Monday, November 07, 2005

Hooked on Macarons

Macarons have been on my ever-growing list of have-to-bakes for quite a while before I finally got my hands dirty last week and tried the Chocolate Macaron recipe from Pierre Herme's Chocolate Desserts. Since I had not eaten macarons before, I did not have any expectations concerning the taste. But I had a fairly good idea as to how they should look. That's why I was quite dissapointed to see the cracked tops and flat bottoms of my macarons as they came out of the oven. Although they lacked the characteristics of a succesful macaron, I did not want to waste them; so, I made the ganache filling and sandwiched them with it. As the recipe called for overnight refrigeration, in they went the refrigerator for their beauty sleep. When I tasted one the next morning, I was immediately convinced that this was one of the most sophisticated chocolate desserts I have ever had; it was creamy, crunchy and chewy all in one bite. I was hooked on the taste, but what was I to do about the looks?

Not surprisingly, the macarons disappeared fast and I was able to prepare the second batch the same evening. This time, I used stacked oven trays as Pierre Herme suggested, and ended up with smoother tops --mind you, not flat and shiny as I would've loved them to be, but just less cracked. The frilly bottoms called "feet" were still missing. I spent that night reading the egullet thread on macarons from the first page to the last, and learnt a few things I missed on the first two tries. Meanwhile, my third batch of macarons using Nigella Lawson's Pistachio Macaron recipe (I found in the egullet macaron thread) turned out to be a total disaster. The cookies were edible, but they were as far a cry from a macaron as a cookie could possibly be. Needless to say, I did not bother to make the pistachio buttercream filling. I just sandwiched them with Nutella and my forgiving kids ate them. As I write these, the egg whites for the fourth batch are resting uncovered on the counter. I will make the macarons tomorrow morning and wait until they develop a crust before I bake them. I understand that this can take anywhere from 10 minutes to several days. After the baking, cooling and sandwiching phases, I'll wrap and refrigerate them overnight for flavors and textures to blend. If nothing else, baking macarons is a good exercise in patience. I hope to have better luck tomorrow with the fourth batch so that I can share the recipe with you. In the mean time, I leave you with the pictures of my footless and cracked-top macaron want-to-be's.