ceci n’est pas un macaron* (daring bakers)

*French for “Giant Macaron Fail!” But I figured the least I could do was pretty them up with a nice seasonal photograph.

macaron fail horizontal

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 macaron fail 1recipe 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.

ginger green tea cupcakes

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.

18 responses to “ceci n’est pas un macaron* (daring bakers)

  1. Personally I don’t get the frenzy for macarons. I find them to be painfully sweet (and a pain in the ass to make!) Your cupcakes look much more appealing to me.

  2. Ohhh damn the macarons. I almost want to organise a visioconference to make macarons along with you. They are silly little cookies, bless them.

  3. I made two attempts and did not have any luck either. Macarons are tough and egg whites are my baking nemesis. I’d much rather stick with cupcakes (and cookies) too!

  4. How about I’ll come “tutor” you in making macarons, which is to say, how about I come over and we’ll drink martinis and watch old episodes of Sandra Lee and make fun of her?

    Also, I want those cupcakes! For breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next 3 days.

  5. Thanks for posting an honest failure! It’s as interesting to read about as the successes sometimes…I’ve been considering macarons lately but living at high altitude is a HUGE deterrent at present. Altitude is frankly F**king up half my baked goods these days…

    • That’s too bad! I imagine after a while you would learn what tweaks would need to be made for baking, but it sounds frustrating. There are so many food blogs these days though, there must be a food blog out there just for high-altitude bakers where you could get some tips. Actually, I know the blog Use Real Butter is Denver-based; maybe she has some pointers.

  6. One point the meringue isn’t might to hold up the dry ingredients you are trying to deflat the meringue it isn’t folding in the traditional sense. This is one of the most common mistakes also you lose about half the volume. Well you sucessed in doing the challenge congrats and welcome. In the Daring Bakers’ we are interested in the journey of the challenge not so much the end result well done. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  7. Great seasonal photo! I feel your pain with macarons–my first time (or should I say the first SEVERAL times) making them was a complete disaster. It just takes some practice and a better recipe than this one. 🙂

    • I do want to try again with a different recipe- I noticed a LOT of people used Tartelette’s recipe instead of the challenge recipe and I was kind of like “no fair!” I would have used that one too, but was trying to stay faithful to the challenge. In the future I’ll definitely try one that’s more reliable.

  8. My macarons failed too….looked a lot like yours…I wonder if we’ll ever figure it out… ::sigh::

  9. I have always looked at making sweets as a very stressful task. I don’t know why? Maybe I do… All these small measurements and the fact that if you miss one of them can make things a total failure. Not to mention if you don’t batter eggs enough you’ll fail, i you batter cream too much you will have butter… and so on…
    Recently I have been contemplating to give sweets another attempt, but like you I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, maybe in the end it is all a lack of motivation.
    Cooking has never been difficult to me, so sweets are a challenge. It is good to see that other people have sometimes the same problem.
    Good luck with your future attempts at macarons…

  10. Well I think they’re lovely! Your flavours sound wonderful & the presentation is gorgeous =D.

  11. Bravo on your three attempts, it’s too bad they didn’t work out. I’m going to try the Tartelette recipe next time as well (but agree that it would have been sorta cheating to do as your only recipe for the challenge. ) Awesome looking cupcakes, I love green tea with ginger!

  12. I so feel your pain on this. Mine were flat big messes. I am impressed you kept on trying. I sort of feel like I may need to try again. One of those baking ego things!

  13. Who cares about feet. They look good enough to eat! 🙂 I know macaron are tricky little sons of b*tches. They gave me enough headache in the past too. Hats off to you for trying. It gets better from here.

  14. such an awesome blog and beautiful pictures! can’t wait to read more..so glad i’ve found you!

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