December 9: Deconstructed Cherry Macarons

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French Macarons

(from The Tasty)

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the powdered sugar, almond flour, and ½ teaspoon of salt, and process on low speed, until extra fine. Sift the almond flour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.
  2. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt with an electric hand mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the granulated sugar until fully incorporated. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without anything falling out).
  3. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the food coloring and beat until just combined.
  4. Add about ⅓ of the sifted almond flour mixture at a time to the beaten egg whites and use a spatula to gently fold until combined. After the last addition of almond flour, continue to fold slowly until the batter falls into ribbons and you can make a figure 8 while holding the spatula up.
  5. Transfer the macaron batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
  6. Place 4 dots of the batter in each corner of a rimmed baking sheet, and place a piece of parchment paper over it, using the batter to help adhere the parchment to the baking sheet.
  7. Pipe the macarons onto the parchment paper in 1½-inch (3-cm) circles, spacing at least 1-inch (2-cm) apart.
  8. Tap the baking sheet on a flat surface 5 times to release any air bubbles.
  9. Let the macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until dry to the touch.
  10. Preheat the oven to 300˚F (150˚C).
  11. Bake the macarons for 17 minutes, until the feet are well-risen and the macarons don’t stick to the parchment paper.
  12. Transfer the macarons to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

So I like to keep it real with all of you. I’m not a professional baker. I’m a writer. And since I’m not a professional baker, sometimes, a little batter must fall.

Yes, there was a baking fail. And that’s okay. Because one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And a variety of other cliches about things not going right.

I made the exact same recipe from last year, the exact same way, and the results were not the same. Here’s a pictorial account of my cookie for the day:

And after doing everything right, this is what I got:

Macarons with feet that were too big. They still tasted great, but looked hideous.

Which is when I invented the Deconstructed Macaron. I tell ya, if this was a real thing before I coined it, you’d be paying double for one at your local bakery. It’s like when the Cronut was invented. Or penicillin.

Instead of going into the center of my misshaped macarons, the buttercream I made (butter, powdered sugar, cherry juice, cherry butter) got ladled (yes, ladled) on top.

And though they are ugly–and they are–they are still delicious. But make no mistake; they are ugly. Not even this Spode Christmas plate could pretty them up.

But that’s okay. You heard it here first. Deconstructed Macarons were invented in 2019 by a writer in Chicagoland!

December 6: Blueberry Macarons

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So, I’m a home baker. That means I’ve had no professional training in baking and everything I know about cookies comes from books, my mom, my friends, websites, and youtube videos. I also screw up a lot, which may be what you are here to see. I keep it real. Maybe that’s what you like about my yearly project. 

Everyone needs goals, right? I have made macarons in the past, and they were not very pretty. On my sad baking bucket list, I have Make actual good-looking and tasting French Macarons. (I also have Get ever color and shape of sprinkle ever made, but that one is still in progress.) I thought 2018 was the best time to check off that Macaron one off my list. 

This is what they looked like last time, about 4-5 years ago. 

Now, I will continue to keep it real: I had to make this twice. The first one was dyed Cookie Monster blue and was turning out just fine, until the very end. I threw them away before I filled them. I had pictures, but I deleted them because my phone is at capacity. They were also too salty, and later I discovered why. 

So I tried again. 

For French Macarons, you need almond flour or finely ground almond meal. I watched this Youtube video and followed it step by step, like I did for the first batch. But I also checked out their (Tasty 101) actual written recipe too, and realized there was too much salt in my first batch. I fixed that. 

This is about half of my sugar and almond flour mixture.

They suggest you put your sugar and almond flour in a food processor and pulse it at least 10 times, which I did. If you do this, know that my food processor is a mini-one which is why it’s filled nearly to the top. They also suggest that you sift it at least twice. I did this too. I was determined to get this right. 

The wet ingredients are egg whites and sugar. The video didn’t say so, but I know that Macarons need caster sugar, which is special and very fine sugar. I bought a jar of it. And when I went to open it, I couldn’t do it. That’s pretty rare for me. I tried for 15 minutes to open it. I ran it under hot water. I put it between my legs and used both arms to try and get it open. And when I had pretty much exhausted myself, I decided to take a knife and stab it open. 

Somehow, I did not get tetanus. 

That worked. It’s like what I tell my students: work smarter, not harder. 

Since I dyed the first batch and it looked like Smurf-icide, I decided to not dye this one and let the color of the blueberry filling be the beautiful color in this batch. I used fresh blueberries and made a buttercream filling, and the color was just gorgeous. More on this soon. 

When it was all folded together properly (but not too much), I filled a pastry bag and piped my macarons on to a baking sheet. After that, I dropped the tray four or five times, as you are supposed to to make sure that all the air bubbles make their way to the top and release. I let them rest for an hour, as I was supposed to do. 

While that was going, I went back to my blueberry filling. I started it with the first batch and when things went awry there, I stopped. I put a cup of blueberries, a cup of sugar, and a cup of water on the stove and let it boil and come down, simmering for about 10 minutes. I wanted it to be thick like jelly, but it was still a little runny. After it cooled, I put it through a metal mesh colander to get the skins and chunks out, so all I had left was beautiful blueberry puree. 

Ingredients: blueberries, sugar, water, and a teaspoon of lemon juice.

I found a recipe for how to make fresh blueberry buttercream online and followed the instructions. A very long story later, I had purple frosting that tasted like butter…and butter alone. This was turning out to be a comedy of errors. The Macaron gods were laughing at me. 

After a few four-letter words and a tv show later, I summoned the gumption to try again. I got out more blueberries, sugar, and water. I made my puree again. And this time, I winged it. I put just a rubber spatula dollop of the purple butter-tasting butter cream into a bowl, added my new puree, and whisked until my anger had dissolved. I also added a whole bunch of powdered sugar to make it the right consistency. I mean, what good is fresh blueberry buttercream if you can’t taste the blueberries?

I mean…look how beautiful! And this batch actually tasted like blueberries!

By then, it was time to put my macarons in the oven. When the first batch didn’t go well, I went online to see a macaron trouble-shooting guide. Since mine did not develop feet the first time, I started there. Feet are an important part of the macaron. I figured out that my oven was too cool, which I kind of knew but didn’t officially know, so I upped my temp to 310. 

Those are macaron feet! I did it!

There was success!

I filled them and called my kids around to admire the beauty of my nearly perfect macarons. They feigned minimal interest and asked if they could have one.

Hell no. Do you know how long these took me?! 

French Macarons

(from The Tasty)

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the powdered sugar, almond flour, and ½ teaspoon of salt, and process on low speed, until extra fine. Sift the almond flour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.
  2. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt with an electric hand mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the granulated sugar until fully incorporated. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without anything falling out).
  3. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the food coloring and beat until just combined.
  4. Add about ⅓ of the sifted almond flour mixture at a time to the beaten egg whites and use a spatula to gently fold until combined. After the last addition of almond flour, continue to fold slowly until the batter falls into ribbons and you can make a figure 8 while holding the spatula up.
  5. Transfer the macaron batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
  6. Place 4 dots of the batter in each corner of a rimmed baking sheet, and place a piece of parchment paper over it, using the batter to help adhere the parchment to the baking sheet.
  7. Pipe the macarons onto the parchment paper in 1½-inch (3-cm) circles, spacing at least 1-inch (2-cm) apart.
  8. Tap the baking sheet on a flat surface 5 times to release any air bubbles.
  9. Let the macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until dry to the touch.
  10. Preheat the oven to 300˚F (150˚C).
  11. Bake the macarons for 17 minutes, until the feet are well-risen and the macarons don’t stick to the parchment paper.
  12. Transfer the macarons to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

December 15: Raspberry Macarons

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So, I feel like I’m cheating.

I always want to do a different kind of cookie for 24 straight days. Key word there is “different.” But here’s the thing: I f-ing love macarons. Like, it should be illegal how much I love them. Like, it may be a felony in 48 states.

I made macarons again, with the same general recipe for the cookie, except I added a whole ‘lot of pink, blue, red, and burgundy food coloring to come up with a raspberry color.

I have no pictures of this process. If you need a refresher, see December 13’s post.

Now the filling was different on this one. I took a cup of raspberries and put them in a saucepan with a little water and about a tablespoon of sugar. I brought it to a boil until my mixture was almost like jelly. I let it cool a little and instead of straining the seeds out, I put it in the blender and pureed the s-t out of it.

In Old Trusty, I put in 1/4 c butter and whipped it up, then added some powdered sugar and the raspberry mixture. I mixed that up too. And then added more powdered sugar. And more. And more. It took a lot this time to get it to the right consistency–almost 3/4 of a bag.

Went through the same process with the cookies as before, and when I was done, the patron saint of raspberry macaron’s blessed me with a good batch of cookies.

They are amazing.

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(See recipe from December 13.)

Cookies today: 36

Cookies this year: 710

December 13: Lemon Macarons

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A year ago, Disgruntled Husband and I spent three days in New York City, which was about as wonderful and magnificent as I ever imagined it would be. At the bakery across from where they film the Today Show, I bought some macarons, which were bright and pricey. Oh Sweet Lord, they were about the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

Fast forward to this November, where I had a hankering for said cookie. I tried to make them, and while they tasted like a macaron, they certainly didn’t look like it. I was determined to try again.

Thanks to an Amazon Prime account, I obtained caster sugar, almond meal, and a macaron silicone pan liner (more on that disappointment later). Today was the day I decided to give it another shot.

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I separated my eggs, keeping the yolks for another recipe I have my eye on. I put four egg whites and the caster sugar inside Old Trusty.

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While those whipped up for 10 minutes or so, I got to work on my dry mixture…powdered sugar, almond meal, and salt…sifted twice.

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(What this picture doesn’t show is that I had to switch to a metal strainer because the use of my dominant hand would be something I’d like to keep this holiday season. This is a heavy mixture, and I discovered quickly that I couldn’t pull the handle that many times.)

I threw out the big pieces of almond meal that were too big to go through my sifting mechanism.

This video was very helpful in my macaron-making:

I folded in my dry mixture as instructed.

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And forced it through a pastry bag and plopped drops on my silicone macaron sheet, and then on another pan but on parchment paper.

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I gently threw the pans down to eliminate any air bubbles. Then I decided that wasn’t violent enough and dropped them a few times from about five feet off my kitchen table.

After 20 minutes, I took the trays out of the oven. And then cursed Amazon.

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No 5 star rating for you.

But I had a helper in disposing of these cookies. My husband said he was glad these didn’t come off the tray because his original plan was to just poke a hole in some cookies and declare them “broken.”

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For the filling, I used another recipe which was pretty straight-forward. No crazy ingredients required. However, it called for only 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, which we *all* know by now is not enough. I’m not sure how much actually went in, but I know it was the entire zest of one lemon.

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I then put that through another pastry bag and squirted my lemony-goodness on a cookie, topping it with another. I should have had more restraint so these would look prettier, but come on, it’s lemon filling. If a little is good, more is better. Right Christina?

(We have a theory about lemon curd, as in the Trader Joe’s variety is good with just a spoon and elicits pornographic sounds from our mouths.)

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They may not be pretty, but they are good.

Macaron recipe (from https://www.howtocookthat.net/public_html/easy-macaron-macaroon-recipe/)

French Macaron Recipe Ingredients

4 large egg whites (or 5 small) 140g (4.94 ounces)
1/3 cup or 70g (2.47 ounces) caster sugar [*US cups 1/3 cup plus 1 tsp]
1 1/2 cups or 230g (8.11 ounces) pure icing sugar [US cups 1 1/2 cups plus 4 tsp] OR 1 3/4 cups 230g (8.11 ounces) icing mixture [US cups 1 3/4 cups plus 4 tsp] 1 cup or 120g (4.23 ounces) almond meal [US cups 1 cup plus 3 teaspoons] 2g (0.07 ounces) salt (tiny pinch)
gel food colouring (optional)

(*cup measurements are metric cups where 1 cup=250ml in the USA cups use customary units so 1 cup = 236ml so you need to add a little bit extra as detailed in the recipe.).

Macaron Recipe Directions

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C (300 in American Fahrenheit)
Place egg whites and cater sugar in a bowl and mix with electric mixer until stiff enough to turn the bowl upside down without it falling out, continue to whip for 1-2 more minutes.  How long this takes will depend on you mixer.  Add gel or powdered food colouring and continue to mix for a further 20 seconds.

Sift the almond meal and icing sugar and salt twice, discarding any almond lumps that are too big to pass through the sieve. Fold into the egg white mixture. It should take roughly 30-50 folds using a rubber spatula.  The mixture should be smooth and a very viscous, not runny. Over-mix and your macarons will be flat and have no foot, under mix and they will not be smooth on top.

Pipe onto trays lined with baking paper, rap trays on the bench firmly (this prevents cracking) and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Check if one comes off the tray fairly cleanly, if not bake for a little longer (make sure you are using NON-stick baking paper or they will stick).

Lemon Buttercream Filling (from http://www.sweetandsavorybyshinee.com/lemon-french-macarons/)

  • • 3 tablespoons (40gr) unsalted butter, softened
  • • 1 cup (130gr) powdered sugar
  • • 2 teaspoons heavy cream
  • • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • • 1 teapsoon lemon zest
  • • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • • 1/8 teaspoon salt

While macarons are drying, prepare the lemon buttercream. In a mixing bowl with whisk attachment, beat the butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, heavy cream, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract and salt and beat until well combined. Fill pastry bag and go to town.

 

Cookies today: 20 (but remember, they are sandwich cookies AND I had an Amazon fail)

Cookies this year: 626