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Feb 01 2012

First on the First: Macarons

I have a confession to make: This isn’t the first time I’ve made macarons. It’s not the second time either. I’m such a fraud!

I had no problem attempting them again, however, because macarons are something that require practice in order to reach perfection–and I am nowhere near that point yet. Case in point.

strawberry macarons with Prosecco and Orange Flower Water buttercream

Yeah. The first two times I made macarons, I managed beautiful domed tops, no cracking, and there were actually feet. I thought I had this challenge in the bag. I am a firm believer in the Bravetart’s method (debunking many of the myths that macs are incredibly impossible to accomplish). I would just try a more complicated version–adding some flavor other than vanilla beans–and I would be all set. No need to get my panties in a bunch here. No need to get all frantic because, between working two jobs and being a mom, I hadn’t had the time to get to my version earlier in the month. No problem.

Except that’s not the way it played out.

Monday night, far later than I intended, I began my first attempt. I ground the almonds in batches in my mini food processor. I crushed freeze-dried strawberries and beat the hell out of egg whites from a carton (I had to save time somewhere…). The resulting batter looked perfectly lava-like and I freehanded piping it, oozing confidence all the while.

Instead, I ended up with sheets full of macs that had spread into each other. As one co-worker put it, “Are these supposed to look like Mickey Mouse?” No feet. No macs. Still, the flavor was spot-on, so I brought the shells to work, deciding to save the filling for my final attempt the next day. Nobody there complained about my imperfect macs–they simply ate them and enjoyed.

Tuesday night, I stopped at the store to grab some almond meal to save myself some time. I still sifted all the dry ingredients (and if you know me at all, you know how much I hate doing this, but it’s essential for smooth shells). I followed the recipe the same as last time, but beat the egg whites longer, thinking perhaps I hadn’t allowed them to get stiff enough last time. In past experience, I had also discovered that under-mixing can result in the lack of feet-formation, so I hand-mixed a little longer, too. I discovered that my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator was sufficient for piping (seeing as I had used the last disposable piping bag the prior day and was out of zip-top bags as a quick substitute). Smacking the cookie sheet on the counter to knock out the air bubbles, I was sure I had it this time.

My macs believed otherwise.

This time, they cracked. They cracked and they remained flat. Crushed, like my hopes of proving to the other members of the challenge that decent-looking macs can be achieved fairly easily.

Then I remembered my advice from the last time I made these:

Nobody is perfect. And even those who are closest to it did not get there immediately or overnight. Everything takes work–practice–and good technique. Just like the concert pianist did not get there by sitting down that very night on stage and throwing together a little ditty without any preparation, it is unfair to expect of ourselves MacarOn Cafe-quality macs on the first try. Or to be angry because someone else did manage the same. With practice and paying attention to what we’re actually doing instead of focusing on a million other variables, we can be assured that eventually, we, too, will be able to achieve consistent results. And then we will see for ourselves that there is more to it than powdered sugar, egg white age, and sunny skies.

It’s okay. Really, it is. We all need to be a little kinder to ourselves for our imperfections because even in their apparent ugliness, there is a perfect sweetness beneath it all, the rainbow in the storm. In the grand scheme, it really doesn’t matter. Just take a bite, savor that flavor, and let it all go.

And that’s what I did. I slathered some Prosecco and Orange Flower Water Buttercream on Attempt #2 and went with the flow. Failure never tasted so good!

strawberry macarons with Prosecco and Orange Flower Water buttercream

To try your hand at macs as well, I highly recommend the Bravetart’s recipes. I used the macarons from her Strawberries & Cream variation, substituting orange flower water for the rose flower water. I liked her idea of a champagne buttercream from another variation, but I had no interest in making a Swiss Buttercream, so I whipped this up instead:

Prosecco and Orange Flower Water Buttercream
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Frosting
Ingredients
  • ¾ pound (24 Tablespoons, 3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • ½ bottle Prosecco, reduced
  • ¼ teaspoon orange flower water
Instructions
  1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, gently reduce the Prosecco over medium heat until you have about a Tablespoon left. Set aside to cool.
  2. Dump all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  3. Beat on low at first, incorporating the powdered sugar. Once it’s combined, beat on medium to medium-high speed until desired consistency is reached.
  4. Store in the refrigerator up to one week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

 

Next month, we’ll be making eclairs for First on the First. We’d love to have you join us!

And now…some macs!

About the author

Carrie @ poet in the pantry

Carrie is a home baker and amateur photographer who dabbles in writing and poetry.

15 comments

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  1. Avital

    Regardless, of their cracks, their color is so vibrant and saturated. I didn’t try colors this time but I want to next time! So excited for eclairs

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      They’re so pretty despite their imperfections. :) I have high hopes for eclairs next month!

  2. Anna @ hiddenponies

    I bet they taste delicious! Love the flavours and colour…so impressed you still finished!

  3. Kate @ FoodBabbles

    I love your advice from the last time you made them as well as your incredibly creative flavor selections. I have to try making these next time I do macs or some time in the near future. Love love love what you did, even if it didn’t turn out the way you wanted. ;)

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      The best part? The people I served them to didn’t even know what they were supposed to look like. They just loved how they tasted. :)

  4. Donna @ What the Dog Ate

    That flavor combo sounds amazing. Thanks for lighting a fire under me to finally do this.

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      Thanks for joining us! I’m so glad you shared your yummy Thin Mint Macarons with us!

  5. Bee (Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine)

    Well… they certainly SOUND delicious ;) I’ve been surprised with my good fortune with macaron baking… I’ve only had cracks once! I love the color in the shell of these too…

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      From what I’ve been told since, it may be the carton egg whites that were the problem. Reading the carton after, it does say they can’t be used for meringues or angel food cakes, so it’s certainly possible. They still tasted great and that’s all that matters to me!

  6. Princess Polkadot

    Amen!! Even imperfect looking Macs taste fabulous.

    Which might be some sort of metaphor for women and obsessing with looks that’s much too deep for me to probe. :-)

  7. Living The Sweet Life

    These are stunning!! The colour is so bright and spring light … truly what is needed to brighten a winters day.
    And way to go for even attempting to make macarons!! I’m scared out of my mind, to just give it a shot – - I’ve heard so many times that they are so finicky, that I figured I’d leave it to the experts.

  8. vianney

    The flavor comboe and color is stunning… I have alwasy wanted to attempt macs, but lack the patience!! lol,

  9. charlotte

    Whenever I make something that “fails” – I simply rename it. For example, when my marmalade didn’t set, I called it “citrus compote”. Perhaps you could call these “strawberry crackle sandwiches”

    1. charlotte

      BTW, I see you’re a poet, so I’m sure you’ll come up with something better!

    2. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      Love this idea! Turn a “failure” into a completely new creation! :)

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