It's been a rough week here at the G.'s. And when life gets me down, I can't just lay in bed and mope. I must move. I must clean and sew and most importantly--bake. I can't help it--baking just makes me feel normal and homey and motherly. My sister-in-law recently said to me that my house always smells good, like something yummy was baking or about to be baked, and to me that's one of the nicest compliments a home can get.
Now, naturally, if you're going to bake when you're in a really, really yucky mood, what else do you bake but extremely fiddly, temperamental, silly things like macarons?
It seemed like a good idea to me.
For my first batch (oh yes. there were several) I tried Mandy Mortimer's Earl Grey and Lemon macarons. Sounded good to me. I don't particularly like Earl Grey tea, but I love the bergamoty smell of it. What could go wrong? Mine came out looking just like hers:
I actually wished I'd been able to find my camera last night, because I would have loved to show you what those things looked like. Despite my misgivings when my meringue wouldn't make peaks, the domes were perfectly smooth, but the feet (the frilly little part at the base of the cookie for you mac newbs) were these giant amorphous puddles that gave my macs the appearance of having lived in the vicinity of Chernobyl for awhile. Not to mention my attempt to combine sky blue with brown gel coloring gave me dark teal cookies. Not a bad color in general, but certainly not that pretty blue I was going for. My husbands response when I took the tray out of the oven was to loudly snort and proclaim in a booming voice, "EPIC FAAAAIIIIL!!!"
But maybe they would still taste good? My husband bit into one, made a "are you kidding me?" face, and set it back down. "Tastes like overly sweet Russian black bread." I pouted for a second before biting into one myself. He was absolutely right. Needless to say, I didn't even bother with the lemon filling.
This morning I decided to try again. This time I wanted raspberry flavored macarons with chocolate ganache. I followed the basic recipe that seems to be standard on every blog and website, adding raspberry extract to the batter. Unlike the first time the meringue came out beautifully, and I was convinced these ones were going to be THE ONES. I followed all the instructions I read on the subject and folded my batter until it came off my spatula in a ribbon. Then I piped it onto the parchment and right away I sensed something amiss. It seemed way too runny. After 18 minutes in the oven, they emerged. Puke-tinted, flat, footless, and unpleasantly gooey on the inside. Ick. And: Dang.
The kids ate them, but then, what are kids but tiny humans who think hot dogs are fine cuisine?
Okay, I said. One more try. This time it HAS to work. I reviewed all the info and decided that I would follow Sprinkle Bakes Cayenne Macaron recipe, minus the cayenne and cream of tartar, and using 5 tablespoons of sugar instead of the 1/2 cup of extrafine sugar. I would follow her mixing and piping technique, but I would let the macs dry out on the counter for a half hour instead of 15 minutes since I live in Florida and the ambient humidity is higher. I also decided to keep the oven temp right at 350 instead of fiddling with it during baking. Aaaaaandddd.....
Nice smooth tops! Cutie little feet! Non-gooey middles! Excitement ensues.
I made a sour lemon curd to fill them with, out of what I had on hand-- the yolks left over from the whites I'd used, greek yogurt, and lemon juice.
While the curd was setting up in the fridge, I brushed the tops with some luster dust.
And then I piped the lemon curd onto the cookies and sandwiched them together, et voila! Tiny little hamburgers of delight.
I'm not gonna lie and say I consider these to be the pinnacle of macaron perfection. They were supposed to be bright, cheery yellow. See those nice splotches of yellow on the macs? Yeah. Old gel coloring doesn't like to mix with batter apparently. For me, the chief draw of making these things is the cuteness and the colors. So...not such a success in that sense. But in the technique and outcome of the things themselves, I'm kinda proud. And the lemony filling is the perfect thing to offset the bland sweetness of the shells. Yum.
So. That being said, I feel quite comfortable crossing #7: Make Macarons off my list. Yay!