French Macarons

22 10 2011

Over the last 2 months, I have been working on perfecting the baking of French macarons, a process which has been far more challenging than I first though it would be!  I’ve now done my 5th batch of these devilish cookies, with both surprising and disappointing results.  I’m not really a big fan of cooking, so mainly when I get on a little cooking fad like this, it’s because I want to take photos of the food produced.  Please excuse the some of the terrible iPhone photography!  The later pictures were taken with my DSLR.

Batch #1

This was an attempt at making chocolate macarons and my first attempt ever at making macarons.  I was using a combination of recipes from the internet, including one from another blog of a lucky person who got to do a workshop with Adriano Zumbo and the recipe from the episode of Masterchef where they made the macaron tower.  What can I say about this batch?  It was a complete flop.  The batter turned out far to thick, I didn’t bother to pipe it out and threw it in the rubbish.

Batch #2

Lumpy, ugly brown macarons, but surprisingly structurally intact! Copyright 2011

Same day as batch #1, slightly more successful, though the batter was still very thick.  I actually burst the seam on my piping bag piping out these bad boys.  They were supposed to be purple, but the colour wasn’t deep enough and it just ended up looking like a slightly purple unappetizing bran colour.

I had a lot of trouble getting the almond meal through my sifter, it clogs up like you wouldn’t believe, then takes another hour to get it all out again.  In this batch, I ran out of patience and just tipped the almond meal into the mixing bowl without sifting it.  The result?  Lumpy tops!  Surprisingly though, the macarons were pretty much structurally intact, with dome tops and a nice even foot, but basically tasted like pure uncooked almond meal.  Not nice.  Also I didn’t have a candy thermometer at this stage of the game, so I was overcooking the sugar syrup.  I found several lumps of toffee in these macarons.

VERDICT:  Semi-successful, batter too thick and dry, so thick it ruptured the piping bag, lumpy tops due to unsifted tant pour tant, bad colour and poor taste, but otherwise good structure.

Batch #3

Sadly I don’t have any photos of this batch.  These were strawberry flavoured very bright red macarons.  As per Adriano Zumbo’s instructions, I “knocked the air” out of the batter by slopping it against the side of the mixing bowl.  I possibly did this a little too much.  The batter was a little runny, but it was a dry day and they dried perfectly.  Drying macarons is considered essential for the development of the shiny perfect dome top and little frilly “feet”.  Unfortunately they didn’t cook perfectly.  I was excited to see the feet develop as I cooked them, however the excitement soon turned to horror as I watched every single one of the macaron domes crack!  I broke most of them trying to remove them from the baking paper.

The plus was with this batch, I sifted and whizzed the tant pour tant in a food processor.  The tops on this batch came out very smooth, so it was a shame they all cracked.

VERDICT:  Fail.  Probably over-mixed.  However, beautiful powerful red colour.

Batch #4

Beautiful, shiney orange batter. Copyright 2011

This batch was orange flavoured and coloured.  I was absolutely convinced that these would be the best macarons ever made.  Beautiful batter.  Perfect consistency (even though I had no idea what that was at the time).  Since I decided that my last batch were over-mixed, I deliberately only folded the egg whites until the mix was combined and the colour was uniform.  It as a very light fluffy batter which I thought was how they were supposed to be.  It didn’t form a nice flowing ribbon.  I left them for their usual hour of drying time .  When I came back to pop them in the oven, the tops were still sticky!!!  They refused to dry.  So I decided to use the oven drying method and then cook them.

Macawrongs. Copyright 2011

The result?  Macawrongs.  Fail.  They  absolutely refused to cook.  No nice dome top, no feet.  Sloppy centre, stuck to the paper like you wouldn’t believe.  I had so many batches of these fails, I cooked all of them and they were all the same.  I tried cooking for longer, cooking hotter, increasing the oven drying time, not oven drying at all.  They were all the same.

VERDICT:  Epic fail.  The batter was too wet and under-mixed.

Batch #5

Nice, shiney pink batter, almost dry. Copyright 2011

Five is my favourite number.  Probably lucky too, as this next batch turned out very well!  Finally, a success!  I used a candy thermometer, some new oven trays that didn’t warp when heated and a book called “Secrets of Macarons” by Jose Marechal to make this batch.  I highly recommend this book if you’re having trouble with macarons.

This attempt, I weighed out the ingredients perfectly.  I measured the temperature of the sugar syrup.  I followed the instructions in the book exactly and cooked them at 150 degrees celsius for 14 minutes.  I ditched the Masterchef way of putting the dried macarons in the oven at 200 degrees celsius then turning the oven off for 10 minutes then back on at 150 for another 10 minutes.  After cooking the Jose Marechal way, it became apparent that it was not necessary if the macaron mix was right and the shells had air-dried sufficiently.

Yipee! Copyright 2011

Results here were amazing.  I did a happy dance around the kitchen when I pulled them out of the oven.  Some were a little difficult to get off the paper, but I managed to get most of them off without destroying them.

These macarons were strawberry flavoured and I filled them with chocolate butter cream.  There was no raw almond meal taste, they were fantastic!  Crisp domes with soft gooey centres.

VERDICT:  Success!

Batch #6

The white macaron batter. Copyright 2011

Armed with my new found macaron invincibility, I set out to make batch 6, vanilla flavoured white macarons with vanilla cream filling.  I could have imagined vanilla cream filling anyway, since I ended up with *zero* macarons worth filling.  How could this happen?  I used Jose Marechel’s brilliant little book, I measured everything perfectly.  I didn’t age the egg whites, but I never do, so surely it couldn’t be that.  Turns out, aging the egg whites causes them to lose some water content.  So it could have been this, but to be honest, I’m just not into storing egg whites waiting for them to lose water content.  So I’m not doing it.

Batch #7

Shiny red batter. Copyright 2011

That’s it.  One more try at these bloody things and this time they will be perfect.  With my refusal to age egg whites, I decided the only ideal workaround would be just to use LESS egg white in the tant pour tant.  I used the same amount of egg white the recipe suggested for the Italian meringue, just a little less than what it called for to mix in with the tant pour tant.

This resulted in a batter consistency that was thick and hurt my arms to mix (I’m pretty weak now days), but mixed well and formed a lovely thick ribbon when worked enough.  I also bought a new sieve instead of using the old sifter and while it still took a long time to get through the sieve, it hurt my hands less than beating the sifter with my hand.

I made both red and green macarons this time, as practice for Christmas time.  I filled them with vanilla butter cream.  These are my best batch yet.  I only broke 2 out of about 60 shells trying to remove it from the baking paper.

My Christmas macarons. Copyright 2011

I was delighted that these macarons turned out even though I had done the unthinkable and tinkered with an experts recipe.  The shells dried beautifully and they cooked flawlessly.  I took them to work where they were consumed before the shift end!  People from other departments were even sneaking into the fridge where I had hidden them.

VERDICT:  A tasty success!  Slightly dryer, thicker batters seem to turn out better for me.

Donna Hay Packet Mix

Donna Hay packet mix macarons. Not too bad. Copyright 2011

I just had to try some of this stuff.  I couldn’t believe after all the trouble I had getting my macarons to turn out, that it would even be possible to have a packet mix for something as complicated as this.  The meringue was a version of the French meringue method, made with freeze-dried egg white powder only.  No addition egg whites were required.  Everything that was required came in the box.  I followed the directions on the box.

The mix was very thick, but since this had worked for me before, I decided to go with it and pipe them out.  I’m lucky I didn’t rupture another piping bag!  The mix resulted in some very lopsided macarons, with one side having feet and the other not and some very good even macarons.  There were more lopsided ones than even ones.  The feet that did form properly looked great.  I sifted but didn’t process the almond meal icing sugar mix as the recipe didn’t call for it, but this resulted in lumpy tops.

VERDICT:  Surprisingly, not that bad for a packet mix of such a complicated cookie.  It could have been much worse.  How did you do it, Donna Hay?

Take Home Message

I think the main message from all of this is, you can follow the instructions exactly, measure out the ingredients perfectly, boil the sugar syrup to the exact temperature range and still have failures.  This is not a recipe that can just be followed and consistent results expected.  It takes experience making them, mixing them, over-mixing them, under-mixing them and adapting proportions to suit certain conditions.  Even expert French pastry chefs have to trash the occasional batch.

My hints are:

  1. Sieve or sift the tant pour tant and also process it in a food processor to get extra smooth top macarons
  2. Definitely use a candy thermometer to make the Italian meringue
  3. Definitely measure out your ingredients
  4. If your raw shells won’t dry, the batter might be too wet or runny.  Try using slightly more tant pour tant
  5. Add food colouring to the Italian meringue syrup so that excess moisture evaporates and doesn’t affect batter consistency, or use powdered food colourings
  6. Do NOT give up

Check out my Macaron Lightbox to see photos of the finished products:

Advertisements

Actions

Information

2 responses

9 08 2012
Winnie

Hi i make mac about 20 batch already and all fail. Only last 3batch have lopsided feet n some of them bubbly crack at the top. Im about giving up. Any idea? Some says the temp inside the oven is not even, some say the composition, some says use electric oven,some say in batter folding. I try from using fresh to 1 week eged egg white and try from did not rest the shell untill rest it for 3 hours. Still no luck

9 08 2012
Beano5 Photographic

I have a gas oven, it’s not a good one and the top shelf is hotter. I haven’t made any macarons for about 9 months now, but I always found that the dryer the batter was and the harder it was to mix and fold, those batches usually turned out. It seems wrong because all the videos I’ve seen show people easily folding without their arms getting tired, and they seem to pipe easily for them. Are you drying the shells before putting in the oven? I can usually tell if my batch will fail if the shells are still sticky after 1hr of drying.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: