? Yes? Just say yes and we can move on.)

No, wait, I’m not ready to move on. Let me just say that the last time I tried macarons, I DID age my egg whites and DID measure them to the gram, and I still failed spectacularly. I failed in multiple ways using the SAME BATCH OF BATTER. So I thought this year I’d try more of a “the hell with it” attitude to see if that made any difference. Which it did, just not a good one.

24dec09-4

Now we come to the macaronage, which I always enjoy because (1) it’s a fun word that sounds like it’s made up and (2) I’m pretty sure that this is usually the point of failure, although I’m willing to lay some blame at the feet of my non-measured egg whites.

<sob>…at the feet. Feet are exactly what my macarons didn’t have. Well, along with any other kind of structural normality.

The macaronage seemed to go fairly well; I mixed, I folded, I had a batter that “ran like magma,” although I am making something of an assumption here because I have no personal experience with magma. It was more “liquid hot magma” than “cooling yet still running magma;”  I’m not sure what kind of magma I was supposed to be going for here because the descriptions never got that specific. Still, a dollop tested on a plate flattened out into a well-behaved little disc. Huzzah!

Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I’d say THIS was the point of failure: my assumption that I’d done everything right and would end up with perfect macarons. These macarons were victims of my own hubris; I see that now.

24dec09-5

I poured the magma into my trusty pastry bag, a gallon sized ziploc fitted with a 3/4-inch diameter hole in the bottom left corner. Because I take my macarons SERIOUSLY.

I either picked the wrong sized hole or my batter was too thin, because when I picked the bag up to start piping all the batter immediately ran out into the glass I’d been using to hold the bag. Luckily, these pastry bags come in boxes of 15, so I took another, cut a much smaller hole and poured the batter into THAT bag. Whereupon it immediately started running out again, but I was not about to transfer the (very, very sticky) batter a third time; it was starting to feel a little too much like the Monty Python and the Holy Grail sketch with the king who kept building castles in the swamp: “The third one burned down, fell over, and THEN sank into the swamp.”

24dec09-6

With some careful bag-wrangling, I was able to pipe the batter into 2-inch rounds that were actually fairly round-ish. The tops flattened nicely, although the batter seemed to spread a little thinner than seemed appropriate. But no matter! I had succeeded at macaronage! They would surely puff up and settle onto perfect little feet once in the oven.

I left the trays to sit on the counter so the shells could harden a little, and sat on the sofa in front of the Christmas tree to pat myself on the back. Premature congratulations, that’s what I’m all about. Part of my fatal flaw. I’m like a tragic literary hero, except my tragedies are very minor ones

24dec09-7

Behold tray number one.

  • They somehow spread in the oven to become LESS rather than MORE circular.
  • They have only the most rudimentary of feet. Proto-feet, if you will.
  • They stuck firmly to the parchment, even after I tried the water-under-the-parchment trick.

Sadly, they did taste good; I know this because just maybe I used an icing spatula to scrape one or two off the parchment and ate them. So it was all the more upsetting that they were so very, very pathetic.

Macarons are a harsh mistress.

24dec09-8

Behold tray number two.

I don’t even know what to say about tray number two; it didn’t seem to go wrong in any of the traditional macaron missteps. The cookies were round, and that is the best thing that can be said about them. No puff at all, no feet, far too crispy – and this from the same batter and oven that produced the first tray.

It wouldn’t be an annual Christmas Eve macaron failure if I didn’t fail in multiple ways, I suppose; it is my hallmark.

Still, homemade macarons can suck me. Next year I’m making a buche de noel.

What am I saying? I’ll do this again next year, and continue to nurture my own bitterness. Because I may seem to be taking this well, but I am bitter; oh yes, I am. Anyone who can do this properly has clearly made a deal with Satan himself.

Merry Fricking Christmas.

24 thoughts on “Wherein the third time is not the charm.

  1. Sorry to hear about your abject failure. I have never tried making macarons, because I am afraid of failing. So I’m not qualified to even comment. That said, maybe it’s your oven? Either way, Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  2. An impressive attempt, I wouldn’t dare try this. I didn’t know they were supposed to have feet! I went with paying obscene amounts of money to a french woman for my macarons today. Have a Merry Christmas!

  3. I think the macarons quiver in fear, having beheld your black, black heart. That’s where the fail comes from. Merry Christmas!

  4. WTF is up with this macaron obsession? Do I want to taste one? Hell yeah. Will I ever?Probably not, at least not anywhere near this god-freaking-forsaken wilderness that is East Central Illinois. In the meantime, I’ll just make some peppermint meringues and slap some chocolate frosting between them and call it close enough.

    Merry Fricking Christmas to you too!

  5. Not sure if this link is helpful or not, but here ya go… I’ll be trying these next Christmas. Because it seems that if I can’t add another million dozen cookies to my list, I’ll weep on Christmas Eve, concerned that our four guests will be sad at the miserable selection of cookies.

    http://joepastry.com/index.php?cat=171

  6. i can’t do ‘em either. your photos could have been taken during my last (final?) attempt to make macarons.

    screw it. i’m-a make a pie instead. pie crust, i can make.

    merry christmas, thanks for the inspiration and laughs this year.

  7. I admire your persistence, Michelle. I would absolutely be saying screw it, I’m making chocolate chip cookies and anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss my ass! Oh, who are we kidding? I’d be obsessing over my failure too; I can’t let go of a recipe that I can’t master. My personal nemesis is making homemade candy; I never seem to get the chocolate coating quite right. I’ve tried many times, but I never get my coating exactly the way it should be.

  8. i can honestly say that i would’ve written them up to a lost cause after the first failure and gone to a bakery to get some. i’ve never heard of a macaroon that doesn’t contain coconut. i guess i learn a new thing everyday.

  9. “…made a deal with Satan himself.”
    And suddenly I realized there is just one typo between Satan and Santa…
    Coincidence?

  10. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a frickin’ inexplicable macaroon crisis! Personally, I experienced horrific failures with sea salt and cacao nib shortbreads and with perishke. One went all thin, crumbly and runny while the other puffed into a gigantic failure of michelin man proportions in the oven. Ah well, ’tis the season.

    Merry Freakin’ Christmas!

  11. I burnt the Heath bar cookies. Fortunately, the panful I didn’t burn were still not very good. And the pralines and fudge and chocolate bark were kickass awesome, so screw the freakin’ cookies, yes?

    Besides, it’s Merry Christmas, not Merry Macaron.

  12. I totally applaud your attemptage (kinda like macaronage) at baking these. It’s something I
    wouldn’t try – I know my limits.
    However, I do know that maybe you should try pouring the macaron batter into the ziploc bag first, THEN cutting the hole. Just a thought.

    Hope you had a wonderful and delicious Christmas!

  13. You know, if this makes you feel better, my brother is a baker. Makes marvelous bread and stollan and any other baking good. However, he cannot make macaroons. When he tries, he fails.

  14. Welcome to my world, any baking item that needs to rise. Key lime pie? Great. Pecan pie? Great. Cake? Um, not so much. Delicious, but solid as a rock. So I feel you on the frustration of following all instructions and still having no idea what went wrong. Oh, well. Taste is the most important and you did say they tasted good.

  15. Ha! My husband tried convincing me to make cookies for a week before Christmas and I proudly did not do it. I bought him a box of store bought sugar cookies and told him to shut up. I was still on strike after killing myself for Thanksgiving.

    God punished me with stomach flu right after dinner. I’m feeling much better now but am not remotely interested in any of the spectacular clam chowder I made yesterday.

  16. I haven’t summoned the courage yet to attempt French macarons. Or even meringues. My (adult) daughter just baked her second batch ever of macarons and she got feet! I’m thrilled that she likes to bake as much as I do, but I never thought she would be BETTER than me. Wait, maybe she’s not. We don’t know yet because I haven’t tried making macarons. Maybe I never will now. She didn’t grind her own nuts or use organic confectioner’s sugar. I don’t think she even has a kitchen scale. She did let the egg whites sit out for hours. Here, you judge for yourself: http://www.twitpic.com/v85tv And my 12-yr-old granddaughter makes chocolate truffles. Guess I better get used to not being the best baker in the family anymore. Thanks for sharing, Michelle. And Happy New Year!

  17. Merry fricking Christmas, everyone! I feel your pain, as I made unspeakably good Florentine cookies and forgot to grease the waxed paper which I used because someone, who shall remain nameless (and alive, ha) simply because noone will admit to it, threw out my silpats. So they stuck to the waxed paper, and all the powers of darkness serve not to unfuse them. Believe me, I tried. Also, I haven’t had to outsource the grinding of the nuts in years! I am, after all, a professional!

  18. My grandmother used to make award winning pies and pie crusts. She said that nothing ruined baking, especially pastry so fast as following a recipe. Her method was to use the right ingredients, but to judge the FEEL of the thing; she said that no ingredient list could compensate for how hot the the day was, what the humidity was, the differences in individual eggs, whether it was hard or soft flour.
    In other words, it isn’t your fault. EVER.
    and i really wish i had paid more attention.

  19. Even though I speak French and know what “buche de Noel” translates to, it STILL sounds rude. Like maybe you could call someone a buche de Noel if they get particularly hard to deal with around the holidays.

  20. Oh, holy crap! This post is just too damn funny! I have had my own macaron failure and have yet to attempt them again. They are elusive little suckers. But the day I get those feet I’ll be jumping for joy.

  21. Pingback: Conquering the Macaron « Artsy Fartsy

  22. I tried the “magma” recipe last night, first time attempting french macarons… And they came out perfect. Feet, crust, chew factor, all spot on to macarons we had in Paris last September. I just wanted to say that. Thanks.

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