Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tips for getting that perfect macaron

Truth be told, I failed quite a few batches before I got it right.
When I finally succeeded, I also realized I was being sabotaged, both by my unreliable equipment and my gut feeling.
Yes, macarons are tricky little cookies. And what's more annoying, is that adding to the fact that they aren't the easiest to make, they also aren't very cheap. If you are like me, you might have experienced that more often than not, when they fail, it's an unsalvageable mess. Not mentioning cleaning up.

Humidity, temperature, over and under beating, even the pipping method can wield variable results. I have yet to reach the perfect macaron and I'm still struggling to get rid of those pesky air pockets. They aren't so much of a problem really, specially when Chef Pierre Hermé himself mentions that before filling the macarons, the inside of the shells can be slightly pressed to make space for the cream. When left to mature, those air pockets become practically unnoticeable. Still...

Let me tell you that almost all recipes for macarons are extremely similar, except some are made with the french meringue method and others with the Italian meringue method. The french method is seemingly easier, but it's also easier to overwork the batter (with disastrous results). When using the Italian meringue method, you are required to boil sugar syrup to a certain temperature and add it, while boiling hot,  to the egg whites while beating these full speed. It's more intimidating at first and requires you to have a sugar thermometer and preferably a good stand mixer (with a stainless steel bowl), but you get a far more stable batter. Once you almost reached the right consistency, you can even divide the batter and make different batches of colors and flavors and you'll be alright.
On the other hand, the french method, because it's faster, allows you to make more batches... I'm still not sure which one I prefer, but since I have both the time and the material, I like playing it safe and use the italian method.

Any way you go about it, here's my personal check list for successful macarons:

1. Have your oven temperature checked - more often than not, it lies by over 10 to 20 degrees Celcius. In the world of macarons, that is not acceptable.
2. Measure your ingredients exactly - a digital scale is a must. Beside, it will make you feel like a mad scientist.
3. Do all the ingredient prepping the day before, this includes:
  • Drying your almond meal in the oven and mixing it with your powdered sugar and blending both together.
  • Weight your egg whites and leave outside the fridge for at least 24 hours
  • Weight all the remaining ingredients.
  • Put everything in individual containers, label if necessary.
 4. Using a little bit of dried egg white (albumin) and tartaric cream in the meringue will make the batter even more stable. Don't be affraid to use them.

I usually find those and other unusual products in specialized shops like The Cook Store and 4Chef, both on Hachashmonaim-החשמונאים.

Here's the dried egg powder (pure albumin). You just need about 5 g of this for a whole batch of macaron.

For the step by step recipe, I followed the excellent guide by Mercotte, which is the most thorough I have yet to see. And most importantly, it works.    

 The batter should flow like magma... 

Here they are, ready for the plunge... 
(I'm using a Teflon sheet by the way - best stuff I ever tried!)

   ...and 13 minutes later.

I decided to fill these with a rose flavored buttercream. But no tasting just yet, they have to stay in the fridge for about 3 days until the flavor matures and the cookie becomes one with the cream.

You'll soon be in my belly.

Cheers all!


  1. will they really still be in your fridge three days from now?
    now, that's will power.

  2. Well, I did some Q.A on one of them, just to make sure I had a reason to wait three days. ;)

  3. if by 'one' you mean three.. :P

  4. Those look wonderful!!! Very impressed. Love macaroons, but dread making them. I do cocoa-nut ones and they are so fragile. Am stealing your recipe! Thanks for the tips. :)

  5. I can't believe you made those yourself. I am SO impressed!