Thursday, December 20, 2007

Macaron Attempt 3 - I Officially Hate Macarons

After an incredibly successful second attempt at making macarons, I was all guns blazing with this third attempt. I was making a massive batch of macarons of various colours for Christmas presents. Well, I can officially say that I f*cking hate macarons now. I won't be attempting another macaron for a while.

I liken a macaron to the sea sirens of folklore. The macaron is undeniably alluring. Its crystal perfect satiny smooth sking instantly catches your eye. Its beautiful legs are just showing under that voluptuous top. The slight peak of its centre entices you even further. All of these qualitys are encompassed in a petite frame that is just so compelling.

Firstly, the macaron makes you wait by not giving in so easily. Initial failure only drives your obsession deeper. But before you become deterred, the macaron, like the siren, will give you a little in return, your lips get to taste a tiny bit of sweetness. However, just as you are getting more confident and think you have conquered the siren, she bites your head off and dumps the rest of your body into the sea. The macaron does exactly the same thing, crushing all your spirit and driving you so angry that won't be trying to conquer the macaron for a while.

I can't believe that I have wasted all night trying to make these highly temperamental macarons. It's so frustrating because I did the same things as last time, but yet not one macaron has turned out nice.

I believe where I went wrong is in the baking. Every step up to the piping of the mixture onto the trays looks ok. Because I have so many macarons to bake, I put the macarons on one tray only and two trays into the oven at a time. Well, the top tray looked alright but the bottom tray was awful. It turns out the first top tray was all sticky anyway. This was because I turned down the temperature to 120C right from the start because I didn't want them to burn like last time at 160C.

However, having said that, I did the next batches into the oven at 160C and it still didn't work. Again, it could be due to not having a stack of trays as I had to start piping the macarons onto the next tray.

It's now nearing 1am and I'm waiting for the last batch of macarons to finish baking. I'm so tired and have yet to shower yet. There's still heaps of things to wash up. All I see are a huge pile of cracked, sticky and lumpy macarons. So frustrating.

I will add photos tomorrow but I just wanted to get down my precise feeling at this moment. Arrrrrggghhhhhhhhhh.

EDIT: Here are the photos.

The batter looked great, especially with all the different colours.

The first blue tray on the second bottom rack without using the fan in the oven turned out all cracked and sickly.

I ended up with two boxes full of macarons, with 90% of them with sticky bases, funny shapes, rough shells etc. There were a few that were ok, but without the pretty legs.

The assembled macarons in the various colours I did.

The macarons tied up nicely in some celophane, ready to be given to people for Christmas presents.


  1. What a temperamental beast!

    (The macarons, not you.)

    We should have had that dinner instead.

  2. Ellie @ Kitchen Wench12/20/2007 8:55 AM

    Sorry to hear the third attempt went so badly :( I've got a dried out mix of almond meal and black sesame powder waiting to go at the moment, but the humidity is keeping me from going ahead at the moment :( Don't give up yet, remember - what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger! ;)

  3. I feel sorry for your poor mother who has to clean up after you trying to bake a really simple recipe time after time.

    You've established one thing, you ain't no Jamie Oliver.

    Maybe you should just go back to that dancing pole in the lounge room.

  4. Cindy, I'm pretty level headed but this macaron had me steaming with anger.

    If we had had dinner, it probably would have been worse as I would have tried to make them tonight and end up working all through the night to wrap them.

    Ellie, I'm starting to believe that everything can affect the macaron and humidity is probably one of them.

    I will put the macaron aside for a while before attempting it again.

    Anonymous, I do my own clean up of the utensils thanks.

    I aint Jamie Oliver, I'm Thanh Do.

    Maybe you should stop drinking so much if you think there is a pole in my lounge room.

  5. They don't look too bad - how did they taste?

    And I have friends who assure me that regardless of the looks, so long as the taste is good they like getting bags of sweet baked goodness as presents - it's a more personal touch.

    Don't give up. If they were easy to master everyone'd be makin' 'em!

  6. Anna, they tasted fine. I gave them all away today and people really liked them. When presented in the cellophane, it actually looks really good and people did appreciate the personal touch.

    As for the looks department, if they were any other ordinary biscuit, I'd be more than happy with how they look. However, they are a macaron, and anything short of perfection is not good enough I think.

    I won't give up just yet, but will give it some time before making any more. As you say, if they were so easy, everyone would be making them.

  7. Hi Thanh. It's a pity this happened, and I share your frustration -- but I think you did break a baking rule... if you are baking without a fan the temperatures at different levels in your oven will be different. With something as temperamental as a macaron, you don't play around with multiple batches in one oven until you are very very confident.

    Still, some of them look really good! Others look like the tray needed some tapping/banging to flatten them a bit before baking, and the bottom tray was, alas, doomed.

    And as ellie said, the humidity of the last few days has been hell! I have three batches of too-soft macarons because of it.

  8. Duncan, I'm so stupid that at the time, I didn't think the oven would be at different temperatures. I was in such a rush and so used to used the fan on the oven, it never even occurred to me that the lower level would be getting hardly any heat.

    I wouldn't have put more than one tray except I was really pushed for time. I won't ever do that again.

    I can't believe even the humidity has such an effect. Making macarons is like trying to catch a solar eclipse, all the elements have to be correct.

    So even your macarons failed? There is no hope of always perfecting it then.

  9. LOL Perfection is relative... I think that has to be the conclusion:) The macaron is a 'high end' product in that it requires control of a whole pile of parameters which rarely are so important in home baking. And once you know what you *can* achieve, it becomes really difficult to accept the product which isn't IT -- but as you discovered, everyone else is grateful for the awesome gift, even if a bit imperfect.

    And remember, in the kitchens of Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, they're working in a more controlled environment, often with machines to pipe stuff, and with wonderful ovens... and even then they have wastage.

    Just remember that this sort of thing takes time and patience... trust me, I've had to get used to three rental-property clunky old ovens in five years...

  10. Duncan, I can't agree with you more. Perfection is relative. To me, I know that I can produce an almost perfect macaron as in my second attempt. And anything less than that is not good enough for me.

    But it was so funny when I saw a friend today and he said he ate three packs of the macaron. He managed to grab the leftover packs after I finished handing them to everyone. I said they may taste great but didn't look so good. They're supposed to be smooth and perfect. You won't believe what his reply was. He said "I actually liked the ones that weren't so smooth and perfect. Those ones had character." I cracked up laughing. So perfection really is relative.

    I will make some more macarons soon. I'm going to try your caramel filling for sure. Also, after seeing the Pierre Herme website photos, I'm determined to do other colour/flavour combos too.

  11. Having briefly dated a pâtissier and hearing about how big pastry kitchens work, I'm gonna add to Duncan's comment about controlled environments - those places are monitored down to the percentage of humidity and air temperature, so you've got to realize that we home cooks have got more hurdles to overcome than the pros when it comes to these delicate morsels :)

    Good luck with your drive for perfection ;)

    Ellie @ Kitchen Wench

  12. Ellie, I definitely believe you when you say pastry kitchens have ultra controlled environments.

    With the normal house kitchens, for 99% of things you make, you don't need such fine control. But these fussy macarons are so tempermental.

    I will keep striving for perfection with the macarons and hopefully occasionally I will acheive it.

  13. Poor Thanh! Personally, I just don't have the patience, perfectionism or sufficient passion for macarons to go through the heartache of creation, but your macaron-related rollercoaster of emotions is fun to read... :D

  14. Hey Claire, initially it was about making a macaron as they tasted so nice. But I have to say that I am now half driven by making tasty ones but also I really want to make perfect ones. It's just the way I am. It has been a rollercoaster ride for sure, and it will continue as long as I make macarons. I don't think I'll ever be able to perfect it to a 100% hit rate.

  15. Fat Do,

    There seems to be some confusion here.

    Macaron is a pastry.
    Macaroon is a cookie.

    Do your research Do
    (Excuse my French)

    Tech :)

  16. Old Tech,

    Yes I do know a macaron is a pastry and a macaroon is a cookie. I wrote that in my first post. Do your research.