Since I’ve now done a total of 33 attempts, it’s time to double down: I’m going to get this right or die trying.
Attempt no. 29 was the maple and bacon macaron: maple extract in the shell, and bacon fat in the bacon ganache filling. Unfortunately, because I didn’t bother to use a real recipe for the ganache, and because of an unfortunate decision to add a whimsical amount of food coloring to the mix, my ganache was pretty awful aesthetically – greasy, and with a color reminiscent of a badly made bacon-scented dog toy. It actually tasted pretty good, but, overall, the macaron wasn’t a success. And no feet.
Attempt no. 30 was the pistachio macaron with vanilla ganache filling. I ground my own pistachios to add to the flour. (I ground some almonds as well, but they turned to paste in the food processor.) This time, because of a significant typographical error in the recipe, my ganache was full of undissolved sugar. I accidentally wrote over the SD card with the photograph of the final result, but you can probably guess what happened. No feet.
Things are going downhill fast. Perhaps not coincidentally, according to W.T. Stace, my source for all things Greek philosophical, the period after Aristotle also was one of deep philosophical decline, where subjectivism was the order of the day. “The pure scientific spirit, the desire for knowledge for its own sake, is gone,” he laments in his book, and it was replaced by a narrow-minded, fanatical devotion to studying the individual inner life which denies the existence of objective truth entirely.
We’ve already discussed the Stoics in this regard, so we proceed to the Epicurians. (Isn’t a macaron an epicurean delight? Maybe the answer lies here.) Of Epicurus (342-270 B.C.), Stace writes:
Epicurus … divided his system into logic (which he called canonic), physics, and methods, yet the former two branches of thought are pursued with an obvious carelessness and absence of interest. It is evident that learned discussions bored Epicurus. His system is amiable and shallow.
Epicurus believed that man’s unhappiness was primarily due to his belief in the supernatural. For Epicurus, the world operates according to mechanical principles; gods and lucky charms have nothing to do with it. So, having Smackie around neither helps nor hurts.
As for ethics, pleasure is the only good and pain is the only evil. “Virtue has no value on its own account, but derives its value from the pleasure which accompanies it.” (Earlier in his lectures, Stace said that Oscar Wilde’s personality is “essentially evil,” so you can imagine what he thinks about this position.) Where Epicurus is saved from pure sensuality, however, is his belief that spiritual and mental pleasures are of a higher order than physical ones; that the goal is not individual pleasures, but a pleasurable life. The body feels and forget pains and pleasures alike, but the mind remembers and anticipates them. Man thus has to master his appetites and actually minimize his wants to live a calm and untroubled life. It’s all about simplicity, moderation, and maintaining a benign and cheerful outlook on life.
But, as my 10th grade Latin teacher used to say, “What does this have to do with the price of butter in Russia?” Certainly, my quest for the correct macaron has tilted toward fanaticism, with only my desire to avoid the pain of frustration (and food waste) keeping me from trying this every single day. I even debated flying to Paris for private lessons because I can’t find a tutor here in Athens. This, my friends would say, is nuts. So I have to go back to the pursuit of knowledge to seek virtue.
This actually is my second concession to reason. The first is to halve my recipe, so I only waste one egg and a combined 125 g of almond flour and sugar.
So for attempts no. 31-33, I have tried the whiskey macaron. The first two attempts resulted, again, in no feet, so for the final attempt, I used this recipe on the Macarons & Other Musings blog instead.
In no way do I blame the author of that recipe for what happened next.
Since I consistently have problems at the macaronnage stage, my wife suggested that I mix the batter, pipe out four shells, then mix the batter more, pipe out another four, and so on, so I can get an idea of “how many licks it takes to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop.” (The original commercial was a lot longer than I remember!)
So, here is a picture of what I did:
And here are some pictures of what I got:
I may have to switch to German philosophers. The victory goes to the meringue.