Note to self: just because your first attempt at macaron making turned out okay, it does not mean that you will have similar luck the next time. Or the next. Just because the chocolate ones you made last week looked and tasted pretty good, it doesn't mean you can start throwing in other ingredients and concocting other flavors and expect the same result.
Today I feel utterly defeated. This past weekend, I mixed, whipped, folded and piped myself into exhaustion only to end up with boatloads of overly crunchy and misshapen macarons. I know practice makes perfect and you learn from your mistakes, yadda yadda yadda. It's just too bad I had to go overboard and purchase every ingredient under the sun, only to have them go to waste. Ok ok, the macarons weren't inedible, but they were nothing close to the little Nuggets of Perfection I had dreamt about. Oh well.
I thought I'd console myself by baking a couple of loaves of bread. I started my fermentation process the night before by mixing my yeast, water, honey and salt and putting the containers in the fridge. The next day I made my dough and went about my business as I waited for the first rise. I made sure not to peak so my little blobs could get some privacy. An hour later, I checked on them and they hadn't risen an inch. Everything smelled ok, but they looked exactly the same as before. I told myself that the yeast was just taking a nap and needed more time (er, yeah....that makes sense....) and checked back an hour later to find that the little suckers STILL hadn't grown. By this time I had my head stuck so far down in the sand that I actually went ahead, formed the dough into boules and stuck them in the oven to bake. Who cares if everything I've learned about baking told me that I'd end up with a couple of doorstops?! No air in the dough? Maybe a miracle would happen and I'd end up with edible bread! After spending five hours failing miserably at macarons the day before, my ego went into overdrive. I was NOT going to have another failure!
After an hour in the oven, I pulled out my little boulders and wondered why I even tried. I knew they would be dense, chewy and inedible. I've read The Bread Baker's Apprentice enough times to know that you need AIR in the little pups to make them delicious. I guess I was just in denial and hoped the baking gods would look down on me favorably.
And then a realization struck me. Even though I had done all the things I know I'm supposed to do- knead the dough considerably, place a towel over the bowls to keep out any draft, put the bowls in a nice warm place....I had a hunch that it was something else. I ran to the fridge, pulled out my handy little glass jar of yeast, and checked the expiration date. March 2003!!!! Yes, I am admitting this on the world wide web that I keep rancid food in my beloved refrigerator!!! Well, not exactly food but still- the poor little jar had been ignored since the US invasion of Iraq. New Year's resolution: start taking weekly inventory of refrigerator and pantry.
I didn't take photos of my failed loaves, but here are some shots of the macaron- wannabes for your viewing pleasure! The flavors are:
Pistachio w/ pistachio buttercream (a mix of butter, confectioner's sugar and pistachio 'butter' I got in Italy)
Macha w/ chestnut buttercream (pureed chestnuts w/ butter and confectioner's sugar). Notice the little nipples on there- a sign that the batter was too thick.
White sesame w/ black sesame buttercream (butter, black sesame paste and confectioner's sugar). More nipples!