You know that point where an innocent hobby becomes a dangerous obsession?
As I mentioned in my last post, for attempt no. 7, I’m going to use a new recipe, specifically this recipe from eatlivetravelwrite.com. The author presents this recipe after specifically addressing why her shells had been coming out hollow, so it should be exactly what I need, right?
Well, maybe. First, let’s look at the ingredient list:
- 115g ground almonds (store bought or home ground in a spice/coffee grinder and sifted before you weigh)
- 230g icing sugar
- 15g cocoa powder for chocolate macarons or 15g freeze-dried raspberries, ground in a spice grinder
- 144g egg whites, separated, covered in plastic wrap and left at room temperature for a few hours. You can separate them up to 3 days before you use them – just keep them covered in the fridge and bring them to room temperature for a few hours before you use them
- 72g granulated or caster sugar
- (food colouring powder – about 2 teaspoons for this amount of macarons)
I thought icing sugar (also called confectioner’s sugar) and caster sugar were the same thing. It turns out that they aren’t, which may be one of my problems: I’ve been putting caster sugar, which is less fine, in with the almond flour.
|I don’t know why, I just thought you’d want to see what the freeze-dried strawberries look like before and after they’re mixed into the flour.|
I put everything together the way I normally do anyway, however, because I just can’t be bothered to deal with this right now. It’s the Sunday, 26th of June and I live in Greece. The stores are closed and the country is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy; who cares what kind of sugar I use?
However things get tricky. The recipe says:
Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and sugar at a low speed (Kitchen Aid speed four) for 2 minutes, medium speed (Kitchen Aid six) for 2 minutes and a high speed (Kitchen Aid eight) for 2 minutes. The egg whites will be very stiff at this point.
I don’t have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, (and if I did, I’d have no place to put it anyway, since we have don’t have enough storage space), so I can’t be that precious with my speeds. Unfortunately, this means that after 6 minutes of beating the egg whites, I only get them to the consistency of vichyssoise; it takes 10 minutes before I can turn the bowl on its side without the contents pouring out. Is my meringue over-mixed or just right?
After stirring in the dry ingredients (40 stirs, just like the recipe says), I pipe, and at first I think the batter is under-mixed because the shells look almost lumpy; then, after I bang them on the counter to release the air, I think they may be over-mixed, since they are starting to run into each other.
I set the oven for 150° C, let the shells rest so they form a skin (the shells will crack if you bake them right away, because the moisture goes through the top; the dry skin on top forces the air out the bottom, and this creates the feet), and then pop them into the oven. I use a double tray so the bottoms don’t bake too fast. At the halfway mark, I take them out and turn the tray around, and notice that (a) there’s no huge gust of moisture when I open the oven door, but (b) there also aren’t any feet.
When I take them out of the oven, they still don’t have any feet, but the tops haven’t exploded, so I don’t know what to think; but when I try to peel one off the SilPat, I see what’s going on: the shells are completely under-cooked. And I’ve already put the second sheet in the oven using this same double-sheet method.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.
“Maybe I can salvage this second batch,” I think after I stop swearing, and I pull them out and remove the bottom baking sheet from underneath the sheet with the shells. And sure enough, within a few minutes, I see little feet starting to form.
For the first shells, it is too late, and they go into the trash. Then I take the second set of shells out of the oven – they look good; but once I take them off the tray to cool on the rack, it’s clear that these are a failure as well. The bottoms stick, and I can see the air pockets when I flip them over – they even sound hollow when I place them onto the rack. Nonetheless, I put them together and throw them into the fridge to see what happens.
|They don’t look bad on the surface, but the truth will out.|
And the next morning …
They look good on the outside, but with the hollow shells, the texture is all wrong. The decision goes, once again, to the meringue.