The Macarons Diaries: humble beginnings

Macarons, the colourful French delicacy, beloved of Marie-Antoinette (well, according to Sophia Coppola anyway), have replaced the cupcake in recent times as the trendy baked good of choice. So, naturally, I want to master their creation.

I’ve started this series of blogs (at least, for reasons that will become clear, I have a feeling it will become a series) after a disasterous first attempt a few weeks ago. The intention is two-fold: firstly, in order to retain the motivation to keep trying until I perfect them, by publishing my failures for all to see, I’m rather hoping the pressure to improve will prevent me from giving up altogether. And, secondly, to give heart to fellow novice bakers who, like me, ignorantly assumed them to be a piece of cake to make. (FYI, there is a reason that phrase is cake and not macaron-related).

As a birthday gift this year I received good instruction in the form of Bérengère Abraham’s Macarons, which is a delightful collection of 28 combinations of macarons crust and fillings, beginning with a very basic, handy ‘how-to’ guide for all macarons types.

Well safe to say, it wasn’t quite basic enough for me. The moment of failure, I think, came upon adding the baked almond/flour combination to my under-whipped egg-whites, when the whole mixture sort of went ‘pleugh’. Undeterred, I somehow thought that adding liquid (in the form of pink food colouring, as per the recipe), would improve the situation – but instead, predictably, the mixture deflated further.

At this stage, I was pretty certain defeat was on the cards, but never one to give up until the game is well and truly over, I remained resiliant and moved to the next step: piping onto a baking sheet. Not having a baking sheet, I felt that a suitable replacement would be baking paper, lined unevenly into a shallow baking tray. Yes, quite.

Well, I don’t know if you have ever tried piping mulch onto an uneven surface (hasn’t everyone?), but safe to say you end up with small, uneven pools of liquid – far removed from the nice, perfectly round, piped macaron halves, worthy of Lorraine Pascale:

These were not mine.

To complete my humiliation – photo evidence of my attempt:

You may think I would have stopped there, but by then this exercise had morphed from a culinary induction into a full-on science experiement, so I decided to bake them/it regardless, just to see if the heat had any impact on crisping up the shells:

It appears not.

So, on to Round Two. My egg whites are chilling in the fridge, ready for the next battle tomorrow, where they will be well and truly whipped.

Appropriately for the macaron’s heritage, much like France will be in the Rugby World Cup final next weekend.

Stay tuned for the results.

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