Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making macarons is really hard

This last Sunday, my friend Meg gave me my Christmas present (a little early). We attended a cooking class together at Sur La Table which is at the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City. What were we doing you may ask? Making a French macaroon. They look like this:
Now, these little delicate pastries may look like tiny hamburgers or perhaps...weird Oreos. But I assure you, they are really really hard to make. I was flabbergasted. What makes them so difficult and temperamental...I'm going to go over the short list with you right now:
  1. Macaroons are really made with three ingredients. Egg whites, powdered sugar, and almond flour. However, these ingredients must be perfect. The eggs that make the egg whites have to be a minimum of two weeks old in the fridge. If you use younger eggs, the chef told us we would fail.  Additionally, the egg whites need to be set out for 24-hours at room temperature before you use them. Any less and it's guaranteed failure.  As for the other have to have 100% pure powdered sugar. There cannot be any contaminants, so you have to pay for the good stuff. No cornstarch. And the same goes for the almond flour (which costs about $15 for a small bag according to the chef). This helps to explain the price tag of charging $2.00 per cookie for these temperamental things.
  2. The egg whites must be whipped in a metal bowl with a metal beater. Somewhere between soft and hard peak, you have to add the food coloring. It cannot be liquid or dry because either of these will cause your recipe to fail. You need to use the gel food coloring and it has to have "no taste" on the label because the color you end up with will be less once cooked. If you whip the egg whites to hard will fail. That's how temperamental these cookies are. There's a narrow corridor of success. It was kind of mind-blowing. Just to give you an idea of what Meg and I went through over the course of three hours...we added a teaspoon of orange flavoring (the recipe called for it) and failed to whip the egg whites enough so our batter was too runny and we failed :(. There is no levener, so the egg whites are everything to this dish.
  3. I had to sift the powdered sugar through a chinois strainer three times with a wooden spoon. This is to get air into the powdered sugar. And yes, anything less than three times is failure. Once the almond flour and the powdered sugar were mixed (a delicate act since to do so too violently churns the almond flour and sugar into butter) it needs to be folded into the egg whites CAREFULLY. If you are ham-fisted with it, then you over fold the egg batter and the recipe is ruined. Basically start over (we should have done this).
  4. Once you get the egg batter done then you make the stuffing for the middle. Caramel, fudge, or some other buttery thing were our choices. These weren't so difficult...although the caramel had to be done with care.
The ones that I made with Meg turned out hollow.  However, people said they still tasted good. Below are some photos I took during the 3-hour class:
So, anyway...macaroons are hard.

Happy Wednesday.  And don't forget, tomorrow is Patrick Dilloway's Bah Humbug Blahg Fest.


  1. Uh, that's serious dedication to a project.

    You can send some my way though. I'm an eater, not a cook . .


  2. Those things are incredibly good, but I dare not make them. At one point in life I stood at the crossroad of writing or culinary arts. The obvious choice stands before you now. :)

  3. Wow, that is waaaaay too much effort for me - I never make anything that I can possibly fail at. Guess it explains why in recent times I've taken to eating carrot sticks and sugar snap peas (and other raw veges) with hommus for dinner. hehe

    But yeah, I love to EAT macaroons ;)

  4. Rather you than me. I've never been a fan! But I agree with Donna Hole

  5. I was totally expecting a writing tie-in of how our books are like macaroons and our characters are the egg whites and theme is the food coloring and we must sift and sift and sift our plot until it melds together in the perfect weird Oreo.

  6. I only cook when I really have to so I admire you. I hope you had fun in the class.

  7. Kudos! Whipping egg whites takes patience and skill...I have neither so I stick to making North American macaroons that are waaay easier.

  8. Wow.... that sounds like a serious pain in the ass to make. Did you at least feel a sense of accomplishment once you made ones that didn't fail?

  9. Now that looks like a fun class! I love macarons, and I've always dreamed (and secretly dreaded) trying to make them. Big props for getting in there and doing it.

  10. I like to bake, and I intend to do an entire weekend of it in a few days. That sounds more difficult than any baking I will attempt. I thought I was doing something special by using a cookie press. haha

  11. I thought they were funny-colored moon pies or something. Did the teacher scream and curse at you a lot like Gordon Ramsey? That would have made it more fun.

  12. Wow. I admire anything that is that hard to make. Will you be trying it again at home until you've perfected your technique?

  13. Wow, who knew? I've never actually tried a macaroon. Maybe I should one of these days.

  14. That is the most awesome gift ever. Giving someone a cooking class sounds like so much fun.

    Macaroon's are delicious, but I didn't know they were so difficult to make, at least these gourmet ones are hard to make.

  15. I am happy to eat the cookies that other people make for me. :)

  16. WOW, I had no idea! Good thing they taste good, LOL!

  17. I'm so envious right now of your macaroon temperamental fun. For I have never eaten one yet they look sooooo goood. How tasty were the "rejects"?

  18. Yum! That sounds like so much fun. I went to the store once, but didn't get a macaroon. I guess I missed out. Thanks for sharing your experience. I want to make macaroons, and with your tips, maybe I'll give them a try for the holidays.

  19. I attempted macaroons once, and it was a complete failure. I am a very good cook and baker, I can make almost anything - but these are ridiculous! If you like to make holiday treats, I've got a GREAT and EASY recipe for liqueur balls and truffles! LMK if you are interested, they are truly scrumptious! :)

    BTW: I'd love a shout out for my contest. I've extended the deadline.

  20. I'm not a fan of macaroons--they'd be the last thing eaten on my pantry shelf--but I admire your determination to complete this task. I once tried to cook a pot roast, which you can read about on my blog, but since then I've tried to stay out of the kitchen.

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  22. men who cook are so adorable. keep it up dear.

  23. Three macaroons stand in a row, with Michael in front of them. Michael says:

    "Look to your left, then look to your right. When we are done here, ONE OF YOU will be a perfect Christmas macaroon. The other two of you will FAIL".

    Lightning flashes, the laboratory goes dark, and when the emergency lights come on, Michael is missing and the three macaroons are standing there with innocent looks.

    Congratulations! You just got a sneak peek at my new thriller, "The Macaroon With The No-Taste Gel Based Food Coloring Tattoo."

    Seriously: Michael, you are to be commended for trying something so difficult. I don't even bother unthawing the frozen pizza these days. I just chip away at it.

  24. Cooking classes are so much fun and they always tackle something a little harder (because why would you take the class if it was easy). I bet next time your macaroons will be perfect! Will there be a next time?

  25. @Donna: My feet hurt after standing for three hours.

    @David: They are so tasty.

    @Trisha: I had no idea what I was getting into.

    @A Daft Scots Lass: hehe

    @Sarah: Eep I missed a golden opportunity.

    @Sarah: It was fun but exhausting.

    @Em: I imagine that they would be. I can't see how they could be harder...they'd have to be easier.

    @Misha: It was a serious pain in the ass.

    @REINHARDT!: It was fun if not tiring. Thanks :)

    @Brinda: These are not your mother's cookies but a horse of a different color.

    @Grumpy: Nope...not funny colored moon pies.

    @Rusty: Thank you

    @Alyson: They are so tasty. They melt on your tongue.

    @Melanie: Meg is an amazing friend. Now that you know they are so hard to make, you really appreciate them for what they are.

    @Margo: Me too :).

    @IB: They are so light and flaky and delicious.

    @Steph: The rejects all had great flavor. Some day perhaps we shall meet and then we can do a cooking class together.

    @E.R.: Do not skimp on ingredients. Buy the best stuff. Get a digital scale and exact measuring stuff. And always have more ingredients on hand to cover for mistakes and to start over.

    @Bess: Why thank you :) I never thought baking cookies would make moi brave.

    @Heather: I can see why. These things are difficult. I think I might be interested in that easier recipe lol. I will shout out the contest tomorrow on my blog. I shall not forget.

    @Stephen: Why? Why? They are so tasty.

    @Liz: Oh. I'll pass that on to my friend James who is single. He'd love to know that.

    @Briane: You sir win comment of the day.

  26. @Johanna: Yeah, there is some sick twisted pleasure in the punishment gleaned by baking macaroons. My friend Meg and I are already planning on doing them at her house. Round two incoming.

  27. INTENSE! No wonder they are so freaking expensive at the fancy french places! And what a cool friend to give you such a fun present. :-)

  28. This is why I bake the easy stuff like regular cookies and cakes. Definitely don't have the patience for macaroons. Love the coconut ones!

  29. I think I'll just stick to the ones in stores. Although with egg whites in them, I probably won't. (I'm a vegan.)

  30. mmm, my sis makes macarons and they are delish (she may be going to culinary school soonish). But yes, not the easiest to make. So much pan banging to get out all those air bubbles. Worth it though.
    Man, now i wish i had some macarons right now

    Fun fact! (which i literally just learned a few weeks ago). Macaroons = those coconut ball things possibly dipped in chocolate

    Macarons = french pastry from your picture.


  31. Wow, talk about tricky. I'll stick with chocolate chip.

  32. I just had my first macaroon 2 weeks ago. They were French, and a gift from my sister in law. And they were call macarons, one O. I didn't care for them too much, especially the rose-flavored and Earl Grey ones, but boy, were they ever pretty!

    I'm a new follower, btw.

  33. I'm a pretty good cook and I like macaroons, but if I ever tried to make those tempermental things they'd come out looking like The Blob (50's horror flick). You did well.

  34. I'm better at main dishes than at deserts. I can make a mean chocolate chip cookie. Bet that would freak out my blogger buddies!

  35. @Dalya: Ayep

    @J.L.: I don't care for the coconut ones. I guess that makes me screwed cause I have to make the hardest ones, buy, or go without.

    @L.Diane: Me too (for the most part). I won't be attempting them again on my own. If Meg wants to do it, we shall try.

    @Falen: Eeep...this just goes to show you how hard these devils are. I can't even spell them correctly.

    @Nancy: I cannot believe you didn't care for them. They are yummy. Thanks for the follow.

    @Helena: That's how it happened with me...50's horror flick and all.

    @Alex: Chocolate chip cookies are so simple a child can do them.

    @Wheat: I agree.

  36. I have no further comment about the macaroons. I sort of have to stay away from the baking in our house, but that's a story for some other time.


    When did you start giving out oreos for setting your book as "to read," and where's my oreo?

  37. I've done these type of cooking classes. The other problem is your treat turns out perfect in the class because you have all the right tools, then you go home. At that point, you discover it is even harder.

  38. It's suprisiing something so small is hard to make. I'm sure it's cheaper to just buy them, but not as good as homemade.

  39. Wow. Um wow.

    Although, I must say, that kind of looks like fun.

  40. Macaroons are so delicious... my fav is Lavender and Salted Caramel. Looks like such a fun class... and hard:)

  41. I've learned from cooking and baking that the things that look the most simple are the hardest. Simple doesn't mean easy, as Julia Child would say.

    I LOVED the macaroons at that famous place in Paris. I want to live there just so I could eat them all the time.

  42. They look so hard to make but oh, so delicious!

  43. I bought almond meal. I'm going to make some more of these soon. Not sure what flavor to do. I think I liked the peppermint buttercreme one best. Want to help with making a few?

  44. What a delightful thing to attempt. You're right, they sound way too complicated to me, but it doesn't look like you failed. Good job!