Happy Valentine‘s Day, friends! I hope your day is filled with love, happiness, joy and good times! 🙂 As for me, I’ve been in the kitchen baking to celebrate the occasion and guess what I’ve been making!?
AHHH! That’s right, I’m soooooo beyond excited to share that I’ve been baking homemade macarons! Wha-what!? The journey wasn’t an easy one, though, but it was SO worth it in the end (and my tummy agrees). Let’s get into some more photos, shall we!?
*photo heavy post warning*
I randomly got the idea to make some for V-Day last week and did some research. I’d heard and read many, many horror stories about making macarons from scratch, but I decided to try it anyways (I’m crazy, I know). Turns out, homemade macarons aren’t actually all that difficult to make, and with few ingredients needed (egg whites, almonds/almond flour, and sugar), once you find your groove and realize that these aren’t your average cookies. After looking at a few recipes, I decided the recipe on Eat, Live, Travel, Write was the the best to go off of. Unfortunately, it took me a couple of tries to get to what is photographed above, but the best of victories are defined by overcoming some bumps on the road, so I wasn’t worried.
My first attempt, I grinded my own almond flour in my Ninja blender (Thank goodness for these things, it made everything so much easier once I got into the groove of things!), but other than that, I followed the recipe exactly to the word. Unfortunately, from the time I piped them onto the cookie sheet, I knew something was wrong: I could see little bumps, and I wasn’t sure if they were sugar granules or almond pieces, but I knew it wasn’t right. I cooked them, anyways, at 225° fahrenheit because if I cooked them at 300° like the recipe calls for, they’d be blown to smitherines (our oven is fairly new and super, super powerful).
Well, this is how they came out. 🙁 They had decent feet (the little bumpy ridges on the bottom, what every macaron maker strives for), but they had an uneven texture on the top and some of them were cracked. So, I tried again.
This time around, the texture on top was even and smooth, and I credit that to the internet. See, I did some research before my second attempt and realized that it couldn’t be the sugar granules I was seeing, because I’d whipped the egg whites into the sugar until it was light and fluffy. No, it had to be the almonds! So, I picked up some almond flour at Bulk Barn and used that instead, and, like the recipe says, I sifted it twice. When I’d used my own grinded almonds, there were small, albeit visible chunks of almonds, whereas, with the almond flour, it was a super light and fine powder after sifting. Thus, I got a nice, even texture on top of my macs after baking! However, I wasn’t happy yet, as I had two layers of feet on most of them for some reason (weird :/), and some of them came out slanted. I decided to fill them with vanilla buttercream and proceed with photographing them anyways, because I didn’t want them to go to waste and I was happy with the pretty colour.
Alright, it was time for my third attempt (I’m a persistent fool, aren’t I!? :P)! This time, I whipped my whites a little less because I thought maybe that was why I had two feet (I have no idea how I came to this conclusion, haha, but okay), and I skipped the colour. I’d heard/read that colour can sometimes mess with how to macs come out, and even though I’d coloured my sugar and let it dry before using it as suppoesd to directly adding food colouring to the mix, I thought it best to skip it, regardless. I’d also read that “violent handling of the macaron mixture” could also be the problem, so I was extra gentle pouring it into my piping gun and let them rest for almost an hour before placing them in my 200º F oven (I think the temperature was too high for the previous rounds, so I cut it back a bit and increased the cooking time by 20 minutes. Crazy, I know!). Success was mine(or so I thought); the texture was even throughout, they had nice, tall, even feet and looked gorgeous! This time, I added a drop of red food colouring to my buttercream and flavoured it with rose extract and voila! I had perfect, beautiful white and pink macs…
…until I bit into them. Lesson learnt: don’t get all excited and photograph your baking accomplishments until you’ve actually tasted them! I should have seen it coming, especially given the photo directly above (you can literally see sunshine shining through the left mac), but these macs were hollow. I racked my brain for what could be the solution, but I felt somewhat deflated. I’d tried so hard, and had gotten very pretty macs, and they still tasted good, but they weren’t anything to brag about. What can I say, I’m a perfectionist. I wanted this…
…but it seemed impossible. So, I gave up.
Until yesterday, haha (I’m as stubborn as it gets). Something about being off for reading week a whole day earlier than most of your classmates can really inspire a girl, haha. That, and, not to get all cheesy here, but I thought of what Winston Churchill said: “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.” Of course, he was talking about World War II, a topic of far greater importance than some silly macarons, but it’s inspiring nonetheless. So, I donned my pretty apron and took to the kitchen, determined to come out smiling the other side. It suddenly dawned on me that, as I was using half of the ingredients to make a smaller batch, I should cut down the whipping time of my egg whites by half, too (duh, why didn’t you see that sooner, Siobhan!?)! I still wanted hot pinkish macs, so I opted for my coloured sugar trick again, with a couple more drops of red than before. I was still very gentle with the mixture and let the trays rest for 40 minutes. I put them in the oven for 40 minutes on 200° F, turning the tray around at the 20 minutes mark. I prayed for the best…and guess what?
Hallelujah! Success, for real this time! They had nice, even feet, with a smooth, even texture on top, and they were even a perfect, medium pink colour! And the best part? After I filled them with light pink vanilla buttercream, I bit into them and they weren’t hollow! They had a fluffy texture, just like the macs that I pay money for at my favourite bakeries! YAY!!!
So, what have I learnt from this? A few things, really. I’ve learnt that before setting out on a baking adventure, you need to know your limits, and you need to know your tools. For example, for my first attempt, I should have realized that even cutting back the cooking temp by a little wouldn’t be enough. With a lower temperature and more time to cook evenly throughout, my macs came out okay. I also learnt that, like most things, time and love are the most important factors. If you just go through the paces to accomplish something, you’ll never get what you want. You really do have to put extra time, effort, attention and little sprinkle of love to get a satisfying result. And finally, as always, determination is key. Don’t ever settle, for anything, whether it be a bad grade, a boy who doesn’t treat you right, an outfit that doesn’t flatter you, or even macarons that aren’t boast-worthy. 😉 When it comes to getting what you want, whatever that may be, persevering and putting in those extra hours and effort will always be worth it. Just think of it as a part of the story that you’ll one day share with people. After all, people love a good story. 😉
Okay, getting off of the cheesy train, I have to say, these macs are by no means perfect. I still have a lot of work to do for them to be of a higher standard, but…baby steps. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far and my family’s tummys are happy with what steps I took to get here (I’ve now converted my mom into a mac lover, as well! Muahaha! ;))! These aren’t the only things I baked, though, as I love Valentine’s Day and decided to go all out. One of my dad’s dear friends gave the family a baking set of shortbread mix, chocolate chip cookie mix and brownie mix for Christmas, and of course, I baked these with a V-Day theme, too.
As I said on Twitter this morning, how could I not love a day full of red, pink, hearts, flowers and chocolate? I’m single as a pringle, but I’ve learned to love that, too. Plus, that means I don’t have to share my macarons with anyone, either. It’s a win, win! Hehe! #greedy 😛
↑Anyways, that’s all for today’s post! I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know, have you ever made the courageous effort to make macarons yourself? Did you do any baking for this love-ly day?
Thanks for reading, loves! I’ll be back Monday with a new post, but until then…