Tuesday, 4 January 2011

I hate macaroons


Just marvel at how shit these are

A lot of you have been bothering me about macaroons - for months. How can you make them? What's the best recipe? The best method?

And my answer to you individually has always been: BUY THEM FROM A FUCKING SHOP. Because there some things that you ought to buy from a shop - turkish delight is one of them and the other one is macaroons. I'm sure there are other things. Croissants. Cheese. Gelatine.

The problem, people, is sugar. Sugar is hard to work with and although as a general rule I am quite disdainful of those who think that cooking is complicated, there are people who train for, like, days to become pastry chefs and chocolatiers. And when they come to make things like macaroons they have all the right kit - sugar thermometers and icing bags and silicon trays and special ovens and flavourings and all that shite that one doesn't neccessarily have in a domestic kitchen.

So I'd always say: buy them from a shop. They are a treat. They are not humble home-cooked fare - they are multi-flavoured, layered and coloured, designed for precious fashion gizmos and fizzy PR girls to send to each other and squeal over. They are not for the likes of you and me to knock up on a lazy afternoon.

But you're all such nags. Maybe you ought to give that up for January, yeah? Leave a poor pregnant girl alone. But despite making me hate you, the endless, endless pestering and nagging worked because like a chump I ordered some instant macaroon mix from some online shop and gave them a go. After all, not everyone, I reasoned, lives near a Laduree concession stand.

And it was, genuinely, the most boring and disappointing experience of my brief cooking career. Sometimes things that are a bit of a faff are worth making because they are, at the same time, fun and they work. But these things were both not fun to make and didn't work. I mean just look at them - cracked, discoloured, thin, wonky. Crap. CRAP!

Some of it was my fault (the whisk attachment on my food processor broke; I don't have an icing bag) but some of it was also the instant mix's fault (they didn't specify enough water but when I added more I added too much and it went sloppy; the food colourings I bought from the same online shop were cack and dull and actually came with a warning on the label that they might have "an adverse effect on attention and behaviour in children").

However the flavour was just excellent, as industrially-processed things containing Guar Gum, Silicon Dioxide, Lactic Acid Esters of Mono- and Di-glycerides of Fatty Acids usually are. So if you think you can do better than me, instant macaroon mix is available here.

Anyway, after that disaster I thought no more about the whole thing and wasn't even going to bother writing about them, until I had a nightmare last night about macaroons. It went on for ages - it really did. Don't tell me that in actual fact it only went on for three seconds or whatever, because I kept being woken up by my husband dithering about listening to the cricket and whenever I went back to sleep I'd still be dreaming about bloody macaroons. So it's a sign. I'm going to have to make them and master them. That, it seems, is my curse. Luckily I've found a couple of straightforward enough-looking recipes to have a go at. All I need is an icing bag. And some food colouring that isn't POISONOUS.

I hope your Christmas and New Year were okay and if you're back at work, I'm sorry. I don't even have a job and I'm depressed as hell that the holidays are over.

I was ill throughout all festivities. The highlight was when my husband got incredibly drunk on New Year and dived into the shallow end of a swimming pool and scraped his nose on the bottom and now he looks like he's been in a fight.

The next morning, (I was asleep at the time of the incident), I said: "Ha ha, you're such a dick" - and variations on that theme - throughout breakfast, until someone else said "My God - you could have broken your neck!"

I looked at my husband and felt more strongly than ever that my marriage is like an episode of The Inbetweeners - except that we are both that posh know-it-all one.

19 comments:

  1. I think you should celebrate the Three Kings arriving on 6 January! It's fun. You could even combine the French tradition with the Italian tradition, i.e. make a galette des rois (simple almond cake) and hide in it two beans and whoever finds it becomes the Queen and King of the evening (with hats and all that); have a little stocking full of sweets if you've been good or with coal if you've been naughty - you could give the naughty one to your husband... ;-). It's such a shame that England doesn't celebrate 6th January...instead what they do is to take the decorations down! Booo, boooo....

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  2. Re cooking with sugar....I've tried to make your salted caramel ice-cream twice now. First time left the caramel on the hob too long and it burnt. Then again last night, paused momentarily between dumping caramel in the cream and stirring it, during which time it solidified (science was never my strong point). Fished it out, rinsed off the cream, melted some choc over it and put it in the fridge to set, only to find out that had been slightly heavy-handed with the salt.....

    But I can see it's a winner and next time a shop has some whipping cream in (seems to be a discontinued line, or waitrose only has ready-whipped - how lazy?!) I will hope for 3rd time lucky.

    Good to have you back. Looking forward to pasta making - ironically, I find it good as a carb dodger to make your own pasta as you can roll it really thin making it much better for a lasagne than ready bought stuff which can be too thick.

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  3. But what are the point of macaroons? Prior to xmas, I'd just read about them in the likes of Vogue etc and wondered why they cost like £3 a pop in Selfridges. So whilst in France, I stumbled across a really posh patisserie selling loads of them for 1 euro each and thought I'd buy a load for afternoon tea. And.. well, I don't get them. Are they biscuit? Are they cake? Or are they just squidgy brightly-coloured sugary nothings? Maybe I'm a sweet chav but apart from the fact that they might match the latest Mulberry bag, I just don't get the hype or the price.
    Hope you had a fab xmas? I made your devils on horseback for xmas appetiser and everyone in the room, without fail, loved them!! Thank you!
    Gaby

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  4. oh YES... so glad you're back... Happy New Year my dear!... fucking HATE those stupid macaron things... what a load of old crap... buy a sticky bun! xxx

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  5. Happy New Year!
    I've got a really simple recipe for macaroons on my blog, I made them as Christmas gifts. It comes from the 'Home Bake' cookbook by Eric Lanlard. Give it a go, it's almost fool-proof and you can just use normal food colouring in them rather than these fancy pastes. Even better, they taste delicious and are a fraction of the price of Lauderee or Pierre somebody!
    http://studentchef-beyondbakedbeans.blogspot.com/2010/12/macaroons.html

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  6. I've never really been tempted to try making macaroons, although they appear to be terribly fashionable at present! For piping bags, choose the disposable ones. I have some made by Wilton that are good but pricey (see below), good cake decorating shops should sell catering ones (usually blue) individually - our local one sells them for 6p each. I always get amused by food colouring, I had some edible food dust from the same company you linked to for my Christmas cake and, well, it was edible only if you think eating oxides of aluminium is sensible!

    http://www.cakescookiesandcraftsshop.co.uk/acatalog/12-Disposable-Icing-Bags.html

    I am pleased your husband is only slightly injured, I should not have liked to have woken up to worse news on New Years' Day. Very much enjoyed the Christmas special!

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  7. I've never been able to make macaroons. Only ever managed the coconut variety. They are simply impossible. I've given up, well I have for now, I'll wait with baited breath for your results...

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  8. How timely, I too had a nightmare about failing at making macarons. Don't know if I am game enough to try and make them now but if I do I don't think I'll bother with the instant mix.
    Ah, if only everyone could live next to Laduree. Then we wouldn't have these problems.

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  9. Piping bags, i've had some washable ones from a catering supplier, but cleaning them is a pain so I'm going to try these: http://www.nisbets.co.uk/products/ProductList.asp?TopGroupCode=C13&ParentGroupCode=S238&GroupCode=4139

    12.99 for 100 seems reasonable considering the cost of washing up liquid at the moment.

    I'm also going to lookup why macaroons are a pain, and also phone my mum who was my dinner lady when I was at school and did this sort of thing all the time, if successful I'll post :)

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  10. i particularly enjoyed his very drunken tweeting as i sat sneezing on my sofa watching re-runs of downton.

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  11. Agree the bought ones are good - perfectly formed, brightly coloured (though that should really be a warning in food!) and delicious. On Australian Masterchef they flavoured them with beetroot - good colour ....

    armcandii.blogspot.com

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  12. I do love macarons. Good ones are a most wondrous thing on texture and taste front, definitely not just "squidgy brightly-coloured sugary nothings"! ;)

    I have made them twice and that's plenty for me. The first time, they came out perfectly - round, even, perfect feet, great texture. I wondered what all the fecking fuss was about.

    The second time my cockiness soon evaporated when they were all skewy and flat.

    I have reverted to either buying them or enjoying the efforts of more talented friends instead!

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  13. Don't give up! Obviously Ladurée macaroons are amazing, but the ones from the first Ottolenghi cookbook are pretty good too, and you can feel smug as hell when you've made them. I made the lime and basil ones and they turned out pretty well: http://cakesandbooksandrockandroll.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/lime-and-basil-macaroons – no awkward piping required, which is a major plus in my book.

    Good luck (with all things baby-related as well as the macaroons).

    Sarah

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  14. I second Sarah's suggestion. Ottolenghi's macaroons are fantastic. One of those things (I always make the chocolate ones) that when I make them, I can't quite believe I've made them they look so good. And they taste fantastic.

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  15. A workmate made these, and I tried - they're not exactly like shop macaroons but they are really yummy and very simple:

    They are made of: 3oz ground almonds, 3oz caster sugar, 1 egg white, wafer paper. You could also add whole almonds on the top.
    1) whisk the egg white with a fork for one minute, 2) mix the ingredients together, 3) make small balls of the mixture and space them evenly (leaving plenty of space) on the wafer paper on a ungreased baking tray. 4) Bake at about 150c for about 15minutes or until they begin to turn golden (keep a close eye on them).

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  16. I also had a hard time with macaroons and to be honest, the photos of my latest batch don't really do them justice.. but I found the recipe here really useful as it's quick and I think that's the answer. The faster I whizzed them up the more they looked like Laduree..
    http://thegirlwiththewoodenspoon.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/macaroons-en-masse/
    ps. LOVE your blog.. x

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  17. Ha ha ha! The Inbetweeners! :) Oh dear, sorry to hear about Giles' nose incident, and your macaroon dreams. They didn't look terribly bad, but maybe next time you should get the mixture from a shop, instead of the internet.
    Lots of love, Supersizer1!

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  18. I hate macarons because they taste like colored sugar--what is this global obsession with them?! My friend gave me a box of some fancy macarons in all sorts of flavors and my whole family thought they tasted like sweetened cardboard. Seriously, when chocolate chip cookies take only 30 minutes and taste 6 billion times better, why bother with these macaron monstrosities?

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  19. Here's my bit on macaroons: when I was working as a baker, I got it into my head to make cocoanut macaroons. The recipe called for something like 2 pounds of egg whites and 4 pounds of granulated sugar, 6 ounces of glucose; etc; all heated together in a bain marie, to a temperature of 110º Far. God help you if you left off whisking and the egg whites coagulated!

    Then, 4 pounds of macaroon (desiccated) cocoanut (recipe adds 4 ounces of cake flour and an ounce of vanilla. This hot mixture had to be bagged and deposited on parchment paper lined sheet pans in a timely manner.

    It was always hopeless: the macaroon mixture would soon cool and it became an act of sheer force to get it to come out of the bag. These sessions always ended with me depositing the remainder by hand. It just never occurred to me then to reduce the batch size to something more manageable. I was a hard head.

    I will put modesty aside and say that when all went well, the macaroons were plump, moist and tasty. Those dipped into chocolate were especially popular.

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

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