*French for “Giant Macaron Fail!” But I figured the least I could do was pretty them up with a nice seasonal photograph.
I was so excited about this month’s challenge, really I was. I’ve been enviously eyeing the beautiful photos of macarons all over people’s blogs for the last little while now, but not having much of a sweet tooth, I needed the Daring Bakers gauntlet to be thrown down to give me the push I needed. I was a little apprehensive after doing a lot of reading about how difficult and temperamental they can be. But I thought that at the worst, mine might turn out a little flat, or a little browned, but otherwise reasonably resembling a macaron.
Macarons are known for their exotic flavors. I knew the DB’ers would bring it and that I’d have to be fairly creative to stand out in the crowd. I rummaged through my cupboards and came up with three flavor ideas: Malted Milk Ball, Ginger Green Tea, and Chai Pumpkin Spice. Sounds good, right? The Malted Milk Ball macarons were flavored with cocoa powder and malted milk powder and were going to be filled with a malted milk ganache. The other two were flavored with powdered dry tea, as per a suggestion from one of the folks in the DB forums. The Ginger Green Tea flavor was going to be filled with mascarpone with little bits of crystallized ginger, and the Chai Pumpkin Spice was going to be filled with cream cheese blended with pumpkin butter (this combo is really good on an English muffin, BTW.)
Why “going to be filled”, you ask? Well, all three of my batches of macarons were complete and utter failures. None of them even came CLOSE to resembling the beautiful macarons on my computer screen. (Did I mention I made THREE batches? I’m nothing if not persistent! But apparently I had some subconscious need to make good on my “I am not a baker” statement from last month.) I think I just don’t have that attention to precision and detail (or obsessiveness?) that one needs to attempt a recipe like this. My macarons were all pathetic, flat, dense little creatures, none of them rose or developed “feet”, nor did any of them have that characteristically shiny shell. Duncan of Syrup & Tang did a 5-part series on the macaron, which I read diligently (twice!), but it did not unlock any secrets as to why I failed (other than mentioning that the type of recipe chosen by DB had a 50% failure rate). I have made flourless cake and soufflés before, so I’m familiar with the “folding” technique. I know one batch was definitely overmixed, but with the others I really made an effort to thoroughly combine it without going overboard. (I have to say, though, as I was mixing, I couldn’t help thinking that I didn’t understand how 5 egg whites could possibly hold 2 cups of almond flour & 2 1/4 cups of sugar without collapsing… that’s almost a full pound of solids!) I thought my last batch (the chocolate ones) actually stood a chance; the batter looked similar to Duncan’s photo of correctly mixed batter and seemed to have the same properties. But alas, they were just as flat as the rest, if not more so.
I really wish I could have had time to try again and get it right, but I just don’t have the resources (time OR money- that almond meal was $10 a bag!). I don’t think I’ll ever attempt to make macarons again unless I can get a tutor to come to my house. Any volunteers?
The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
P.S. I gave the ginger-green tea flavor a second life as a batch of cupcakes. I don’t even love cupcakes but I felt I had to redeem myself after the total failure of the macarons! I took a standard yellow cake recipe, added two teabags of Tazo Ginger Green Tea that had been ground to powder in a coffee mill, and topped them with a lightly sweetened whipped cream/ mascarpone and chopped candied ginger. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so these were perfect for my taste- an ever-so-slight bitter edge from the tea and a warm kick from the ginger.