Birthday macaron fail

Today is my little sister’s birthday.  Well, she isn’t so little anymore seeing as she’s turning 21, but with such a large age gap (I will not tell you how many years) between us, she will always be my little sister.

We were not very close growing up.  I was more like a second mom (I’m sure she found this annoying) to her than a sister.  As she got older, we started to have more things (food) in common and started to spend more time together.  She has become more of a friend, though I still reserve the right to revert back to my big sister role if need be. ;)

She has become an outgoing, outspoken and independent young lady.  She is compassionate, always ready to help out and has even come to my rescue a few times.  For these reasons, I am proud to be her sister and I wish her a most wonderful birthday and year ahead full of joy and success!

For her birthday, I wanted to bake her something, but I didn’t want to make the usual cupcakes or cake.  I wanted to make something fancy, yet simple, so I decided on macarons.  I have actually never had a macaron before, let alone made them.  And I was sorely mistaken about the simplicity of it all.  This was by far one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever made.  Let me explain…

It didn’t go well right from the start.  I don’t have a food processor so I used my blender to ground the almonds, which I did in two batches.  For the first batch, I ground the almonds with the powdered sugar as suggested in the recipe, but it wasn’t easy to grind the mixture evenly.  So for the rest of the almonds, I ground them first before adding the rest of the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

The next step was to whisk the egg whites until peaks formed.  Easy enough right?  Sure, if I hadn’t broken one of the yolks while trying to separate the egg white.  After a few minutes of unsuccessfully trying to fish out pieces of yolk, I gave up, saved those eggs for David’s famous breakfast sandwiches and cracked another 3 eggs.

And then things got even iffier.  It took me more than an hour to pipe the cookies.  The meringue was very thick and sticky and it was very difficult to pipe out of the piping bag.  I think I lost about 1/4 of the meringue that was stuck to the pastry bags.  Could it be that I didn’t grind the almonds fine enough?  I did find a large piece of almond stuck in the tip and some pieces in the cookies.  It also didn’t help that I didn’t have the right size tip, about 2 times smaller than what was needed.  I tried another tip that was larger, but it wasn’t a round one so the cookies weren’t round and flat and I had to scratch that idea.  I guess having the right tools is important.

As you can see, my piping skills aren’t very impressive.  I couldn’t even pipe within the circles I drew as a guide.  My macarons don’t have smooth dome tops.  They are also smaller than usual and look more like mini chocolate burgers according to David.  :(

Maybe if I put them in a nice box, my sister won’t notice how unattractive they are.

As for the taste, the cookies are a bit chewy and a bit doughy, like they were undercooked.  Is that how macarons are supposed to taste?  Did I pipe the meringue too thick?  The best part was probably the chocolaty ganache centre.

Can anyone tell me where I went wrong?

Recipes (adapted from the Miette cookbook by Meg Ray):

Macarons

  • 1 1/2 cup whole almonds, with skins
  • 2 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a 1 1/2-inch bottle cap as a template, draw circles in rows on the paper, about 1 inch apart.  You should have room for eighteen circles on each sheet.
  2. Place half of the almonds and half of the powdered sugar in a food processor.  Process for 30 seconds, until the almonds are finely ground.  Pour the mixture into a separate bowl and repeat the process with the remaining almonds, powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and whisk on high speed until very stiff peaks form, 3-4 minutes.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold about 1/3 of the almond mixture into the egg whites.   Fold in the remaining mixture in two more additions, just until the ingredients are completely combined.
  5. Fit a pastry bag with a medium (1/2- or 5/8-inch) round tip and fill the bag with the meringue.  Pull up the cuff and twist it to seal and tighten the meringue down into the cone.  Purge the bag of air bubbles by squeezing the bag until there is a burst off air and meringue sputters out of the bag.  Using the template as a guide, pipe circles, 1/2 to 3/4 inch high, onto the baking sheets.  Set the baking sheets aside and let the cookies stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
  7. Bake the macarons until set but not browned, 10-12 minutes.  Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the macarons cool completely on the pans.  When they are cool, use your fingers to carefully lift half of the cookies from the parchment and turn them upside down.  Using a pastry bag (I used a spoon) fitted with a medium (1/2- or 5/8-inch) round tip and filled with ganache (recipe below), squeeze a nickel-size dollop of filling onto each of the upside-down cookies and then top with the remaining macarons to complete the sandwich cookies.
  8. Store, refrigerated, in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.  Serve at room temperature.

 Chocolate ganache

  • 10 ounces (~280g) dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) sifted powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  1. Combine the chocolate and powdered sugar in a heatproof bowl.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a gentle simmer.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Nest the bowl over a pan of simmering water to make a bain-marie.  Heat, stirring, until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove the bowl from the heat.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks in a small heatproof bowl.  Pour about 1/2 cup of the melted chocolate mixture into the yolks while whisking, to temper them.  Pour the tempered mixture back into the pan of chocolate and whisk to combine.  Add the butter and stir until smooth.  Pour the hot ganache through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean heatproof bowl (I didn’t do this).
  4. Use the ganache immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
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39 thoughts on “Birthday macaron fail

  1. I feel your pain. I’ve been making macarons for the past year and I ::thought:: I got the hang of them, but my results are never consistent. I am still recovering from a recent macaron project, which I plan to blog about once I get over the trauma. At any rate, Not So Humble Pie posted a hugely helpful troubleshooting guide for errant macarons. Check it out here: http://notsohumblepie.blogspot.com/2010/08/macaron-troubleshooting-new-recipe.html

    So many factors seem to come into play when it comes to successful macaron making–ingredient quality, oven heat, humidity, age of egg whites, lunar phases, alignment of the stars, etc. (just kidding about those last two). No wonder Laduree can charge upwards of $3 a pop.

    All I can say is practice makes perfect, but even then, you’ll come up with really weird-looking macarons. Hang in there, you’re not alone!

    (P.S. I find that using pre-made almond flour makes a big difference in texture, if that helps at all.)

    • thank-you so much for the words of encouragement and suggestions! i think i’m going to distance myself from macarons for a while before i attempt it again. in the meantime, i will just admire yours. :)

  2. No!!! I have been wanting to attempt macarons and I’ve heard horror stories…This only frightens me further. I find more blogs about the makings of unsuccessful macarons then the latter.

    I’ll give it a whirl some night and we will get through this together!

  3. Your macaroons don’t look bad!! Sorry they didn’t turn out well. Over here at Haute + Healthy we just got back from Paris and could not get ENOUGH of the macarons and crepes, they were amazing fresh out of a French bakery (and at the famous Laduree, of course)! Hopefully next time the recipe will work out better for you :)

  4. I have never had macarons, but macaroons, which are almond cookies that aren’t sandwiched (made from almond paste, sugar and egg whites), are kind of chewy. Maybe someone who has eaten them before can comment on the texture. I think they look gorgeous! And yummy!

    One helpful tip for the future – when you are separating eggs, use three bowls. Crack the egg and separate over one bowl, then transfer the white (and yolk) to separate bowls. Separate the next egg over the now empty bowl, so if you get yolk in one white, you won’t “contaminate” all of them. My mother insisted on this process and it has saved many an egg! You were absolutely right when you gave up trying to get the yolk out and started over. You can never get all the yolk out, once it is in there. :)

    I might just have to try macarons one of these days. Inspiring post. Your sister will love her homemade birthday macarons!

      • There are almond macaroons, which are as I described above. Then there are coconut macaroons that are a totally different cookie. One of the easiest recipes is condensed milk, a little flour and a lot of coconut. Not my favorite cookie as I really don’t like coconut. :)

        The egg tip is my mom’s. And whenever I try to skip the multiple bowls, I can hear her telling me how to do it when I was a kid. And invariably I have to start over because I break a yolk. Moms are always right!

  5. I think they look delicious! And the fact that they are chewy doesn’t sound like a huge problem. My guess would be they needed to dry a little longer before you added the ganache. Or it was just too humid. Merengues need it to be really dry to work just right :)

  6. What a pity they were not like you had hoped. I still think they are perfect – look how you were able to get them all the same size and shape- kudos to you.
    Happy Birthday to your sister.
    Thanks again for stopping by my little spot in the blogosphere to wish me. :-) Mandy

  7. I’m sorry they didn’t turn out the way you hoped, but I’m sure your sister felt the love! I made macarons twice after extensive research (I have five failed batches before that), and I think it may be because your batter is too thick, the key to macarons is not to keep as much air as possible in the batter, you need to deflate the macaron batter a little (but not overly so). I’ve got some links to videos and website over at my chocolate macaron post: http://foodismylife.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/chocolate-macarons/ and they helped me a lot because I was able to see what was the right consistency of the batter. Don’t give up! I’m sure you will get it right one day :)

    • thank-you for the encouraging words! i will definitely check out your post once i muster up the courage to try it again. ;) i guess i didn’t do enough research before trying this. how do you keep the batter from being thick? i think i deflated it too much, but it as hard not to while mixing in the chocolate.

  8. Macarons have long been on my list – especially since they are easily made Gluten and Dairy Free. I’ve been daunted by the process, but I have to say your macarons look pretty darn good – practice makes perfect, right?

  9. The same thing happened to me on my first try! It took me three tries before I nailed them. I’m no macaron expert, but this might be where you went wrong:
    1. The almonds were probably not ground fine enough. I usually buy King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill almond flour, and sift it a few times through a fine sieve just in case.
    2. After folding the almonds into the meringue you so carefully whip, you actually have to deflate it, which makes no sense to me at all! I use Pierre Herme’s recipe where he only whips half the whites to begin with so there’s no need to deflate after.

    You can read about my macaron trials here:

    http://iusedtobeacook.com/2012/01/01/macarons-with-a-goldilocks-complex/

    Let me know what you think!

  10. Pingback: 101st post and a BIG thank-you! | trials in food

  11. I’m extremely lucky in that on the two or three occasions I’ve made macarons, I’ve had little to no problem. I used the book “I <3 Macarons", and it's great. From what I can see in the photos, your egg whites looked too stiff. Plus, the recipes I've used require some finely granulated sugar in the whites, which also helps with texture (the batter should look, feel, and taste similar to marshmallow fluff, but a little runnier). And standing at room temperature for 2 hours before baking?? I've only gone as far as 20 minutes. I plan to make some macarons soon, so hopefully I'll have some success and post!

  12. “Happy Belated Birthday to your sister! :-)
    ˜”*°•.˜”*°•.˜”*°•.★★.•°*”˜.•°*”˜.•°*”˜
    ¸¸.•*¨*•░H░A░P░P░Y░(¯`’•.¸ *♥♥♥* ¸.•’´¯) ░B░I░R░ T░H░D░A░Y░ (¯`’•.¸*♥♥♥*¸.•’´¯) Hope you enjoyed YOUR special day!
    ║╚╦═╦═╦═╦╦╗ ║╚╦═╦═╦═╦╦╗ ║╚╦╦═╣╚╣╚╦╝╠═╦╦╗
    ║║║╬║╬║╬║║║ ║║║╬║╬║╬║║║ ║╬║║╔╣╔╣║║╬║╬║║║
    ╚╩╩╩╣╔╣╔╩╗║ ╚╩╩╩╣╔╣╔╩╗║ ╚═╩╩╝╚═╩╩╩═╩╩╩╗║
    ¸.•*¨*•.♪♫♫♪Happy Birthday .♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸ ♥Happy Birthday to youuuuu ♪♫•*¨*•.¸.•*¨*•♫
    ˜”*°•.˜”*°•.˜”*°•.★★.•°*”˜.•°*”˜.•°*”˜”

  13. Macarons scare me – I avoid them like the plague as I can not seem to make them – yours look far better than mine did so be proud of that – I bet your Sister still enjoyed them.

  14. For your first time making them, your macarons look great! And it looks like none of them cracked which is a good sign! Macarons are tricky little things! This is the first recipe I have come across that uses almonds with the skin. Wether using almonds with the skin or not, it is important to sift the powdered sugar/almonds to prevent lumps.

    Also, the little peaks can be avoided by using your finger dipped in water (barely wet) and just lightly smoothing them down (before letting them rest. doing it after will cause them to crack.

    One other tip that I know are essential are making sure to whack the baking tray on the counter to get any bubbles out (prevents cracking) and to get the little macaron “foot.”

    There’s much debate about aging egg whites, letting them rest etc. David Lebovitz has a great recipe and post to perfect macarons/troubleshoot:)

    http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2005/10/french-chocolat/

    http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/09/making-french-macarons/

  15. Pingback: Poopie pies and birthday cupcakes | trials in food

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