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Oh, the French and their delicate, quirky desserts! Why must souffles have to puff up but have a flat dome, madeleines have to have bumps, financiers must NOT have bumps, macarons have feet… good grief! I have always been fascinated with people’s obsession with macarons. Because I like to make life difficult for myself wanted to find out what was so special about this apparently very temperamental cookie, I signed up for a macaron making class when I went home to Malaysia for the CNY holidays. Oh, and I umm, kind of twisted my mum’s arm into going with me too. Hee hee!! Mummy dearest couldn’t understand why I wanted to take the class as it is “too sweet!!! My teeth is too sensitive!!” and it is “so easy to make!”. Umm, sure mum!

Our class was so fun and we learned so much. So much so that midway through the class, mum whispered and said it is too hard and she’s never attempting it. HAHAHAHA. Granted, our very French teacher gave us a very complicated recipe and made us do an Italian meringue, complete with candy thermometer and counting down to pouring syrup into egg whites. I’m not a pastry chef yet, lady!

The class was so inspiring that I have been itching to make it on my own ever since I got back. I didn’t want to use her recipe as I don’t have a candy thermometer and I am still not comfortable with the Italian meringue. I looked through lots of blogs for easier recipes and settled on two recipes: David Lebovitz’s and a recipe from another site (which completely bombed by the way). Yeah, I made two batches from two recipes in one day. That was how gung-ho I was.

I tried to combine what I remembered from the class with the recipe. My first doomed batch seemed to go ok until I looked at the amount of flour mixture and meringue. It simply dawned on me that 55g of egg whites just wouldn’t be enough for 200g of flour mixture. What I learned in class was to mix some of my egg whites with the flour to form a soft dough, and then mix it into the Italian meringue. I did not come across this method when looking through blogs though. Nevertheless, I pressed ahead and tried to fold in the flour mixture into the meringue. I learned in class to fold the batter by scooping up the batter and then half slapping/whacking the batter back into the bowl. Worked fine for me in Malaysia but somehow, this time the batter flew all over the place. Literally. I managed to get batter on my face and on the counter far behind me! I never got the ribbon consistency but figured I was already over beating, so I piped them out using this Ikea place mat as my template.

While waiting for my first batch to rest, I decided to make another batch using David Lebovitz’s recipe. This time, I mixed the almond powder, icing sugar and cocoa powder before putting in the food processor. The ratio of dry ingredients to egg white in his recipe is a lot lower than in the first recipe and it was a lot easier to fold the flour mixture into the meringue but the whole slapping/whacking business still eluded me. Maybe I should get a wider mixing bowl.

I popped the trays into the oven at 150º C and after around 15 minutes, thought I saw feet! Overjoyed, I pulled the trays out. My joy was short lived however, when I saw batch 1 start to wrinkle up and realized they weren’t cooked. Batch 2 (David Lebovitz’s recipe) had somehow fused together and cracked all over. Some seemed to slide off their feet. But they had feet!!!! And they actually tasted awesome! I bet its a combination of over beating, bad consistency, too hot of an oven and I’m sure other errors that contributed to the failure of my macarons. Oh well.

I got to practice my piping skills! :D

I never expected to succeed with my first batch and while I am pretty disappointed in how they turned out, I have to say I am also quite happy that a few actually looked a little acceptable and they did grow feet! I’ve definitely joined the macaron madness and can’t wait for more practice! Here’s to more try outs, certain failures, and hopefully the eventual success!

Chocolate Macarons
makes around 10 cookies
Macaron Batter
(Kind of adapted from here)
100g icing sugar
½ cup almond powder
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
60g aged egg whites, room temperature
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Chocolate Ganache
150g dark chocolate, chopped
150g double cream
Line a baking sheet with grease-proof paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.
Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa powder for a few minutes. Sieve to get the bigger pieces out.
In the bowl, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise. Beat in the granulated sugar until glossy and stiff peaks.
Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a spatula. Bring your spatula under the batter and around the bowl, lift and “plop” back down to give the batter a good whack to loosen the mixture.
Fill the pastry bag and pipe the batter on the grease-proof paper over the template. Slide the paper onto a baking sheet. Holding both sides of the baking sheet and grease-proof paper, firmly whack the baking sheet on a flat surface to flatten out the macarons.
Preheat oven to 140ºC.
Let macarons rest for at least 30 minutes until they form a skin and are no longer tacky to the touch. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet. 
Make the chocolate ganache by bringing the cream to a boil in a saucepan. Once the cream starts to boil, pour it over the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl. Let it rest for a minute, then stir gently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside for it to set. If the ganache becomes too hard, heat up in a microwave in 10 second bursts.
Pair each macaron by size. Gently pipe or spread the ganache on the underside of a macaron with a small offset spatula. Gently sandwich the macaron by slightly twisting and pushing the two macaron halves together.

I found this site that lists down a couple of notable sites as well as tips, and this amazing site, complete with detailed videos of how to make macarons. I wish I saw this earlier! Happy baking!!!