I’m Baking?! It Must Be the End Times

I’ve declared many times, I DON’T BAKE. I hate the precision, I hate the fact that you can’t fix what you broke part way through (at least not usually). Then quarantine happened. I can’t just grab lovely treats from my local bakeries…I mean, I could but I’m not. I’ve pretty much successfully avoided going indoor anywhere since March 16 with few exceptions.

So what do I decide to take on and perfect? MACARONS! Not easy, slap together cookies. The most persnickety, picky, moody cookies out there. And DAMN are they good!

I can’t take full credit, I’m using Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Bake Everything. I tried using some techniques from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook but that batch was a total fail. They turned out as wonderful chewy cookies and nothing like macarons. Sticking with the simpler, straight forward Bittman recipe has been largely successful.

So far I’ve made coffee, vanilla, chocolate, mocha, pistachio, lemon and spice. Mocha and lemon were my favorites. Pistachio won rave reviews from my husband, declaring they could be served at the end of a three Michelin starred meal. My son just ate them all but agreed with the pistachio review as well.

The secret to the pistachio recipe: roasted, *salted* pistachios. In both the flour and the buttercream filling. Really. It cut through some of the sweet and made them just heavenly. It made me want to experiment with some crazy flavors like basil, balsamic and strawberry…together. Hmmm….

Some things I’ve discovered are key (and seasoned macaron bakers probably know all this already). Let the egg whites sit out overnight, it really makes a difference. Definitely make sure they sit for at least 30 minutes after you pipe them onto the baking sheet. I cut that corner and they all cracked. I read on one site that someone preferred silpats to parchment paper but I find the opposite. I get a cleaner cookie bottom with parchment. They stick more to the silpat–maybe I need new silpats? Having multiple pastry bags at the ready for multiple flavors of cookies and filling is wonderful. I bought a big box of them thinking it was overkill since I have used, probably, 5 in ten years but since I started this hobby, I’m using lots. You can do everything the same but if the humidity in your kitchen is different or the temperature is, you may have to whip the eggs longer or shorter…you may have to fold in the flour more or less. These things are tricky!

I just ordered more almond flour from Bob’s Red Mill. Next I’m going to work on sizing. I keep making them too big. Although a friend actually thought that was a good move. I want to try some bite-sized ones.