Rule No.1: Never be too disappointed. – A guide to macarons
Edit: You might also want to check out my updated guide to macarons: Rule no. 2 – Be patient!
First of all – what is a macaron? (If there’s anyone out there not having been introduced to macarons yet)
It’s the most tempting, sweet and cute treat I’ve eaten so far. It consists of a shell, made from powdered almonds and meringue, and a filling, for example ganache, buttercream, jam, … The macaron’s origin is known to be France, but as far as I know, the popular macaron which is described here is not really “the” french macaron. There are many different versions of macarons in the different regions of France, varying in the questions of soft or crunchy, filling or no filling and so on. Our much-valued macaron was made famous by Parisian patissieries like “Ladurée” or “Pierre Hermé”, so it kind of comes from Paris. The reason why it got so popular is probably its cute look or the overwhelming taste, or maybe the combination of both.
A perfect macaron is sweet, slightly crispy outside, then fluffly and creamy in the middle. It simply melts in your mouth and makes you want to have MORE. But you never get the urge to stuff yourself with macarons, you want to enjoy every single bite, no, every single crumb of it. At least that’s my personal experience with macarons. I’ve baked macarons for different people, but even those barbaric guys who decided to eat a macaron like an Oreo biscuit (seperate the shells, eat the filling first and then dip the cookies into milk before eating – it was really cruel to watch my macarons get tortured like this) learned to have respect for the elegance of a macaron after trying their first one and withstood gulping down all the macarons.
Okay, lets get back to serious. Of course, this point of view is just my personal opinion and I’m not angry with anyone who has got different opinions (or decides to devour macarons). I just wanted to express how precious macarons are to me because of their outstanding appearance and taste and also because of the great effort they can take ;)
Well, but that’s just what macarons are supposed to be like. What you get when you try to make a batch at home too often looks like this:
Cracked shells, macarons without “le pied” – the characteristical cute little foot of the shell, holes in the surface of the shells, … there’s plenty of ways in which the look of the macaron can be affected. As far as my experience allows me to say, it depends a lot on the technique of making the macarons, but also on atmospheric humidity and oven temperature whether your macarons look like they should or not. But no matter how often my macarons turned out to have cracked shells or no “pieds”, I fortunately never messed up the taste and texture. Nevertheless, here are a few tips to avoid not-nice-looking macarons:
- To avoid cracks in the surface of the macarons, don’t bake them at too high temperature. If your first batch has got cracks all over, try to bake the next batch at lower temperature. (With my oven, somewhere between 165ºC / 330ºF and 175ºC / 345ºF works well. But each oven is a little different, so you’ll just have to find the perfect temperature for your oven ;))
- For getting the cute little foot, try to pipe the macarons in a “blob”, not in a swirl. You do that by holding the piping tip about 3mm over the baking paper sheet, then carefully press a little batter onto the sheet while lifting the piping tip another 2-3mm. The batter should come out of the piping tip in a flat, round blob. Shortly before your macaron is large enough, stop squeezing out the batter and carefully remove the piping tip from the macaron with a smooth, swirl-like movement so that the vanishing batter-stream evenly unites with the whole macaron. This way, you keep the surface as flat as possible.
By piping the macaron in a “blob”, you prevent air bubbles in the batter so that the macaron rises equally, which is – as far as I experienced – important for getting “le pied”.
- For a smooth and even surface, the consistency of the batter needs to be right. Which means on the one hand, don’t overmix while combining almonds with whipped egg whites. If you mix or even beat the meringue for too long, its flufflyness will dissolve. But on the other hand, the batter needs to be liquid enough so that the unbaked macaron’s surface flattens after being piped onto the baking paper sheet. If the macarons don’t flatten on their own, try to move the baking tray from left to right or back and forth for smoothen the macarons’ surfaces.
However, for the perfect consistency of the batter, I recommend using recipes with exact measurements (for example “64g egg whites” instead of “2 medium egg whites” – 2 medium egg whites can differ between 60 grams and 80 grams!).
- For measuring egg whites as exactly as possible, seperate the eggs a few hours before making the batter and cool egg whites in the refridgerator. This will let the egg whites get more liquid and thereby more easy to measure.
| Macarons a la framboise – Part 1: macarons
makes about 40-50 macarons(adapted from “フランス仕込みの手作りマカロン Macarons maison appris en France”)
47g egg whites
125g powdered sugar
125g almond meal
red food coloringfor the meringue:
47g egg whites
30g warm water
| Macarons a la framboise – Part 2: filling
makes enough for about 40-50 macarons(vanilla filling adapted from フランス仕込みの手作りマカロン Macarons maison appris en France)
raspberry jam (I needed about 1-2 tablespoons)
50g butter (at room temperature)
1/2 vanilla bean
P.S. I’d love to hear (or read) your recommendations for making perfect macarons!