Before I begin telling the story of the utter disaster that resulted from my attempt at making lemon macarons this week, allow me to introduce you to the newest member of my kitchen: The lovely and talented Kitchen Aid mixer my cousin sold me for the bargain price of $25!
A few weeks ago, I mentioned on Facebook that I was in the market to buy a used model, and in true Facebook fashion, word spread through my younger cousin, who talked to my older cousin, who talked to my mom and said they had one they were looking to get rid of. I was happy to take it off their hands; yet, even my sleek new kitchen toy was no use for tackling this week's complicated cookie recipe.
I never expected that making French macarons would be the easiest thing I'd ever do. Many blogs, bakers, and even pros call them "finicky" on a regular basis. Even TK (Thomas Keller) says, "The macaron shell isn't difficult to make, but it can be a little tricky . . ."
Translation: The first time you try, you will probably fail.
Indeed, I did. The macaron shell is primarily made of almond meal, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and whipped egg whites. After whipping the egg whites until they are foamy, most online recipes say to add granulated sugar and continue whipping until they form stiff peaks. TK, on the other hand, says to create a syrup in a sauce pan with water and sugar and a candy thermometer that needs to read 248 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the syrup reaches the proper temperature, it gets added to the egg whites and whipped into peaks. That's not exactly what happened when I tried:
Problem #1: My syrup never reached 248 degrees. The needle climbed all the way up to 225 Fahrenheit, and then it just sat at that temperature for what seemed like an eternity. Granted, I'm not the most patient person in the world, but after watching the needle rise and rise and rise -- only to plateau at 225, I turned the burner up to high, waited a little longer, and then lost faith it would ever get any warmer.
Problem #2: I couldn't get the egg whites to form peaks. Like ever. After 20 plus minutes of whipping, they were still a loose frothy mess. I'm a firm believer in working with what you've got, so I tried combining the egg whites with the almond meal/powdered sugar mixture and baking the cookies anyways, which resulted in a gooey, inelegant science-experiment-gone-wrong.
At that point, all I could do was laugh. And be grateful that powdered sugar and eggs cost next to nothing. That's the beauty of baking -- you can throw everything in the trash, start anew, and rest assured that although you may have wasted time, you haven't wasted money. But even my time wasn't exactly wasted. I learned that I need to do some extensive research on the art of making macarons, and perhaps consult a few YouTube videos.
I'm determined to master these "finicky" cookies, and next week I have the opportunity to do just that because I'm scheduled to bake them one more time! When I was writing out my baking schedule for this blog, I must have intuitively sensed I would need a second go at it.
Until then, I wish you all a happy Easter, and hope you'll join me next week for another valiant attempt at baking macarons. With any luck, they'll actually look like cookies this time, and be pink and lovely and raspberry-flavored :)