I know I’m brutally late to the macaron party. I’ve been aware of their adorable little meringue hamburger-like presence, and have eaten many over the years, and made a few ugly batches right around 2008 when I was nose-deep into my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. But out of the blue, I got obsessed with these little wispy sweet crispy chewy bastards – french macarons – and I wanted to make them for my mom’s upcoming 70th birthday party. So the deep-googling and the reading began: how to make macarons! I wanted mine to look like the ones I saw in so many beautiful Instagrams. I was feeling determined, and I needed a good distraction – macaron mania was perfectly timed.
The first thing I sought out was a good recipe. I read through my baking books and then went to the internet for some more goods. I ended up finding the EXTREMEO informative Brave Tart blog and her recipe. I made it once, and they looked terrible. Some with cracked tops and only some with cute little “feet” – that’s what they call the ruffly part of the macaron shell. So I made it again, asked for help online on Instagram and received so many nice tips, sought out video and read some more. I ended up making them four times until I finally got the hang of it.
To break it down, here is what worked for me:
1. Make sure to whip the daylights out of the meringue. If it seems like it’s getting so stiff it’s taking on a life of its own, that’s ok: just roll with it – I remember being surprised at the final odd texture. Set the timer for each stage and let ‘er rip. For a Kitchen Aix Mixer, try: speed 4 for 3 mins, speed 7 for 3 mins, speed 8 for 3 mins and speed 10 for 1 min.
2. After measuring my ingredients using a digital scale, I tried both sifting the almond flour and icing sugar, and I also tried throwing it all in the food processor – the food processor worked great!
3. I dumped the almond flour/icing sugar mixture right on top of the beaten meringue. Then I fluffed and folded. It’s best to watch a few videos on how to fold in the flour – or, Dorie Greenspan describes it as “mix and mash” which I found myself saying in my head while I folded. Her description of the process is great, and you can find it here on Food52.
3. I used a circular cookie cutter and quickly made circle stencils on parchment paper so I could easily pipe to the right size. NOTE: make sure to make the stencils on the BACKSIDE of the parchment paper so you don’t bake pencil marks into your macarons. I don’t have a silpat but I would like to get one now – however, I found parchment paper to work fine!
4. I piped holding the bag upright and just blobbing out the batter. I tried piping the “from the side” method and I ended up with some oblong uglies. Top-dogging it seemed to work just fine for me.
5. Smack dat pan: After you pipe the macaron batter onto your parchment paper circles, hold the pan with two hands on either side and drop it down onto a countertop. It is thunderously loud but it helps to minimize air bubbles.
6. I let my macarons sit out after piping in different increments, from 15 to 30 minutes to 2 hours. For me, it made no difference to the final product. What made a difference is FINDING THE HOT SPOTS in my oven and outsmarting them by simply baking ONE SHEET at a time in the middle rack. One sheet to the wind. It takes a little more time to bake them all , sure – but it may save you from crying over cracked macs. (thanks to some of my Instagram followers for that tip!)
7. Find what temperature and time works for your oven and macarons – mine was 325 degrees and baking them for 8-10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the baking time.
You can get caught up in being supremely anal about whether something is the “right” or “proper” technique or not – but really, we’re just trying to make a lovely little special pal dessert so I think it’s better not to sweat the “that’s not legit or proper” way to make something. Try making them a bunch of times until you get the feel/hang of it, as every oven is different, everyone lives in different climates and the more you practice … YOU GET BETTER!
Wonderful and free smack that mac resources:
Brave Tart’s Macaron Mythbusters post and RECIPE. I followed her recipe, using a scale. I also scraped the contents of a vanilla bean into the batter, and added gel colour for the last minute of beating my meringue.
This nice gal of Macaron and Mint‘s Youtube video! I found watching videos helped to see the texture and “flow” of the batter. She also told me this and I followed it to a T: Kitchen Aix Mixer: speed 4 for 3 mins, speed 7 for 3 mins, speed 8 for 3 mins and speed 10 for 1 min.Totally worked for me.
Dorie Greenspan has a wonderful way with words and describing actions: check out her Parisian macarons post here.
Practice, practice and practice some more! I’m excited to keep on making macarons and continuing to improve. I hope this post gives some hope to those who have thrown in the macaron towel! If you have some more great resources, let me know in the comments, and show me your macarons – leave me links! Happy baking, everyone! xo Lyndsay
Yep. Everyone wants to be looking at a super rich, dark drippy thick chocolate peppermint buttercream cake right now. December holiday weight gain, I laugh in your face – because yes, you won, you magnificent butter, chocolate and cheese stuffed bastard! I did indeed make this peppermint chocolate cake for my husband’s birthday in December. Dark chocolate cake layers, cool mint frosting and the drip. I used the same chocolate cake recipe from my birthday cake back in November. I know everyone’s nibbling steamed kale and power-juicing dragon fruit these days. I get it. January is some painful, muffin top times and it’s hard to look at cake.
So why Stressballs 2015!?? Not only stressballs but also SUPER DUPER CAKE EXCITEMENT … because … djembe and bongo drumroll with a dreadlock on top…
I’m writing a cake book!
OH MY GAD I have a manuscript due.
PAIN! PAIN! Excitement, yet PAIN! FEAR! MORE EXCITEMENT!
This is my brain on cake book!
Honest to goodness, heavens to Betsey Johnson this is seriously my dream come true. My cake book will be coming out of the closet in 2016, published by the very excellent Roost Books.
So … all I’m sayin’ is… there could be a teensy bit less of Coco Cake Land in the next little while. It might be because I am rolled into a tiny ball crying in the corner of my house covered in buttercream. It might be because I am jettisoned with cakecitement, hyper on green tea and power-editing photos. But it’s definitely not because I don’t love you guys, and my sweet precious blog. No, if my blog were a pet, it would have feather stuffed satin pillows to sleep on and rib eye steak for breakfast. It’s simply because I will be sweating (and swearing) daily in the exciting and stressful production of my cake book! I’m a roller coaster of emotions! Seriously, dream come true – when I was a kid, I would write fake “about the authors” about myself, scrawled on the back of a stack of loose leaf paper stapled hastily together and written in ball point pen. I am truly thrilled to have embarked on this endeavour!
To de-stress and de-frizzle my brain, I’ve been deeply enjoying reading M.F.K. Fisher. I picked up a copy of The Art Of Eating at a used bookstore close to my place and it’s a collection of 5 of her books, including How To Cook A Wolf, Consider The Oyster and The Gastronomical Me. Written in 1937 onward, it’s fascinating to read, and calming, because I am calmed somehow by reading about Aunt Gwen’s Cold Shape (ingredients include 1 calf head, quartered). I’ve always loved reading recipes in books, whether I end up making them or not. And reading about how to economically shop for and cook a particular sludge-like dish simply so your family will not starve to death during war-sanctioned food rations puts into perspective the excess and mind-blowing food wastage that happens today. Plus M.F.K. is m-f-ing brilliant. Her writing transports, and makes me chuckle, and nod and be like: Yes.
Another de-stressor is reading this: Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar. I forgot how gut-bustingly funny this is. It’s a spoof of poor Guy Fieri’s restaurant menu. I find Guy Fieri disturbingly endearing, bleached spiked hair and 90s Smashmouth and all. He both delights and disgusts (in the way he wolfs down food so horrendously gluttonously) yet he’s got his own plastic sunglasses charm.
Ok I promise my book won’t be so all over the place as this blog post. I’ve got a really nice and smart editor who’s gonna whip my butt into Cold Shape. (he!) Happy January, my sweet blog friends! xo Lyndsay
What a year. It flew by in a flash. I’m worried life’s going to continue on this mega fast path. Pretty soon I’ll be Old Lady Lyndsay with an angular blunt short hair cut, wild glasses and a flannel jumpsuit dictating cake instructions to able bodied assistants. 2014 ruled pretty hard – I met so many great bloggers and new buddies! So here’s to you, blog pals! Thanks for being along for the cake-filled ride – presenting Coco Cake Land Best Cakes Of 2014! GO!
We’re blessed with some pretty great friends here in Vancouver, many of whom now have little ones – which means adorable playdates galore! Yani and Paul have the cutest little Lillie. Lillie’s request for her birthday cake: the pinkest, partiest cake … with raspberries!
Lillie had a tumblebus birthday – a bright yellow school bus rolls up to your residence, outfitted inside with a full mini gymnastics gym! Kiddies board the bus, the door groans shut behind them and two instructors guide the kids through games, lessons and fun. Yani and Paul hosted brunch with mimosas and quiche for the parents upstairs in their apartment while the kids were safely gymnastics-partying on the bus. Pretty sweet set up!
This pink party cake had surprise pink insides, too! Pink vanilla cake layers studded with fresh raspberries, vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam filling, topped with more berries and homemade pink meringue kisses. Loved making this special cake for a sweet little monkey. Happy 3rd birthday Lillie – Teddy and I are sending you and your mama loads of love! xo Lyndsay
Woof woof – this easy chocolate bark recipe is so simple to make for the holidaze, or top a party cake, or to crunch and munch while slumped out like a potato sack for an evening of couch-sitting. Make it as a hostess gift, or break into shards and set in a candy dish for your own holiday fete.
How’s your holidaze going?? I was reminded recently of this super cute DIY silver fringe letter garland I made last year – made with supplies you have kicking around your house. I should break out those JOY letters … where on earth did I put them again (ie which random box did I stuff them into last January…)
This grasshopper pie recipe. This pie causes insane dreams so maybe don’t eat it before bed while watching countless episodes of The Good Wife. Like your elementary school crush will meld with a side character on The Good Wife mixed with a pencil you saw in a commercial six years ago and suddenly you turn into Snoop Dog who can’t remember his lyrics onstage.
It’s so painfully delicious though that I think about the pie all day. In fact, I’ve eaten a slice for breakfast and lunch, and yes, late at night. Cool creamy peppermint chocolate ice cream on an easy cookie crumble crust topped with a salty sweet richly chocolate fudge topping glistening like a skating rink.
Peppermint flavour = total Christmas vibes, like stepping out into a crisp wintery day and inhaling a gust of cool air, your cheeks cold and your head warmed by a wooly toque. Really, minty not-too-sweet ice cream and frigging delicious fudge sauce and a buttery easy cookie crust -it’s a sundae gone right in an ice cream pie form. You can take an interweb hob over to the whole grasshopper pie recipe on my post for Food52! Yay! xo Lyndsay
This past summer I wanted so badly to make Teddy a Pingu cake for his birthday. Every time I’d ask him what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he would tell me he wanted a BLUE BEAR BEAR CAKE. FINE, toddler child o’ mine. I know it’s your birthday and not mine!!! A blue bear cake you asked for, a blue bear cake you received!
Happily, just a few months later, a VERY COOL SET OF GRANDPARENTS emailed me to see if I could make a Pingu cake and cupcakes for their grandson Neo’s 2nd birthday. Yes, Neo. Very rad name. So I got to fulfill my dream of making Pingu cakes!! This order was so fun – it reminded me of my olden days of cupcake making, when my whole jam was making cute animal cupcakes and matching cakes.
I don’t really take on orders like this anymore because: 1.I’m old and tired. 2. They are a LOT of work! But dang it, when characters are this cute … I literally squealed like an excitable Vietnamese potbellied pig when I put together Pinga‘s little face.
Watching Teddy watch Pingu makes me smile (maybe cry?) with joy. When my little son busts out into a hysterical giggle fit because Pingu physical-comedy-splatted on the ice or when a flying fish lands on Pingu’s head – oh boy oh boy. Plus, there’s always lessons to be learned in non-verbal gobbledygook stop motion animation – for example, don’t let a seagull shit on you constantly, burp with glorious abandon, love your family and little sis, explore the world around you, be a sweet and empathetic penguin … LESSONS, guys. I’ve seen a LOT of Pingu, let me tell ya.
On another note… man alive, was I surprised and happy to be featured on Buzzfeed a few weeks ago! I dunno if my cakes are truly the cutest cakes on earth but thank you so much for saying so! I sort of had to build up my blog and “cake rep” again on the internets, after I quit blogging for a year and disappeared into a hole of depression – So it’s been a real nice feather in my cap to be recognized around internet town lately. Thanks also to Yahoo Food for loving on my rainbow cat cake, and for asking me to do a holiday food-lovin’ gift guide, too! If you want to read “watermelon coming out of my ladyzone” and delight your eyes with cheeseburger wrapping paper all in one blog post, it’s a must-read!
Hope you’re all enjoying/surviving/snacking your way through December…and thank you to the Scherzers for the great Pingu order! Noot noot, y’all!!! xo Lyndsay