How Do You Say "Failure" in French?
Macarons are the beloved French confection featuring two brightly colored, light-as-air almond flour meringue cookies sandwiched around decadent fillings such as pistachio buttercream, chocolate ganache, and lemon curd. They are at once refined yet playful, delicate yet satisfying.
And I hate them.
Let me explain. Years ago, while I was a test cook for this magazine, I was assigned the weighty task of developing a recipe for macarons. I eagerly jumped in. I visited big-name French bakeries in New York City to sample the epitome of the form. I enrolled in a weekend macaron class. I read journal articles with titles such as “Effect of Sugar, Citric Acid and Egg White Type on the Microstructural and Mechanical Properties of Meringues.” I considered learning French (but got busy). And here's the key bit: I made almost 120 batches of macarons in the test kitchen over the span of weeks. I lived macarons. And the recipe? It never made it to print.
The term “foolproof” gets bandied about a fair amount in the food world these days. It's such a compelling concept—who doesn't want a recipe that can't be messed up? Well, Cook's Illustrated realized years ago that the only way we feel comfortable putting that word in front of one of our recipes is if you tell us it should be there. So, many years ago we started something completely unheard of. We asked readers to make our not-quite-final recipes at home and give us honest feedback. Today, we have more than 31,000 home recipe testers (and another 17,000 home shoppers) peppered across the country. You tell us when our instructions don't work or are hard to follow (or when an ingredient isn't available in your neighborhood). In short, you tell us whether or not a recipe is foolproof. And we listen. We keeping working on every recipe until at least 80 percent (and often more than 90 percent) of those who make it tell us they would make it again. Know where I'm going with this? That's right: My macarons recipe never hit that mark.
Around the office we call this cadre of volunteers “friends of Cook's Illustrated.” If you're such a friend, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for your support. You help make this magazine great. Thank you. If you'd like to join in on the home testing fun, we'd love to have you. You can sign up at AmericasTestKitchen.com/recipe_testing. There's zero obligation to make any of the recipes we send you. And who knows? You might just get a sneak peek at that macarons recipe if it ever comes back to life.
-Editor in Chief