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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.