Sweet Skeptical Success
I recently stumbled upon a Macaroon recipe in the most recent Taste of Home magazine (thanks for the subscription mom); along with the recipe, there were some descriptive tips and tricks to ensure macaroon making success. I had never had a macaroon before this experience; my husband, Justin, had and needless to say he was pretty excited when I suggested a date night that consisted of making these tasty treats.
We should have known what we were in for when the recipe called for super fine sugar and almond flour. We had never had either of these items in our pantry and I had to make a phone call to my mom to verify the legitimacy of super fine sugar. After we secured all of the ingredients with the exception of the super fine sugar because I still do not believe that this exists, we began the process of making the cookie portion of these cookie sandwiches around 6:30pm.
The first snag we ran into was not owning a food processor, but we dug out our magic bullet mini for the job. The recipe instructed us to mix the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar (not the same as super fine sugar) and then pulse in a food processor. Second hardship of the night was when I misread the recipe and did not see that the total amount of confectioner’s sugar was divided between different parts of the cookie; so after mixing the almond flour with 2 ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, we needed to toss the mixture and start over. To this, Justin looks me dead in the eyes and states “we are not rich”.
Once we got the mixture portions correct, we were ready for our “food processor”. Our magic bullet mini was a genius idea, but we could only pulse ½ cup increments at a time, so this was not a quick process. The recipe also instructed us to pass the flour-sugar mixture through a mesh sieve… we had a “super fine” mesh strainer and that is what we used; again this was not a fast process. Justin was a trooper and tackled this flour mixture task solo while I worked on the egg white project.
Our kitchen, I should mention, lacks an appropriate amount of counter space; we have precisely one small countertop that is the home of our microwave, air fryer and kitchen aid mixer. Side by side and bumping elbows, Justin worked on his flour-sugar concoction, and I worked on the egg white magic called meringue.
I felt pretty confident as I set out with the intention of turning egg whites, super fine sugar, salt and confectioner’s sugar into “stiff peaks”. I solved our super fine sugar conundrum by stealing the magic bullet from Justin (in between him transferring the flour-sugar mix to the mesh strainer to pulse normal, granular sugar until it was in fact super fine. I whipped the heck out of the egg white mixture and when it developed the desired stiff peaks texture, I kept on whipping until it was extremely stiff peaks. This was where I was questioning if it was possible to over whip egg whites, but I strongly believed that it was better to over whip than under whip.
It was time to fold the flour-sugar mixture into the extremely whipped egg whites. Based on the tips and tricks for success in the magazine, this folding of the two mixtures together was a make-or-break moment so we were nervous. The stress and concentration was palpable in the kitchen as Justin shook just small amounts of his mixture into my mixture at a time and I was trying so hard to mix the two without over mixing the two. Our baking skills shined under this amount of stress and we experienced moderate success.
We were also instructed by the magazine to use shot glasses to trace on parchment paper as a guide to pipe the cookie batter on. We grabbed our Montana shot glass and the first writing utensil that we could find, a sharpie (the third snag). Justin traced these circles onto the parchment paper as I came behind him with the piping bag and too small of tip to fill in the circles. Another indication that I over whipped the eggs was when I dropped the pan onto the table a couple of times to help the batter settle, the batter held fast to its form from me piping it.
It was very clear in the instructions that another make it or break it moment for these cookies was letting the cookie batter sit on the cookies sheets for 45 minutes to 1 hour. At this point it was 8:45pm and we were getting tired and ready for these cookies to be done, but we had already put this much labor into these cookies that we wanted to give these macaroons the best chance at success so we waited 1 hour to put these cookies in the oven.
Once the cookies were ready to bake, the recipe warned us to only bake 1 pan at a time for 14 minutes and rotate the pan halfway through. This process went perfectly and without a hitch; when the pans got pulled out of the oven, they had a shiny outside and resembled a macaroon. This was very exciting for us and we got a second wind of energy and confidence and began the process of making the buttercream frosting. This was the part of the recipe that I was most confident about because I am a self-proclaimed cupcake professional and I can make buttercream in my sleep. The buttercream recipe that the magazine suggested was a different one that I normally make; it had heavy whipping cream rather than milk and wow what a difference. I will never make buttercream again without heavy whipping cream. When the cookies had cooled adequately, it was time to remove them from the pan. The sharpie that we used to trace the circles had transferred onto the cookies…
Like all the other pivotal moments in our marriage we looked at each other with exasperation and laughed because no matter how much we wanted to rewind time and make smarter decisions this was the outcome we had created. We ultimately decided that we would not be sharing these cookies with our co-workers and this batch of cookies would be ours, because after this much time and effort was put into these macaroons we were NOT throwing them away like the poor, unfortunate flour-sugar mixture at the beginning of the night. Ingesting a little sharpie ink would not kill us is what we figured.
It actually worked out perfect because where the sharpie lines were on the cookies, we covered up with buttercream frosting to sandwich the cookies. At least the cookies were photogenic. The recipe was not written for us folks who believe in measuring buttercream on the cookies with our heart and I had to end up doubling the recipe.
By the time we had finished macaroon cookies complete with festive sprinkles, it was 10:30. To show for our 4 hours of labor-intensive cookie making, we had exactly 12 questionable macaroons to show for it. It was time for a taste test; I took the first bite and I was completely amazed that these cookies tasted just as good as they looked. Justin, a macaroon aficionado, taste tested a cookie and like any good husband said they were the best macaroons that he had ever tasted. Neither Justin nor I could taste the sharpie marks on the cookies, and we did not get sick. We thoroughly enjoyed each of the 12 cookies over the next few days, so despite the snags we encountered we were successful!
Lessons learned during this experience:
1. Improvisation is the key to success.
2. You do not need a food processor.
3. Small kitchens make for a better bonding experience.
4. Sharpies and cookies do not mix.
Since the macaroon date night, we have ordered macaroon baking mats with the circle guides safely printed on them so next time we bake these little sandwich cookies we can share with our co-workers.
Life is what you bake it.
Researching super fine sugar until next time,