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Macaron Take 2 – Complete Failure

I ran out of Cream of Tartar and used vinegar instead. I think my folding technique was better overall, I probably still didn't mix it enough.

The flavor spot on which was a bummer after I made some great chocolate Ganache.

I am holding off more experiments until I get more confectioners sugar and cream of tartar. I didn't like that I had to use vinegar mainly because it changes my process and it's hard to find patterns when there are lots of variables.

Still, I really shouldn't call this a complete failure. I really shouldn't even call it a failure. I got really lucky the first time which was great for my morale. With this batch not turning out as good as the first, it has shown me what not to do. And that is not a failure.

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Attempt the… FRENCH MACARON

Baking is the closest I will probably ever get to a laboratory science and I am ok with that. I love the sciences and I like laboratory science but can you eat HCl and live? Unless you have Wolverine's healing factor, I highly doubt it.

Baking is a one hell of a science. An unforgiving, finicky, and extremely rewarding science. Measurements often need to be precise. Heat must be applied with attention. Patience and attention to detail are key. Experimentation is highly encouraged.

It's also tasty.

Today's Experiment

The kids and I were watching one of the Pokemon movies that dropped on Netflix a while back. In it was the Pokemon, Victini, swiping and munching on some of Ash and team's macarons. There's a lot of good values to get from the Pokemon movies. Friendship, teamwork, etc. What do my kids get from it? Macarons are awesome.

The kids have been asking for macarons ever since. Today, I finally delivered on their desires.

Macaroons or Macarons?

In the movie, the characters pronounce them "Mack-ah-rhons". I always thought they were "mack-ah-roons". Apparently both are correct... sort of. Macaroons usually include coconut and are more almond based.

Macarons, or French Macarons, are more of a meringue. They still have almond flour/meal but don't include coconut.

Based on the visuals in the movie, it seems like our target objective, then, is the French Macaron.

To the laboratory!

Have you ever had eggs in your coffee? No? It's like coffee flavored custard - and AMAZING. But that's a recipe for another day. The convenient part is that I had some left over egg whites ready for meringue-ing.

There are lots of tips and tricks and other voodoo for making sure you get the best macarons. When I told the kids I would make them their very own macarons, I had ZERO idea that these were "the hardest cookies to make" in all of Bakelandia. I was trolling baking websites when I found out how deep in pro french p√Ętissier territory I was.

Doing something new means I was already in research mode. Finding out I was doing something very difficult just means I do more research. Before I actually made it to the kitchen, I compiled my notes and made sure I was at least semi-comfortable with the entire process.

Keeping track of these notes or just having a good capturing process is directly related to success.

My Process

I like to have my ingredients prepared before I start. I ground up the sugar, prepped all my tools, and made sure the egg whites were room temperature - that kind of stuff.

My meringue-fu is non existent so I wasn't sure what the textures and consistencies of any of the recipe's steps should be. But that is what this is all about, learning and developing the skills!

Pro tip number two: Document (either mentally or on paper) the consistencies and textures at every step. Take photos. Make notes. This will help discover possible improvement opportunities.

My egg whites were clumpy and not very poofy. I probably mixed them too much. Once I added the sugar and cream of tartar, they smoothed out nicely, though.

The final product

My first batch came out pretty good. Although most of them cracked at the top, I still call this a win; they were edible.

Most of my problems can be traced to my folding technique. I was fairly rough with the mixture and after I saw most of the macarons cracking, I looked up why. This is mostly a result of over or under mixing the dry ingredients with the egg whites.

Doing an "after action review" helped highlight changes in my process. Compiling research notes and process notes into a central set helps this final process.

Do it again

My next batch will be better. But I can't tackle every problem at once. I'll focus on the cracking. Although I wasn't happy with the texture of the macaron, the shell cracking is totally unacceptable. My next batch will probably focus more on my folding technique rather than the recipe. Once I get the cracking down, I'll tackle the texture. Who knows, maybe fixing one problem will fix the other.

The point is, don't feel discouraged when something doesn't come out perfect. As long as learning occured, the attempt was not a failure. Just get back in there and try again. Eating the result is just as fun as making the result after all.

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Notebooks and Index Cards

Before Field Notes became a thing in my world, I used these awesome wire bound notebooks I bought a long time ago from the community college bookstore. I loved the green tint of the paper and the thick covers. Alas, it is impossible to stack wire bound notebooks neatly.

Now, in the "Field Notes Era", the smaller page count causes me to go through notebooks faster. Also, I keep reference pages in the back that I need to copy over (or tear out) with every notebook change.

This is a problem. One that should be easily remedied either with a better process or with discipline. But, like all problems, I really need to explore the possibilities first. One thing I hear a lot about are index cards.

Ubiquity in 3 by 5 form

Some really smart people advocate the Hipster PDA approach and rely solely on index cards.

Look... Index cards are boring to me. No, not the process, but the paper itself. The paper is usually a three by five cut of bright white paper printed with lightish blue tinted lines. Booooring.

Unlike the Field Notes, there is no joy in writing on an index card. Sure, there's not much to innovate on with an index card - it's hard to innovate on the details when index cards lack, well... details. Then again, index cards' modular and mobile characteristics are desirable. Desirable enough to give them a solid try.

Commit!

I bought a cheap-o pack of index cards at Walmart. I suppose that was a mistake. I should have bought a nicer pack from a brand that cares about paper and the experience of writing. This is an experiment, a $3.00 experiment so far, and I can always donate them to the kids' crafting supplies.

It may not come to that, though. Well, the batch I bought will probably get donated regardless - that's how bad the paper is. But, the integration of index cards into my workflow is turning out well.

Here's what I have discovered works for me:

  • Notes that I need to shared with someone (like the wife, for example) go on an index card.
  • Reference notes (like server IP's) go on an index card.
  • Everything else goes in the notebook.

I'm experimenting with keeping To Do's on the index card as well. It feels good to be able to trash the index card once the list is complete. Although, sometimes, the card may not be completed for several months - that's just how that list will go.

This whole modification, though, is going well. We'll see how it continues.