Friday, January 24, 2014

The Year of the Macaron

Ah, the macaron. My best friend and my mortal enemy. 


Macarons are probably the classiest dessert craze that have come on the scene recently.  They've always been one of my favorites, as evidenced by my wedding cake: 

Ourso TBM 6014


Photo credit for that one goes to my awesome photographers, The Beautiful Mess 

I love the textural contrast of the delicate meringue shell - how the crisp exterior gives way to the chewy interior, the joyful shatter a perfect macaron makes when you bite into it.  The airy cookie paired a dense buttercream or ganache filling.  Yum.

The problem with macarons is that they're super temperamental. If you made them five times using exactly the same ingredients and method, three times they'd come out perfectly, one time they'd be slightly flawed but usable, and one time they'd be completely, absurdly terrible. Environmental factors play a serious part - slamming your oven doors can cause the fragile meringues to drop.  An air bubble in your piping bag or uneven pressure when you're squeezing the batter onto the parchment paper causes cracks. And humidity will completely botch them all together. Which is awesome in a place like North Carolina.  (NOT.) 

In my early days of baking, macarons caused me undue anxiety. I remember my culinary school exam where I had to make them.  I fell prey to one of the errors above, and the shells came out like flat little hockey pucks. I got a 0 on my first attempt. A ZERO! I'd never gotten a zero on anything in my life. Those culinary school teachers are really the "all or nothing" type.  Luckily, I was able to try them again the next day, and they turned out slightly better, but it was still one of my more shameful moments in my culinary journey.

This is why I've decided to redeem myself. I've declared 2014 the year of the macaron. Every morning, I shall glance upon my reflection in the mirror and declare: I AM A MIGHTY CHEF! I WILL NOT BE BESTED BY A MERE COOKIE!  I'm going to make macarons all day every day, until I can make them perfectly and without anxiety. I'll make them with an almond base, a hazelnut base, and maybe even a peanut base.  I'll fill them with jam, ganache, and myriad flavors of buttercream. It will be GRAND.

The trick here is that almond flour is, like, hella expensive. ($15 a pound!? Who the hell is this Bob, owner of the Red Mill? He's running a racket and preying on the gluten free!)… so perhaps "all day, every day" is a slight exaggeration.  Maybe "some days, a couple of hours a day" would be more accurate.  The other challenge, as I mentioned before, is the humidity. I will scour and wait until we have 0% humidity for several days in a row before cranking out a big batch.

In order to help me achieve this goal, I've put macarons on my online shop.  Hopefully, millions of people will order them (cough cough) and then I'll be the next Pierre Herme! 




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