Macarons let’s do this

So, before christmas I had a horrible couple of days making batch upon batch of failed macarons. And made it (one of) my new year’s resolution to master this most difficult of all bakes I have ever encountered.

Since my first four attempts, I have had some useful information come my way and decided it might be time to have another attempt with these new things in mind.

I had tried 2 different recipes already, but came across Zoella and Tanya Burr’s video during a youtube binge and their recipe was quite different again. The ingredients are the same but one big diffrence is that they added extra, unwhipped, egg whites to their mixture which was a new idea for me so I thought this would be worth a go.

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There were lots of great tips in this video as Zoe had a special kit and a book which seems to have really good intructions. Here are some things that I paid specific attention to that I didn’t do last time:

– I left my egg whites in the fridge for 24 hours. I had read about using ‘aged’ egg whites during my previous attempts, and for one batch did leave the egg whites out for a couple of hours, but this time I put them in the fridge to avoid poisoning, and left them for 24 hours. I think the idea is that some of the moisture evaporates and the proteins in the egg white … do something… beneficial…

– Tia from Little Button Diaries recently made some beautiful meringues and mentioned that Delia Smith recommends a final cleaning step for your bowl and whisk using some lemon juice on a paper kitchen towel to remove the last traces of grease. Tia swore by this as an antidote to flopping meringues.

– I left out the food colouring – just in case this was having a negative impact on my mixture.

– baked my macarons on just a greaseproof paper sheet on the grill shelf rather than on a tin tray

woolapple and a kenwood mixer ready to make macarons yeah bring it on yeah

So here is what happened step by step for you:

i n g r e d i e n t s

4 egg whites
230g icing sugar
130g ground almonds
60g granulated sugar

0. The day before: I seperated four egg whites into two incredibly clean bowls (2 egg whites in each bowl)

1. On the day of the bake: I measured out and mixed together the icing sugar and almonds using an electric mixer until they were well blended together. Then I sifted this mix into a bowl, and added one set of egg whites (but didn’t stir them in) and put this to one side (I threw away all the bits that didn’t go through the sieve)

2. Then I made my bowl and mixer beaters as completely clean as I possibly could, and did Tia’s lemon juice trick to do a final clean. I whipped up the remaining two egg whites with the granulated sugar (I actually used caster sugar) and I really noticed how the aging of the eggs had made a difference, they felt much gloopier than fresh egg whites. The egg whites take a lot of whisking to get to the right consistency, I think these took longer than my last attempts, maybe because of the aging? To begin with I had lost hope, but it soon started to take shape. Zoella mentioned that you are aiming for the consistency of shaving foam with your whisking, which is a good guide – it needs to be thick and forming good peaks when you lift your beaters out (not too floppy peaks)

3. Next I carefully folded in the almond/sugar/egg white mixture into my whisked egg whites. This was the make or break moment – it needs to be handled carefully, but also blended thoroughly (ARGH!) I don’t have a spatula which is the recommended utensil for this task, but used a metal spoon and all was well. I could already tell it was different to last time – this mixture was good and stiff and putty like.

french macarons piped

4. I prepared some baking paper by measuring a length to cover my grill shelf and doubled it over to make it nice and sturdy. Carefully carefully, I spooned the mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle and piped little rounds onto my paper. I think my piping skills need some work, but I was getting very excited at this point as could tell they were holding their shape and might..just..work..eek.

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5. Lastly I left my macarons for about half an hour to form a bit of a film on the outside. I am not actually sure if mine did this, but that is the idea of this step and I was taking no chances. Then I popped them in the oven a batch at a time. The instructions say to bake at 140 degrees, but as I have a fan oven I set it to 125 degrees (I was feeling nervous and had read previously that too hot an oven can lead to macaron failure. I think I read somewhere that you’re meant to leave the oven door open a little bit even?!) The first batch I baked for 15 minutes which I don’t think was quite long enough, and the second batch I baked for 20 minutes. I think next time i will try 23 minutes… or just turn my oven up slightly…

macarons from the oven

I was so excited! This was success!!!

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As per Zoella, I filled my macarons with nutella and raspberries. They were so delicious and I started to feel very weird from the sugar in my blood. Or maybe giddy from my achievement? Probably that. They are not christmas present standard yet, so I will be practising a bit more I think mostly my piping and also getting the oven temperature right (most of my macarons were a bit soft in the middle still and crumbled when i tried to fill them).

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I like this challenge a lot.

Please give these a go and let me know how you get on, or if you have any pro tips for me I would love to hear from you!

macaron and tea

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New year, no fear

And just like that it’s a brand new year!

I am quite excited about this one. I don’t know why, but 2016 has a nice ring about it. And already I have had news of 2 engagements and one new baby so that’s pretty good going (I don’t think much of the weather though….)

I really like making new year’s resolutions, although it’s been a few years since I really did this. But I am feeling on a bit of a roll at the moment, and enjoy making a plan so here goes….

1. A bit more knitting and dressmaking
I used to do a lot of this but at the moment my productivity in this area is negligible! So more knitting and dressmaking is a must. I am challenging myself to finish 2 cardigans this year. This is a very specific number I know but it’s good to have a goal and this should be achievable for me, and would be quite a triumph (I am trying to remember but I think the last cardigan I finished for myself was my wedding cardigan back in 2013. Eek) I have a couple of works in progress and got some wool for Christmas so I would really like to see a couple of finished items before the year is out. I am also going to extend this challenge by saying i will match each cardigan with a dressmaking (maybe even a pattern cutting) project. Bring. it.on.twenty.six.teen.

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2.  Finish Rose’s quilt.
I started this project with the intention to give to baby for for her first birthday. It is made up of squares of all of her first baby clothes and other things from that time of her life like bibs and her bouncy chair (ha!) and my good idea was that there are 365 pieces to represent all the days of her first year, but we moved house two weeks before her birthday and I missed my deadline, and with that I really lost my momentum. I sewed all of the pieces together but am machining the quilting part and my struggle is that it is so boring! But i really would love to see it finished and now Rose is in her bed this would be lovely for her room (and quite useful when the nights are cold).

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3. Brighten up our home and try some new skills
These pictures are of our bedroom and in the corner of our sitting room which are little areas I would like to focus on to bring a bit more interest and joy. This resolution has been inspired a lot by pinterest – there are so many things I have seen there I want to try to recreate. (I should probably have a resolution about spending less time on pinterest – I am a bit addicted!) I am really enjoying trying new things and setting myself smaller projects at the moment so this will be really nice.

4. Be a bit more adventurous with our foods
Rose and I are definite grazers. We do sit down three times a day for our meals, but I would say these occasions (especially in Rose’s case) are not really when the majority of food intake occurs and that our snacks could be a bit more interesting and nutritious with a little effort. When Rose was first weaning she refused to be spoon fed, she possibly worried that when I tried to put something in her mouth, I might be about to squirt Calpol down her throat, or clean her teeth – or something equally horrible for a baby. Or it might be because she is very strong-willed and independent – either way I had to be quite inventive with foods that she would be able to manage to feed herself and was always rustling up fruity pancakes, and vegetabley muffins. I am not really sure why this stopped (maybe when she could manage pasta and biscuits I got lazy) but I know that I could manage a bit more baking and that we would both benefit (and help avoid a repeat of the day Rose ate six bourbon biscuits before eleven o’clock and we had a very unhappy afternoon indeed).

5. Look at my phone less!
I already made a start on this resolution last year with good results so want to keep it up. I find it is so easy to waste such a lot of time flipping about the internet when really I have plenty of other things to be doing. I really hate looking at the phone when Rose is about, especially as she knows I’m not paying her attention (even if I think I am) and does destructive things to get my attention. And I feel that being absorbed by a screen is not really the example I want to set for her when there are so many great things the world has to offer. She has got to an age where she can amuse herself for short periods now and I have found that using these little opportunities to potter about the house while I keep an eye on her is a really pleasant way to spend time, and the house feels much tidier for it. Of course I still think my phone is a wonderful piece of technology, but I am trying to just make sure it doesn’t eat into my quality time doing other more productive things.

6. Have some macaron success
After my macaron disaster this Christmas, I would really love to be able to master this little delight in time for next Christmas. I am not very confident, but will be adding ground almonds to the shopping list for the foreseeable future!

7. Go to bed earlier
I am throwing it in there as I know I really should… but we’ll see about that one!

Wish me luck! I am really enjoying reading everyone’s resolutions at the moment. I like this time of year. Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy 2016. xx