Wednesday, April 24, 2013

watch out kitchen - i'm making macarons!

If you haven't been able to tell from my blog, Twitter and Instagram feeds - I love macarons. A lot. Paul likes them well enough, but I ADORE them. I even managed to talk Suzie (my sister) into giving macarons out as her wedding favours just so I could eat more macarons. LOL. It's gotten to the point where I get upset when I see people mix up the terms "macarons" and "macaroons" (which I also like, but let's be serious, they are not the same thing).

As my love affair with macarons started getting a little more "obsessive", I realized that my wallet really couldn't keep up with my appetite, so I started looking into baking my own.

As a rookie baker, I'm really nervous when recipes are complicated and generally I tend to stick to simple recipes. After reading all over the internet about how difficult and finicky macarons were to make, I was daunted. Hungry, but daunted. In the end though, my hunger for macarons won out and I started looking for recipes and baking tips.

Macarons from Butter Avenue
There are many, many, MANY wonderful blogs posts, cookbooks and internet articles on how to make this beloved little French pastry but there were four blogs that I returned to again and again while doing my research (and mentally psyching myself up for the challenge):

I jokingly refer to Mardi from Eat. Live. Travel. Write. and Stella from Bravetart as my "macaron goddess mentors" and seriously, that description does not do them justice. As I approached my first macaron attempt, I read and re-read Stella's macaron recipe and her list of tips and tricks and watched Mardi's instructional videos a million times. Both ladies are amazingly helpful and whenever I had questions, they were only a tweet away on Twitter.

Armed with all that knowledge, I attempted by first batch of macarons - a pink vanilla shell with Earl Grey buttercream. I put half the batch on parchment and the other half on a special silicon "macaron" sheet that Suzie bought me.

The macarons on the silicon sheet turned out like this:

Was I disappointed? Yes, definitely. But the other half of the batch turned out like this:

Squeee! The shells were a touch hollow, but the Earl Grey buttercream was fantastic (thanks for the inspiration Amy!)

Second attempt: vanilla shells (no colour added) with a mint-vanilla buttercream (St. Patrick's Day was coming up so I wanted something green). Half the batch was on parchment and the other half on a Silpat (both turned out similar results).

Even better than my first attempt and there wasn't a single cracked shell! At this point, I had been told to let my macarons sit for at least a day before eating them - the flavour and texture improved dramatically. Freezing them also helped.

Attempt 3: blue vanilla shells (Stella suggests sticking with plain shells to get the knack of them before adding things like flavour/colour) - half the batch filled with nutella ganache and the other half with lemon buttercream.

As I continually experiment with how to get the best macarons from my oven (thanks to Sylvia for the tip on propping the oven door slightly ajar with a wooden spoon), I left these in a little longer than the previous attempts, especially since they didn't seem cooked after the allotted time. The result was a nice, un-hollow shell without any cracks, but they were a touch burnt, so the blue shell had a tinge of brown on them. I think they took longer to bake since I had used a whole lot of blue (powdered) food colouring. But on the plus side, my piping seems to have improved a little since my first macaron attempt!

The Nutella ganache filling was a success but the lemon buttercream was a disaster (imagine macarons filled with lemon Pledge - yuck).

Obviously, I still have A LOT to learn about baking macarons and I have a VERY long way to go before I start churning out beauties like the ones that Amy, Sylvia, Mardi and Stella share on their blogs. But, as all four of them have taught me - even funny-shaped macarons can be tasty!

I'm already looking forward to attempting batch number four and foresee a LOT more macarons in my future as I try to improve my piping skills and get taller feet on the shells. 

Of course, all this baking doesn't mean that I won't stop eating professionally-made macarons as well, but in the meantime, I get to give my wallet a small break, plus I get a real sense of accomplishment every time I pull out a tray of little round macaron shells from my own oven.


  1. Nice! The blue ones are especially lovely :) Great job Steph!

  2. Yay yay yay! You made them! And more than once. Thank you for your kind words and for understanding that it's a process that requires practice. I KNOW there will be a lot of macarons in your future - I can feel it :)

  3. Amy - Thanks so much! Your Earl Grey buttercream really made my first attempt a success!

    Mardi - What can I say? I have already learned so much from you just online! I'm so grateful for your tips, videos and Twitter support! I'm really hoping to come take a class in-person from you soon!

  4. Wow Stephanie - you're a rock star! I tried using silicon sheet and it failed...BIG TIME! Your stories definitely motivate me and I can't wait to try another batch.


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