Well, sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. Truth. Fact. And in the kitchen, as in life, the better you are at handling those fails…. the healthier your state of mind.
This is a quick post on reflection, growth mindset and mindfulness specifically when things do not go right. Apply it to your kitchen adventures or whatever corner of your every day needs a bit more attention. It helps me, and hopefully will help you, too.
I had dreams of making some macarons that were the flavor of our wedding cake for my hubby. Every year, on his birthday, I make a small version of our cake for his bday. This year, I thought it would be better served (for our waistlines AND well, so there isn’t a cake just hanging out for a few weeks… toooooooo tempting for me) if I made macarons. YAY! Who doesn’t like almond, vanilla and raspberry together? No? You’re missing out. It will always remind me of our awesome wedding weekend and I love that we relive it on hubby’s birthday AND our anniversary (about 6 months apart…)
I also was ready to try some of the lavender paste I picked up and as I love floral macs, I figured I would bust out two small batches on a sunny day.
See, the issue with becoming fascinated with a new thing, is that you dig in… like WAY into it. I think learning as much as possible is great, but it does come with pitfalls that sometimes are, shall we say, unhelpful.
The key is seeing the information in its true form: valid for the author, but might not be valid for you.
Macs are…. tricksy. And if you were to google ‘macaron recipe’ you will be inundated with search results proclaiming “FOOLPROOF RECIPE FOR THE PERFECT MACARONS” and “SIMPLE GUIDE TO THE BEST MACARONS” and about a billion versions of those two titles.
The problem is, you want to try them. Oh, and try I did.
I filtered it out to two channels I trust and opted to actually USE their measurements and methods. Now, one of them I had used as a reference previously (mainly for the filling, but the macs looked so perfect, I decided I would try his whole mac world this time, equipment to ingredients to technique to baking times, etc.)
The other I had never tried, but are a giant in the step by step world of cooking/baking so I figured if THEY said they tried it all and this was the tested and true recipe and method for consistently flawless macs… well, sign me up to try it.
EACH ONE, did not turn out as well as my first two batches.
Bouchon’s base shell recipe still reigns supreme, but is the Italian method so takes a bit more time. Even the small batch recipe I tried (cream of tartar and granulated sugar) yielded better shells in the long run.
COLOR ME SUPER SUPRISED.
The first difference was honestly in my equipment. This time I opted for a hand mixer versus the stand mixer.
Second difference was the MASSIVELY different flour to sugar ratios in these two new recipes from my previous ones. Like, really different.
Thirdly, I had some serious oven issues that day when baking. I have a BEAST of a stove (old, yes, but not as old as it appears LOL) and the thing just would NOT hold proper temp that day. The oven. GAHHHHHH our oven.
Notes from Almond Raspberry batch:
- WOW, adding extract to your shell batter after macronage completely thins it out! I found it odd to add then but this was a test and per instructions and it made the batter so thin. As soon as I piped them out I know it was going to be a bad shell, so I experimented with a splatter technique for them.
- Took forever to dry (obviously) and even though they got feet, they then collapsed and were very thin.
- The bite once cooled was more like an almond horn (not bad tasting but more chewy throughout with no crunchy outer layer.)
- The coloring splatter created wetter spots (obviously) which when baking also added more moisture to the shell and caused the color spots to rise/blister. The color stayed true, but the aesthetics make them look odd… however when I posted pics, most comments were that they were beautiful. Delicious and not truly a macaron, but tasty so…. new cookie breed? LOL a Macarond?
- Filling with almond buttercream and raspberry was awesome… same simple technique of buttercream well with preserves inside. Crappy shell or not, this is a VERY TASTY cookie.
Notes from Lavender batch:
- I am so disappointed with this one. Full stop.
- I think it was a combo of two things, the ratio of ingredients and the crappy temp control on my stove.
- ALL, and I mean all, of the shells were hollows (aka, outer shell rose then the interior collapsed and what looks like a perfectly shaped and footed shell is really just a false representation of what you will get when you chomp down.*sigh*)
- the new gel coloring did NOT hold color in the baking process… purple/lavender turned into tannish lavender and the slightly courser bits of the almond flour in the batter absorbed the coloring and they look almost speckled. It’s weird.
- They grew slightly OUT in their feet then UP. I think this is also based on the temp control issue.
- Even though I adjusted the salt to compensate for using a finer grind, I still could taste the salt in the shell. Will not use a fine salt again.
- The buttercream was just OK. Like, I love a floral macaron, but the lavender taste competed with a clearly BUTTER flavor and that made it just lackluster in my opinion. The Rose cream had NONE of that warring flavor issue so, maybe I just need to research a better lavender filling recipe.
- I won’t lie, they are still tasty AF. But more of a toasty, buttery floral cookie that is inside a crispy bubble. LOL. Tasty but def not one I am happy with so…. back to the drawing board on this one!
The Reflections on the end result of a failed cooking/baking experience are super important to work through. It is so easy to just scrap it and say it was a shitty recipe, when some of the ownership was most likely on additional factors… like YOU did something different, or cut a corner or trusted the equipment or misjudged a consistency. Understanding how it ALL went into the result will make your next attempt better. As in life, pointing the blame squarely OUTWARD does not allow for any personal growth. Reflecting on how YOU impacted the end result will always help you become more skilled.
Taking a Growth Mindset to these failures simply means that you need to reframe your thinking about it. Shifting your perspective from “failure” to “learning opportunity” sounds as corporately cheesy as it gets, but I can tell you – it is true and it is a very helpful tool to apply to many aspects of your life. It helps me handle setbacks by being a bit less emotional about it. You can never take the emotion completely out of failure, but you CAN take the emotion and lesson learned and turn it into motivation to improve. THAT, friends, is having a growth mindset…a tool I hope to always have in my arsenal… in the kitchen or otherwise.
There is Mindfulness in dissecting failure. But as with all mindfulness practices, it must be intentional. So many parts of failure give us the chance to just walk away without completing it and FULLY failing. What does that mean? Well, I could have scrapped that first batch because I knew the batter was too thin. I COULD have just put it all in the trash and gone back and tried again before seeing the outcome. But then I would have been deprived of a few lessons and a tasty (albeit not traditional macaron) cookie. When I think of how easy it is to walk away from anticipated failures, I think of how many people out there in the world are actually choosing not to learn from a mistake, or get uncomfortable, or take ownership. Those are important parts of life. VERY important parts of a fulfilling life. I am not judging at all. I can say honestly, there have been many times I chose that easy road. Mindfulness is about being ok with just being you. And you are not perfect. Being present in your imperfections is part of being human, and part of being a bit better next time. THAT makes for a more satisfying experience for both yourself and those around you. Whether in cookie form, or in how you act or lead or create the solutions you provide.
So, summing up: try all the recipes, own the results, figure out how to be better next time and then do it.
Next week’s macs will def be better… I know it!