Emily Carlson

Confession time—I have a major sweet tooth. This likely stems from my childhood as I spent much of my time in a candy shop my parents used to manage. On top of this, every night at our house included a bedtime snack. Even today, I love watching baking shows on TV and am the first one to suggest ordering dessert at a restaurant. Watching these baking shows, one can’t ignore the popularity of the French dessert—the macaron. The light, chewy cookies that sandwich a variety of fillings are a hit at many bakeries. However, these tasty treats are not the easiest to whip together. With intensely particular directions, baking macarons requires precision, focus and research. In the last year, I have made four batches of macarons. These are the lessons I have learned from each of these four bakes.

Round 1: I made my first batch of macarons about a year and a half ago. I imagined creating a beautiful dessert that could be featured on the cover of Food Network Magazine. If you have ever made these, you know how tricky every step of the process can be. I did not realize this when I made my first batch. I thought I could take some shortcuts to speed up the process. You can guess how they turned out. Instead of soft cookies, I had a sheet pan of batter that all spread into one thin sheet. At the end of this process, I was very frustrated with myself. I did not follow the directions and consequently, the macarons did not turn out. In fact, it wouldn’t be a whole year until I tried making them again. The lesson? Follow the directions.

Round 2: One year later. I finally mustered up the courage to face the beast that is making macarons. With my fiance by my side this time for support, we tried to be as exact as possible. However, we may have gone too far in the opposite direction. While we spent most of our time looking up tips and tricks while we were making the cookies, we waited too long on certain steps and ended up with a batch of very dry, crunchy cookies. Additionally, we played it very safe regarding flavors. A plain vanilla cookie with plain buttercream turned out to be way too sweet for even this sugar loving gal. The lesson? Sometimes you can do your best and things still don’t work.

Round 3: About four months after the second attempt, I decided to make another batch over Memorial Day weekend this year as we went to visit my family. I found a fun red velvet recipe and bought a set of new silicone baking mats. Besides some issues piping the batter due to the lack of a piping bag, the cookies were baked beautifully! I was so happy. But there was one thing I could never be prepared for. While I made the cookies late at night and ran out of time to fill them, it was decided that they would be stored in the oven, away from my parent’s cat and dog. Unfortunately, no one told my parents this plan. When my dear mom woke up the next morning to preheat the oven to make us all scones, she did not realize that my precious cookies were slowly getting a second bake. I enthusiastically walked up the stairs that morning and found my little cookies were essentially turned into mini hockey pucks. The lesson? Don’t store anything in an oven.

Round 4: This round went fairly quick. Practically a macaron expert at this point, I quickly whipped up a second batch of the red velvet macarons. Luckily, my filling was already made from the night before and I was able to make some other minor adjustments making this batch the best one yet. While I don’t think I will be opening up my own bakery anytime soon, I had a wonderful time enjoying these little treats with my family over the weekend and can’t wait to make some more. The lesson? Practice makes perfect.

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