Happy New Year! Albeit five days too late.
Rather than make resolutions (I’ve already failed in my post Christmas resolve to play the guitar daily by playing it zero times), this year, I am setting myself challenges. The first challenge is mighty. This year, I will learn to make macarons. Anyone who’s tried making a macaron will know how much of a challenge this is. I have successfully made them before, and here is some evidence:
I also went on Edd Kimber’s (aka The Boy Who Bakes) Macaron Class a couple of years ago. My macarons were passable then, but even under his expert tutelage, they weren’t perfect. I’ve had multiple tries ever since. My lovely boyfriend fears the days when I make them because, I am ashamed to say, this patisserie delight has reduced me to tears on countless occasions. I’ve peered through the oven door and celebrated the appearance of the pied (feet – that cute ruffle at the bottom), only to find the chuffing things have stuck to the paper, aren’t cooked, then crack…the list is endless. I also got a Thermapen for Christmas, which is what everyone seems to use for cooking. And I’ve discovered that this is because it is excellent and well worth the price.
So, this year, I thought, will be different. I will perfect the macaron…
I’ve made two attempts just this week. This might be an ongoing project. Whilst on holiday in the Cotswolds last year, I bought this book and just haven’t had time until now to give anything a go. I decided that I would make the salted caramel variety first, given the ongoing obsession in the culinary world for this flavour (I’m not knocking it – I love it!). I made the salted caramel first, albeit I didn’t have the full fat crème fraiche the recipe asked for (I forgot to put it on the Tesco order and the local Co-Op only had the half fat). I don’t think it’s as thick as it should be though. Then I made the shells. I mucked about getting the exact temperature in the oven. They looked perfect in the oven – they rose properly, they didn’t crack, they didn’t burn, they looked amazing. The book recommends that the macarons are immediately put on a damp surface (on the baking paper) to stop them cooking and are removed immediately. I tried this. I cried because the bastard things were shells and goo. I threw them in the bin and tried again. This time, I bought fancy baking paper from Lakeland because it is white and not brown and Edd, I seem to recall, said that the white paper was the best stuff. So I carefully made the merengue, poured in the boiling sugar, mixed it with my coloured almond, icing sugar and egg white paste and carefully piped my circles using the template I got from the class, dropped them on the surface to get the air out, left them – didn’t poke them, prod them, look at them – for an hour, put them in my carefully heated oven, set the timer for thirteen minutes and…bloody things still hadn’t cooked. No matter, another two minutes baking with me peering through the oven door and…still not coming off the paper. Another two minutes. And another. I decide that if they’re not cooked now, they never will be and bravely take them out of the oven.
I decided not to do the water thing this time and took them straight off the tray. I was still left with the gooey centre on the paper. I did not cry this time. I decided that the egg would be cooked (I’m terrified of poisoning myself) and would eat them anyway. So I chugged on, my heart breaking a little more with each blob of macaron left on my fancy baking paper and left them to cool:
So I filled them anyway and took a bite and, dear lord were they delicious!
I have been trying to figure out why I lose most of the middle to the baking process and found this excellent website. It is a great diagnostic tool for those, like me, who are obsessed with creating the perfect macaron.
And what did I learn? It seems, like most things that are complicated or particularly skilled, which I think we can all agree French Patisserie most certainly is, opinion is divided about what how it should be done and how to solve problems. My book said to immediately take the macarons off the tray, but the website says otherwise. So, next week I’ll try leaving them on the paper to cool a bit. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll start experimenting with the oven temperature. And if anyone else has some suggestions, I’ll gladly take some advice! In the meantime, I think it’s time to eat another macaron…