The Blog

Baking: My Macaron Story

January 3, 2015

I was reviewing my year and what I realized was that I spent an entire year mastering the art of making macarons. I thought I would share my journey with you… the epic fails and all!

Up until 2 years ago, I had never had a macaron. I was a late bloomer. It was on a recommendation that I tried one from a specific bakery in my area. I had no idea what to expect from this tiny, pretty, sweet treat but I was so curisous.

I tried a coconut one first, it was a beautiful blue with shredded coconut on top. I expected it to be much more crunchy and was intrigued at how delicate it was to eat. The shell crumbled in my hands as I ate it but the flavour was delightful! I wasn’t totally sold on all the hype though. I mean besides how cute they were, what was it about them that everyone was so into?

A year later, which was Feb. 2014, I thought I’d get some macarons as a gift for T { my special person } on Valentines day. As it turned out I wasn’t able to make it to that bakery to get some and didn’t want to try a different place. I had recently discovered a love for baking so I thought I’d try and make my own! What was supposed to be a try it out, do it, looks great, tastes amazing one time thing ended up being my entire focus for the rest of the year… I read pretty much everything you could read about macarons, I’ve tried allllll different kinds of recipes and I’ve troubleshooted everything I could think of. I literally made them every single weekend between Feb. 14 and July 10th before I got a batch on my birthday that was “the” batch! I posted my birthday macarons which you can find here with a recipe!

And so my macaron story begins… It’s been one year and as you’ll see in the photos, it was a journey. I loved every bit of it. { Ok, maybe not every single second! lol }

My Macaron Story --- Handmade Jade

 

1. This was my very first attempt. The ones for T for Valentines Day. Let’s just say that she thought they were stuffed mushroom caps! lol  I’ll be honest, when I first even thought about making macarons at home I thought, how hard could it be? lol  Add to that the fact that I didn’t have a stand mixer OR an electric hand mixer, or a scale or anything I’ve acquired since that first time. Yes, I mixed them by hand with a whisk. My arms were so tired but I was much to determined! The flavour combo I tried was strawberry & white chocolate ganache. They tasted really good actually but just look at these sad little things! No feet, no nothing even resembling a macaron! But I tried. What happened was that it made me want to figure these little things out, what went wrong and what’s it going to take to get them like the ones in the bakeries. At this point, let’s just call this determination… What was to come may have looked to some as obsessive-compulsive, not to me though… still just determination and curiosity!

2. As my second attempt, I borrowed my Mom’s electric mixer. Good idea! And I bought an inexpensive scale. Another good idea! By this time I had done so much research on blogs about making macarons but I still had no idea what to actually look for while beating the egg whites. This one blog in particular gave a time sequence to follow… 3 mins on medium, 3 mins on medium high and 2 mins on high or something like that. Well, this is what happened with that equation for me. At least this time they had something that sort of resembled feet! Yay! I will say this though, in retrospect what they don’t tell you is that stand mixer timing and settings are different.  { these were times and settings for a stand mixer and when I did it with my electric mixer the egg whites would be over beaten every time } They were blueberry & white chocolate ganache. Again, they taste amazing but not quite what I was going for looks wise. They have swirls on top, which they shouldn’t, the feet are spilling out all over the place, which means they are hollow inside, and they are bumpy as heck even though I sifted twice!

3. By this time I was making them every weekend. I had bought a stainless steel bowl to mix in, bought a silpat mat and made myself a piping template! I have a deep love for the peanut butter & chocolate combo so that was the obvious next flavour to try. They are not very smooth at all and the insides spilled out all over the place. Also, the tops of these shells turned out paper thin and would crack when I touched them. I had made the peanut butter myself with honey roasted peanuts, which was delicious. I knew that adding the coco powder into the shells really changed something, or it was just that I added too much. { find the post for these here }

4. I didn’t have a food processor so I played around with using my old coffee grinder to grind the large pieces in my almond flour mixture down to get more of a smooth texture shell. It worked because these pistachio ones turned out a lot more smooth. It was SO much work though, small grinder. But, I felt like I was getting closer. They all had feet and they were quite a lot smoother than my previous attempts! However, they were so hollow! Back to the drawing board! { find the post for these here }

5. Next came the apricot ones. I played around this time with how I was mixing the batter making sure not to over mix for trouble-shooting purposes. Well, I sure didn’t over mix them, I under mixed them and they were hollow and had these little peaks still on top that didn’t disappear when I tapped the pan on the counter. The insides were also still spilling out all over the place. Back to the kitchen I went! { find the post for these here }

6.  I still wasn’t happy with how smooth the shells had been so I decided to run the mixture through my omega nutrition juicer thing. It has attachments for grinding nuts and things so I thought it’d be worth a try. Yup, these ones started to actually look like smooth shells! They are much smoother but what you can’t see is that they were still really hollow and they were undercooked so the bottoms were sticking to the mat even after I had cooled them fully. I was over mixing the batter which made the batter too runny and they were turning out too big and flat as well. Also, I had to throw out about 80% of the shells. Every tray I piped had only a few that actually turned out somewhat okay. They were either lopsided, undercooked, had cracks or not enough feet. I also needed to play around with the oven temperature and cooking times.

7. I got an oven thermometer, very good idea! I hadn’t even realized how “off” my oven temp was. A whopping 25 degree difference. This helped and these ones turned out better than any of the other ones in the past! I was headed in the right direction! I was still experiencing the inconsistency of good ones on each tray though but this time more of them were looking better than worse. They are still hollow though! I wanted to play around with different flavours as well so I did a lemon one, coconut and matcha. The lighter ones were browning on the tops too much though.

8. This batch of pistachio macarons were the last ones that I tried before the birthday ones. And for a handheld electric mixer they turned out not too bad! They weren’t as hollow, the shells had a great texture and were sturdy and no lumps & bumps! More of them turned out on each tray. I had finally tweaked the ingredients to what would work for me. I air dried these right by the window and I think this helped!

9. On July 10th for my birthday, T bought me a beautiful new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer! It seriously changed everything for me and the macarons. Now, they’re no longer hollow and all of them turn out. I made 2 batches that day to make sure it wasn’t a strange fluke.  lol Yup, they all turned out perfectly! I was surprised and not surprised at the same time. I mean even if they hadn’t worked out this time I would still have continued to figure them out. The sense of accomplishment I felt that day was like nothing else! I was proud of myself for sticking with it all this time and not giving up. I found what worked for me and had eventually stopped looking and researching all the other blogs so I could troubleshoot in my own kitchen. I did the work, the research and the experimentation and I was thrilled with the results after 5 months! What worked for me may not work for everyone else. But I share my recipe and the things that I do to get them to look the way I do and you can find the recipe & post for these macarons { here }

10. Even after I had success with my birthday macarons, I wanted to keep making more! Now it was time to experiment with flavours and batch sizes. I tried doubling my batches to see if the recipe would still turn out the same and I tried 1/2 ing the batch as well. I just wanted to know! lol Then I tried really playing around with flavours and colouring in the shells. I started getting macaron orders and I’ve had some pretty amazing feedback from people. Not just that they are amazing but I’ve had so many people tell me that either they are better than the ones they had in Paris and Switzerland or that they had tried a macaron at a bakery here, didn’t like it and up till trying mine had no intention of having another one and now they loved them! Wow, I was thrilled to have that kind of feedback! In this picture I made pistachio, salted caramel & ferrero rocher macarons all made with the recipe I shared in my birthday macarons post.

What a year! I was grateful to have the time, space and energy to work through this. It taught me a lot. Someone once told me that I couldn’t cook/bake. It took me a long time to work past that and get to a place where what they said was only their opinion and didn’t matter. That person is no longer in my life and { to that person } by the way I CAN bake! It may have taken me longer to figure these little tiny french macarons out but I did it! It’s like I took an intensive course in macaron making. I got 5 months of solid practice and the 5 months after that wasn’t practice anymore it was just having fun making them because I loved it! What also happened during this time was that I always had all these macarons made and no one to eat them, T & I and my parents could only eat so many! I brought them to my work all the time and my coworkers got a chance to see how they went from picture 1 to picture 10. I had had this idea to start a little treat cart called “treat trolley” where I would bring to work holiday inspired cupcakes & macarons that were paid for by donation to The United Way. The first treat trolley sold out in 12 minutes and by the end of this season I had raised over $1000 dollars for The United Way! YAY! What came during that time was a high demand for orders through Handmade Jade. So I set up a “custom orders” page where you can place orders. I’ve started working on branding Handmade Jade with a sweet shop and I’ll be launching a new addition and little revamp to the website by April 2015! It’s not something I planned on happening, I’ve just gone with it and realized how much I love it, every part of it from making the macarons to branding and packaging them! I feel like it combines a multitude of things I love doing! Oh and I GET the hype of the french macaron now! lol

So, that’s my story. That’s why I’ve had a bit of a break from doing DIY jewelry on the blog. I’ll get back into it every now and then but this just kind of happened and I’ve been so into it! Here’s to 2015 being about everything coming together!

I wish you all a Happy, Healthy & Amazing 2015! A year to shine as brightly as you possibly can! Don’t let anyone ever dull your sparkle!

 xo Jade

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