I've heard more than a few people say they've had no luck at all making french macarons, that they don't rise, or they stick to the sheet, or they are not uniform circles after baking... so they have a reputation as being difficult to make but trust me, if I can succeed with these so can you. Here are some basic pointers to help you with your baking and a few links to some wonderful online resources I have used to perfect my macarons.
Let the egg whites rest for 24 hours in the fridge
- It is imperative to separate the egg whites and let them rest and age before using them to make macarons.
- Separated egg whites will keep for up to five days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature when baking
- Macarons are fussy little fancies and the egg whites will not behave properly if they are cold when whisked. This can result in the batter being overly wet in which case it will not form a crust or will not rise and form a proper foot in the oven.
The whisked eggs and sugar mix should be thick enough to stay in the mixing bowl if you turned it upside-down above your head.
- Over or under mixing the egg whites is the main cause of macaron fail.
- Using a cold stainless steel bowl helps (I couldn't tell you why the eggs just seem to like it).
- If the peaks are floppy continue whisking until they are firm.
- If the mix become lumpy (over whisked) add an extra aged egg white, whisk until the peaks are smooth then remove 1/4 cup of the whisked whites to return to the correct recipe proportions.
Other problems encountered when egg whites won't behave...
- Yolk in the whites - there can not be even a teeny-tiny bit of yolk in the whites. It will not work, the only outcome is disaster.
- Grease in the mixing bowl or on mixing equipment - everything that comes into contact with the egg whites must be completely clean and free of grease.
The art of macronage (otherwise called folding the almond and sugar mix into the whites)
- Beaten egg whites contain a lot of air. You need to push the air out of the mix by firmly folding (not mixing) the dry and wet ingredients together.
- The consistency of the mixed batter should be slightly thick but not runny, with no lumps of dry ingredients. If you hold the spatula above the bowl and the batter slowly drips off the spatula then sinks back into the batter you've got it right. Picture a lava lamp and how it all amalgamates at the bottom, smooth but viscous.
LET THE SHELLS REST FOR UP TO AN HOUR BEFORE BAKING
The shells cracked
- The oven temperature was probably too high. Perfect macarons prefer a longer bake at a lower temperature, oven temperature readings and actual temperature achieved can vary from oven to oven, try to get to know how your oven works; 140ºC to 160ºC is ideal for baking macarons.
- Under or over mixed batter. Too much air (under mixed batter) means the macarons will dry out too quickly in the oven leading to cracked shells. Runny batter (over mixed) means the balance between wet and dry ingredients is not correct. This could be due to food colouring, flavouring or fresh egg whites being used.
- Humidty effects macarons in the oven, try propping open the oven door with a wooden spoon, this can also help improve air circulation.
- The piped out batter rested for too long, forty minutes to an hour is ample time any more and the batter can dry out.
- Oven temperature set too high.
- Over beaten egg whites.
Sticky shells on the bottom of the macaron foot
- Undercooked macarons, allow the next batch to cook for longer at a slightly lower temperature.
- Allow the macarons to cool completely before trying to lift them of the baking parchment.
- Double up the baking parchment, this also helps the crown and foot of the macaron to form.
Uneven shells or burst feet
- The oven temperature is set too high.
No crown or foot
- The batter was too runny or over mixed. This is usually down to a problem with the egg whites but can also be attributed to a low oven temperature or adding too much food colouring or flavouring. Try leaving out the flavouring from the shells and put all the flavour into the ganache. Your macarons will still pack a flavoursome punch.
- No resting period allowed or too long resting.
I hope this had given you a few pointers on how to tackle problems when baking macarons. In spite of all the do's and dont's they really are worth learning how to bake and when it all comes together the sense of achievement is wonderful, not to mention the taste! I've listed the best online resources I've found and referred to in my quest to bake perfect macaroons below, if you have any other problems or queries the answers are probably on this site.
Food Nouveau - the ultimate macaron troubleshooting guide
Food Nouveau - an illustrated step-by-step guide to making macarons