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.

macaron mat with template

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

overmixed macaron batter

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.

piped out macaron batter

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!

lavender macarons volcanoed

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.

lopsided feet lavender macarons

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.

italian meringue buttercream

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.

lavender volcano macarons filled with buttercream

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!

lopsided lavender macarons filled with buttercream

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!

chocolate macaron shells piped out

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.

chocolate macaron shells not lopsided but with hats

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.

lopsided chocolate macaron shells
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

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 latte macarons and 150 chocolate chip cookies for the fellowship.

Today was my planned day to bake and fill 80 latte 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 latte 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 latte 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 latte 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

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 latte 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!

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

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 with Chocolate Ganache Filling

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!

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.

You can find the macaron recipe here.

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 mocha 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!

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 mocha 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!

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!

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 mocha 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. 🙂

Jasmine Macarons

Father’s Day is coming up on Sunday, and I told Josh that instead of making him a cake, I would make him jasmine macarons, which he has been wanting me to make for a while! These macarons were a little bit trickier than I was expecting though! Having learned my lesson with my double chocolate macarons, I stayed with my usual recipe.

Since the flavoring for these macarons came in the form of jasmine syrup, I had to figure out the proportions for the hot sugar syrup as best I could. I think I came close, but the texture and rise of the macaron shells was a little bit off.

I was a little less timid with my food coloring this time. In this first stage, I used 13 drops of red gel food coloring and 2 drops of blue.

For my Italian meringue stage, I used 1/3 cup of jasmine syrup and 180 g of granulated sugar in the hot sugar syrup.

Scraping the Italian meringue into the almond flour/egg white mixture.
The batter ended up being a little bit runnier than I’m used to. I think this might be because I used 1/3 cup of jasmine syrup instead of 1/4 cup. At this point I added 3 more drops of red gel food coloring to brighten the pink up.

When I piped out my 1½ inch rounds, they spread out a little more as well. Fortunately, they did still form that crucial crust after sitting for about half an hour.

The feet disappeared after the halfway through rotation of the baking sheet. They are still there, just not as visible as usual.

For the filling, I just made a standard vanilla buttercream. I didn’t want to make anything with so much flavor that it would overwhelm the jasmine flavor. Josh is a huge fan of buttercream and he asked me to make more than I needed for the macarons.

Confession: I seriously did not think I would like these macarons. While I was making them, the smell of the jasmine syrup was making me feel quite nauseous. Josh told me it smelled like jasmine, but the scent to me smelled like lilies (the scent of lilies gives me  a headache and actually makes me feel sick) instead of jasmine!  I’m not sure why this was the case, but being in the kitchen while working with the syrup was not a pleasant experience for me.

These jasmine macarons did end up looking pretty. When I tried one the next day, I could not taste the jasmine anymore, though the macarons do have a “floral” flavor to them. I am not sure if someone who was eating them would be able to tell that they were a floral-flavored macaron though. All my kids like them and Josh likes them, so that is what counts!

-Lynn

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Double Chocolate Macarons

Three of my kids have birthdays in May. This makes May a very, very busy month. It also isn’t very good for our health! I guess you could say that May is like our second Christmas with all the birthday cake and sweets I end up making!

This year, I changed up our usual birthday happenings. On each boy’s actual birthday, I made them the flavor of birthday cake they wanted. Ian picked a giant chocolate chip cookie with chocolate frosting. Corran picked a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Thias picked a chocolate cake with caramel frosting. I won’t be posting pictures of these cakes because I am an awful cake decorator! One of my future goals is to learn how to decorate cakes properly. Also, Corran’s red velvet cake ended up being more like a brown velvet cake. I also had multiple things go wrong with each cake! Oh well, it ended up being very good practice for me, but they don’t make for very good blog posts unfortunately. At least, the cakes tasted good, even if they didn’t look like much!

For the boys’ combined family birthday party, I asked them which dessert they wanted me to make, instead of a birthday cake. Yesterday, we had their party. So this past week has been a little bit crazy!

Corran wanted a chocolate cream tart, which was pretty straightforward. Ian wanted Minecraft cookies, which ended up being pie crust Minecraft cookies instead of sugar cookie Minecraft cookies.  Thias wanted his very favorite dessert: macarons! Specifically, double chocolate macarons. He has been asking me to make these for a few months. So for his birthday party, I was finally able to make them.

With this kitchen experiment, I produced my first macaron fail! I should have just stuck with my usual macaron recipe that I know (heating a sugar syrup to 245 degrees F), instead of trying a new one, which used confectioner’s sugar and no stovetop work.

My chocolate macaron fail… what is interesting about these is that they still tasted awesome (especially with ice cream!) They just weren’t the way macarons are supposed to be. Their texture was more like brownies!

I’m not quite sure what I did wrong with these. Maybe I will give this recipe a try another time when I’m not making them for a specific reason. I suspect that not weighing out my almond flour could have been the problem though.

I can’t seem to find the recipe I used online. So I won’t be posting a link to it.

After my chocolate macaron fail, which took about 3 hours, I started my second attempt, with my usual recipe using Italian meringue. The only change I made was to add about 2-3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder to the sifting part of the recipe.

The star of this macaron though was the ganache in the middle that I used for the filling. I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for chocolate ganache but I made 3/4 of the recipe instead of the full. Even with the 3/4 recipe, I still had leftover ganache, which I had no trouble using… or eating!


Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

1 Ghirardelli chocolate bar, 72% cocoa

1 Ghirardelli chocolate bar, 86% cocoa

3/4 cup plus about 3 teaspoons heavy cream

3 Tbsp butter, room temperature

Method:

Break the chocolate bars up into small pieces (as small as you can) into a glass bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a microwave-safe container in the microwave until just boiling. Pour half the hot heavy cream over the chocolate in the bowl, wait 30 seconds, and gently stir in a circular motion until the chocolate melts into the cream. Pour in the rest of the cream and continue the gentle stirring until the ganache is smooth and shiny. Stir in the butter 1 Tablespoon at a time, making sure the butter piece is melted before adding the next. The ganache will be too thin at this point to use as a filling for macarons. Let it sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until thick enough that it won’t fall out of the middle of the macarons.


My family likes dark chocolate, so that is why I used the 72% and above cocoa bars. Feel free to use the cocoa percent you are comfortable with.

These chocolate macarons had some nice feet! They also had little hats…

I let these little beauties sit overnight in the fridge before we even tried them. As usual, it was worth the wait!

I’ve promised Josh that I will make jasmine-flavored macarons for him for Father’s Day. It may be sooner than that though because I have egg whites in the fridge I need to use!

-Lynn