Updated: Jun 11, 2019
When I started my cake business, macarons became something that I wanted to make myself. They are so beautiful as wedding favours, or as additions to a cake table, and the flavour combinations are endless!
Macarons are however notoriously difficult to make. There are many variables that can affect the ability to get perfectly identical macarons with a smooth top, nice feet, crispy shell and soft chewy middle. These variables range from under whipping to over whipping the egg whites, under-resting or over-resting, baking temperature, under-baking or over-baking, the weather, phase of the moon..(!)..etc.
My biggest stumbling block was lopsided macarons. The macarons would look perfect, with shiny tops and then I’d turn it around and no feet. I discovered that this was due to not piping perfectly straight and ensuring the piping tip was straight too.
Having found what methods work for me in my kitchen I am now addicted to making macarons and playing with flavours! So here I have decided to share some of what I have learned and what methods I use.
French or Italian
Macarons can be made by the French meringue method whereby the egg whites and caster sugar are whipped into stiff peaks of meringue before adding the almond meal mixture, or the Italian method in which a hot sugar syrup is added to whipped egg whites to make the meringue. Having experimented with both I now prefer the Italian method, as it gives smoother shinier tops and is also more consistent due to the meringue being more stable.
To age or not to age
Many recipes say to age the egg white before use which dries them out whilst maintaining the protein structure, hence making them more elastic and better for whipping. I use pasteurized egg whites now so no need to age and I don’t have copious amounts of egg yolks to use!
Silicone mats or baking paper
I started off using baking paper but found that I got lopsided macarons at the edges of the tray as well as not being perfectly round. I believed this was because the paper wasn’t completely flat having been taken off a roll. I moved to silicon mats and no longer had lopsided macarons and they were perfectly round. My mats aren’t specifically for macarons so don’t have a template. I decided to create my own using a home made circle template (4cm diameter) and measured them to the size of my trays. Heading to the local stationary store, I had them laminated and voila (!), they can be wiped down after use and never have to worry about mismatched macarons.
In the early days I invested in a beautiful large heavy duty baking tray to maximise the chances of macaron success. However, I’ve found the thinner the better. This also helps in ensuring even heat all over the tray and less chance of warping.
This I have found isnt essential. The theory behind resting your macarons is that a skin forms on top and when they are put in the oven and begin to rise the air is forced out at the bottom creating those lovely feet. There have been times when the weather has been damp or for some unknown reason my macarons have taken too long to form a skin. I instead have found using the oven to dry them instead has worked wonders. Find out more in one of my macaron classes.
Temperature and baking time
I started off baking at 160°C for 12-14mins, removing the macarons when they no longer had a ‘wobble’ which shows they were cooked (or so I thought). However, they were collapsing completely on cooling which I discovered was due to the fact the insides weren’t actually cooked enough. I experimented with different temperatures and found that by baking my macarons at 130°C for approx 25mins they came out perfect! However, (and this is a BIG however!), each and every oven is different, and you must experiment to find what suits you.
PS: Its MACARONS not macaroons!