I have two secrets that I’m about to ‘fess up.  First, I have really horrible taste in music (okay, not so secret!) and the new 3Oh!3 song has been stuck in my head.  I mean, really stuck.  I’ll be doing something random and suddenly I’m humming, “My first kiss went a little like this!”  Darn you, catchy pop music!  (Here, you can listen to it yourself but please – don’t judge me!  Ahhhh,no judging!)

The second secret is that it has been a little over 2 weeks since I took a cooking class on macarons and I have made (gulp) seven batches. I had to double check to make sure I counted that right, because that is an appallingly high number for just two weeks, but it’s true, seven freakin’ batches of macarons.  Two vanilla bean, one lemon, one coconut, one passable chocolate and two not so passable chocolate ones.  From all of that, here is what I’ve learned:

– I prefer parchment to Silpats.  If I use parchment, I prefer to double-stack my cookie sheets, but I prefer single-stack for Silpats.
– I do not like making chocolate macarons anymore.  At all. For real.
– My favorite filling is ganache.  My second is something of lemon curd consistency.  And my least (by very far) is buttercream.
– My spice grinder really comes in handy.  It takes a bit more time than a food processor because it can only handle 1/2 cup increments, but I feel like it makes a finer grind.
– I double sift.  Sometimes, I will freak out and triple sift, but the only difference I’ve noticed is that I tend to make a huge mess during the third sift (watch out, sugar on the loose!).  So, with that knowledge, I think I will endorse a double sift.  I haven’t tried a single sift yet.

In so many tutorials, many people say “fold until mixture flows like magma.”  Seriously, people.  Of all the people in the world who want to make macarons, how many of those have ever even seen magma?  Does anyone out there know what magma is like?  Because I for sure don’t.  But once the instructor demonstrated what this mysterious “flows like magma” standard meant, it all sort of made sense.  I say “sort-of” because I still don’t get how exactly it flows like magma (I would like to see magma at work first), but I understand what they mean now.

Basically, when you fold the dry ingredients into the stiff-peaked egg whites, you want to fold them into submission.  Beat those egg whites down!  But not too vigorously!  You want them to have structure, but not too much.  If you run a knife through your battter, the line should disappear within 10 seconds.  Or if you scoop up some batter with your folding-instrument-of-choice, it should run from it in a thick ribbon and the ribbon should disappear within the batter in 10 seconds.  Ten seconds, good rule of thumb.

I’ve experimented with different ways to fold.  I’ve done a gentle fold where I slowly incorporated the mixture.  I’ve done a quick fold (no more than 20 or so enthusiastic folds).  It is hard to determine which method is better, except: any method with chocolate will equal automatic suck.  I’m not sure if it’s the addition of the cocoa powder or what, but every time I try to make chocolate ones, the batter gets super thick and goopy.  I don’t want to overfold, but it definitely does not achieve magma-status.  My first batch was decent, but I used a bit of water to tamp down annoying tips and I believe it broke my shell.  So they looked like brownie bites, but had a nice crispness to the exterior.  My second batch was unmitigated disaster.  They were like your worse chewy-brownie nightmare, all sticky in your teeth.  The fact that it sticks to your teeth should be a sign, brownies should not stick to your teeth like candy!  And the third batch was okay, they tasted like soft brownies.  So, no crisp shell and chewy interior and isn’t that what a macaron is all about?

Chocolate macarons, I wish I knew how to quit you.  I’m going to take some time off and make some other flavors, but  I know I won’t be able to resist you and I’m going to want to try again.  Please try not to break my heart next time!

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