Recently, I started working on baking French Macaron cookies. What I pictured were those spongy coconut-laden treats that usually show up around the holidays dipped in chocolate. Nope, those are coconut macaroons – note the extra o. The actual macaron is a meringue-based cookie that is both fluffy and dry like a meringue and tacky or taffy-like. The trick is to get the perfect balance between the two properties. The balance is affected by the recipe ingredients and by the baker.
Well, the recipe I used was a tried-and-true one, so it came down to the method. The first time I made them, I followed the directions exactly. The macarons were beautiful; they were pale with just a hint of color, the feet – the crusty little bottoms of the meringues – were about 3 to 5 mm high, the tops (most of them) were round and smooth, and they were a good balance of crisped and sticky. Almost perfect! So now, let’s ruin them.
The second time, I goofed around (scientifically of course) with baking temperature, resting time, and the equipment I used. I have been working with a 50 degree range, changing the temperatures up 25 degrees and down 25 degrees to see the effect on color and texture. I also tried baking them with different rest times, such as letting them sit at room temperature for thirty minutes, an hour, several hours. I also tried leaving the batter overnight. Each had a rather surprising effect on the cookies. Fascinating, but they resulted in not so delicious cookies.
The exploration continues.