They say that the third time’s the charm. I have a lot of problems with that, because the third time is not always the charm. Sometimes it’s the fifth time. Or the 11th time. Or even the 144th time. You can’t always just assume that things are going to work out the third time, because life doesn’t work that way. And neither do macarons.
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Other than puppies, chinchillas and sneezing baby pandas, nothing is quite as cute as a macaron. Yes, a macaron and not a macaroon. A macaron has a heavy almond flavor, while a macaroon is very coconutty. Totally different. With ruffled ridges and a quaint circular shape, they’re sweet, delicate and almost too adorable to eat. So why wouldn’t I make them?
Well, probably because I’ve already tried and failed twice before. The first time, they were practically liquid, and the second time, they broke as easily as an iPhone (sorry Apple, I love you, but they’re cracker-thin). But I threw all of my reservations to the wind and decided to give it another go. I figured I couldn’t possibly fail a third time.
The recipe I went with was my girl Martha Stewart’s, because you just can’t go wrong with Martha. The ingredients were easy to find and simple enough to properly combine, which was a total relief after my past experiences with pie pops and chai s’mores. But I do caution: if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to measure out egg whites, be careful. Extremely careful. Even the slightest misstep or stumble can cause the entire, sticky mess to slip out of your measuring cup and coat every inch of your counter.
But once I’d cleaned up after the 2013 Egg White Massacre, I continued along my merry way by splitting the macaron mixture into separate bowls. First, I flavored one with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and the other with almond, to give them both an extra kick of flavor. Once those were properly mixed, I colored the vanilla-mixture a Tiffany blue and the almond-mixture a light magenta, so that they could be even cuter. And then they were off to the oven.
After 15 minutes in the oven with the door propped open, I took them out and let out an embarrassing squeal. They looked perfect. The smell was delightful, and they resembled the sort of clouds cherubs rest upon in heaven. Of course, they looked lovely, but appearances can be deceiving. Especially with baked goods.
I discovered my most fatal mistake after the macarons had a chance to cool, and it was fairly simple: I left them in the oven too long. Maybe it was because I was over-excited and way too impatient for my own good, but who knows? Regardless of the reason, I didn’t wait until they were properly crispy all the way through. And that was my downfall.
There comes a time in every baker’s life where they fail. Truly and utterly. And maybe my definition of failure is a little different from everyone else’s, but entirely undercooked macarons count as a pretty big misstep in my book.
I attempted to salvage the situation by making my own buttercream frosting to use as a filling, but that did little to improve anything. The magenta macarons tasted far too strongly of almond, and the blue ones were only slightly better without it. After taste-testing several macarons, I came to the conclusion that yes, they were an utter failure.
One of the things I’ve learned about baking is that the failures are good. They definitely don’t feel good, and they might make you want to punch a wall or flip a table. But each failure is just a lesson in what to do better next time; the failures lead to the successes. So while macarons might have shaken me for a bit, I can’t just give up. Sometimes, you’ve just got to dust the flour off your apron and keep on baking.