Tuesday, March 19, 2013

1 Ball 2 Strikes

I may be a lot of things in life but one thing I'm not is a quitter...unless you count the cello in 7th grade-which I don't cause I had an injury- so it just wasn't in the cards for me to lie down on this Macaroon business.  I plotted my attack all day yesterday.   I stopped at the store on my way home and bought actual almond meal flour -hangs-head-in-shame- thinking that maybe my home grind version might have been to "chunky" and "torn" through the cookies as they tried to rise.   I even busted out the oven thermometer, left by the previous owner, and as I cooked dinner attempted to nail down how out of caliber my temperature readings are...it was a piece of garbage by the way and lagged my oven temp by over 100 degrees. ..clearly why it was left bring behind.   Again I measured by weight,  sifted and beat down my meringue, I even left out any coloring, in hopes of removing a variable I couldn't control.  I filled my piping bag less full this time, eliminating one problem from round one, and worked to create uniform sizes -my patience failed me however,  they were sort of all over the map.

My "quarter size" turned into a silver dollars...

One big thing I did this time...banged those damn pans...a few more times than prescribed...which might explain the "silver dollar" phenomenon mentioned above...but whatever, there were NO air bubbles to wreak havoc!
I baked each tray individuality this time letting the pans rest too, 15 min for the first one, and subsequently longer for the others as they waited their turn in the hot box.   I hoped...oh I hoped upon hope. ..at the nine minute mark when I went to rotate the pan...cracks, ugly ugly cracks...I was greeted with cracks... Dammit...I felt defeated. I was committed to finishing the other two trays but the results were more of the same.
Tray one

Tray two

I even turned them over to cool, sort of like an angel food cake...

But I don't really know if it helped...Little tiny "feet" Boo.....

Bottom line was that I needed these for my party on Saturday and come hell or high water I had to  make them work.   So what does one do when taking a ride on the failure train you might ask...you ride that bitch to the end of the line...and that's exactly what I did.   I had all these Macaroon shells,  crappy as they were, and they needed to be filled so naturally I decide to make a brand new butter cream recipe...hey if your gonna fail at least do it spectacularly...and I'll have you know that Swiss butter cream came out fantastic!   Finally something went my way!!!  It was terrifying as it involved a double boiler and no powered sugar but it is the most amazing icing ever, now I know why the pros use it...so two strikes on the Macaroons but I'll take a ball on the icing.   Now if everyone likes them, that'll be a huge home run.

Swiss Butter Cream goodness

Matching up the shells...Today's debacle makes yesterday "failure" look pretty damn good now...

Its amazing what a little icing can do

We called these the little fugglies.  Not party worthy for sure, but still damn tasty and a nice little "cooks treat".  They gave me hope that everyone might actually enjoy these at the party after all!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rah & Blah...

As the afternoon progressed I found myself actually getting excited about tonight's baking experiment.  I  have read so many post and recipes and tips and tricks, like a coach studying the opponents playbook before the big game, that I was feeling pretty positive about my prospects.  I do think its worth mentioning that it didn't matter what site, post or cookbook I was referencing they all, in one way or another, built in a few sentences that more or less told me to expect failure.  Not every time mind you, but regularly...and often.  They also mentioned 435 different reasons you might experience said failure but urged you to bake on anyway.  Why?  Because they are yummy...even ugly, they are yummy.  So project Macaroon commenced:

I ground my almonds and sifted my powdered sugar.  I followed good baking procedure and weighed all my ingredients (in grams) to be as precise as possible.

For anyone that has known me for at least 5 minutes its pretty fair to say that I'm not the most patient person...ahem...so in an effort to improve my efforts to create similarly sized shells I even took the time to trace a templet on my parchment paper

I whipped my egg whites as instructed to create stiff dry peaks

I added my gel color and prepared to pipe

 Despite my best efforts my sizing wasn't as uniform as I would have liked.  My piping bag was smaller than called for and I unintentionally overfilled it.  So while battling batter overflow out of the top of the bag I did my best to follow my templet.

This is me, praying to the Frigidaire-Macaroon gods 

It was shortly after my prayer session, while I was starting on the dishes, that it hit me...I didn't bang my pans.  My heart dropped.  I knew at that moment, without even looking, that this would not be the outcome I was so hoping for.   This was another one of those items, like the guarantee of failure, that all research sources agreed on.  They might call for a different number of bangs, or a different degree turn on the pan before banging again, but they ALL called for it.  If you have ever made a meringue you know the goal is to fill the egg whites with air.  Ironically in Macaroon making even though you make a meringue to start you actually beat the air back out of the batter when you incorporate the dry ingredients.  The banging of the pan is important to remove any remaining air bubbles to not only keep your interiors fluffy but to keep your shell tops from cracking.   I entertained a brief hope that maybe it wasn't all that critical and things would be just fine, but I didn't let myself bask in the lie for long, I knew better.

And as suspected...my worst French fears were realized...Cracked...Blah...

One lonely perfect shell in a sea of frightening failures

Somehow my second pan, while still nothing to write home about, bore much better results.  To be honest if my entire endeavor had produced this result I probably would have called this whole thing a HUGE success, in spite of a few cracked tops.

                      Shiny shells, pretty frills (or feet) overall an excellent first Macaroon attempt

I already know several things I will do differently next time...yes their will be a next time, I was too damn close this time to give up...Obviously the biggie is that I will remember to follow ALL my directions and I will bang out the piped shells before baking.  I also think I might let them sit for 15 min. or so before baking.  This was a suggestion of some while others said it wasn't necessary. I figure if nothing else the extra 15 minutes might have helped me remember to BANG THE DAMN PAN!  Lastly I would bake them one try at a time.  I'm fairly certain that my bottom tray of shells got too hot too fast on the bottom rack and thats why the cracking was so bad.

The good news...these still taste great.  And oh by the way-are grain free- can a get a Lenten HELL YEA!  excuse me while I go eat the evidence!

Going for it...

This is perhaps a precursor to a new blog post titled "living up to my name-and other kitchen failures" but God I hope not.  
I like to think I'm a pretty good cook (no one's died yet) and a pretty  decent baker (although boxed brownie mix is my nemesis-go figure that shit) but I've had a goal in my sight lines that I have managed to stall on repeatedly...Macaroons.
I had declared the summer of 2012 as the summer I would master the Macaroon...a declaration made mind you while I was still pregnant...and thus naive...and slightly delusional.  What?   My conjured images of whipping up French delicacies while my infant slept  serenely in the background was a stretch you say?   Anywho,  needless to say I've yet to even attempt a batch,  but that's all about to change. 
This weekend I'm hosting a shower for one of my dearest loves and these little dainty morsels seem to be the perfect sweet bite to complement the occasion.   Knowing (after my copious amounts of reading) that they improve with several days in the fridge I'm going to attempt them tonight.   I promise to take pictures along the way and give an honest account of the exercise but I'm really hoping tomorrows post Is more Rah Rah and not ewww blah...

Friday, March 8, 2013

OK maybe not...

Well, so far having this access on my phone has done little to improve my blogging habits...but don't quit on me yet please I'm a constant work in progress and I might just surprise myself!
I'm currently sitting at the eye Dr.  waiting for these terrible dilation drops to kick in.. .yuck. ..apparently Free Feb. must have had a positive effect because I passed on spending the extra 40 bucks to use the fancy camera to do this test opting instead to do it the old fashioned way....the WAY stupid way by the way.   Those blind lady sunglasses I'll get to take home are only a small consolation prize...
As I sit here waiting for my pupils to turn into saucers all I can think about is how hungry I am!  My next thought is how that stupid hard boiled egg in the car sounds completely unsatisfying.  I want a scone.  A big fat  cinnamon-y one from Starbucks...with a big fat coffee.   Ahh,  not even half way through Lent.  I'm already harboring fantasies of pizza for Easter dinner.  I had really hoped this would be easier.  I mean it IS getting easier.  For example I had zero heart ache passing up multiple offers of shared Girl Scout cookies this week...and I do mean multiple,  seems like someone had a new box every day, spreading the sugary carb-y goodness (and guilt) to everyone.   Even just day to day stuff is good...as long as I'm prepared!  See eating grain free isn't complicated.  I can have all the meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts I want but short of an apple or hand full of nuts how many of those item are"quick" or prep-less?  Its the 6:30 in the morning "I'm starving and don't want to scramble an egg" moments that are hard.   I've found a few approved recipes that might offer me some better quick grab "healthy" options for that always challenging start to the day. I mean think about it,  breakfast above any other meal of the day is the one most riddled with grain loaded convenience foods (think cereal, cereal bars, granola bars, oatmeal, donuts, bagels...you get where I'm going here...), and let's face it we are a people of convenience...and instant gratification...which can sometimes only be cured by a big fat scone...but not today, not today my friends.
They don't even have the paper retractable arms anymore!  What a rip off...