My quest to start a whoopie pie stand of my very own in a Chicago farmers market.
Last year for Christmas I went on a 3-day truffle-making bender, in which I produced around 80 truffles (5 different varieties!) and a s’mores bark, which I then packaged in beautiful boxes I had custom made from Alchemy on Etsy.com (sad fact: for some unimaginable reason, they’ve discontinued Alchemy, a genius forum in which you could post a wanted item and have craft makers bid on producing it for you). I gave them out to family members and coworkers as additional presents: the proverbial chocolate icing on the Christmas cake, if you will.
This year I have it made, I thought. I can just make macarons for everyone! I’ll kill two birds with one stone – not only do I get the practice, but baked goods are a fantastic answer to the annually difficult What In the World Am I Going to Get All Nine of My Coworkers for Cheap question. I’ll make them in white and blue, I thought, not only are they the company colors, but Christmas-y/Hannukah-y too! I’ll even buy silver pearl dust to brush on the white ones so they look like pretty, pretty snowflakes. And I’ll make them simple flavors that everyone likes, like vanilla and mint chocolate. Oh the plans!
Oh the plans.
Oh the disappointment.
Pretty color though, right?
This time around I used the French meringue macaron recipe in Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the Macaron Cafe. The yield was gigantic, but I was determined to get those stiff egg whites like I got in class, so I went for it: a whole cup of egg whites. And I got the stiff, clumpy egg whites! They were perfect. But then my oven had to go and ruin everything.
To be honest, I am incredibly discouraged.
The recipe made four (four!) sheets of macaron shells. I went out and bought two nice, heavy KitchenAid sheet pans and used parchment paper. I used my trusty old silpat on the old sheet pan I had, and reused a new sheet pan once it cooled for the fourth batch. I tried baking each tray a little differently. The first I baked at the suggested 300 degrees F, and it was the most successful, by which I mean I got about 4 mediocre shells out of it and the rest were cracked (on the edges, of course).
For the second tray, I brought the oven up to 300 degrees, then shut it off right before I put the tray in under the assumption that excessive heat on the edges wouldn’t crack the macarons on the edges. Instead they all cracked. What?
For the third, I brought the oven up to 300 degrees, and then cracked the door about 8-10 inches (I read on another blog that the only way one woman could figure out how to use her oven to successfully make macarons was to leave the door open the entire time, so I thought this would be a nice compromise). I then watched as all of the shells puffed up enormously and then CRRRCKK! Cracked even more spectacularly than the first two batches and then each shell browned on the edges before they were done internally.
I think the fourth batch was botched from the start because the batter sat in a piping bag for 45 minutes to an hour while I baked the first batch, and when I piped them out, the batter didn’t have the same heft as it did in the first few batches. It was flatter and shinier. These baked up the worst of all.
I’m at a loss. I’ve hit the macaron wall, and it’s not pretty. I feel like I’ve given my oven every shot, and it continuously lets me down. But there’s no way to be absolutely certain I haven’t gotten anything good only because of my oven. I could be doing something else wrong and not even know it. The only way to figure it out would be to use a nicer, newer, professional oven. But I don’t know where to go to do that. I only have one thing left to try, which is doubling up my two nice sheet pans and baking them at different temperatures. If that doesn’t work, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.
I do have to mention that they at least tasted delicious. I flavored the shells with peppermint extract and used a classic chocolate ganache that I actually made with some chocolate soy milk instead of cream just because I didn’t want to buy cream and have the leftovers go bad in my fridge. It turned out exactly like the ganache I made with cream, so you can bet I’m going to continue to do that. They taste like mint chocolate chip ice cream without the crunch from the chips. Well, at least I’ve got that.