Ok. Remember when I said I vowed I would one day become a French Macaron Connoisseur? In November I took some birthday money and bought myself this book. Upon flipping through ‘Les Petits Macarons’ in the store, I knew this purchase would be one of the better ‘fun’ buys I’ve made in a while. It seemed there were endless fillings, both of the sweet and savory variety, just waiting to be sandwiched between those delicate, colourful, little shells.
One chilly day leading up to Christmas, my cousin came over to help me make macarons for the first time. These were to be my contribution to a family Christmas get-together. We’re Italian, so I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be seeing macarons on the dessert table. Cannoli and biscotti would be plentiful, but a French sweet? Unlikely. My platter will impress all, I thought, confidently.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t exactly plan well. And there’s no excuses, really. I had the book at my fingertips for at least a week leading up to the big baking day. But like a four-year-old with a picture book, I was too busy marveling at the photos. I was immediately caught off guard. I had four methods to choose from for the shells alone. Would I make them French-style? Swiss? Italian? All these looked pretty advanced to me. Something akin to sweet relief is what I felt when I saw my fourth option, the ‘easiest French macaron method.’ Done.
When my cousin and I got to work, I realized I didn’t have a couple must-have kitchen items. I was missing a food processor and a fine-holed strainer. All I had was a pasta strainer, and this wouldn’t work well when sifting the almond flour and icing sugar. We whisked these ingredients together along with cocoa (because we were making chocolate shells), until they looked well-mixed. And they did, but it wasn’t a fine mixture like it was supposed to be. We continued on preparing this so-called ‘easiest’ shell concoction for far longer than I’m sure it was supposed to take. But hey, we had questions.
Did we already add the sugar? No.
Confectioners sugar. Is that the coarse kind? No.
Why don’t they just say icing sugar? I’m still wondering, actually.
What on earth is a ‘soft peak’? Nota bene: When egg whites are beaten till peaks form.
We finally finished the shells and popped them in the oven. What came in the middle was next. In the spirit of Christmas, I had selected a candy cane filling. It was basically a vanilla filling featured in my book, only I had replaced the vanilla extract with peppermint and added crushed candy canes. Sounds good, right? Wrong.
I used salted butter when it called for unsalted butter, and then went ahead and added additional salt. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever made. But I was in denial.
It’s not that bad, I insisted as I kept shoving a spoonful in my cousin’s face.
It’s salty, she said quietly. Sweet, sweet. Justine. So careful not to crush my dreams.
So I added more crushed candy cane. Surely the sweetness of the candy cane would counter the saltiness of the cream, right? Right?!
It’s not good. You can’t serve this, she finally said firmly.
I felt defeated. We were going on four hours and had nothing to show for it. Except for the macaron shells, if you want to call them that. They didn’t resemble anything close to a macaron shell. But they were edible. They weren’t fantastic by any stretch, but they tasted like chocolate.
Really hard, small chocolate circle-ish disks.
In the end I bought a jar of Nutella to use as the filling, ultimately merging a bit of my Italian background into this Parisian delicacy.
People ate them. But my brother said my macarons ‘failed so hard, they became something else.’ Sigh.
Oh, and in the end, someone else actually brought a platter of macarons to my Italian Christmas get-together. Le sigh.