Sunday, August 21, 2005

Why I'll gladly pay $1.50 for one of these...

Disclaimer: sorry if the formatting is off. I'm still getting used to my lovely new Mac Mini...

You have no idea how much I'm kicking myself for not eating any macarons when I went to Bordeaux. To be honest, they looked like they would be dry, bland, and not at all interesting. Argh. I tried one a few months ago and fell in love - how could I have callously rejected these little bits of cookie heaven? Gah.

Okay, enough with beating myself up. The only thing that prevents me from going out and buying one every day is the $1.50 price tag. Yeesh. Seems like a lot for a cookie that is about an inch and a half in diameter. As I flipped through my Bouchon cookbook (which gets a whole post on how much I love it, but I'll spare you) last week, I found a recipe for vanilla macarons. Yeah! On Saturday I brought various ingredients and supplies to my parents' home in Lafayette (to take advantage of the KitchenAid stand mixer) and set to work.

First off, acquiring the ingredients put a dent in my wallet. The cookie part calls for 5 cups of almond flour and seeds from 2 vanilla beans. Since I only had 3 cups of almond flour and I was pressed for time, I caved and went to the local (expensive) grocery store to buy blanched almonds and vanilla beans. I also needed a dozen eggs and a pound of butter, since my parents were low. Oh, and then I needed to buy pastry bag tips.

I mixed together the 5 cups of almond flour and 5.75 cups of powdered sugar and was rather alarmed by the amount of dry ingredients:

Hrm. Even more alarming - this whole bowl of dry stuff needed to somehow fit into this much smaller bowl of 8 whipped egg whites:

Okay, okay, the scale is off, but lets just say that as a scientist, I was pretty sure that if it happened I would have defied many basic laws of physics.

I added the dry ingredients little by little and to my utter amazement, it all fit! Look!
Pretty spiffy, no? My arms aching, I started the difficult task of piping the very stiff and sticky batter into circles of the exact same size. This was frustrating. Plus, I had a star tip instead of a plain tip so they didn't come out as round circles. Thomas Keller says to draw out the circles before you start. I didn't do this, so I was pretty cranky by the time I drew out all the cicles on the parchment paper. This took a while. Then, after piping out all the batter, you have to let the circles dry at room temp so they form a nice skin. I did this for about an hour, and they definitely felt dry, but I can't figure out if this was too much time or too little time, because some of the baked circles had a puffy skin that was crunchy but also was very thin and fell off. Here are the cookies, taking over the family room table:

If you're ever crazy enough to bake these yourself at home, remember to put lots of space between your traced circles. The batter will spread a little, and if it touches other circles while baking it's a b*tch to separate. The cookies are pretty sticky in the middle. Plus, make sure you have lots of cookie sheets. I didn't have enough, and I used one of those cushionair sheets, which meant most of that batch was ruined because the bottoms didn't bake enough and we couldn't peel them off the parchment without totally mauling them. My mom happily ate those with a little buttercream.

Speaking of buttercream, I made that too. Damn, butter and sugar are good together. Except my mom doesn't have any granulated sugar at home, just some organic less-refined stuff from Trader Joe's I had bought when we made creme brulee. We stupidly attempted to make the sugar syrup with this and it was a mess. I ended up dumping a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar into the mix and I think it came out okay. I had to stop my mom from eating spoonfuls of it.

At this point, my brother had come home from taking the MCAT and we went out to dinner, which you can read about here. I'll post pictures later, but my brother's description pretty much sums up my feelings as well.

Well fed and slightly tipsy, my brother and I tackled the macaron assembly, where we had to restrain ourselves from eating each one after we assembled. We managed to restrain ourselves and ended up with about 25:

So basically, considering all the money and time that went into the process, I no longer have any qualms forking over the six quarters for this precious treat. Not that the homemade ones weren't delicious - they were amazing and by successfully making them I consider myself a pastry goddess (ha!) - but those five hours would be better spent elsewhere.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I'd say you're more of a pastry handmaiden...or midwife...not quite goddess. You might've achieved goddess status if half of the cookies hadn't stuck to the wax paper.