Okay okay... it's been like, forever. I apologize and also hope that some people are still subscribed to this/still check it every so often to see if I've made any new posts. I promise I am making a comeback. Things were really busy for a while and then I just got out of blogging and had a hard time getting back into it, but I'm going to try harder this time.
Anyway what better way to make my comeback than macarons?
If you don't know what macarons are, do a Google image search. You will likely come up with lots of GORGEOUS pictures, like this one (source: chantelguertin.com):
Truly, macarons are one of the most photographed pastries. They are also one of the most feared pastries, according to what the internet tells me. Only attempted by the most accomplished of bakers and even then, often resulting in failure.
After hearing about how difficult they were to make I kind of decided against ever trying them, but after eating a lot of them from Wild Serendipity Foods at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market and starting to really love these little almond-meringue confections, I started wondering if they might be possible. Then a couple weeks ago I stumbled across this post from Stella of Bravetart, linked from my favourite food blog The Kitchn. This led me to Stella's other posts about macarons and the comments of her posts where once-afraid readers attempted macarons using her recipe to (eventual) great success.
So then I was like, "I HAVE TO DO THIS."
Honestly, I don't really know what happened but I have never been hit with a baking obsession like this before. I basically started feeling like I wouldn't be satisfied with my life until I had a) tried and eventually b) mastered making macarons. Being at work and unable to make macarons, I scoured blog posts of amateur bakers' failed attempts, trying to figure out what went wrong for them. They clearly had mixed too much, or didn't measure properly, or didn't bake long enough. I could totally do this.
We're going to Hawaii on Saturday (!!!) but today, after getting up early, cleaning the bathrooms, and doing pretty much all the laundry in our house, I decided I needed to make a small batch. Just an attempt.
I used the Bravetart recipe, subbing hazelnuts for almonds because Stella says any kind of nuts work. I weighed out one egg white in a bowl (and yes, I made Brahm go buy me a kitchen scale while I was at work so I could be ready to make my first batch of macarons whenever the urge hit) and scaled Stella's recipe based on 31 g of egg whites (it worked out to about 1/5 of her recipe). I don't have a stand mixer so I used the whisk attachment on my new Breville immersion blender for the meringue (which did take about 10 minutes), and then the food processor attachment on the Breville to make the hazelnut flour. PS I LOVE this Breville thing and I haven't even used it for the reason I bought it yet (pureeing soups).
Following Stella's recipe, I mixed the macaronage to what seemed like the right consistency. Then I used a Ziploc (perhaps committing one of the cardinal sins of macarons, but I didn't want to run to the store) to pipe 13 rounds onto a Silpat. The last couple rounds definitely got "re-mixed" in the "piping bag" as I squeezed out the last bit of batter so I was expecting them to be the worst ones. Turns out they were the only ones that even started developing a hint of the "feet" that are so important to proper macarons - next time, I know I need to mix more.
Below: before baking. The few at the front of the picture were the least-mixed, and were the ones that started to grow feet a bit by the end. But were also slightly undercooked.
After baking... all cracked. Sorry for the bad phone picture. I should have dug out the SLR for more detailed photos.
The final product - hazelnut-vanilla macarons with Nutella filling.
My oven was running hot, but it was also seeming to have trouble going down, according to the temperature probe I had in it. So I tossed them in anyway and 7 minutes later they all had lovely cracks running through their surfaces - apparently a sure sign of a too-hot oven. So then I turned the oven down the amount that it seemed to be running hot, which then made it too cold... anyway. I need to calibrate this oven before my next attempt.
BUT! They still sort of turned out. They didn't get super flat like the ones I saw on some blogs and a couple of the ones that got the most mixing had the makings of feet. I didn't turn the pan which is recommended, and I noticed the row at the front of the oven was slightly undercooked, but the middle row seemed to be cooked perfect. And they taste amazing so really, who cares?
I think my first attempt at making macarons was a success, even though they turned out less-than-perfect. I figured out a few things I need to change for next time (oven temperature consistency, mix more, turn the pan, pipe from a real piping bag). My plan is to continue making tiny one-egg batches until I get my technique down. And I currently have 6 little French pastries in my fridge that, while they may not look much like macarons, most importantly TASTE like macarons.