Macarons are often considered challenging due to their delicate and demanding nature. However, several factors contribute to the difficulty of creating perfect macarons.
Selections of macarons
The batter used for macarons requires precise measurements and techniques. Overmixing the batter can lead to deformed-flat macarons, while undermixing can result in uneven shapes or inadequate formation of the feet - the ruffled edges characteristic of macarons. Therefore, it requires practice and a keen understanding of the mixing process.
If the piped batter is not dry enough, it cannot hold the steam causing the shell to crack or deform. It's the reason why drying is very crucial when it comes to making macarons.
Although making macarons isn't easy, it's not rocket science. The hardest part is baking the shells while making the filling is not complicated. To produce a proper macaron, you must pay attention to the three essential factors; Mixing, Drying, and Baking. These stages of making macaron shells affect the texture and aesthetics of the final product. If you don't pay attention to either of them, I can assure you that your macarons will fail.
It doesn't matter if you're making vegan macarons or regular ones. They both have the same process. The only difference is that vegan macarons don't use eggs. Instead, potato protein is used to replace egg whites for making the meringue.
The anatomy of macarons consists of the foot (base), the head (flat surface), and the body - the soft and chewy part between the foot and the top.
During the baking process, the top prevents the steam from escaping. The steam pushes the entire head upwards, allowing the steam to escape at the base, thus forming the foot.
Tip #1 What Meringue Should You Use For Macaronage?
You should use the more stable Italian version to produce a decent macaron. Besides being more stable, Italian meringue also gives the macaron shell a shiny-smooth surface.
While the French meringue is easy to make and less complicated, the result could be better. In addition, it doesn't have the same shine that Italian or Swiss meringue has. Therefore, I recommend using the Italian version.
Mixing macaron batter or macaronage
Tip #2 The "Flowing Lava" Consistency
Since most have yet to see one, describing the macaron batter as similar to flowing lava is tricky. Instead, drop a spoonful of batter onto the tray to test the optimal consistency. If it's too thick, you have to mix it more. If it spreads very quickly, then it's over-mixed. Use the stand mixer to do most of the work in the first mixing stage. Then, use hand mixing on the last part to control the consistency.
Keep in mind that you can't fix an over-mixed macaron batter. I prefer slightly over-mixed batter to make the shell flat. Burger-bun-shaped shell tends to break easily, and I don't like my macarons that look like mini burgers.
Recipes tell you nothing. Learning techniques is the key." - Tom Colicchio
Tip #3 How Long Should You Dry the Macarons?
The clear answer is - it depends! Humidity is macaron's enemy. Put it this way; drying time is longer if your workplace is humid and less time if your kitchen is dry and well-ventilated.
As a pastry chef who has baked macarons for the last ten years, my experience taught me to refrain from baking under-dried macarons. It's the main reason a macaron cracks, wrinkles, and causes an undeveloped foot or base. The rule of thumb is better to bake over-dried macarons than the opposite.
Tip #4 How Long Do You Bake Macarons?
Again, the straight answer is - it depends! There are many factors affecting baking time. Let's list them one by one;
· Type of oven used - a convection oven is the best, but your standard home oven works too. Air circulation is essential for baking macaron shells. That is why a convection oven is a wise choice.
· The size of macarons - obviously, the larger the macarons, the longer they bake, and less time for the smaller ones.
· The color - ever wonder why a green macaron burns faster than the red one? Green is a primary color with no shades of red or blue, thus making the browning more visible. You can fix this by lowering the baking temperature by 5 or 10 degrees and increasing the baking time.
Fortunately, there is a standard benchmark to follow when baking macaron shells. Assuming your macaron size is medium, about 4 cm - 4.5 cm in diameter, and perfectly dry, the baking time should be between 15 to 18 minutes in a 135°C - 150°C or 275°F - 300°F preheated oven. The shells should peel off easily when thoroughly cooked and cooled down.
Tip #5 The problems you may encounter during baking
Hollow shells (see photo)happen when the oven temperature is too high and the steam is trapped inside the oven with no exhaust fan. Opening the door for at least 10 seconds halfway through baking prevents the shell from rising too much.
No Foot (see photo) issues occur when the meringue is too loose, the batter is too wet, or the oven temperature is too low.
The main reason for Shell Cracking is that the skin has yet to develop because the batter needs to be dry enough. Too high a temperature is also a possible cause.
Well-dried and properly baked macarons
Now that we've examined the intricacies of making macarons, you should be able to produce a decent macaron, regardless if you're a beginner or a professional baker or pastry chef.
If you still have doubts, grab a free copy of the How To Make Macarons Easy ebook. The digital booklet includes tips on proper batter mixing, drying, storing macarons, and many more.