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Priceless. Not.

Three hours in the kitchen = $45 (and that’s being generous…)
Ingredients to make 3 batches of macarons = $10
TWO edible macarons out of all that time and effort = priceless (and not in a good way!)


Now I have made macarons before. The first time they looked like this:


Second time, ummmm not so much…


Third time, not bad either:


I know they had pointy hats but at least they had some semblance of feet…

So I thought it was time to hone my skills a little bit and what better way to do that than participate in MACTWEETS, a group of bloggers all intent on making the perfect macaron.

I followed David Lebovitz’s recipe as I had in the past. So here goes my recap with pictures, though given the results you might just want to ignore my advice!!!! David’s recipe has worked beautifully in the past for me – and I know that perfect macaron-making depends a lot on the humidity in the air and the egg white temperatures etc… Clearly the odds were stacked against me today.

Chocolate Macarons 
Makes about fifteen cookies 
Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway) by David Lebovitz


Macaron Batter

1 cup (100 gr) powdered sugar

½ cup powdered almonds (about 2 ounces, 50 gr, sliced almonds, pulverized)

3 tablespoons (25 gr) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

5 tablespoons (65 gr) granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (180 degrees C).


Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.


Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps; use a blender or food processor since almond meal that you buy isn’t quite fine enough.

(First I had to grind the almonds)




Can I just say that at this point, my “counter space” (and I use that term very loosely) looked like this:


Anyone wanna send me a new kitchen for Christmas???





In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.



(My eggs, I believe, were the problem. They never in all three batches, got quite fluffy enough…)


Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula.



When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you’re alone).

I also did a test run on a plate:


Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch (3 cm) circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart. 
Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons, then bake them for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet.


Ok I was pretty happy with these. Into the oven I popped them.


Ugh – they cracked and didn’t have so much as a toe, let alone feet. But they looked like they might be edible. Until I turned them over:


Back to the kitchen:


Fail #2.


These babies burned on the bottom too.

Attempt #3:


But I was worried about these – the almond didn’t look ground enough…


They, too, joined the cimtière des macarons.


At this stage, I was pretty fed up. I had lowered the temperature on the oven, kept a careful eye on them and it just wasn’t working. But like my adventures in bread baking and because of the Taurus in me, I kept on at it. I made one more batch:


And nearly three hours later, I managed TWO edible macarons. No feet or anything, barely any rising but edible nonetheless. And you know, beggars can’t be choosers, right? I used a little Ficoco spread to sandwich them and it was delicious.


But not a proper macaron. Sigh.


Thankfully on December 23rd, I will be attending a macaron-making workshop at the Pavillion Elysée Lenôtre in Paris. I know THEY won’t let me walk away with crappy macarons so tune in later this month to see some proper ones.

MACTWEETS ladies – so sorry to let you down….

Macarons on Foodista

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33 Responses to Priceless. Not.

  1. French Cooking for Dummies December 7, 2009 at 12:17 #

    Don't worry Mardi! Judging by the look of your first macarons attempts, you'll masterize macaron making after your class at Lenôtre! Lucky you ;-)

  2. Kate at Serendipity December 7, 2009 at 13:21 #

    Mardi, I have a book about macarons. It has the most detailed recipe and instructions of any I've seen, as well as a whole section on troubleshooting. Based on what you've posted and what you've said, here's what I see in his book:

    1. He says to take the ground almonds and the powdered sugar and whiz them in a food processor together. For a while, too, to ensure that they're all veryvery fine. Then sift them.

    2. Noting that the pastry bag bit is difficult, he recommends leaving the tip in one place and just squeezing the batter so it comes out all around the tip. Then lift and twist the tip with a little jerking movement away from the macaron so you don't get those little hats.

    3. Every recipe I've ever seen says to let them rest, from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. I know, I know, David says it's not necessary, but …

    4. Re: tapping the baking sheet. My guy says to tap it once lightly.

    OK, ok. Here's the troubleshooting part:

    1. If they don't have the collars, it's because you mixed the egg whites and the rest of the batter too much, knocking too much air out. (or, in this last case, I'm thinking maybe the egg whites just never got the volume they needed.

    2. If the tops aren't smooth, it's because the almond/sugar mixture was too coarse.

    3. If they're not round on top, it's because the pastry bag technique wasn't right.

    4. If they're cracked, it's because of one of three things: first, the oven was too hot (my guy recommends 145 C for 15 minutes. That's a pretty cool oven, but they're meringues, after all… ) Second, the batter wasn't folded enough (I know, he can't have it both ways, but I don't think this was your problem). Third, they weren't allowed enough time to dry. He says one hour.

    5. If they stick to the baking sheet, it's because you didn't do what he recommends when you take them out of the oven: Sprinkle water on your countertop, spread it around and slip the baking paper with the macaroons onto the damp countertop as soon as they come from the oven. This stops the cooking and helps them to let go of the paper so you don't end up with empty domes.

    That's it. I hope this helps. In keeping with the blogger code of honesty, I have to admit that I don't make these. I can get some of the best I've ever had just down the street…

    GOOD LUCK. All my friends who make these (both of them) say that the first 3 or 4 times are a waste.

  3. doggybloggy December 7, 2009 at 13:49 #

    a copper bowl is best but a steel bowl will work when beating eggs to a nice peak – it looks like you are using a ceramic or a plastic bowl -

  4. Divina Pe December 7, 2009 at 14:05 #

    I'm proud of you. Really. I've never made macaroons before. Our kitchen kooks the same. hehe. Make more macaroons. I'm willing to eat them. You're just too far from me. :D

  5. tastyeatsathome December 7, 2009 at 14:21 #

    I've never made macarons before, so I'm super-impressed at your perseverance. I'm sure that once you DO nail them, you'll be able to tell all of us what not to do, which will make your advice even more valuable. And as for kitchen counter space, I empathize! That's my kitchen every time I cook!

  6. MaryMoh December 7, 2009 at 14:41 #

    I admire everyone who make macaroons regarless of the outcome. I have not tried making it yet….looks like a real challenge. Have to put on whole first. Your determination is impressive.

  7. Carol Egbert December 7, 2009 at 15:11 #

    I love reality in the kitchen. I have more counter space than you do and therefore bigger messes. Thanks for sharing your macaroon magic?@#$*&^%$

  8. Conor @ HoldtheBeef December 7, 2009 at 15:57 #

    I would send you a new kitchen, but it might be superseded by the time it got to you from here.

    Damn temperamental macarons. It's not you, it's them. They just need some space, you've been coming on too strong for them. You have to play hard to get.

  9. gastroanthropologist December 7, 2009 at 17:00 #

    Oh, I'm so sorry you've had such a time with these macarons, but the way you wrote about your experience(s) had me laughing a bit. Lenotre? I'm jealous.

  10. Evelyne@Cheap Ethnic Eatz December 7, 2009 at 17:23 #

    A the fickle macaron. i made them 2x and with improvement. But now somewhat fear making them too lol.

  11. Carolyn Jung December 7, 2009 at 18:46 #

    Those finicky macarons!
    Your tale reminds me of my first time growing tomatoes in our new house. Planted four tomato plants. Got many tomatoes to grow. But got only TWO to eat! The dastardly squirrels ate the rest. Sigh. My husband then spent a small fortune to build a fortress around my tomato plants. Did the trick. But he forever refers to my crop now as the $80 tomatoes, as he spent that in supplies to build the protection.

  12. The Duo Dishes December 7, 2009 at 18:49 #

    You're great for sticking with it. Love that tenacity. :) The third round isn't too bad though. One more try, and you'll get it!

  13. Fresh Local and Best December 7, 2009 at 20:16 #

    Wow I can't believe that you made your own almond flour. I think it looks great, and I admire your perseverance.

  14. Mum M December 7, 2009 at 22:11 #

    Glad to see someone else has a kitchen that ends up looking like a bomb-site. You are your mother's daughter!
    Don't worry about the macarons, I know you will master them, in Paris,
    everything is possible-lucky you.
    I've tried macarons twice' both unsuccessfully, so now I buy a couple of perfect ones and thoroughly enjoy them. That way, I don't have to eat the disasters- much better for the waistline!

  15. lk (Healthy Delicious) December 8, 2009 at 00:41 #

    I hate that macs are so expensive to make! S o much money down the drain. :(

    They're so finicky!! I've made some pretty successfully, but not nearly consistently enough to give any sort of advice. I'm with you on the eggs being your problem though – they're don't look right at all. Did you beat them long enough? I know it seems to take forever when I do it.

  16. K a b l o o e y December 8, 2009 at 00:55 #

    Yeah, those eggies didn't look very peaky. The 'graveyard' line was VERY funny. Sorry about the time spent, but then, it'll be a great story in your (eventual) book. And Oprah will laugh and laugh…
    As for the macarons spreading out more each time, if it were me making cookies and that was happening, it'd be because the cookie sheet started in the freezer, but then got hotter with each batch. Do macarons work the same way?

  17. Simply Life December 8, 2009 at 01:45 #

    Wow, I'm so impressed by you! I'm not sure I would even try something that difficult..but hey, with those ingredients I'm sure they tasted great no matter what!

  18. The Best Family December 8, 2009 at 01:56 #

    first, let me say you are awesome for sharing your flops as well as your successes! lots of food bloggers won't do that, and i appreciate your honesty. second, you are going to come back from france a macaron baking rock star. i just know it. :)

  19. Meghan@traveleatlove December 8, 2009 at 03:44 #

    I am sorry they didn't work out the way you wanted! Brave of you to try! I can not wait to read your Paris posts. I know they will make me want to get on a plane immediately. . .

  20. penny aka jeroxie December 8, 2009 at 11:53 #

    I will not even attempt to make macs. Maybe one day maybe but Ive read of so many failures. So good on you for trying and trying.

  21. Deeba PAB December 8, 2009 at 15:16 #

    Oh you are so good. I love your spirit…honestly I do. The first time I tried, 6 single egg white batches in one day, there was nothing called HAPPY FEET left in my vocabulary! Am glad you got 2 macs to show off, and they look darned delicious to me.I love Kates comment where she's patiently tried to address each issue. I use Levobitzs' chco macs recipe as a base too … no resting works fine for me, but these 'feety' creatures are temperamental. He says 190C & mine work at 140C, no resting time.I also don't age my whites for 3 days.. still trying to find my feet with confidence though! Thank you for joining us Mardi. YAY!!

  22. Deeba PAB December 8, 2009 at 15:18 #

    Oooops sorry. Me again…also meant to say that we would love to learn of your experience from the Elysée Lenôtre pastry school once you are done. Look forward to hearing from you soon! Good luck for it! xo

  23. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite December 8, 2009 at 15:55 #

    French Cooking – thanks for your support!

    Kate – I actually did do most of those things. I think my egg whites were funky and over beaten and the oven was just too hot.

    Doggy Bloggy -thanks for the tip – I haven't read that before.

    Divina – thanks for your support and sweet comments!

    tastyeats – Sigh re: the kitchen counter dilemma!

    Mary Moh – thanks!

    Carol – I guess if I had a bigger counter I would make a bigger mess too!

    Conor – Ah – that's what I was doing wrong – NOT playing hard to get!!

    Duo and Fresh Local – yup, stubborn I am !

    Mum – sounds like a plan! Though I could NOT eat the ruined ones – too burned…

    LK – the eggs were NOT right :-(

    Kablooey – Ah well I had better get on that book then, Oprah won't be around forever! I did cool the pans between batches…

    Simply Life – they didn't unfortunately taste good at all. Except the last two!

    Best Family – I have no probs showing my kitchen reality. Though it would be better is I WERE a baking rock star!

    Meghan – there will be photos!

    Penny – I think "more fool me" for trying so many times!

    Deeba – good to know the Mac Queens have their issues too! And for sure I will be posting about my Lenôtre experience!!!!

  24. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite December 8, 2009 at 16:01 #

    gastroanthropologist – I am glad I made you laugh!

    Carolyn – Oh don't even get me STARTED about growing tomatoes – the trials we had this summer!!

    Evelyne – They are fickle, that's for sure!

  25. Chez Us December 8, 2009 at 19:07 #

    Mardi, I love this story and I feel your pain, I have been there many times! What until you see my post for the upcoming Mac Attack. I ended up going to my fail proof recipe this week for the gifts I am making, it really gives me no trouble & beautiful feet every time! I love the Mac Attack group and will keep trying, though, one batch has got to work!

  26. Mary-Laure December 8, 2009 at 20:11 #

    I am EXTREMELY impressed! I adore macarons and have some in Paris as soon as I hit the ground.

    PS: don't miss the giveaway on my blog!

  27. Ellie December 8, 2009 at 23:23 #

    Peservere… solder on! You will get there! The good thing about making macarons is that although they don't look perfect but they still good to eat!

  28. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction December 9, 2009 at 04:05 #

    Sorry you had such difficulty with the macs. I can't say I've ever really had any better luck. They look beautiful, but I don't think I'll be trying them again anytime soon. I bet they were delicious, though… even if they weren't perfect!

  29. Jamie December 9, 2009 at 07:33 #

    Oh thanks so much for being game! You'll get there, don't worry. It does look like your egg whites never whipped into meringue. They are too watery. I always whip mine in plastic (if you don't have copper it works best). But they actually look quite yummy (the ones that aren't burned). But the macaron class sounds amazing and I can't wait to hear all about it! Thanks again and look forward to your next batch of magnificent macs!

  30. Neil C. Phillips December 10, 2009 at 13:49 #

    Can I just say how happy I was to be in Wine School tasting and spitting a dozen fine wines whilst Mardi was going through this turmoil?

    :-)

  31. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite December 10, 2009 at 17:08 #

    Chez us – you're so right – there's always next month!

    Mary Laure – I can't WAIT – 8 days until I can taste a macaron in Paris!

    Ellie – oh I will. You will see monthly mac attempts from here until I get them right!

    Jen -unfortunately they were not :-(

    Jamie – thanks for hosting this! Actually my egg whites were really hard and thus hard to fold… Next time, next time!

    Neil – yes, well perhaps I should have had wine whilst I was baking!

  32. Lisa December 23, 2009 at 09:44 #

    I'm so sorry they didn't turn out this time, but they lok and sound delicious, and taste is what matters in the long run :) Just send all your 'failures' to me next time LOL Have a wonderful holiday!

  33. Barbara @ Vino Luci Style December 24, 2009 at 16:44 #

    As another member of MacTweets, nothing warms my heart like reading the travails of another member, these are tempermental little buggars. But then you go to Paris for schooling? In Macs? Just know you are now expected to be a mentor for all of North America!

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