Dual Macaron Fail

In mid-January, Josh bought me a new oven, and I LOVE it. A few weeks ago though, I tried to bake macarons in it for the first time, and they didn’t turn out! Needless to say, I was very disappointed and set out to figure out what I was doing wrong.

Originally, my posts about these two macarons were going to be recipe posts, but since the macarons did not turn out right, well, you will get some pictures of failed macarons instead!

Josh has been wanting me to make lavender macarons for a while, and I even bought lavender flavoring a long time ago in preparation for this. I was too scared to use a full teaspoon of flavoring so I reduced my lavender flavoring to 1/2 teaspoon.

I bought my lavender flavoring from Beanilla.com. You can find it here.

I also tried out two macaron mats from Williams-Sonoma. These saved me a lot of time, but I’m not quite sure if they are going to work for me. I will mention later what I think I need to do, but it will require more experimentation.

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I did add food coloring to make the macaron shells purple, but as usual, the color “fades” out after baking.

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My first mistake with the lavender macarons: I think I overmixed the batter. Usually, I can tell when I need to stop, but this time I mixed a lot longer than I usually do.  I didn’t end up with any hats this time after piping them out, but the texture was all wrong after the macarons baked.

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My second mistake: Baking on the wrong rack.  I baked my first batch on the top rack of my oven. Oops! That was a bad idea and I ended up with a small triangle of macarons that looked okay, but the macarons on the outer edges looked like mini-volcanoes!

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My second tray of macarons turned out looking better, but they almost seemed overbaked after the recipe bake time of 12 minutes total. So that would be mistake number three. Their feet also weren’t quite level. On this second tray, I changed my oven setting to convection (we splurged and paid $100 extra for true convection, which means there is a heating element by the fan) and baked the tray on the middle rack.

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I had been wanting to make Italian meringue buttercream for a macaron filling for a while, so even though these macarons didn’t turn out right, I went ahead and made the Italian meringue buttercream anyway.

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Sadly, my son Matthias is not a fan of marshmallow, and this is basically a homemade marshmallow cream. So he didn’t really like these macarons.

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It was a surprise to me that these “volcano” macarons tasted better than the traditionally-shaped macarons. In fact, these were all eaten up first. I think my kids saw these as a novelty. They had fun eating them!

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These macarons almost looked pretty (and you can tell that the purple faded out of the shell), but they were a tad too crispy for me, even with a day or two in the fridge after being filled. The flavor was fine though, which was a relief. I didn’t want the lavender flavor to be overpowering. One picture I forgot to take was of the inside of the macaron. Even though it looks pink outside, it was purple inside!  If I have another chance to experiment with these, I will definitely need to add more food coloring and reduce my bake time by 2 minutes.

My second attempt was actually a few days after I made the lavender macarons. I wanted to make double chocolate macarons for the refreshment reception after my son Corran’s band concert, but after a frustrating afternoon of lopsided macaron shells, I had to give up and make chocolate chip cookies instead, along with a lemon drizzle traybake from one of Mary Berry’s books… which will hopefully be a post soon!

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This time, I mixed the batter until I felt it was enough (and did the V-test with my spatula) and ended up with my little hats again. I think I need to practice until I get no hats. But in the meantime, little hats are good because it means I didn’t overmix the batter.

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These are the only macaron shells I got that had level feet. These were baked on parchment paper in a quarter sheet pan. I wrote earlier that I need to experiment more with my new macaron mats.  All of my lopsided macarons were baked on those two mats, so I am wondering if I need to put the mats on a rimmed sheet pan like this one from Williams-Sonoma, instead of on a large cookie sheet.

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Lopsided macaron shells that were baked on the new macaron mats on a large cookie sheet

I also reduced my bake time by 1 minute each rotation. So I baked these macarons at 325 degrees F using the convection setting, on the middle rack, for 5 minutes. Then, I would rotate the pan and bake for another 5 minutes.

This method produced macarons with a texture closer to what I was expecting. Once I gave up on making them for the reception, I decided to let my family have these lopsided ones. I filled them with a chocolate glaze (from a batch of eclairs I made last week… yet another thing I need to practice: choux pastry!) and also the Italian meringue buttercream that I used for the lavender macarons.

The chocolate-filled ones were more popular than the buttercream-filled ones, so I will have to remember that for next time!

We just finished eating the macarons today, so that means I can start prepping for another go at them soon. I’m not sure when that will be, but hopefully before the end of the month!

Thanks for reading!

Lynn

 

 

 

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Almond Biscotti with Ghirardelli Cocoa Nib Chocolate

Biscotti is something I have not made in years. I think they were okay the last time I made them (but I don’t really remember when that was!) but then I made these! I happened across a recipe for almond biscotti in Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. There was one ingredient in the recipe that caught my eye: cornmeal. I had never thought of cornmeal as something you would use in biscotti!

So I made one batch of Lenox Almond Biscotti and it disappeared so fast that my children were asking me to make it again!

Recipe: Lenox Almond Biscotti

This time, I decided to play around with the recipe a little bit and add in a chopped-up bar of Ghirardelli chocolate. But this bar was a little different. It had cocoa nibs in it. My kids are a little spoiled when it comes to chocolate, since I am always on the lookout for really good chocolate. My kids LOVE dark chocolate and they prefer that over milk chocolate. Once, I shelled raw cocoa nibs and had a hard time keeping my kids away from the bowl.

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I think this was a 3.5 ounce bar. I chopped the bar up into the smallest pieces I could.

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We buy a lot of our food at Costco, just because there are so many of us. Dried fruit, flour, milk, eggs, and nuts are usually on our shopping list. So biscotti was a good use for the huge bag of sliced almonds I had bought from there.

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The batter for the biscotti before adding flour is almost pretty. It becomes a soft yellow color and looks fluffy and light after beating.

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Here is the batter after adding the dry ingredients. Next, the chopped chocolate and sliced almonds go in.

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At this point, it was time to shape the dough into logs. I hate getting dough all over my hands (even when making bread… so I don’t work with sticky bread dough very often), so I cheated and just smoothed out the logs with a spatula and a bench knife.

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When I first made these, 1½ inch wide logs seemed awfully narrow, but the logs bake up much larger than that. So I now always keep them skinny. Also, shorter biscotti are easier and shorter to “second bake.”

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See how wide they are after the first bake? You want to bake these logs until they aren’t shiny in the centers. Once, I made the mistake of not baking them long enough for the first bake and then they didn’t bake long enough for the second bake. So the centers of some of my biscotti were soft instead of crispy. After they cooled for about half an hour, I sliced each log into 3/4-inch-thick pieces with a serrated knife and set them up for their second bake.

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In the oven for their second bake!

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These are the perfect size! Not too big and not too small. And a perfect combination of crunchy and chewy!

I’ve made this recipe about 3 times and here are just some quick notes about what I’ve discovered:

  1. Make sure you bake them long enough for that second bake to get them crunchy! I made the mistake of not baking long enough the second time and ended up with something more like mandelbrot (which I’ve never tasted but sounds like the texture I got) than biscotti. They still tasted good, but they just weren’t crunchy enough to be biscotti. 15 minutes won’t always be long enough. It depends on your oven or the rack position you are using.
  2. Sometimes the original is the best. If I make these again, I think I will go with no additions! The third time I made these I added mini milk chocolate chips… Honestly, they didn’t add much in the way of flavor. Maybe because they were milk chocolate?
  3. Don’t leave out the cornmeal. I think it’s what makes these so addicting!

-Lynn

Crazy Baking Day #3: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Making the cookie dough yesterday was a huge help to me today! It only took me about 3 hours to bake the cookies since all I had to do was scoop dough.

I did learn quite a few things though, even though I’ve baked these many times! Just not in this quantity.

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This big bucket of cookie dough made 199 chocolate chip cookies. Before baking, each ball of dough weighed about 30 grams.

My first two trays of cookies did NOT turn out right at all. Usually, I bake one tray at a time but that just was not an option today with baking so many. So my first four trays were spent trying to figure out timing and when the cookies were baked through. I was also using the convection setting on my oven for the second time so I was figuring that out as well. I thought about trying two trays on the normal bake setting, but anytime I have tried that with these cookies, they definitely do not turn out right! Who knew chocolate chip cookies could be so complicated? Or maybe I am just overly picky…

Finally, I hit upon the magic number and method. Convection bake at 335 degrees F for 5 minutes. Then, switch the cookie sheets on their racks and bake for another 5 minutes. So the cookie sheet on the lower rack went on the top rack for the last 5 minutes and vice versa. I don’t think you’re supposed to have to do that with a convection oven but I was desperate to get these cookies baked without much more messing around. The cookies browned a little more than they usually do on a normal bake but at least they weren’t uncooked in the middle, which was the problem with the first two trays.

My second issue with these cookies: The chocolate chips! They seemed overly large for the size cookies I was baking. I know it seems impossible but it was almost like the cookies had too much chocolate in them. Yes, I know what you are thinking. You must be crazy, Lynn. How can a chocolate chip cookie have too much chocolate? And I completely agree. I’m probably just being picky again.

Right at the end of the bake, I had one of those “British Bake-off” mess-ups, when a baker pulls a cookie sheet out of the oven and some of the baked goods slide off the parchment paper and onto the floor or into the oven. Yep, that happened to me. Four of my half-baked cookies went splat. It was very sad. And messy. It wasn’t an end-of-the-world sacrifice though. I had the 150 cookies I needed for the fellowship tonight.

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I was not happy with the cookies in the picture above. They were way too gooey in the middle. So I guess those are for us to eat. I don’t think any of my family will be complaining about this.

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I set up a cooling rack and packaging station on our dining room table. I ended up needing 3 of the disposable pans for 150 cookies.

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My scooping area was in the kitchen on a gateleg IKEA table that we use as a counter/storage space.

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Here are all the cookies baked. And yes, my house still smells like chocolate chip cookies! Yum!

This concludes this portion of Crazy Baking Days. Thanks so much for reading! And if I end up doing something crazy like this again, there will definitely be a Crazy Baking Day #4!

-Lynn

 

Crazy Baking Day #2: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Crazy Baking Day #2 actually involved no baking at all! Today was basically prep for Crazy Baking Day #3, which happens tomorrow, when I get to bake 150 chocolate chip cookies.

Just as with my macarons, I have a favorite recipe that I can’t seem to stray away from. My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is from Not Without Salt.  This recipe uses chopped-up chocolate bars (which I really suggest you try sometime! They really send these cookies to over-the-top delicious.) but for this bake, I just went with a 48 ounce bag of Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips from Costco. When you bake these, don’t forget the salt sprinkle on top of the cookies. The salt also sends these cookies to over-the-top delicious. Here is a link:

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt from Not Without Salt

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I can guarantee that these chocolate chip cookies will still be awesome.

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My challenge: fill up this 6 quart bucket with chocolate chip cookie dough and somehow fit the bucket in my fridge until tomorrow.

 

My equipment: Two KitchenAid stand mixers. I am so glad my parents let me borrow their stand mixer for a few days.

If I had only had one stand mixer, well, this job would have taken me about 2 and a half hours instead of only 1 and a half hours.

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Bucket with one batch of cookie dough!

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I know you’re not supposed to eat raw cookie dough but this dough tastes as good as it looks… so I did eat the dough off the mixer whisks. My oldest son is smarter than I am. He didn’t eat any of it.

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Batch two is in. Is it just me or is it starting to look like I’m filling up an ice cream bucket? Cookie dough ice cream… now there is an idea. A very good idea.

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Batch three and four are in! And my job for the day is done.

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If I calculated everything correctly, I should end up with 192 chocolate chip cookies (about 30 g of dough each). I can’t wait to bake this up tomorrow! Just look at that yumminess in a bucket!

-Lynn

Note: If you do try this recipe and bake the 48 yield (30 g or smaller cookies) rather than the 24 yield (60 g or cookies as in the recipe), the cookies should not bake in the oven as long as the 12 minutes in the recipe. You really don’t want these to be overbaked. You want them to still be slightly gooey in the middle… but not too much! I think I usually started the timer at 6 minutes and then would look in on them from there until they were the right color and looked almost baked through.

Crazy Baking Day #1: 160 Vanilla Latte Macarons

I think it’s been about two months since I’ve posted anything on the blog, but I think I’m back now that it’s after the holidays. November and December have always been crazy for me, since I love to bake and basically, Thanksgiving and Christmas are excuses to bake a lot and bake big!

So what’s been going on with me since my last post? Quite a bit has changed since then!

I am definitely a novice cake baker and decorator, but last month, I made 3 four-layer cakes for a Christmas party. They weren’t very pretty to look at, but they actually tasted decent. I wasn’t too happy with the appearance of them, but this bake did give me hope that maybe I can learn how to bake a good cake. I am hoping to take a cake decorating class sometime this year.

Josh made the mistake of buying me a Nordicware Bundt cake pan for Christmas. I am now addicted to them and want to collect all of them. I will try to post soon about my Bundt cakes… which are so much easier for me to make than a traditional layer cake.

I am slowly practicing as many new (and sometimes unusual) bakes as I can and trying to perfect them. I would eventually like to apply for a cottage food permit here in California and actually sell my baked goods. Where and how I would do this is still up in the air, but I would like to prepare for the possibility!

Last month, I was asked if I could make desserts for a fellowship at my church. I’ve been wanting to make macarons for an event like this for a while, so crazy me planned to make 80 macarons and 150 chocolate chip cookies for the fellowship.

Today was my planned day to bake and fill 80 coffee-flavored macarons with vanilla buttercream frosting. My wonderful MIL, who wasn’t feeling well, watched my kids for most of the day so that I could concentrate on baking the macarons. I wouldn’t have been able to do this bake without her help.

One mistake: For some reason, I thought my usual macaron recipe only made 24 macarons, but it actually makes closer to 40. Yesterday I had prepped my egg whites for 4 batches of the recipe. 40 times 4 equals yes 160 macarons. So I had been planning to make around 96 macarons (in case some of them weren’t pretty enough to go to the fellowship) but ended up making around 160 macarons instead because I couldn’t let those egg whites go to waste! Ok, in reality, I knew Josh would be ecstatic that there would be so many “extra” macarons.

Since I used an entire 18 count carton of extra-large eggs for this bake, I now have 18 egg yolks in the fridge. Lemon curd anyone?

In my previous macaron posts, I’ve mentioned trying to get the total prep, bake, and fill time to under 3 hours. And I’ve never been able to do it. Today was no exception! In fact, I started the bake at 9 AM this morning and didn’t finish until 5 PM. Admittedly, that whole time was not spent actually working on the macarons. I had to let the piped macarons crust for about an hour instead of only 30 minutes because it was raining outside and rain means humidity. Piped macarons don’t like humidity! I also had to stop around 1:30 PM so that I could go pick up my kids and did not get back until about 3 PM. I think that my second batch of macarons did need all that time though to develop their crust.

When I try a recipe and love it, I tend to use only that recipe and won’t usualy want to try another. This is the case with macarons. I love Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for macarons and can almost follow it from memory now!

Dorie Greenspan’s Parisian Macarons

I did discover on this bake that this recipe can be successfully doubled. You will probably wish you had more baking sheets like I did though!

The batter probably needed a few more stirs with the spatula though before piping. All the macarons kept their little “hats” through the bake in the oven.

I also found out that the macarons on the insulated baking sheet needed more than 12 minutes in the oven. A few of them ended up being soft instead of crispy after 12 minutes in the oven. That was okay though since I still had 120 others to choose from.

And another oddity, the macarons in the small cookie sheet had more of a macaron shape than the others. I wonder if the walls of the cookie sheet contributed to that.

For the coffee flavor in the shells, I used 4 teaspoons of coffee extract (homemade by Josh) in the heated sugar syrup then half a packet of Starbucks instant coffee in the almond/powdered sugar mixture.

For the filling, I made a simple vanilla butter cream frosting.

150 g of butter

450 g of powdered sugar

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1-3 Tbsp of milk

First, I beat the butter until creamy in my stand mixer. Then, I added the vanilla extract. The powdered sugar goes in next a little bit at a time. Lastly, drizzle in the milk until the frosting is the consistency you are looking for. Even a little bit at a time, my mixer still ended up looking this

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after I was finished making two batches of frosting. It seems that it is just inevitable that when you work with powdered sugar, you will make a mess.

Two batches of frosting was enough to fill the 160 macarons and some leftover to eat out of the bowl.

This is an interesting pic and video of the heated sugar syrup portion of the recipe. It is so funny how the temperature of the sugar syrup just shoots up to about 210 degrees F and then creeps up to that 235 degrees to 245 degrees F so slowly! In the video, you can see the steam from the boiling sugar syrup. So so glad for a stand mixer! During this part, I stay away from it for about 10 minutes and let the mixer do its job. Side note: coffee-flavored Italian meringue is yummy!

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Also, Josh bought me a new oven for Christmas! I love it so much.

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Tomorrow is Crazy Baking Day #2, where I try to fill a 6 quart bucket full of chocolate chip cookie dough. Come back soon and thank you for reading!

-Lynn

Mocha Macarons

Of all the weeks for me to decide I wanted macarons, this week probably wasn’t the best! But with six egg whites sitting in the fridge begging to be turned into macarons (left over from Josh’s dragon fruit ice cream, which needed egg yolks only), I had to squeeze them in somehow. I originally wanted to make birthday cake macarons (with lots of sprinkles!), but Josh had made a coffee extract a few months ago that I hadn’t used yet in anything. So mocha macarons it is!

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Josh’s coffee extract, which I really need to separate out into extract bottles.

Usually it takes me about three hours to make macarons from prep to the last pan coming out of the oven, so today, I decided to see if I could make macarons in less than three hours. It didn’t happen. I took about 30 minutes to prep around 11:15 and then came back into the kitchen around 2 PM to finish. I wasn’t finished baking until 4:30 PM. So I guess it just isn’t possible to get 81 macaron shells baked in less than 3 hours. The only thing I can think of that would have helped is baking more than one pan at a time, which I would be afraid to do in my oven and the recipe does say to bake only one pan at a time.

I will say that splitting prep time (which consisted of tracing out the circles on 3 sheets of parchment paper, weighing out the ingredients that needed to be weighed, and setting out the egg whites to come to room temperature) and the baking time made the whole process a lot less stressful for me. I may have to make that my usual method.

As usual, I used my favorite recipe for macarons, using the Italian meringue method, and then adjusted the flavoring as I wanted.

After splitting the egg whites, I added 1 Tablespoon of Josh’s coffee extract to the egg whites that are mixed into the sifted confectioners’ sugar and almond flour. Later, during the mixing of the Italian meringue into the almond flour mixture, I felt like the batter needed more “coffee” flavor, mostly because of the scent. I couldn’t really smell the coffee, so I thought it might be difficult to taste if I could not smell it in the batter. Into the batter went a packet of Starbucks instant coffee.  I’m not sure yet if it helped any since the finished macarons are in the fridge and we shouldn’t eat any until tomorrow… shouldn’t. I’m not sure if I will be able to wait that long though!

Once I got the mixture to the “lava” stage, it was ready for piping. Piping is probably my favorite part. I am so glad for large baking sheets because otherwise, baking would have taken even longer than it did!

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Baked coffee macaron shells! I really liked the color they turned out. And strangely enough, these macarons smelled exactly like pancakes while they were baking. I don’t think macarons usually smell like that. My kids definitely enjoyed it!

For the filling, I made a simple chocolate ganache. I was tempted to add coffee extract to it, but I wanted to share the macarons with my kids. I also don’t want my kids jumping off the walls.

Is there anything yummier than chocolate chips melted with very hot heavy cream and then stirred together until it’s chocolatey goo?  For this ganache, I used 16 fluid ounces (according to the measuring cup) of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup of heavy cream that I heated until steamy on the stovetop. Was it too much? No, I don’t think we will have any problems eating leftover ganache!

I had a little helper while I was assembling the macarons. My youngest, my baby girl, handed me macaron shells to fill. As a reward, she got to try the 1 shell  left that didn’t have a top. Of course, I smeared some ganache on it!  Since she wanted more, I guess they were good. I did notice a gap in the shell between the outer and inner layer. I don’t think that is usually there. I will see tomorrow if they all are like that.

All my kids were pretty excited that I was making macarons.  Fortunately, they are used to waiting a day to try them!

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And as usual, I had fun making these even though they take quite a while! I know that we will have even more fun eating them!

 

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P.S. I am sorry about the inconsistency of my pictures. I had to take my pictures at night and the lighting in our kitchen is not the greatest.

-Lynn

Update!  These macarons are a big hit, even with my kids. They ask me if they can have one after lunch ever since I made them. Most of them do have the gap between the shell and the interior, but they still taste great. I actually thought the shell might be a little too crispy. Since there is no complaining from anyone else, I’ll just count this as a macaron win. 🙂

Root Beer Float Macarons

A few weeks ago, we were able to sample some store-bought macarons. Buying four of them gave us sticker shock at $2.50 a piece! So, we didn’t share them with the kids. Our poor kids. I didn’t realize what an expensive treat they were getting when I make them at home!

Yesterday, I finally got to try baking root beer float macarons! I used my usual base recipe: Parisian Macarons.  I ended up winging the root beer flavor addition though. This is my third time making macarons. You can read about my first attempt and second attempt here on The Geek Homestead also.

These macarons didn’t turn out quite as pretty as my last two tries, but they still tasted great.

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Look at that poor misshapen one on the left…

This time, I made an appropriate filling for a root beer float macaron: vanilla bean buttercream. It is half-based on the vanilla buttercream filling for the Victoria Sponge Celebration Cake at Jane’s Patisserie. After visiting that link, I now want some cake!

I was aiming for a vanilla ice cream flavor for the filling and it was perfect.

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I used the seeds of a whole vanilla bean in the buttercream. I love the little flecks!

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I did make a bit of a mistake with the flavoring in the macaron shells though. I used 2½ teaspoons of root beer concentrate. I should have used about double that, maybe 4 to 5 teaspoons. I also added a half teaspoon of cocoa powder just to add more color. But the cocoa powder ended up being too strong in flavor. My son Matthias was able to taste the chocolate. I will have to think of another way to add color I think. Brown sugar? Molasses? Or maybe food coloring might have to be the way to go.

 

I also accidentally made a 2-inch diameter macaron and find that I kind of like that size. I will probably make my next batch that way. Josh has requested jasmine-flavored macarons, so those will be my next macaron experiment.

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Macarons make people happy!

I borrowed a book from the library all about French Patisserie and it has a whole chapter dedicated to macarons. I think I might be baking my way through that chapter!

-Lynn

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