Sunday, November 17, 2019

She Persisted...Relax, We're Talking Macarons!

JENN McKINLAY: Bonjour! Recently, I went to Paris to research my upcoming stand alone novel PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA

Here's the cover - yes, I'm thrilled! And you can pre-order from Barnes and Noble at 23% off - just sayin'! Click: HERE

Now while in Paris -- yes, yes, I know it sounds fabulous but let me reality check you, I brought the Hooligans with me, who are teenagers. Teenagers in Paris! I'm only surprised we weren't deported. Enough said? 

Okay, then. While there, I ate my body weight in pastry, as you do, and even managed to stop in the famous Laduree on the Champs-Élysées to salivate all over their bakery case. 




Needless to say I bought a box of the famous macarons (research!) and they were so good! A crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie with a not too sweet filling. Mon Dieu! Love at first bite.

Once at home, I longed for the sweet air of Paris, the c'est la vie attitude, and the view of the Eiffel Tower from my hotel room. Sigh.

Naturally, baking therapy was in order, so I decided to attempt the macaron! Yes, you can say it. Heck, I'll say it myself. What was I thinking???

This is the sort of baking Paul Hollywood throws at the poor tent dwellers on the Great British Baking Show during the technical challenge! I mean I can make a mean snickerdoodle, but come on, this was all new levels as my first attempts show.

                          My first attempt: NOT GOOD.


What went wrong? They cracked. They didn't acquire feet. Yes, feet. I know, kind of weird, but I'll explain in attempt number two. And they were a bit overcooked. Wah!

Now, a normal person would re-evaluate their skill set, realize they're in over their head, admit defeat, and gain their Sunday back. But not me. This was like a worm in my head. I must master the macaron. My personal baking honor depended upon it!

This time I tried a recipe recommended by one of my FB followers (Hi, Margie!) who read up on my epic fail. This time, I blended the batter until it fell in ribbons off of the spoon. I do believe this was my biggest mistake in trial one. I didn't incorporate the meringue into the dry ingredients enough.

My second attempt: Nailed it!


See those ridges along the bottom of the cookie? Those are the "feet". Still weird. But the key to the macaron is that it has to air dry before baking, allowing a skin to form over the top so that when it bakes it's forced to rise, thus making the macaron feet. Skin and feet, yuuuuum!

So, what is the whole point of this post? Well, to share the recipe that worked: https://entertainingwithbeth.com/foolproof-french-macaron-recipe/

And to remind us all, that if we can think it, we can do it. We just may have to suffer a fail or two along the way.

So, Reds and Readers, what's something you failed at but kept going until you found success? 






42 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the cookie success . . . and thanks for the recipe. They look sooooo good!

    Failed at but kept going until I got it right? Well, I’m still in the almost-fail spot with keeping my lilac bushes alive. I haven’t figured out what I’m doing wrong . . . yet . . . but I’m determined to get it right . . . .

    And now I’m off to pre-order the book . . . .

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    1. Thank you, Joan! Oh, gardening is a whole other mountain to climb. Thankfully, the cactus here in AZ are forgiving...mostly.

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  2. I watched as they tried these on Master Chef last season, which was enough to convince me to stick with shortbread cookies.

    Failed at but kept going? Gotta say writing crime fiction. My first attempt was truly horrible but a lesson in what NOT to do. I think I'm better at it now.

    P.S. Now I'm jonesing for a cookie and it's only 5:30 a.m.

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    1. It's always the right time for a cookie. And, yes, you've definitely figured out the whole writing thing!

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  3. Oh, this is wonderful! In every way. I just watched two episodes of the cookie baking show from my hotel room in New Orleans, and I was astonished by the bakers prowess! There was a little discussion about skin and feet, so it was funny to see this post this morning. You have conquered the macaron Jenn, as you have conquered your new novel! Cannot wait to read it!

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    1. Thanks, Hank! Still in revision hell, but we'll see...

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  4. That's so cool, Jenn, about the "skin" trick. I baked chocolate biscotti once (recipe trial for a book), and there's a stage where you bake the, then have to let them dry, and bake them again.

    Getting my first mystery published absolutely required a heck of a lot of "And still, she persisted." I'm so glad I did!

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    1. We're glad you persisted, too, Edith! Double bakes ALWAYS feel wrong!

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  5. Once again I am In awe! Paul Hollywood would be proud of you!!! Skin and feet... Okaaaaay

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    1. LOL! Or he'd run screaming from my first attempt!

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  6. Something I failed at that I kept going at until success came?

    That's easy, coaching basketball. I was the first former player to play in the town youth league that became a coach in said league. I was not a good player. I knew what to do but just didn't have the talent to do it. I never played on a great team but growing up the one thing I wanted to do was win a championship in the league.

    So when I was first an assistant coach at 14, we made it all the way to the championship game but lost. When I started coaching as a head coach at 18, my teams whether we had a good or bad regular season record had a history of knocking off the #1 team in the playoffs, but we never won the title. The closest we came was when I had a 6 foot 3 14 year old, but we lost 51-50 in a barnburner title game where the ref totally screwed my team. That's not sour grapes, the other ref told me years later what the other guy planned to do.

    After 7 years as a head coach, I was a bit burned out and was going to quit when the league president offered me a spot as an assistant on his team. I was working not only with him but with a man named Tony Dias. Tony was the dean of basketball in town and was the only person who encouraged me when I was a kid and saying I wanted to be a coach.

    And that first season together we put together a team that not only was the best in the league but we went on to win the championship! I may have been an assistant but that was the first championship I'd been a part of. Two years later the head coach stopped coaching and then Tony said yes to being my assistant and that season became the first time I was the head coach and my team went on to win the championship. I'd finally figured out how to successfully put together a roster and then at least marginally coach them up into a title winning squad.

    By the time my coaching days ended, my boys teams had appeared in 11 title games winning 8 and my girls teams had been in 5 title games winning 3. There were still ups and downs depending on the season but the guy who couldn't ended up "teaching" and got 10-12 disparate personalities to blend long enough to win a small measure of athletic glory.

    Winning may not be everything but no one has fun losing all the time, so plugging away and getting better (I hope) as a coach as time went on made the wins sweet.

    These days, eight years after my coaching days ended, I still get asked to come back and coach on occasion but while I enjoy the memories and still see some of the kids I coached, my life is more geared towards the writing I do now.

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    1. As a six foot tall girl, who loved basketball and played basketball, but was not great at it, this post watered me up. Damn it, Jay, I have a book to finish. Seriously, though, this was great. Thank you so much for sharing. If I could emoji here, there'd be heart eyes!

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  7. A trip to Paris would be great this winter--looks like I'll be ordering up your newest masterpiece--and, just saying, an order of macaroons with each book would be a lovely gesture on the part of your publisher! :-)

    Biscuits. My grandmother and my mom made the best biscuits ever. I made little tasteless clumps of baked awfulness. I even tried Alton Brown's recipe, but no better results. Then, at the bottom of his recipe, a note: his grandmother said to just buy self-rising White Lily flour and follow the recipe on the bag. I did just that and now make a decent biscuit--not up to the standards of my mom and grandma yet, but definitely edible!

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    1. Thank you! I'll get right on that macaron promotion! Love it :) And oh, I love me some biscuits. I make pretty good ones but nowhere near as good as my mom's. Sigh.

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  8. They look delicious! Your trip to Paris sounds like it was great fun, Hooligans and all! Your new book cover is fabulous!
    Baking is an art in which skills improve with new attempts, better directions and perseverance. I have recently been trying many different baking challenges since I began following a marvelous baking blog. Sally is thorough in her explanations and shares her fails in order to help followers learn what she has learned about each recipe. My skills have improved immensely since I began to use her recipes.

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    1. !!! I know that one, I think. Is it https://sallysbakingaddiction.com?
      I love that blog!

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    2. Yes, that is the one! She is amazing!

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  9. Jenn, I have to say i really admire your ambition! Maybe 20 years ago I would have tried making macarons and tried again. Instead I'll read this and watch that video. But I do thank you for bringing this to my attention as I kept seeing them mentioned in books and had no idea what they were, other than they were not macaroons. Had no idea they were so tricky to make either. Did your Hooligans like Paris as much as you had hoped?

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    1. Thank you! The Hooligans are teenagers so some moments were glorious and others were not so much :) Overall, they did love Paris and I like to think that all the trips I drag them on, gives them a global perspective.

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  10. So, Reds and Readers, what's something you failed at but kept going until you found success?

    One word: Kids

    As to macarons, I can make very nice ones. I can also buy fantastic ons at Costco. My granddaughter can make great ones. I gave her my macaron making paraphernalia. All is well.

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    1. I just bought more paraphernalia - it's a sickness. LOL.

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  11. Jenn, I love this! And am sharing with my daughter, who took a macaron making class, to see if she learned the same tips.

    Tried and kept trying? Baking good whole wheat sourdough bread, maybe, although I'm still working on it. I had to shelve my baking for the summer, as my kitchen was too hot to even think about baking bread!

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    1. Sourdough is like a living thing, isn't it? I've been fascinated forever but haven't attempted it yet. I'll just have to visit you and snitch some starter :)

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  12. Success! They look amazing, Jenn. And frustrating.

    I had many false starts to growing potatoes. Which I recognize is weird, but there are so many issues to overcome, at least in my garden: too much rain rots them, potato bugs get them, and weeds can choke them out. I planted them in straw, which helped overcome some of the too-much wetness, and put a birdbath in the middle of the plot. The birds did a fabulous job of eating the bugs. Homegrown potatoes are worth the trouble, in case you were wondering.

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    1. I belly laughed at this post. When I got to the part "which I recognize is weird", I lost it completely. Hub was giving me the "you all right over there" face, which only made it worse! It has never occurred to me to try growing potatoes, but now I AM IN!

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    2. This is awesome. As many times as you've made me laugh, I'm tickled to have done so for you, Jenn!

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  13. Try and try again. I used to bake bread and rolls when I was in high school and planned on bringing rolls to Christmas dinner one year. Mom found a new recipe which had the dough raising overnight in the fridge, trying avoid more mess on Christmas morning. Little hockey pucks arrived at the table. Mom's family lives to continually tease about failures so I stopped baking for them, they like the brown and serve style rolls from the grocery anyway. About 20 years later I showed up with homemade cloverleaf rolls for Thanksgiving dinner. Grandma, according to Mom, used to make these rolls for holidays. Mine came out fabulous, nicely raised and not a hockey puck in the lot. I've baked plenty since the failure just not for Mom's family, they like pre-made, store bought good stuffs, which I think comes from their lack of funds growing up.

    When the guild ladies was catering wedding receptions, Mom would try out new recipes on John, he was the designated guinea pig. Problem was John would eat whatever was put in front of him, he had to learn to criticize food.

    Will there be macarons at the Jungle Red event at next year's Bouchercon, Jenn? New book looks great, I like the street sign.

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    1. Good for you - never waste your efforts on the unappreciative! That's why I take baking hiatuses - have to keep Hub and Hooligans grateful for the efforts, even the fails! We should have macarons at Bouchercon next year! Yum!

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  14. Jenn, I love this! There are many, many things that I have tried again and again until I got it right! It took me four years of ice skating lessons before I could skate on my own.

    And I pre-ordered your Paris book.

    Diana

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    1. Thank you, Diana! I love ice skating. I grew up in the mountains, so we learned early, but it's a skill you never lose!

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  15. Béarnaise sauce. The first few times I tried, I had the heat too high and the eggs turned to scrambled eggs. Delicious scrambled eggs, mind you, but not the delicious sauce béarnaise I'd intended for my lovely rib eye steaks. I've since learned to keep the heat lower--and to limit how much wine I consume before making the sauce. Once it's done, THEN I can have that second glass!

    So looking forward to the book, ma cherie! It looks to be très amusant!

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    1. Mwah, thanks, Leslie! You are so much braver than I. Sauces, reductions, all of those low heat challenges test my very limited patience.

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  16. Learning to like vacuuming. I once went a period where it looked like we had a Jackson Pollock rug. It took years to realize a cleaner space made a happier me. So I got some decent equipment, found a new way to exercise and rediscovered my rugs are green.

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    1. LOL - I pulled out all of my carpeting just to avoid vacuuming. I feel you.

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  17. Jenn, I'm in awe of your macarons. They just seem like something magical to me that come out of fairyland, lovely and delicious. That you can make these beautiful creations is wonderful. But then, you are a brave person, taking teenagers to Paris and all.

    In going to preorder your book, Jenn, I fell down the rabbit hole and have spent the last hour on the Barnes and Noble site. I'm still not finished, but I wanted to come back to here and close out my comments. I guess something I tried and kept trying was roller skating when I was growing up. I wasn't great at it, but I kept going (because it was one of our favorite activities as a group) and got adequate at it. I was never as good as my friend Lenore, who was the Queen of the Roller Rink, but that was okay.

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    1. Oh, thank you! I loved roller skating as a kid, but it is NOT easy. So fun, though, you know when you're not splatting onto the concrete every ten feet.

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  18. I love this! I took a macaron class at Galeries Lafayette. it was fun, but I do not think I'll ever work up the nerve to make them at home. Well. Maybe. Keep us posted on your efforts; looks to me like you've got this! And your book?! OMG you KNOW I'm going to love it and cannot wait to have it in my hands.

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    1. Thank you, Kaye. We do share a love of Paris. You know what I just learned while revising this book? Audrey Hepburn never said, "Paris is always a good idea"? She's credited with saying it in Sabrina, but according to researchers, it's not in the first film. It's actually said by Harrison Ford in the remake! Unless, someone knows better and can prove me wrong, which would make me very happy!

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  19. OH! Something I failed at but kept trying till I got it right? Marriage. I'm thinking 33 years now with Donald might mean I finally got the knack

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    1. Most definitely, you've got the knack. You and Don are one of the cutest couples going :)

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  20. Wait, can we back up to the snickerdoodles?? :)
    Cheryl

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