Having been an avid baker since I was a child, there was one recipe that I had not been able to make successfully: homemade French macarons. I don’t remember when I first tried the iconic, beautifully-hued pastry, but I knew I wanted to make them for myself. I loved the almond flavor and chewiness surrounded by the glossy, crunchy shell. I loved the creamy, flavorful fillings that paired so well with the cookies. Macarons became the “boss level” of baking for me. While there are some recipes that I will probably never attempt because they are just not worth trying in a home kitchen, macarons seemed attainable yet just out of my reach.

The First Attempt

My first attempt to make macarons was in 2015. I was exceptionally naive in thinking that I would be able to easily make this notoriously finicky dessert. It was Passover, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the naturally gluten-free pastry. It being Passover also meant that I had to use a strainer to sift the quite chunky almond flour because we did not have a sifter for Passover. I spent over an hour trying to sift the almond flour and by the time I finished, I did not even want to make the recipe anymore, I was so frustrated and just wanted to give up.

However, I kept going and made do with other missing equipment. I used measuring cups for the ingredients instead of using a kitchen scale and going by weight, and I cut a hole in a bag to pipe the batter since I didn’t have any piping tips. I also did not have a mat with circles to show how big to make the macarons, so I just guessed the size. All of these little issues resulted in very flat macarons that were the size of regular cookies. I also was too tired to make a homemade filling and just smeared chocolate spread between the shells.

Lara Jacobowitz

The Second Attempt

Lara Jacobowitz

Three years later in 2018, I decided to try to make homemade French macarons again. I had classmates who made macarons regularly with no problems, and I thought that if they could do it, then so could I. This attempt was supposed to be successful because I made them on my birthday, but that was not the case.

I used a recipe from a mini cookbook all about homemade French macarons that my friend had given me as a present a few years prior. I was committed to following all of the instructions exactly — except I didn’t. I think (based on photos I found in my camera roll) I used a food processor to grind the almond flour finer to avoid the sifting step. I again freehanded the piping (although I had a proper piping bag and tip this time) instead of using the mat that I had obtained with outlines for piping. These macarons were a Tiffany blue, prettier than the beige ones from 2015, and more accurate in size, but the feet had spread out giving the shells a mini skirt. Many of them had gotten brown along the edges. I made a milk chocolate filling from the cookbook, and they tasted good, but they were not the proper macarons that I was dreaming of.

Lara Jacobowitz

The Third Attempt

A few months back, my mom bought a bag of almond flour. It had become a joke every time I visited home that my mother and I would say that we would bake homemade French macarons together, but we never did. Each time I came, I would make a list of things I wanted to bake — cinnamon rolls, brownie cookies, muffins, pecan pie, hot pretzels, macarons — but the macarons never got made. However, the almond flour was not going to last forever, so I finally decide to gather the courage to face the boss level yet again.

There were a few differences this time that seemed to have had a big impact. I followed a recipe by Chelsweets that had a lot of helpful tips and detailed instructions. I weighed every ingredient on a food scale, so while the recipe said that 55g of egg whites is approximately two eggs’ worth, I ended up using less than an egg and a half. I was gifted an electric sifter a few years back, and I was excited for it to speed up the process. However, the mesh was too big. My brother, who helped tremendously in this project, spent around half an hour pushing the almond flour through a strainer since we still don’t own a typical crank sifter. This was definitely the most time-consuming part of the process and also resulted in us dirtying five different bowls unnecessarily.

The rest of the recipe came together pretty smoothly. There was a point when the batter was looking a bit Pepto Bismol in color, but after the batter finished whipping up, the color had lightened to a pretty pastel pink due to the air that was incorporated. I also panicked briefly after folding all the wet and dry mixtures together because the batter was sticking to the spoon instead of flowing off in a “thick ribbon”. I did not know if that meant that my batter was undermixed or overmixed. After some googling, I determined that the batter was undermixed, and I had not ruined the entire recipe. After a bit more mixing, I then piped the shells onto a macaron mat, and my brother enjoyed banging the tray on a table to remove the air bubbles.

Lara Jacobowitz

After thirty minutes of the shells resting to develop a skin, they went into the oven. I was very pleased with how they baked up, and after they had cooled sufficiently, I paired up the cookies and piped the same milk chocolate filling recipe from 2018 onto one half of each pair, completing the sandwich.

Lara Jacobowitz

I decided to follow the rules and not try a complete macaron until they had rested overnight, but I did try one of the broken shells and was extremely excited when it tasted like a bakery macaron.

Lara Jacobowitz

The next day I had a full cookie, and I was delighted with my creation. My whole family agreed that they tasted like the real deal.

What I learned from this experience:

-  Having the proper equipment really helps 

-  Practice does make improvement

-  Phone cameras have gotten better in the past 7 years and I          have gotten better at taking food photos

-  Recruiting someone to help is good: you share in the struggle,      the feeling of success, and also the washing of the dishes

- The boss level is always beatable, and there is always a bigger    and harder level just a few steps ahead 

I don’t know what my next big baking project will be, but I am sure I will be able to conquer it.

Will I be making homemade French macarons again? Definitely. I am confident that I can do an even better job next time, and one day, they will feel easy to make.