A couple of weeks ago I received another challenge request to make macarons. To which I responded out loud to an empty room “Hell yeah!” (well…one of my cats was sitting/sleeping in the room, and though I may have startled her slightly with my exuberance, I also think I detected a gleam of excitement in her eyes as well. Or maybe I’m just projecting…whatevs (Yeah, I just said whatevs, I’m bringing my high school self back)).
Thinking about making French macarons (not to be confused with the much less exotic, but still extremely delicious, toasted coconut creation known as the macaroon – you miss one letter and you get a whole different dessert!) immediately conjured up delicious reminiscences of mine and Kevin’s trip to Paris a couple of years ago. Now in the interest of full disclosure/complete honesty (mostly because I’ll be incapable of seeing anyone’s judgey faces – although feel free to lambaste me in person the next time you see me 😉 ), although I was vegan when we went on that trip, I played a bit fast and loose with the definition. I didn’t go so far as to eat cheese (though I admit to being mildly tempted), but I definitely partook in pastries, cookies and of course the ubiquitous French crêpe, and would just tell myself that they were probably vegan, so long as no one contradicted me (I exuberantly embraced a “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy for those couple of weeks). Case in point, the macaron. Just the memories are making me swoon (or should I say maca-swoon? 😉 ). That feeling of biting into the crispy yet soft cookie was reminiscent of the feeling you get breaking through an untouched, virgin crust of snow in the winter. You feel like you’re entering new lands/uncharted territory. You’re then rewarded with the creamy goodness that is the various fillings that make up the center of these delicate sandwich cookies. Ah Paris…..what was I talking about again? Right, on with the reason for this whole post!
As per my meringue post, the big issue with the French macaron is that which gives the cookie it’s trademark crumbly outer texture and fluffiness – the egg whites. I feel like egg white replacements are becoming the bane of my existence, but they’ve also caused me to discover things I may have never known otherwise. I thought I was done with science after high school, but you challengers are forcing me to step up to the plate and embrace scientific research and discovery in the name of all things mouthwatering…totally worth it. 🙂
And so, the research began. I scoured the interwebs for every recipe variation I could find, and felt that the ones that seemed the most likely to replicate my memories of France were here and here. Both of these recipes are fairly similar, so I kind of just did what I thought would work best using these as a jumping off point.
The best part about macarons (at least in my opinion), is how much you can play around with various cookie and filling flavours and combinations. I figured if I was going to go to “all that trouble” of trying to make these, I might as well try out a few different flavours at the same time (plus that vastly increases the amount of “quality control” that I would have to do. I suppose one must suffer for ones art. Oh well, c’est la vie 😉 ). Feel free of course to try any combination that sounds delicious to you.
I decided to go with making 2 different flavours of cookie, and I would have 4 different filling flavours. I opted for Lemon cookies, which I would fill with lemon filling and rosewater filling (rolled in pistachios for that Turkish Delight-esque taste, ’cause I’m all multicultural like that), and Cinnamon cookies, which I would fill with salted caramel apple and coffee ganache.
No sooner had I decided on the flavours, it was all I could do to wait until the weekend when I would actually have time to break out the test tubes and commence this dangerously delicious science experiment. However, it’s a good thing I had to wait since I opted to order myself some “Versawhip” (a molecular gastronomy foaming agent – aka hopefully egg white emulator), which seemed to be much ballyhooed by all the websites I visited. I waited impatiently all week for my prize to arrive in the mail, at which point I excitedly ripped open the packaging, and then was forced to still wait another few days before using it. 🙁
Now I wish that I could report that all things went smoothly, that I’m a super genius for whom all baking attempts work out for me on the first try, and that angels trumpted with the sound of my sweet sweet success. However dear readers, this was most definitely not the case. I’ve promised my self I will be all about the brutal honesty here, even when it’s humiliating/ embarrassing. In that spirit, my first round of these cookies was pretty disastrous. I ended up redoing this recipe twice – and this pretty much fits exactly the way I felt after the first round of cookies:
First round of cookies out of the oven:
If I can hold the whole cookie tray in my hand, can we just instead call it a macaron pie…albeit a really ugly duckling version of one? :
Because I didn’t want to be wasteful though (and I realized that I already had way too much of my various fillings and didn’t want that to go to waste either), I still turned them into the most hideous looking macarons (though it’s blasphemous to even call them that), that you’ve ever seen:
As per the meringues from a couple of weeks ago, these actually tasted really delicious, so I didn’t mind saving them, even if it will have to be for my own consumption only 🙂
I’m happy to report though that the second round was slightly more successful (see main photo), however, still not perfect 🙁 Visually, they’re still just not up to snuff.
Alas, this challenge has bested me for now, but I’ll try and figure out where I went wrong and report back in a future post
In the meantime, here’s the recipes for the fillings I made (I can’t recommend the salted caramel apple whisky filling enough. I still had leftovers and I’m just eating it with a spoon it’s so good)
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- ¼ cup icing sugar
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest or ¼ teaspoon rosewater extract
- finely chopped pistachios (for rosewater filled cookies)
Beat all the ingredients together with a hand mixer, adding extra icing sugar as need until it’s the right consistency. Refrigerate until ready to use. For rosewater cookies, after spreading filling between 2 cookies, sprinkle some pistachios onto the filling between the cookies, then roll the iced edges of the cookies in more crushed pistachios.
- ¼ cup chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
- 1-2 teaspoons instant coffee
1. Put chocolate chips in small bowl and set aside.
2. Heat almond milk on the stove or in the microwave until just before boiling.
3. Add instant coffee to almond milk and stir to dissolve.
4. While milk is still warm, pour over chocolate chips and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes.
5. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
6. Refrigerate until room temperature (ganache will thicken up as it cools)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1.5 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon Apple Whiskey (or apple juice/cider)
- 3 tablespoons coconut milk yogurt (or almond milk, or coconut milk)
- Dash of cinnamon
- Dash of nutmeg
- Dash of allspice
- 1 tablespoon apple butter
- 2-4 tablespoons icing sugar (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese (optional)
- 1-2 teaspoons sea salt
1. In a small saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil, swirling pan occasionally until it reaches 240F on a candy thermometer.
2. Reduce heat to low and add butter, stirring until smooth.
3. Stir in yogurt (or almond milk or coconut milk)
4. Add the apple whiskey (or juice or cider), apple butter and spices. Stir until smooth. Heat, stirring occasionally to 225F
5. With an electric mixer, beat in a few tablespoons of icing sugar or cream cheese to thicken (if you prefer it to be more “sauce-like”, feel free to omit this step).
6. Allow to cool. Stir in sea salt. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before using (i.e. until it’s a spreadable consistency).