Dear Lord, Please Let My Macarons Work

Today I decided to cash in any of the good luck and goodwill I possibly had up my sleeve, and attempted to make French Macarons.

The macaron (not macaroon, these are much easier biscuits to create with coconut) is notoriously one of the hardest sweet treats for a home baker to make from scratch. The only way to create the perfect mac attack is to get good.

The worst part about creating the macaron is the fact that you can do absolutely everything right but these pretentious little creatures will give up on life if the environment is slightly not to their liking; too hot, too humid, too wet, too fan forced, too stressed. Yes, they sense when you are stressed and deflate immediately.

I personally believed that none of these rules or warnings applied to me, and went straight on to whipping up a batch of a flavour I believed would be a delight – Strawberry Cheesecake. So, others could learn from my mistakes I have documented this mesmerising experience, you’re welcome.

With all honesty, I have baked Macarons before but they were chocolate flavoured. Chocolate macarons seem to be more forgiving, more cooperative, less likely to ruin your life. So, I based today’s cook on Chow Hound’s Chocolate Macaron Recipe which you can find here, due to my previous macaron success. But today’s cook I switched up the cocoa powder with freeze dried strawberries and turned the oven temperature down a skootch to accomodate these fragile beings – here is what we started with.


Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons

2 cups icing sugar
1 cup almond meal
3 tablespoons freeze dried strawberries
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

225g cream cheese, softened
2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons freeze dried strawberries
strawberry jam

Yeah righto.

First up, throwing together the shells. The tricky part. Baking is closer to a science than an art, so I treat those quantities and tips (when making something this difficult) like scripture.

Initially lets get all our bits and ingredients out.

Then, line an over generous number of baking trays with parchment paper, and trace some circles onto the parchment paper by using any round object making sure you leave 3-4cm in between each circle. Set that aside.

Not a good start when your circles aren’t even accurate.

Now, take your icing sugar, almond meal, freeze dried strawberries, and salt and pop them in a food processor or blender and blitz the hell out of it for about 30 seconds, no more no less, until its all combined and aerated.

Sift this mixture through a sieve into a large bowl. Sift the same mixture two to three more times, throwing out any of the dodgy chunks.

Now lets make the meringue. Dear lord this bit is HARD.

Take your eggs which are hopefully a few days/weeks old and are at room temperature by now, and pour the egg whites into a clean, dry bowls – if there is any water or any yolk in the bowl, ya macs are dead and so are you. With a whisk attachment, beat on a medium speed until opaque and foamy – this is about 30 seconds.

See those bubbles? FOAMY.

Then add cream of tartar, and increase the speed to high, and beat until the egg whites are white in colour and hold the line of the whisk – this will take about another 1 minute.

Next, slowly add the sugar whilst continuing to beat the meringue, until the sugar is combined into the mixture and the ‘peaks are stiff’ or basically, the mixture has become strong enough to no longer run off a spoon – this takes about 1 more minute.

No drips is what we want.

But then the next warning is do not over whip? But if you under whip, they’ll be dead. So it’s a fine line you are walking constantly.

Then, take a rubber spatula and gently fold the dry almond mixture, also known as slowly stirring in a motion that splits the batter and then whirls it around all together, into the egg whites in four batches until the dry ingredients are just combined.

The first mix in of batter…
All batter mixed in!

So you are trying to not destroy the meringue too much because if it completely deflates, so will your soul after they cook.

When the mixture looks more of a cake batter consistency, pour it into a pastry bag that is sitting in a mug like above – this will make it easier to scrape all the bits in.

Ready spaghetti.

Then, pipe the mixture onto your baking sheets with the tracing on it, trying to start in the middle in one motion – do not swirl the mixture around the traced circles, as it will cook unevenly. Once you have piped all of the batter onto your baking trays, bash them a few times down on the table to remove air bubbles and let them sit for at least 30 minutes. Why you ask? Well whilst those little suckers sit and stare at you, taunting you with the will they / wont they actually work, they are actually developing a ‘skin’ (um ew) that will hold them together in the oven.

So shiny, what could possibly go wrong?

Time to preheat your oven! But again, fussy little fellas… I started with my oven preheated at 150 degrees celsius in my fan forced oven. As most recipes prescribe.

Once your 30 minutes wait is up, and you’ve cleaned all your dishes because there’s nothing better to do, pop ONE tray of macarons in the oven. You can only cook them one at a time because honestly, its too difficult dealing with two. There is a better reason but just trust me on this one.

Nooooooooo! This is the devil’s work! Cracks and we’ve only been in for like 4 minutes??

Attempt 1

Um, what the heck?

I cooked these guys at 150 degrees celsius, for 14 minutes, turning the tray around once at the half way mark. And as you can see, they have been incredibly traumatised. Cracks, deflated, hollow, sticky? Most likely the fan has been too intense because these guys just hate fan forced ovens.

Attempt 2

Oh no. Mistakes were made.

I cooked this batch at 140 degrees celsius, for 16 minutes, turning the tray around once at the half way mark. Definitely not cooked. Still cracked. Filled with spite. Starring at me in a mocking way. This too did not work – yet the master of macs Adriano Zumbo suggested that the oven is too hot if your mac’s crack or are hollow, but that wasn’t the case here. I just didn’t leave them in long enough!

Attempt 3

Finally accepting my fate of having no sweets to eat today.

I cooked this batch at 150 degrees celsius, for 18 minutes, and did not open the oven at any point until they were to be removed. Slightly more successful? Still cracks and cranky macs. A little sticky but my professional opinion says they are cooked through more than the last lot.

Attempt 4

What the frick frack snick snack? No cracks, but hellllla brown. Not the pink aesthetic I was hoping for.

Stuff it. Cook the batch at 180 degrees celsius like I would chocolate macarons, for 18 minutes, and do not open that bad boy up until they need to be removed. Ahhh. Why did they do this? Why are they brown, yet properly cooked? Why do bad things happen to good people? All questions we will never find the answer to.

Some look better upside down honestly.

I then let all the surviving macs cool on their trays. Whilst they cool you can pop all your ingredients for your cheesecake filling in a mix master and just blend it together until combined. Pop the mixture in another piping bag and set aside in the fridge until it is needed – assembling macs!


Assembly. Pipe mixture onto every second macaron but do not pipe it to the very edge, as it will over flow. Gently place a shell on top that is the same size, and voila!

Pop all of your assembled macs in the fridge and ideally do not serve them for 24 hours as this time lets the filling sink into the shells and makes them all good and chewy like. But if we are going to be perfectly honest, it took you 4 hours to make these damn creatures and you are going to eat them as soon as you can.

Uggos, but edible.

So at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that I myself am not as good at reading recipes as I originally claimed. Luckily I had my mate Zumbo (the King of Macarons) there telling me everything I did wrong along the way which is always super comforting here.

The models of the group – these may even make it on the ‘gram.

But the real star of this whole adventure was the freeze dried strawberries. Oh my, honestly I used a local strawberry farm’s product called Berry Fresh and I could not stop licking my fingers and tasting that batter. Big yum! Would recommend to put in anything you want to have a natural strawberry flavouring as opposed to a kinda odd and often greasy taste of fake essence that can destroy even the best baking.

Buy it and put it in everything. Do it.

So after feeling personally victimised by these little devils, I would say most are edible, a quarter are presentable, and the rest either went in the bin or in my tum tum to hide the evidence.

I hope you enjoyed the schadenfreude of reading about my sad experience, and that your next batch of macs are much more successful.

Eating raw batter to drown out the pain.

– Courtie