Did you know you can write and draw on French macarons?! I used these markers for the first time to draw gemstone designs on a batch of macarons I made over the weekend. I could barely fall asleep last night, I was so full of macaron decorating ideas! And feeling the urge to take a calligraphy class or something. My penmanship needs a little work.
For my birthday, my awesome parents treated me to an online French macaron class. Even though I ran into some trouble with posting in the discussion group section, it was incredibly helpful and I did a major happy dance when I opened the oven and saw zero cracked shells and perfect little pieds! I wanted to share some of the game-changing things I did differently this time around, each of which I'm convinced contributed to this being my best batch ever:
- I bought an oven thermometer ($7 at our local grocery store) and learned that our oven tends to run 20 degrees hotter than its setting! WTF! I had been baking my macarons (and everything else) too hot this whole time.
- I bought a kitchen scale ($8 at WalMart) to measure my ingredients by weight.
- I aged my egg whites. Ideally they should be aged at room temperature for 24 hours, but I forgot to set them out the night before, so I aged them for two hours and then zapped them in the microwave for 10 seconds to help them evaporate just a little bit more.
- I used almond flour instead of almond meal flour. I had to order it online (I got this kind) to find it, but I think it made a big difference. The tant-pour-tant seemed finer and drier.
- I refrigerated the finished product before passing judgment. I tried a bite as soon as they had cooled and immediately despaired at how hard the shell was. After a couple hours in the refrigerator, however, they were as close to perfect as I've ever gotten. French macarons need time to marry (as my mom would say). Once you've added your filling, seal them in an airtight container and store in the fridge for at least a few hours (ideally overnight).
- I used a template (part of the online class) to guide my piping.
- I followed the recipe. This is forehead-slapping obvious. But I have a tendency to go a little rogue when it comes to cooking/baking/following instructions. French macarons present neither the time or place for deviation -- and I am, of course, talking about the basic bones of a macaron recipe. Once that has been nailed down, you have a foundation to explore and experiment with different flavors and colors. But I realized I should have been treating the act of baking these tricky little cookies more like science. It is chemistry, after all, and the little things can make a big difference.
Oh yes, and I also used the edible markers to decorate a few macarons in the spirit of the season...
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