It was the point of no return after I was introduced to the fairyland of macarons (read how macarons changed my life in my Ladurée and Pierre Hermé posts). I decided that it was time to ditch cakes, cupcakes, cookies and brownies for some serious macaron adventures in my kitchen.
Some of you might have seen some pictures of macarons that I’ve made on my personal and The Pleasure Monger Facebook profiles. I have improved over the four attempts on making them taste and look right. But these journeys were not without perils.
Everytime I make macarons, some things are bound to happen.
1. I make a huge mess in the kitchen, and oh it’s a real pain to clean up after making macarons because the paste leaves a crusty residue everywhere, and whisking icing sugar is not fun because most of it gets air-borne when you start, and then you have to wipe every single surface it hits, which is pretty much everywhere. Have I mentioned that cleaning piping bags are so not a hoot?
2. I get covered in macaron paste, only to realise it hours later when I find suspicious crusty pieces on my leg, arm, whatever. Note to self: Always wear an apron, but for some strange reason, I am always too eager to start and I forget.
3. I swear, bang and throw things around, and make my anger and frustration noticed whenever I make mistakes, which is VERY often. My only audience is my husband and my soft-toy, Pig pig.
4. I end up really happy if they turn out well, or upset if they go kaput.
5. Mostly, I feel a little empty because there’s no one else around to appreciate them, however good or bad they turn out, other than my husband and myself. Pig-pig doesn’t count because he (or she?) doesn’t eat. You know the lost feeling you get after a good party disperses from your place? That’s the feeling I get after putting hours of effort and concentration into making what, 60 shells for 30 macarons, and when I’m done, I sit there covered in sticky paste and think, ‘So what if I made these?’.
For all the things that I’ve been through whilst making macarons, I’ve learnt loads, and since I don’t get the satisfaction of feeding these macarons to friends and family, please humour me and let me share my journey with you.
There was The Beginning. Of course, there was. No one is gifted with the talent of making macarons from the first time they learn how to grasp a whisk. Through my adventures, whenever I made mistakes, I felt stupid and silly and incompetent and everything else negative in between. Macarons are the hardest things I’ve learnt to make, because there is so much more than a recipe, and I thought that those fantastic food bloggers have innate talents in making macarons, like they were born to do it, and I just wasn’t. This can’t be further from the truth. You can learn how to make macarons, it just takes a lot of time, a number of attempts, unlimited patience, lots of care, and you need to be a climate-sensor of some sort (temperature, humidity of where you are located plays a huge role in making your macaron recipe work for you). It takes a lot, but it can be done. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you.
So I ventured into this macaroon thingy I call business, with a recipe from Nigella Lawson. I was feeling inspired one weekend, without all the ingredients I needed, but was determined to make them anyway with whatever I could rummage from my pantry. I was missing a key ingredient, almond flour, but being the novice I was, I didn’t realise that it was crucial, and I made my first macarons with plain flour instead. I don’t regret making them, they tasted great and chewy, though they didn’t keep very well beyond a day. It was easy peasy, and even though these macarons were fake, they got me excited enough to make proper macarons later. You can try making them with the recipe I’ve tweaked as it’s a great recipe for beginners. They don’t look polished, but they look home-made and nut-allergy sufferers benefit from the lack of almonds in them. These happened to be made on a day when two friends came over to watch a football match with M, so they were my taste-testers and they seemed to like the macarons (note: I didn’t have more taste-testers after this attempt, except for my third, boooooohoooooo.) I’m posting up the nut-free recipe for my first attempt here, but stay tuned for my other attempts, I will be blogging about them soon! You can hop over to my Facebook page (follow link on the right column of my blog) for a sneak peak at my 4th attempt in the photo album! Welcome to my journey of learning how to make macarons!
*Updated: Hop over here to read about my next attempt at proper macarons (vanilla bean macarons with salted butter caramel buttercream!).
Here’s the recipe:
Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Buttercream
(adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Pistachio Macarons in How To Be A Domestic Goddess)
For Chocolate Macaron shells:
75 grams plain flour
25 grams cocoa powder
125 grams icing sugar
2 large egg whites
15 grams caster sugar
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line baking tray with baking parchment.
2. Sift flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar together.
3. Whisk egg whites until fairly stiff.
4. Add caster sugar slowly as you whisk the egg whites further till they form very stiff peaks.
5. Fold the whites into sifted dry ingredients, and combine gently until well-incorporated.
6. Pipe small rounds onto lined baking tray with 1cm plain nozzle, let them sit for 10 minutes to form a skin, then bake in oven for 10-12 minutes. At this point, they should be set but not dried out.
7. Remove macaron shells from oven and let cool on a rack while they are still on the baking tray. Make the buttercream filling while the macaron shells are cooling.
For the Chocolate Buttercream:
55 grams cocoa powder, sifted
250 grams icing sugar, sifted
125 grams unsalted butter, softened
1. Cream butter and icing sugar.
2. Add sifted cocoa powder and mix until you get a smooth buttercream.
3. Fill a cooled macaron shell with the buttercream and sandwich it with another shell.
Done! These were great on the day I made them, but got too sticky-chewy beyond that. The shelf-life will differ with different climates.
If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey.
*Updated: This post is featured on Photograzing. Check out my Photograzing profile to see my other featured posts!