Making Macarons

This week I attempted to conquer one of the hardest French desserts out there:

The Macaron

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Photo Credit: julien haler via Wikimedia cc

These super pretty and very tasty treats take a lot of time to make. There are also so many recipes, all with very pretty pictures to match.

To start, I figured I would try a simple recipe, and I found one titled Basic French Macarons. The recipe is pretty simple, actually.  Combine 2/3 cups of almond flour with 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar. Sift.  Then, in a separate bowl, beat 3 egg whites and 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form, add 1tsp vanilla. Mix the flour/sugar mixture in with the egg white mixture and – Voila! You have macaron batter.

The next part is where I kind of messed up. I’m bad at guesstimating the size of things and I definitely made my first batch of macarons too small. They were adorable and still turned out well, but way too small.

With the second batch of macarons I made, using this recipe, I corrected this mistake and piped them a lot bigger. But! I forgot the crucial part to making the perfect macaron the second time: let the piped macarons dry for 15 mins on the counter before cooking them in the oven.

Due to this oversight, they did not all turn out the way they were supposed to. Luckily, I was able to find a blog that listed all of the problems that I could possibly have with my macarons and ways to maybe fix them.

Problem Possible Issues Fix
Egg whites don’t seem to stiffen Egg whites have too much water Age egg whites at least overnight.  I leave a tupperware of egg whites in the fridge at all times.
Added flavorings or coloring too early. Never add any flavorings or color until the very end. Not even spices as some have oils.
Egg whites seem to flatten or liquefy when mixing in the powdered sugar and almond meal Too much flavoring, color, or additional liquid source. Don’t add so much! Easy does it! If my flavoring has oil (often does), I add just a few drops just prior to piping.
Beating too hard. Fold the egg whites gently. After adding coloring and flavorings, I fold no more than 10 times.
Egg whites weren’t whipped long enough. Whip egg whites until very stiff peaks. Then whip for another three minutes.
Egg whites sat without movement for too long. Don’t waste time between steps.  Get a move on it.
Top of Macaron seems bumpy or blemished. Too many chunks of almond meal or flour  in the batter. Sift the almond flour before using.
Too many chunks of almond meal or flour  in the batter. Process the almond meal in a food processor for a longer period of time.
Macarons maintain a stiff peak after piping and baking. Batter too stiff. Fold a few more times or add just a few drops of liquid (flavoring, coloring, or water).
Batter too stiff. Rap the bottom of the pan on the counter to flatten.  I heard macarons are particularly fond of Sir-Mix-A-Lot.
Macarons liquify after piping.  They can also run into each other and hold hands. Too much flavoring, color, or additional liquid source. Don’t add so much! Easy does it!
Beating too hard. Fold the egg whites gently. After adding coloring and flavorings, I fold no more than 10 times.
Egg whites weren’t whipped long enough. Whip egg whites until very stiff peaks. Then whip for another three minutes.
Batter got warm or over-handled with piping Pipe macarons quickly taking care to not hold the piping bag in your hands too often.
Piped batter too closely. Pipe macarons further away from each other.
No feet develop. Batter is too wet. See the liquefying problem.
Air was beaten out of the batter. Gently fold the batter.  Quit messing with it!
Too much flavoring, color, or additional liquid source making the batter too wet to rise. Don’t add so much! Easy does it!
Luck. Sometimes, things just happen.
Macarons crack on top when baking.  There are two types of cracks.  1. Macaron is too delicate. 2. The foot develops on top creating a large bubbly crack. Shell too delicate because the batter was too wet. See fixes for egg whites flattening.
Macarons did not dry to form a shell on top prior to baking. Allow macarons to dry for longer periods of time.  Heat up the oven to dry out to the room or use a hair dryer to dry the macarons.  Or turn on the heater or air conditioner to dry out the room.  The top of the macarons should be very dry to the touch prior to baking.
Temperature too high when baking in humidity.  Humidity kills. Lower oven temperature when higher humidity levels. In dry weather, I bake for 11 minutes at 350. In medium humidity, I bake for 12 minutes at 325.  In wet weather, I bake for 13 minutes as 305 degrees.
Macarons stick to the bottom of the pan.  Perfect ones will pop off cleanly. Baking surface was a bit dirty. Make sure baking surface is thoroughly clean prior to piping.
Silpat is old or cheap. Go for the gusto and buy the expensive stuff. Some people use parchment, but I’m a huge believer in the silpat.
The bottoms are not fully baked. Bake for a while longer. Check every 45 seconds.
The tops of Macarons come off, but the bottoms remain stuck to the pan. Baking surface was a bit dirty. Make sure baking surface is thoroughly clean prior to piping.
Silpat is old or cheap. Go for the gusto and buy the expensive stuff. Some people use parchment, but I’m a huge believer in the silpat.
The bottoms are not fully baked. Bake for a while longer. Check every 45 seconds.
Luck. Fill the tops with extra filling and stick them together anyways. Scrap off the bottoms and eat them.
Macarons are inconsistent. Some are perfect, some are terrible. Uneven airflow. Bake only one pan at a time.
Uneven airflow.  Make sure to rotate the pan halfway through baking.
Uneven airflow. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door cracked.
Temperature change in batter or over-handling in piping. Work quickly and don’t mess with the batter.
Luck. Sometimes, things just happen.
Macarons rise and then deflate. Removing from heat before fully baking. Leave them in the oven until they are done. I’ve accidentally taken macarons out of the oven when they are only needing to be rotated.  That’s how I learned this lesson.  Re-baking them does not fix the problem.

Final Verdict: Really Good!

I was able to make very decent tasting macarons. They didn’t look the best – the first batch wasn’t the best, due to their small size and the second batch didn’t develop “feet” like they were supposed to. But, all in all, it went pretty well for my first attempt at this tricky dessert! I’m happy and will probably try this again sometime soon!

Here is my picture of my pretty macarons, both big and teeny tiny!

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Here is a link to my live tweeting of this macaron adventure!

 

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2 thoughts on “Making Macarons

  1. ashleypmurray

    I love macaroons!! They look fantastic. Great find on the blog with the issues you could come across and how to fix them. Maybe someday I’ll come back to this post and try out some of the resources you shared.

    Like

  2. Pingback: French people are hardcore, they eat pain for breakfast – Ellen Lague

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