Monday, August 11, 2014

The great macaron marathon of 2014

For the past year that I've been baking, I've always brought something into work at least once a week, and people have definitely noticed. Free food (especially free baked goods) is always a welcome sight at the workplace. About a month ago, one of my coworkers approached me and asked if I could make macarons for his upcoming wedding, since his fiancĂ©e loves them. Being the ambitious baker that I am, I said yes.

The order came out to be about 200 macarons, in three different flavors. In total, it probably took around 10 hours to complete, spread over the course of three nights. I enlisted my fellow baking friend to help because I knew I definitely couldn't do this alone. 

Would I do this again? Of course. Would I do this for my own wedding? No way, not with everything else that probably needs to be done!

All in all, once we figured out a good workflow between the two of us, we got these macarons churning out pretty quickly.

The first night was just me making the buttercream - the three flavors were chocolate mint, strawberry, and chocolate peanut butter. This was the easy part. All I had to do was dump ingredients into my Kitchenaid mixer and let it work its magic. After less than two hours, I had a few cups of buttercream of each flavor that I needed.  

Top - peanut butter, right - chocolate mint, left - strawberry
The next night was dedicated to making the macaron shells for the mint and the strawberry macarons. For those, I used a macaron recipe that I've worked with before and doubled the ingredients to make each batch.

One issue I had to work around was each pan only fit around 20 shells (10 macarons), and I clearly did not have 12 pans to fit all 120 macarons I was planning to make. What we ended up doing was piping the macarons onto parchment paper in the pans, used the pans to slam the macarons against the counter (necessary for knocking out air bubbles), and then carefully sliding the macarons off the pan onto the table. 

I ended up piping the macarons continuously, while my friend refilled the other piping bag, knocked out the air bubbles, and transferred the macarons to the table to dry.

Post-its to keep track of how long they have been drying
After we finished one batch, we washed everything up and proceeded to whip up another batch while the first batch was drying. By staggering the two batches, we could get a lot more done in less time. 

When the first batch started baking, we ran into our second issue. We noticed that some of the macarons coming out of oven were cracking pretty badly - and it was always the macarons that were on the second shelf in the oven. For some reason, the heat distribution of my oven is really only optimal for macarons on the first shelf. I decided to only bake macarons on one shelf, which meant only one pan at a time instead of two. This slowed down our total baking time by quite a lot, but it was worth it to get pretty macarons. 

Between waiting for macarons to bake, we started assembling the ones that were done and somewhat cooled. Putting the macarons together was super easy - we just piped the frosting, sandwiched the shells together, and stored them in the fridge. 

After all this, we had 135/200 macarons that we needed. All that was left was to make the chocolate batch the next night. The macarons stored in an airtight container in the fridge overnight, which actually helps the flavors meld together. 

The last night of macaron-ing was pretty much the same, except we only had to do one batch instead of two. This one also had a slightly different recipe - some of the powdered sugar was substituted for cocoa powder to give it the chocolate boost. 

Again, we patiently waited as the macarons baked pan by pan. 

And ta-da! 200 delicious macarons, all ready for the wedding reception. 

Baking on this scale is totally doable to pull off - you just have to plan carefully ahead of time to make sure you have all the ingredients, efficiently plan your time so you can multi-task, etc. 

And they appeared to be a hit! The wedding itself was very lovely and I am very happy for the awesome couple! I'm glad I got the opportunity to exercise my baking prowess and contribute to their special day. 

(I don't have any pictures on hand of the macarons displayed at the wedding, but will update this post when I get them from others). 

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