Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Macarons: Not entirely impossible

After visiting Paris with some friends this spring, and trying french macarons at Laduree (and ok, at McDonalds too) I have been hooked on the idea of baking them myself. Suddenly, I saw them everywhere, even in Ireland! I finally realized I was destined to bake them when I stumbled across Hisako Ogita's book, i <3 macarons, in the dollar-bin at a book store.

Laduree shop in Paris (unfortunately not allowed to photograph inside.)

Cupcakes and macarons at a local food market in Howth, Ireland.

I promptly bought the cute little book and flipped through a discouraging amount of instructions. These adorable pastries are more work than they appear! After reading the book and timidly buying ingredients, it still took me a few days to gather the courage to face them.

Finally, at midnight last night, I decided I had nothing better to do than give it a shot. The middle of the night presented an opportune chance to bake because not only had the day's heat subsided, but my family was asleep and would not see me struggle.

And struggle I did. From batter spilling all across my parchment paper to glass bowls exploding with syrup in the microwave, I nearly gave up many times. I was off to an unpromising start.

With instructions and terms such as "If the macaronage step is repeated less than 10 times, the baked macarons will lack luster. However, when it is repeated more than 20 times, oil stains may remain on the pastry's surface..." it is an understatement to say I was intimidated. There was no doubt that I would mess up some precise and minute detail that would certainly ruin the whole batter. But by 3:30 AM when my batches had finished baking, I was surprisingly pleased with their appearance.

Then I bit into one... dare I say better than Paris? Even after all of my mistakes, I still managed to achieve the texture and flavor I remembered from France. A crisp outer shell that encompasses a perfectly chewy melt-away inside. I ate a few more before even letting them cool or adding the cream filling.

Lesson learned? Don't be afraid to keep pushing forward. If I had given up at the first sign of failure, I know for a fact that I would not have tried baking these again for a while. But because I carried on I ended up with a delicious, albeit not perfect, end result.

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