Forced Do-Overs….and Macarons.

A really, really long time ago, I had a random conversation with someone close. Let’s call this person “A” (and no, I am not talking about Pretty Little Liars). Unlike ever before in our relationship, A was bluntly open and honest about (her) himself. (S)he was frustrated and a bit sad with everything in life. That day, thoughts and words left A as if I was not even there, and (s)he seemed hazy. I was young, and maybe a little bit idealistic, and I just wanted to say the right thing to make the situation ‘better’. Even today, I would probably try to give the idealistic answer – who knows. But that day, I said the wrong thing (in hindsight, I didn’t actually give the idealistic answer), and what I thought was the perfect advice to give. And while I know there were underlying problems always, I advised the wrong words, and over a decade later, I think the consequences of that day has led to a number of intertwining events that have seriously effed up my head. Shortly after, the words that came out of my mouth and my subsequent actions and reactions to A’s actions and reactions led to this impactful person leaving my life; and to this day, I have nightmares still because in my head, I know it was my fault. The worst part of all of this is that I hurt the people who relied on A as well. I am afraid now every time I face a similar situation, with the same contexts and pretexts associated with unhappiness, that I will make the same mistake. I am afraid if asked, I will give advice that will set in motion nothing but unhappiness…perhaps the same kind of unhappiness I have been feeling for what feels like forever now. And with all these situations, I cannot start over, I cannot make any corrections.

All anyone can ever hope for in life is the chance to start over, to make corrections. I have not ever been able to get to a point where I can start over with A. I willed myself to a point where I cannot forgive A, even though I unintentionally set in motion everything that caused A to leave in the first place. But A truthfully never wanted to come back at all, and that’s why A did not deserve forgiveness (or at least I cannot fathom that forgiveness right now). A has left my life, and most days I am okay with that. Some days I can’t handle another person leaving my life. Some days I still have nightmares wondering when A will come through the door. Sometimes, I imagine taking long weekend night walks with A like I used to. Sometimes, I imagine A hugging me tight. And every time it breaks me. One night last year, it broke me to the point where I threw all the pictures I had of A in my house so hard that the glass frames broke shattering everywhere, and I felt so low that day that ‘leaving’ was the option. I don’t know if I will be able to ever start over with A though, or make that ‘correction’. The idea is just far away in my thoughts right now, and occasionally comes out in extremes when I have lows – case in point, the pictures.

Toning down the post a fair bit, I want to extend the idea of corrections and new beginnings to baking, and specifically macarons. It’s not a fair or easy comparison, but literally in baking and sometimes in life, you just have to will yourself to ‘throw it all out’. Sometimes you can start over from the beginning, sometimes you just can’t. Baking is a precise science, and is all about corrections and starting over; and that’s why I love it so much – everything is literally a lesson learned.  Sometimes you become stronger because it, sometimes you just make a cake. Usually mid-way into making cookies, cakes, etc. you know if it will turn out okay before it even goes into the oven (or when you peer into the oven and see it cooking midway). Sometimes, like with relationships (am I really making this comparison????), you can save a recipe mid-way, sometimes you just cannot. It’s not forgiving, but you learn to accept that, and learn from your mistakes.

Current:

  • Mood– Moody and retrospective. I am supposed to find new therapist – the last one did not work out. There are days where the writing itself just won’t work. This week was a big ‘eff’.
  • Focus– Starting over.
  • Craving – Macarons and brunch.
  • Feedback from the husband– I used the oven right before baking the macarons, and did not allow it to cool down completely. As a result, the macarons were a bit overcooked (crisp really).
    • He loved the shortcakes and puff pastries. I made a batch of shortbread earlier in the week just to test out the recipe. The shortcakes use hard-boiled egg, and I ended up blowing up one of the eggs everywhere (do not ask me how – not relevant to the recipe), including in my hair. My loving husband breaks up in huge laughter and chases me down the hallway trying to photograph me with all the egg in my hair. Isn’t he a treat?
    • Cannelés are some of JH’s favourites. I used a different pan this time (and no beeswax) so they ended up a bit different – the crust was not as hardened as much. I don’t think he hated them though.

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Macarons are the definitive dessert where every action must be precise. Macarons was one of those things where it took probably 500 tries with only a 20 percent of success before I started having repeat success…before it started forgiving me…and I started to forgive the process. I cannot even describe how many times my macarons had cracked tops, no feet, or were undercooked / overcooked. Now, I can usually tell. If the mixture is just a slight bit thick and rough looking, it won’t work. If it looks too loose, it won’t work. Then you just stand there going “eff, eff, eff” because you spent the last 20 to 30 minutes sifting the almond flour and confectioners sugar multiple times. I assure you it is not the most fun process. The fun process is when the darn things rise correctly, and taste light and airy. The right mixture looks shiny and smooth, and it falls/oozes from the spatula like lava. If the mixture is right, it will straighten and form perfectly into a smooth circle with no bubbles when you pipe it onto the parchment paper. You can even re-scoop the mixture back up, and re-pipe it if the circles are a bit off in size (I did that this time because I piped them too big at first).

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I don’t want to necessarily compare my lessons learned from macarons at all with my lessons learned with A. But, a part of me hopes that after 500 mistakes, something will allow me to move past ‘the past’ one day, and forgive myself and A – make the corrections, and just start over. I guess we will have to see. It doesn’t seem likely. It also though, at one point never felt like I could get macarons, so I never actually know what will happen until something happens.

Getting back to the positives, this past weekend, I made a pile of macarons, biscuits (for benedicts), cannelles and plum puff pastries for a brunch. Some of the recipes are below.

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The Not-So-Secret Secrets:

Macarons – French Method

(I never really use the Italian Method)

Necessities

Fumblings

3 egg whites, separated for a few hours (4o grams each approx.)

Place stand mixer bowl and whipping attachment in fridge.

210 grams powdered sugar, sifted twice

Combine the powdered sugar and almond flour, and mix through a sieve two to three times (I usually do it three times). It is a laborious process, but worth it to ensure the dry mixture is extra fine.

125 grams almond flour, processed finely, and sifted 2-3 times

Take the cold bowl and whisk out of the fridge.

30 grams sugar

On my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer, I beat the eggs on the following speeds for the following times:

1  – 3 minutes on speed-4 – very slowly add the sugar

2  – 3 minutes on speed-6

3  – 3 minutes on speed-8

4  – 40-50 seconds on speed 8 – add colouring at this stage. I usually do 2-3 drops of food colouring gel.

The mixture should be shiny, and hold to the whisk in stiff peaks. You can remove the mixture from the whisk by hitting it against the wall of the bowl.

I add the dry mix to the egg mixture in small increments. Slowly fold the two mixtures using a spatula. The general movement is to almost abrasively wipe / stroke the mixtures against the wall of the bowl. After about 50-60 strokes (you have to use judgment), the mixture will come together. The perfect mixture is smooth, shiny, and falls off the spatula like lava. There should be no remaining bits of almond. The mixture should not look rough or bubbly (under), or ooze until the point that you cannot pipe it (over).
Pipe the mixture onto prepared cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. The piping motion is a swift circle using just a little bit of pressure; otherwise the circles will be too big. If the mixture is working, it will form almost immediately into smooth circles. Bang each side of the pan against your counter to break any air bubbles. Allow the macarons to rest in a cool place for approximately 30 minutes. This allows it to dry.

Bake at 295 degrees F for approximately 16 / 17 minutes (know your oven; you may have to adjust your temperature, timing accordingly – this is what works for MY oven).

Other Notes

  • I filled my macarons with cherry jam. Sometimes I use lemon curd or a butter cream.
  • Cannelés –  my tried and true recipe is from the dessert master himself – Dominique Ansel. I would advise buying his book for this beauty of a recipe alone. The key to the really crispy, dark exterior is beeswax. I did not use beeswax this time around (it is messy), so it gave off a much more pound-cake crust-ish look.

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  • For the brunch, I used the shortcakes recipe below. I intended for them to be shortcakes with fruit and crème fraîche, but they ended up being a base for a benedict with brown-sugar roasted back bacon. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that weird. The shortcakes were not that sweet, so it actually worked like a biscuit-base.

Shortcakes – Adapted from Food52

Necessities

Fumblings

250 grams all purpose flour

50 grams sugar

Pinch salt

Mix together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.

Gently rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the yolks through a sieve into the mixture.

1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

85 grams chilled unsalted butter, cut into the tiniest pieces

Add the cream, and gently mix until the mixture all comes together.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured board, and pat into a circle. Gently roll out until smooth and approximately 1-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles and place them onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with the melted butter.

2 hard-boiled egg yolks

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place in fridge for an hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F, and bake for 15 minutes. I broiled mine for an additional minute for extra golden tops.

 

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Author: Roro

Home baker. Sugar obsessed. Casual traveller. All photography and content are copyrighted by Roro @thechewishkitchen unless otherwise stated and referenced, and cannot be used without permission.

6 thoughts

  1. “Then you just stand there going “eff, eff, eff” because you spent the last 20 to 30 minutes sifting the almond flour and confectioners sugar multiple times.”… I just love this. Its so so true, and we’ve all been there, right!?

    Like

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