Sep 13
2009

Hit by a MAC truck.

in Uncategorized

Back in March I made a batch of macarons, a traditional French pastry made by sandwiching cream or ganache between two meringue-like almond cookies.

The cookies have a light crispy shell and are soft and chewy on the inside.  At least that’s the way they’re supposed to be.  Fast forward 5 1/2 months and that brings us to the present.  A few weeks ago, a few Twitter friends cooked up a plan to have a “Mac Attack” (“mac” = macaron abbreviation), a challenge where those of us who were unpractised in the art of making macs would bake two separate mac recipes and post about it.  The wonderful Jamie of Life’s a feast became our fearless leader and we all began down the wonderful road of mac batter making and baking.  You may or may not be familiar with the process, but macs are quite infamous in the baking world for their reputation of being fickle and frustrating.  But I wasn’t worried because I had already successfully made a batch of macs. Ha!

Batch #1

I separated out my egg whites, and let them age (Helen of Tartelette explains that this is to reduce the moisture content as much as possible while still keeping the protein bonds from the egg whites the same).

Using Jamie’s recipe the next day, I measured out my ingredients and made my meringue.

Then I proceeded to add my meringue to my dry ingredients.

Instant lumps.  I forged onward, hoping that when I finished folding everything together that the problem would be corrected. Mais non, the batter was lumpier than lumpy.  I decided for the sake of learning and morbid curiousity I would continue on.  So I piping out my little circles of batter on my parchment paper (some of them didn’t look horrible, but you can see evidence of those lumps in the top right hand corner),

and stuck them in the oven.  With my nose pressed up against the glass of the oven door, I watched in surprise as my macs began to raise and develop, *gasp!*, feet!!!  “Feet” are one of the requirements of a successful mac–the little porous ruffly edges on the bottom of the pastry.

When they were finished baking I pulled them out of the oven and let them cool.

Alas, not only were they lumpy, but they were chewy on bottom, and hollow on top.

Batch #2

Undeterred I started again.  Luckily I had aged more than enough egg whites.  I measured, sifted, whipped, and then…went to add my meringue to my dry ingredients again.  And again, the same problem, lumpy batter.  For the sake of practice, I piped out my little circles of batter again,

popped them into the oven again, and of course, the same result.

With all the mac carnage littering my counters, and my nerves frayed, I decided to take a break and turn to Twitter to see if I could get some advice on what I was doing wrong.  Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry, and the Mac Queen herself, Helen of Tartelette, both happened to be on, and all kinds of ideas were thrown back and forth. Had I overprocessed my almonds when grinding them? Did I need to break up my lumps in my dry ingredients better? Did I need to shake my spatula a bit when folding in my meringue so as to evenly distribute my dry ingredients? All of the talk gave me ideas of what to do differently, but my baking time was spent and so I had to wait for the next day to arrive.


Batch #3

I went to start measuring out ingredients, only to discover I was out of powdered sugar.  This Mac Attack was starting to play out as a comedy of errors in my kitchen! That evening the wonderful Mr. Fuji stopped by the store and picked up several bags of powdered sugar for me.  The next day (this past Friday), I pulled out everything yet again, but decided to shake things up to gain new perspective and try a new recipe.  I watched this video on YouTube of Chef Nini making macs, then printed off her recipe and got started.  I especially liked the idea of using her recipe because it made a very small batch, and thus if I failed yet again, at least I wouldn’t be throwing all of those macs out!  I carefully mixed everything together, this time adding the dry ingredients to the meringue in about 5 different batches.  Lo and behold, what did I have?  

Smooth lump-free batter! I wanted to do a giddy little dance, but I refrained, fearing that I would jinx everything.  I again piped out my circles of batter, and when they were ready, threw them into the oven,

and watched with delight as lovely little feet began to appear!

When they were done I pulled them out of the oven.

While I waited impatiently for them to cool, I made some chocolate ganache, and then finally piped ganache onto the bottoms of cooled cookies, and made them into finished macs.

My macs were not perfect, but I was so proud.  I had worked hard for these little guys!

 
Batch #4
Imbued with new confidence, I set out to make a fourth batch, determined to be able to show off two successful batches.  This time I decided to make a recipe from Cannelle et Vanille for Chocolate Macarons with a Salty Peanut Butter Filling.  I measured and mixed, then piped out those familiar little circles of batter.  Everything was moving along perfectly.
 
I put them into the oven, and then when the time was up, I checked them to make sure they were done, and then pulled them out.  
 
Well, I thought they were done, but they obviouly weren’t because about 30 seconds after I pulled them out of the oven, horror upon horrors, the beautiful perfect smooth domes of my macs began to deflate and wrinkle!!  Aaaaaaaach! 
 
Following the advice of Helen, I turned the oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, stuck the macs back in, turned the oven off, and left them there overnight.  This helped finish baking them, and gave them the right consistency, but the damage had already been done to their pretty little exteriors.

I made the Salty Peanut Butter Filling (so good by the way!) and filled them.  They were delicious, I must say, despite their flaws.

After four batches of macarons, what have I learned from this Mac Attack?  I’ve learned that this is not the last time that macarons and I shall meet.  I am determined to get this right.  I do know, however, that we will be taking a bit of a break (at least ’til next week), so that I don’t chuck the leftover almond meal at anyone’s head like I threatened to do last night.  And to all of my Mac Sistahs out there who have been participating and having their own struggles and triumphs? You rock.

* For a fun read all about macarons and their history, I LOVE this post on Syrup & Tang.

Coming Tomorrow: Homemade bread in about an hour.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }



eatlivetravelwrite September 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Good for you for not giving up! They look wonderful, especially that peanut butter filling – mmmm!

Check out my love affair with macarons here:

http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/search/label/macarons

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Jen September 13, 2009 at 12:21 pm

These are great! I only *WISH* mine came out this great!! i really hate being beaten by a baked good.

that salty peanut butter filling sounds so yummmy. May have to give it a try myself!!

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Colloquial Cook September 13, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Dear Mrs Fuji, I think this is heroic and you should be given a medal. I mean, 4 batches of macarons in a row!? Never heard anyone do that. The little blighters can be *really* time consuming. Superb results anyways so well done you – and not only for persevering in adversity :-) I wish I had that kind of patience.

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Megan Gordon September 13, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Phew…4 batches?! I'm doing the math on the number of egg whites. Great photos of the process. Ironically (like you): my first batch was my biggest success.

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Angie September 13, 2009 at 1:50 pm

I'm astounded that you don't weigh 500 pounds.
:)

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Darina September 13, 2009 at 4:16 pm

These look amazing! I'm trying to get up the gumption to make macarons. These tips will definitely help me once I muster up the courage.

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K and S September 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm

all batches look pretty good to me, glad you succeeded!

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Barbara Bakes September 13, 2009 at 4:39 pm

I had such fun reading about your mac adventure and being your mac sistah! Great job! I think I need to give it one more try before I can post!

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Marianne Guymon September 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm

You are much more patient than me! I would have thrown stuff at random people after the second batch failed. Those look really really tasty! mmmm I dunno if I'm brave enough to venture forth and go into "Mac Attack" land.

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Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction September 13, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Your macarons look wonderful – well worth the persistence and effort! I have not yet tried macarons, but they are on my list of things to bake.

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Aparna September 14, 2009 at 12:10 am

They're gorgeous. And I don't care what anyone says about the peanut butter ones, cos I think they're pretty good too.

I 'm also as determined as ever to make some more and conquer these.
The Mac Gang rocks alright! :)

Btw, I think these mac attacks are probably going to be monthly? I ceratinly need that recovery time. ;D

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Jamie September 14, 2009 at 6:21 am

Oh wow You didn't tell me you finished! And what gorgeous perfect macs! Yay for you! We are all doing the happy mac feet dance for you!

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Lisa September 14, 2009 at 9:17 am

Beautiful. My best friend makes them every year for our holiday cookie exchange. She has said many times that they are trial and error. Glad you were finally successful.

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LollyChops September 14, 2009 at 9:43 am

WOW… talk about persistence. I am seriously impressed! I would have thrown in the chicken towel after the first batch!

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Mary September 14, 2009 at 11:42 am

…which just goes to prove persistence pays. Doesn't it feel great when it finally works out. Your macaroons look luscious.

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kawaii crafter September 14, 2009 at 11:59 am

So this is what all those Mac tweets were about. Good for you for sticking through it. After the second batch I think I would have called it quits.

When you're up to making more, you might want to try Pistachio macaroons. They're delicious. My Aunt makes them and I can't get enough of them.

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Helene September 14, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I was following that 'Mac attack' on twitter. Finally they turned out so good. I've never tasted a macaron before.

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Ann (Healthy Tasty Chow) September 14, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Holy cow! That looks sooo time consuming – I mean, all the batches:) Last time I made macs – I made them pistachio and it took two tries. The first one I spoiled because I didn't use real sugar- I used erythritol- didn't work- blech! Learned my lesson though- btw..watched your video, nice to meet you:) fun!

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Frieda September 14, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Your persistence and patience reaped it's rewards…good job!

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Deeba @Passionate About Baking September 14, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Just brilliant Rachael & ever so pretty. The only success I has was with my chcolate macs. I've still got to get to the bottom of the coffee ones. I love how beautifully yours came out! Excellent!

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Mrs Ergül September 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Your gusto in making these macs sure acted like a pat on my back to try make my own soon!! I love the combination! They look really pretty!

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Tessa September 14, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Kudos on the persistence! I think I might attempt to make Macs soon, especially the dark chocolate almond ones! I had an almond and dark chocolate cupcake from Sprinkles the other day and the combination of flavors is so delicious!

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Divina Pe September 15, 2009 at 12:41 am

They are gorgeous even if they're not perfect. I salute your persistence and patience.

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SnacksGiving September 15, 2009 at 2:12 am

Guess what, I didn't know there is a Mac Attack going on, but I too happened to make a batch and failed miserably! Here is a pci of my failed Macs :-(. Will try another batch today I think! http://snacksgiving.blogspot.com/2009/09/my-long-weekend-and-failed-macarons.html

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Laura Silverstein September 15, 2009 at 2:40 am

wow those look great!! i am so impressed and a little, okay very, jealous! i will definitely have to try these… thanks for all of the advice!

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mathildescuisine September 15, 2009 at 7:41 am

Congratulation for such a hard work! I'm not sure that one day I will put myself into such a challenge, well done!
Once you will have the chance to go to Paris, go to Pierre Hermé, he makes the best macarons ever!
I'm getting married next year and the wedding cake will be made with .. macarons!

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Fuji Mama September 15, 2009 at 9:16 am

Thanks so much everyone! It's definitely been a wild ride!

Angie– I may weigh 500 pounds when this Mac Attack catches up with me…

mathildescuisine– I LOVE the look of cakes with macarons on them–so beautiful! I actually lived in Paris for awhile and would occasionally pop into Pierre Hermé or Ladurée for a macaron–SO YUMMY! That's probably why I just made 4 batches of them–I know how good they can be and I want to get it right!

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ValleyWriter September 15, 2009 at 9:58 am

Bravo for all of your hard work. I think these are beautiful – even the slightly wrinkly ones!

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Ilva September 15, 2009 at 10:15 am

Oh I found you, you partner in crime! Your macs looks sooo much more pro than mine!

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Anonymous September 15, 2009 at 10:36 am

This macarons business have been haunting me for months now and I have to confess, I will not think about making them until well…I don't know….months from now!!! I love reading this post because I know I would go through the same issues/ frustrations/ madness!!!

Keep us posted with your progress!

Thanks for posting!

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Hilda September 15, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I made Aran's chocolate mac recipe as well Rachael and just posted them to say here's my new blog, have a mac on me. They were good and I didn't make the peanut butter filling (PB here costs a healthy organ), I made a choc mousse filling instead, but I think I'm going back to my trusted Italian meringue macs after all these French meringue ones because I like their consistency better. I applaud your persistence, four batches in a row! I think I've probably blocked how many batches I made when I first attempted them two years ago. =) Can't wait to see your next ones.

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Parita September 16, 2009 at 10:34 am

Your Macarons have come out PERFECT!
I did check the chefnini's video and her recipe but its in french so cudnt understand it completely..do you know if we need to cook the egg whites in a double boiler, cool them and then beat them till stiff?

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Fuji Mama September 16, 2009 at 10:51 am

Parita– Thank you! Chef Nini's recipe explains that she is using the double boiler to lightly warm the egg whites. She slowly warms them in the double boiler while whipping the gently. Then test the temperature of the whites with your finger–they should be tepid (room temperature). I skipped this step and used aged egg whites instead. You can also stick them in the microwave on medium high for 10 to 15 seconds (just be careful not to cook them!).

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Deb Mele September 16, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Great job! Your macs look great and I agree it is a tad addicting to finally have success. I have more egg whites drying as we speak.

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MeetaK September 17, 2009 at 12:50 am

Rachael you did good so goo and you deserve a pat on the back. Just superb. I am so excited here!

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pictfamily September 29, 2009 at 1:11 am

Your macarons look beautiful – the pastel coloured displays in French tea rooms are always irresistible. When I have a macaron or meringue related incident, the answer is usually eton mess – cream, crushed meringue/macaron and strawberries. I know the meringue is traditional, but the macaron can give it more flavour 8o)

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