Adventures in Baking

Before I say anything else, I just want to thank ALL of you, from the bottom of my heart, for your very kind words about my little store.  People who read and write blogs are the nicest people EVER!  And a special thanks to all of you who supported my store too!

So, did you all have a good weekend?  Between my store opening duties, I decided to have a baking adventure.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that macarons, those beautiful little french cookies have been popping up all over.  I was driving somewhere a few months ago, and I heard on an NPR moment, that macarons are to this decade of the 21st century, what cupcakes have been to the first decade.  Well hell-lo!  You know how I feel about cupcakes, so those little macarons must be something else!

And on top of that, there’s this:

Macarons

Holy Cow!  McDonald’s in France are selling Macarons!  After I saw the picture above, and watched the video in this article (go check it out — it’s funny and it shows you what the French think of McDonald’s and their macarons) I decided that I really must try these little cookies out.

I searched blogs and read as much as I could before I started.  One of my new favorite blog crushes in the food world is Not So Humble Pie.  She has a gorgeous blog and she’s done some very thorough posts on the making of macarons.  She has a really good three part series (part 1, part 2, and part 3) to help navigate the possible pitfalls in macaron making.  So, armed with her basic recipe, on Friday, I set out to make her Lemon Marscarpone Macarons.  First I tested one little cookie:

Macarons

Not too bad!  Not too bad at all.  Problem was that it was as hollow as a cave inside that little macaron, and they’re not supposed to be that way.  So, I decided maybe they were cooking too fast and I dropped the oven temp by ten degrees, to 325:

Macarons

Nope.  Not as good — theses cookies were pretty flat and still hollow.  I bumped the temp back up and decided to just bake them in all their hollow goodness and be done with this batch.  They tasted fine and at least they looked ok:

Macarons

For my second attempt, I decided to try Ms. Humble’s Blueberry Macarons.  On this recipe, I was short 5 grams of egg whites and decided not to crack open another egg just for five little grams.  I’ll just cut this story short right here and tell you that they looked awful.  They tasted ok, but that 5 grams made a huge difference in the moisture.  These cookies were dense and heavy.  And they were still hollow!  (Those spots are bits of blueberry — these were goooood!)

Macarons

So I gave up for the day.  On Saturday, I had a wonderful outing with the quilty peeps — it was a great break and it gave me the energy to try again on Sunday.  Once again I used Ms. Humble’s basic recipe (being sure to measure more carefully) and decided to go with pink this time.

Macarons

In the meantime, I’d had a little e-mail conversation with Lisa and decided to let the egg whites “age” for 24 hours (I didn’t do this with the first batches) and let the cookies rest for an hour before baking (the first batches only rested for 15 minutes).  Here they are looking all sweet and innocent while resting:

Macarons

And here they are after they baked:

Macarons

What. The. Hey!!!  They’re lopsided.  That was totally unexpected.  I have NO clue what caused that and just to check if it was the resting time, I only rested the second batch for 20 minutes.  Still crooked.  And guess what?  They were STILL hollow!  These are some VERY. FUSSY. LITTLE. SUCKERS!!!  At this point, I threw in the towel and “frosted” them with raspberry jam (they tasted great).

Macarons

So, I’ve been beaten by a cookie!  Any macaron experts out there?  I’d love to hear from you.  I do love the taste of the macarons, although, for me they’ll NEVER replace a cupcake.  (And it’s not just because I can make a pretty good cupcake LOL!)  I feel like I’m trapped in a game of paper-rock-scissors.  Me-cupcake-macaron.  Paper kicks rock, rock kicks scissors, scissors kicks paper.  I kick cupcake, cupcake kicks macaron, macaron kicks ME!

OUCH!!!

XOXO,
Anna

53 Thoughts on “Adventures in Baking

  1. OMGosh! I can’t believe I’m the first commenter! Although if I don’t hurry through this note, I won’t be! I just wanted to pop in to say how delish your lemon macaron was…thanks for the treat on Saturday! Too bad I was stuffed from the 3 course buffet or I would have tried the blueberry one too! xoxo Junie

  2. Ginger on April 12, 2010 at 10:23 pm said:

    I’ve had real French macarons… from that uber famous french patisserie whose name escapes me at the moment. But the one that is famous for their macarons. I have to say, I’m not a fan. Just don’t like the flavor or texture.
    Now their hot chocolate… that was divine. :-)

  3. Hmmm… very interesting. Macarons are the cupcakes of this decade, eh? I am absolutely going to buy some at Mcdonalds in Paris this summer, just to say I did, and then I will buy some ‘real’ ones at a Parisian bakery. However, after reading about your trials and tribulations, I can’t say I’ll ever venture to make them myself. I’ve barely mastered cupcakes.

    Thanks for the fun post!

  4. I heard that they were the new cupcake too and they look so pretty. I had my first one at the Lindt cafe last week. Chocolate of course. I thought for all their prettiness they were overated and it seemed to be all about the filling. The actual macaroon was fairly unsubstantial and airy. I have to try other flavours though.

  5. Oh yum yum yum! love a good macaroon! my favourites are pistachio and raspberry! mmmmm you’re taking me back!

    that is so funny mcdonalds does them now! actually I quite liked fast food places in france because I could get a big salad, fruit salad and yoghurt…can’t say that about fast food places here!!!!!

    yours look gorgeous! must try them one day!

    Corrie:)

  6. Hi Anna,

    I’m French and I come since a long time visiting you on your blog, but silently.
    But when I’ve seen your post today, I wanted to leave you a comment. Because your macarons are beautiful, they look like to those we can find in France !
    Your macarons are hollow because the Italian meringue is not firm. Make macarons is not an easy thing. But it’s worth it!
    I never eating cupcakes. And I’d like to do some of those. Maybe one day I might be in the same situation as you : Me-cupcake-macaron. Why not?

  7. Anna
    I made coconut macaroons as school, mine weren’t hollow but they were super duper tasty.. of course I dont have my recipes from then..I think they are over rated, and that McDonalds one looks suspiciously like the burger king burger! Give me a Pavlova anyday over a cupcake or a macaroon!

    Lissa

  8. Your macarons look great Anna! I am currently in the process of making some caramel ones (they are resting at the moment). Hope they look half as good as yours -otherwise you may not get to see a picture of them :-)

  9. Good grief! I was asking Gina about macarons – they didn’t sound too bad but this suggests they’re a right tricky lot of customers. Why do they need to ‘reat’. Hmm, are they the princesses of the baking world? Or perhaps the Mariah Careys?

  10. What a fun post. I had to laugh out loud about your macaroon story. Do I detect a bit of a perfectionist???? And you know what’s funny too: in Europe (or at least in Switzerland) it’s the other way around. Cupcakes are the new macaroons. Only in recent years do people know about cupcakes and macaroons of course have been around for ages. So there you go ;). Cheers

  11. I have never made them, but think I want to after seeing yours.

  12. Oh dear I missed the great shop opening! So sorry Anna, I think you’ll make a wonderful shopkeeper, your goodies are always gorgeous! I like the look of your macaroons, please could you send one over…? xxxxxx

  13. Well, clearly you didn’t give them the right conditions for resting. Were you gently fanning the with ostrich feathers the whole time, and offering them delicious titbits on silver trays? Providing them with attractive young men to attend to their every need? No? I’m not surprised they fell over, sheer exhaustion probably ;-)

    I’ve tried to make them too and mine were a disaster. I think it’s a conspiracy by patisseries – we can all make decent cupcakes now so we don’t buy them anymore – but we all fail with macarons so we have to shell out the cash for them. Could I be onto something?!

  14. Anna, your macarons look absolutely delicious!!! I have never tried to make them, but I did discover this site a couple of days ago http://www.mercotte.fr/2008/03/20/desperatly-seeking-macarons/
    Starting 5 days before??!!! Maybe that is the trick!

  15. They look like wee meringues – but then meringues are meant to be hollow so maybe not! No matter – they look delish, Anna! :o)

  16. linda on April 13, 2010 at 8:51 am said:

    good for you! your “attempts” look fabulous to me…

    i have tons of articles & books (on macaron baking) but am intimidated!

    don’t you just love “not so humble pie!”

    anna…we *heart* you too!! linda noblog!

  17. Go to Bakerella!! She is the best as far as food blogs go!

    Here she went to a macaron class
    http://www.bakerella.com/macarons/

    Here she put her own signature on them
    http://www.bakerella.com/tartelette-these-are-for-you/

  18. I have to say those macaroons all look pretty good to me… love the sound of the lemon ones! Lovely shop too!

  19. They are still cute – hollow or not and I’m sure they tasted delish! And Bakerella – as one commenter pointed out – would be a good source to check out too.

  20. But surley they need to be hollow to fit more filling inside :-) I am seeing the hollow as an advantage! They look yummy, as does your shop!

  21. Oh my goodness, the agony of defeat due to a little cookie…they do look lovely though. I am waiting for your next installment before I attempt these, they are tempting as they would be perfect for the “send the treats to school” needs, or the baked goods to thank the hockey coach who contributed so many 6ams…..so I hope you blog about your next altercation!

  22. VERY cute blog post, Anna! I’m sorry the cute little cookies kicked your butt over and over…and over. lol At least they are a pleasure to look at!

  23. Oh but they look so pretty!!!! Does it really matter if they are hollow, empty-headed little starlets??

  24. I’m sticking with Rice Krispie treats. That’s all I have to say about that! LOL!

    Could I have a bite of one of those, though? Maybe…Please…Just a little…

    One more question…Does a hollow cookie have fewer calories? You might be onto something…

    Later, Anna~
    Cassie

  25. I grew up with coconut macaroons because they were one of my father’s favorites. My mom used to bake much more before I was born so I was not taught by her and I always regret this. When I came along she had found a wonderful Polish bakery where she satisfied my dad’s sweet tooth. Yours look good and yummy.

  26. I like the look of the blue ones , now I know you are not one to be defeated are you?

  27. I just have to tell you we made your brownie recipe this last week. All I can say is YUM! They were so gooey and delicious, I can’t wait to make them again. I have to give myself some time in between because I know I’ll eat them all :)

  28. Well you take pretty pictures of macaroons!! I’m not crazy about them, I like a little more density in my food…cupcakes rule!!!

  29. Maybe it’s the McDonald’s image, but those yellowy macarons look like Egg McMuffins! (But I am absolutely certain that they taste much better.)

    They sound like quite the little challenge to bake. I think I will stick with packages of raw chocolate chip cookie dough you buy at the grocery store :o)

  30. Anna you need to open up a bakery for goodness sake. Seriously you make the cutest things. Who wouldnt wanna buy them and eat them????
    What’s one more business. GO FOR IT!!
    Thimbleanna’s Confections

  31. Well, they look delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever had a macaron, and from what you’ve said here today, unless I find a bakery that stocks them – I never will.

  32. They say the macaron’s foot is the hardest part of the macaron to achieve. However, with Italian meringue Mac’s I think the interiors are probably the hardest part to master.

    Try the French meringue method to avoid air pocket frustrations. It rarely results in air pockets. Folks say the French method has a higher failure rate than Italian but after baking dozens of each type, I think it is the other way around.

    Given how pretty these macarons look, clearly you have the knack for making them. French Meringue shouldn’t give you any trouble.

  33. Well you sure gave it a valiant effort!! I’ll bet they tasted good, and they sure look cute. WHo’d have thought a little cookie could be so tricky! I listen to a podcast of 2 americans living in Paris and they did a macaron “testing” recently and the McDonald’s macaron did not fare too well. Ha!

  34. you amazing woman you.
    i’m going to make those when i grow up.
    any clues on the hollowness?
    they sure are beautiful.
    i still vote for magnolia.
    hands down.

    cupcake trumps macaron, every time. ro-sham-bo THAT!

  35. A lovely entertaining post! I haven’t forgotten about explaining what a cracket is, I have just been very busy (all will be revealed on Friday) – I will e-mail you with all sorts of cracket facts!!

  36. That you even attempted making macarons has me bowing at your feet, so to speak. They have to be the most intimidating cookie on earth!
    Tartelette has some amazing recipes for them. Here’s the link in case you want to try your hand at them again! http://www.mytartelette.com/2009/02/recipe-index.html
    Thanks for the sweetness for my new quilt. :) I had such fun making it. I have another already in the planning stages and fabric will be bought in the next few weeks. As soon as I find out what this little grandbaby is, I’ll be quilting up a storm! We have wood floors and this wee one will need lots of soft places upon which to rest. :)

  37. Always happy to eat your mistakes — send them to Ohio!

  38. I’m glad you did all that research and saved me the frustration! At least you had nice little pictures for your blog :)

  39. First of all, LOVE your new banner. Today is my Saturday and I am sick, so I do not think this will be a great weekend. I have very strong feelings about McDonalds and they are not pleasant, sooooo I am not going to say a word about them selling macarons (I will just go off on my family instead). But yummmm, yours are beautiful. No I have not conquered macarons yet, but think of all the fun trying. Good luck. Have one for me, please (I cannot eat anything right now) xoxoxo Clarice

  40. Those are too cute to eat! Hey! Congrats on the new shop! That is totally awesome!

  41. Congratulations on opening your shop Anna! Good for you, for jummpin’ in. I wish you all sorts of success with it.

    I’ve never tried these cookies, but I’ve read about them on a few blogs too. They sound interesting, and a challenge. I’ll have to ask my neice who went to chef’s school what she thinks the trick to making these, might be.

    Always wishing you the best,
    Lena

  42. I think your macarons look great and yummy and fancy Anna! What did do with all the test cookies, I think I would be way too tempted having all those macarons in my house.

  43. You are a perseverer, that’s what you are. Sorry to hear that your macaroons kicked rocks….or was it cupcakes? Or did the cupcakes kick the macaroons? Oh, I’m so confused! And SO hungry. For a cupcake, not a macaroon!

  44. oh, those macaroons looks soooo yummy!! i really need to try to make some. my hubby would be ever sooo excited!! :)

  45. Now surely it’s just a matter of try,try and try again. They all looked as if they tasted great, and life is an adventure. There are worse ways to spend your days. X

  46. Well Anna, I admire your determination, I really do. There is no way I’d have had all those tries, although they look so beautiful, and I would really like to photograph some, so perhaps I MIGHT have a go at some point. I hope you manage to find the right recipe for you.

    And good luck for your little store too. x

  47. I can’t help you as I know nothing about macaroons (we’re egg free…allergies) but I admire your determination to work this puzzle out…I’ve been know to do that too…like making the perfect croissant! LOL (my record so far..4 attempts, 2 successes)

  48. I still think they’re pretty even though they’re lopsided Anna! Those blueberry ones look awesome!

  49. p.s. sorry, I’ve never made them before and can’t be of help :(

  50. I can’t believe you made them – even the lopsided ones look like something I’d buy in a shop – I might just have to have a go myself this weekend.

  51. Miss Thimble, you’re one tough cookie to keep up butt-kickin’ those macaroons are giving you. But I think they look delish and I’d eat them, lopsided or not.

    Jody

  52. Look, that they came out so uniformly round and professional looking says that you are a magnificent baker. If I could get anything to come out looking that good I would be over the moon.

  53. I’m sorry you got kicked by the macarons, but I still think they look yummy, though! LOL!

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