Life is not like a box of chocolates as Forest Gump’s mamma said in the award-winning film from 1996. It’s like a macaron! Every time you solve one problem another pops up. Every time you think you have it figured out you realize there’s another obstacle.
I’d been wanting to learn how to make the most difficult and famous macaron since I got addicted to The Great British Baking Show. The contestants make a variety of amazing treats that I’ve never heard of. The show makes me want to pull out my mixing bowls and measuring cups and bake. I love the show so much, I downloaded the theme song to use as my ringtone.
Occasionally, the contestants make macarons. They make it look so easy. The cookies are beautiful—shiny tops, ruffled feet, creamy filling, in bright colors.
I purchased the ingredients, but before I took on this challenge, I read dozens of articles online and watched as many YouTube videos on how to make the macaron. I had a free afternoon. I weighed out my ingredients. I whipped egg whites. I added food coloring. I macaronaged. I pipped. I slammed the cookie tray. I baked and out of the oven came what I thought were beautiful little macaron shells. I filled them with frosting and was so proud of myself. I thought all those articles talking about how difficult it is to make a macaron didn’t know what they were talking about. It wasn’t that hard.
But I quickly realized I had used the wrong flour. I accidentally bought gluten-free flour instead of almond flour. The two items were sitting right next to each other on the grocery store shelf and I’d grabbed the wrong one. I replaced my gluten-free flour with almond flour and began the process all over again. And again, and again. Over the course of probably fifty batches, I made every single mistake the blogs and videos warned about.
I over-beat my egg whites which caused dull shells. I under mixed my macaronage and had thick, lumpy shells. I overmixed my macaronage to result in thin, oily shells. I over-baked and got brown shells. I under-baked and got hollow, sunken shells. I had a bad batch of almond flour and my macarons exploded out the tops. Some macarons stuck to the slip mat and were warped. My oven temperature was too low, then it was too high. I used the wrong pan. I didn’t sift correctly. I had the wrong ratio of ingredients. My piping was inconsistent. There are a zillion little things that affect the way a macaron turns out.
Every time I ran into a problem, I’d go straight back to the internet to research what went wrong. Every time I solved one problem, I would run into another macaron mystery to be solved.
I don’t know anyone who’s mastered this cookie without tears and frustration.
Yes, life is like a macaron: delicate, time-sensitive, any flavor you can imagine. It takes hard work and perseverance. And with all the crazy-making look what I created. They’re practically perfect and spread sweet joy.