Monday October 24, 2011
Macarons are for eating
When I’ve posted about macarons before, in Macaron Mythbusters and the Macaron Ten Commandments, I wrote out of sheer frustration. I work full time making a living out of sugar, eggs and chocolate and of all the baking chores I have to accomplish at work in a given week, I count macarons among the least obnoxious.
Every time I read a macaron recipe online or in a cook book, I get so frustrated I literally ball my hands into fists and go, aarrghh through clenched teeth. Why must recipes espouse so much needless complication, from obnoxious special ingredients (blanched almonds only! cornstarch free powdered sugar!) to unreasonable demands on time that kill spontaneity in the kitchen.
Yeah, some things (like a complex, yeast raised bread) take time and planning. Macarons are not one of those things. At work, I just don’t have time to age whites or tie up sheet pans for hours on end with unbaked shells.
So I climbed up on my little soap box and said what I needed to say. I had absolutely no idea how many people were just waiting for that little nudge to dive in and make a batch.
After countless stories sent to me in emails, comments, tweets, and photos uploaded on twitpic or to the BraveTart facebook page, I find myself needing to write another macaron post. This time, out of sheer pride. I am so stinkin’ proud of every one of you that took the plunge, fired up your mixer, and trusted me when I said to forget drying, forget aging, forget even using almonds and use whatever nut you’d like.
So rather than write a blog post highlighting photos of my macarons, I want to highlight photos of yours.
Some of them aren’t “perfect” and not only is that not an insult, it’s the point. The point of making macarons is because they’re delicious. If you don’t get that, you’re missing out big time. So while you spend time fretting that yours won’t have little feet or shiny domes and telling yourself you’re not cut out to make macarons, these folks are pouring a cup of coffee and helping themselves to seconds.
Amy blogs at Baking and Mistaking. She made a batch of raspberry chocolate macarons. In her pajamas.
Jessica doesn’t blog, but she baked up some lemon-lime macarons for a friend’s bridal shower and emailed me the photo. She had such success that she’s now preparing to make a few batches for her own wedding. Congratulations!
Robin doesn’t blog either, but she has a camera phone, a kitchen, and a Facebook account. When she made a batch of delicious (but cracked) blue macarons, she posted the photo to the BraveTart Facebook page for some help diagnosing what went wrong.
Notice a pattern with the blue macarons in the the photo below? The center macs look perfect while the cracked ones only appear around the edges. This told me Robin has a solid technique; pretty domes and frilly feet don’t come from bad methodology. I told her it looked like an oven temperature problem, most likely her oven ran hot around the walls and caused her macarons to bake unevenly. Armed with that, Robin turned the temperature down 15° and baked a second batch.
Voila! Perfection. Chubby, adorable Earl Gray macarons with Fleur de Sel Caramel and Creme Fraiche filling. Tea? Earl Gray? Hot!
Amanda from Amansterdam traveled to Paris to enjoy macarons (jealous!) and wanted to make some for herself. But reading too many blog horror stories kept her from trying. She felt motivated after reading my post and decided to give it a shot and make them for the first time. She made classic vanilla macarons filled with chocolate ganache.
Isabel, from Rolling Pins and Needles had never made macarons without aged whites or a cooked meringue. After a failed batch, she wanted to try again, but didn’t want to wait three days with a bowl of egg whites on her counter. She found me through a google search and made up a gorgeous batch of elderflower macarons (far left). Her success led her to bake macarons again and again, playing with different colors and flavors and getting more confident with each try.
Michelle wrote a short and sweet post with a photo of her first ever batch of macarons on her blog, Michelle, etc.. She wrote,
“These are my very first macarons. I’ve never had a macaron. I’ve never made a macaron. They aren’t perfect and that’s ok.
They remind me of little almond pillows with thick and delicious buttercream. Actually, that’s what they are. They are quite tasty and melt in the mouth.”
I teared up when I read that. Yes. Yes. Make macarons because you’ve never had one before.
We can’t all go to Paris or live in a big city with adorable macaron cafes on every street corner. Make macarons because you want to eat one, not because you want to look at one. If you just want to look at stunning macarons, spend a few hours with a Google image search and save yourself the trouble of a messy kitchen.
I don’t mean to say you can’t aim for perfection, just that you have to realize that’s what you’re doing. Aiming. And you might miss. And that’s okay.
Cathy from Savory Notes wrote a great blog post on what she’s learned making macarons. She made them a few times, each batch teaching her something new; what undermixing looks like, what overmixing look like. Knowing those two things, she also learned what “just right” looks like too.
Ruziha started her macaron journey by leaving a comment for me saying, “please pray for me.” She went from needing supernatural assistance to macaron pro by making batch after batch to get the hang of it. Her photos illustrate how you can learn from every batch you make: she started with flat, cracked footless macarons, and after a few tries wound up with smooth domed macarons with big feet. If she gave up after the first try, she wouldn’t have ever known how close to success she had come. But she persevered and now has something to show for her efforts.
Beca, a self taught baker who works in a bakery, had never made macarons before, but wanted to sell them at work and find a good use for all the leftover whites hanging around the shop. She’s got macarons in regular rotation now, and getting better with every batch.
Carrie, the Poet in the Pantry, wrote a beautiful post to accompany the batch of macarons she made with my method. She wrote,
“Nobody is perfect. And even those who are closest to it did not get there immediately or overnight. Everything takes work–practice–and good technique. Just like the concert pianist did not get there by sitting down that very night on stage and throwing together a little ditty without any preparation, it is unfair to expect of ourselves Macaron Cafe-quality macs on the first try. Or to be angry because someone else did manage the same. “
Lucy from Crumbs of Comfort had made macarons before, but decided to try my recipe/method because of its simplicity.
You can definitely tell from the photo that this ain’t her first rodeo, but if you too have made macarons before and have a hard time imagining them without aged whites, dried shells, and Italian meringue, look no further.
She took such wonderful step-by-step photos of the process that I include a link to her pictures in my macaron recipe so first timers can see for themselves what each step should look like. Click through the above link to see her step by step photos, or just enjoy her finished product here.
In fact, Mardi’s gained so much macaron success through hard work and practice that she now teaches a macaron class at La Dolci studio in Toronto.
If you want to make a delicious cookie, make a batch of macarons. If you want to make a flawless, drop dead gorgeous cookie, make batches. Doing anything perfectly time and again can only come with practice and working through failure.
Macaron perfection is only required from those charging money for it. For everyone else, it’s optional. The only thing required from you, at home, with your macarons? A cup of coffee.
Stop beating yourself up.
84 comments and counting
Oct 24, 2011 · 12:11 PM
You quoted Captain Picard! That’s about six different kinds of awesome.
I made macarons years ago with pistachios (filled with pistachio buttercream, mmmmmmm), before I ever had any idea that they were supposed to be tricky or that almonds were standard. I just found a recipe I liked and tried it and it was DELICIOUS. This post it making me want to make them again!
· bethany actually · bethanyactually.com
Oct 24, 2011 · 1:18 PM
Add me to your list! I followed your directions, and ended up with some marvelous vanilla bean macarons!
· TinaMarie · www.bakingaisle.com
Oct 24, 2011 · 1:31 PM
Yes, we sometimes put too much emphasis on appearance instead of taste. This post does have a lot of helpful information. Thanks for sharing this-I may have to try making macarons again.
· Tina@flourtrader · flourtrader.blogspot.com
Oct 24, 2011 · 8:20 PM
FANtastic post. I just love seeing all the beautiful macs. Love.
· Mad Hausfrau · www.diaryofamadhausfrau.com
Oct 24, 2011 · 8:36 PM
Thank you, Brave Tart, for demystifying the macaroons! Not that I need any encouragement to bake or eat them. I’m with you on this one – they just need to be baked and eaten, no magic necessary. And they are always beautiful just the way they are Cheers!
· Bee · zmagazynu.blogspot.com/
Oct 24, 2011 · 10:21 PM
I just want to say thank you! I have also never had one or baked one, frankly I have been down right terrified to! This post is amazing and I am so happy that you have had so many bakers that have had successful macarons…I will be looking over your other posts and hopefully make some successful macarons without the help of my $18 dollar macaron specialty cookbook!
· Rashawn · ramblingsofrandomrashawn.wordpress.com
Oct 25, 2011 · 7:49 AM
Stella I cannot thank you enough for demystifying macarons (the French meringue method anyway) for me. I love that they are somewhat more reliable now that I know what looks and feels right and I love sharing my knowledge (well, your knowledge) with others at my crazy popular classes at Le Dolci! THANK YOU!
· eatlivetravelwrite · www.eatlivetravelwrite.com
Oct 25, 2011 · 11:19 AM
@bethany, I try to quote him as often as possible. But seriously, I think if more people made macarons without knowing their back-story, we’d have a lot more happy bakers out there.
@TinaMarie, they’re so cute! Congratulations!!
@Tina, let me know if you do! Good luck.
@Mad Hausfrau, thanks. I’m so proud of everyone who’s made them, they’re all beautiful.
@Bee, let’s turn the tide of macaron acceptance! Let’s be macaron Mr. Rodgers and love them just the way they are!
@Rashawn, haha. You can do it! Just get in there and have fun! It’s like riding a bike, you’ll get the hang of it eventually, but start with training wheels!
@Mardi, rock on girlie! I love that you’re having to push classes out into the new year. That’s so awesome!
Oct 25, 2011 · 12:29 PM
Stella, thank you so much for all these lovely posts on macs. Though I’ve yet to try making some (no digital scale, have to get one first), I’ve read your Macaron Myths and Commandments over ten times and never get bored.
· Sumaiyyah · everylittlecrumb.blogspot.com
Oct 25, 2011 · 7:27 PM
I saw Pierre Herme at the ICC in NYC a couple weeks ago. I contained myself and they didn’t have to call security or anything.
this was a really great post.
· charlie · www.theeverymanskitchen.com/
Oct 25, 2011 · 7:59 PM
I’ve read several blogs and a book on making macarons. Your method is the only one that gave me hope that I could make them. I purchased the ingredients but haven’t made them yet. After reading all these success stories, I’ll have to bite the bullet and go for it.
· Valerie · www.valeriehjohnson.com
Oct 25, 2011 · 8:37 PM
I don’t get the fascination with this little treat.Tasty yes, but object of obsession… No! GREG
· Sippitysup · Www.sippitysup.com
Oct 25, 2011 · 9:12 PM
@Sumaiyyah, haha I’m so glad to entertain. Hope you get that scale. What a great investment!
@charlie, well behaved, sir. Nicely done.
@Valerie, keep us posted! Have fun!
@Greg, I know! I mean, why not Souffles or Madelines or Financiers?
Oct 26, 2011 · 5:29 PM
I read this post this morning, and although I attempted macarons months ago and was disappointed that I didn’t get them perfect the first time, I had to try again. So I’ve already written about getting them right this time, with help from a toddler.
· Marie · blingma.blogspot.com
Oct 28, 2011 · 2:56 AM
@Marie, what a beautiful video! A few macaron misses are to be expected, but as long as you treat them like learning experiences and not just random failures, you're doing great!
@Mallowsota love you!! xoxo
Oct 28, 2011 · 5:46 PM
hi stella, just wanted to say how thrilled i was to read about how easy you thought macarons were to make. Using your instructions I baked my first batch (even though I had a handful of recipes given to me from friends who had attended very posh macaron schools) and the first batch were amazing, looking and tasting exactly as they should. Then the next 5 batches have been horrid with them all cracking and looking all saggy and crinkly in the centre. The only difference is the first ones were just plain flavoured and the next 5 I tried a liquid food colouring. What should I do to break the failure cycle? Is it the food colouring?
Oct 31, 2011 · 5:15 AM
As a tantrum thrower, macarons were starting to ruin everything I love about baking. Then I found your Ten Commandments and Mythbuster posts and a calm returned to my kitchen. Now I’m armed with digital scales and looking forward to experimenting with lots of flavours. Thanks!
Nov 01, 2011 · 3:41 AM
Well, to be fair, some other recipes that call for steps that take more time aren’t all that bad. I tried your macaron recipe thrice, and every time, my macarons cracked and never formed feet. My batter was not overmixed, as when I lifted my spatula, ribbons formed and reincorporated themselves back into the batter within 30 seconds (resembling the magma stage that you describe). After trying another recipe that called for aging the egg whites for at least 4 days, my macarons turned out nearly perfect – no cracks, nicely domed, well-formed feet, etc. I don’t mean to criticize you or anything. I just felt that it was unfair to deride other recipes for macarons, especially when some of those people have spent years experimenting to come up with their recipes. I’m sorry if my post seems a bit rude.
Eventually, I will try your recipe again (I recently bought store-bought almond flour, so maybe this time, it’ll be fine enough for macarons). Thanks for the recipe!
Nov 01, 2011 · 11:13 AM
@NZ Becs, congrats on the scale purchase! Good luck on your macaron adventures, dear.
@Andy, I hear what you’re saying! I certainly don’t mean to deride other recipes, if something works for someone, it works. I absolutely apologize if my tone gave the impression that I think other recipes don’t work, I fully believe they do.
But the point I wanted to make, and perhaps I did not successfully do that, is that making beautiful macarons is a skill. It requires practice. And other recipes often over-emphasize certain steps, like aging or drying, that have nothing to do with skill-building. So yes, those steps may increase stability or otherwise have a positive effect on the outcome, but they don’t foster learning.
With these recipes, people walk away from their macarons (success or failures) thinking, “Ah ha! I did the magic steps right/wrong! No wonder.” Instead of actually learning the art of macaronage, learning the quirks of their oven, etc. Not all people fall prey to this, I’m sure many people do follow other recipes and focus on macaronage, and learn a great deal! It’s just frustrating to read, again and again, the only way you can make macarons is with aged whites/with almonds/with dried shells, etc. when that’s just patently not true. Anyone can make gorgeous macarons with any recipe if they’re willing to put in the practice.
I’m thrilled to hear you made beautiful macarons with another recipe, and thank you for your thoughtful comment. Cheers!
Nov 01, 2011 · 2:06 PM
This post makes me happy to be a macaron baker.
· Missie · www.cassidyphotography.com
Nov 01, 2011 · 3:21 PM
Ah, that makes a lot more sense now. Yeah, I do agree that there are other ways to make macarons and that it’s not completely necessary to age your egg whites or dry out your flour. Thanks for the clarification! And sorry for the last post. (:
One thing from this post that really stuck with me was your comment that not all of us can go to Paris and buy macarons. That’s so, so true, and it frustrates me when people (like David Lebovitz) tell me, “If you want macarons, go to France.” Oh, yeah, let me just get $5000 out of nowhere and spend it on a trip to Paris so that I can go to Ladurée and Pierre Hermé for macarons. That’s going to happen. David is a culinary genius, but that comment and the comment that French people don’t make their own macarons because that would be like Americans making their own hot dog buns irked me. And your comment would be my counterargument – not all of us are made of money, and not all of us can afford to go to France and buy the world’s best macarons. When a macaron is $1.75 each (even more in NYC – like nearly $3?), the natural response would be to bake your own. And who cares about perfection, especially when it comes to a cookie? Making mistakes is okay – it’s part of the learning process. (:
Nov 01, 2011 · 8:25 PM
Hi! I’d been wanting to make macarons for such a long time (i’ve never had one) but i was definitely nervous after reading about how hard it is to make them. Luckily I found your website though, and my first ever batch of macarons came out soooo good! A few of them were not perfectly round but they still tasted good! Thank you so much!
Nov 02, 2011 · 8:37 AM
I do love it when you rant about Macs! Funny!
The irony is they’re now a money spinner for cakeshops/bakeries, when I visited Paris in May one of the bakeries had 2 full-time staff just to make them. But these were once a way to use up spare egg whites bakeries were left after making lots of rich custard based desserts and a way of using up the low heat left in the oven after the other baking was done. Win-Win for bakeries.
This reminds me of the Portuguese custard tart “pasteis de nata” a must do on my list to tackle…from my understanding it came out of making use of egg yolks because the egg whites were used to clarify wine!
Now – wouldn’t the perfect match be macarons & pasteis de nata?
· azelias kitchen · www.azeliaskitchen.net
Nov 02, 2011 · 10:35 AM
After posting I realise one of the constant comments about meringues is to use old eggs but this doesn’t make any sense to me.
When I researched meringues recently for my post http://www.azeliaskitchen.net/blog/all-in-one-meringue-method/
and looked into what the proteins do in the egg whites this is what I discovered and wrote in an answer to comment made on the post:
“..the largest protein in the white is ovomucin which provides thickness to the egg white and as it ages it breaks down and dissolves causing it to thin. Ovomucin plays a small part in the heat coagulation of eggs, it’s main act is in the foaming and helping to stabilise meringue.
So my next question would be, why are we told older eggs (thinner whites) are better for whisking and meringue?”
I’ve only started to look into this and don’t know if I’ll have the time to dig deeper but as you can see I can’t reconcile with the idea of old eggs & meringue.
· azelias kitchen · www.azeliaskitchen.net
Nov 04, 2011 · 4:48 PM
I just wanted to say Hi- I’m not a baker – just a lover of eating baked goods I love your philosophy! I heart people that aren’t snobby about the things they do well. Kudos to you for encouraging others!
· Carmel · ourfifthhouse.blogspot.com
Nov 05, 2011 · 10:43 PM
@Missie, me too!
@Andy, no worries my friend! I totally could see where you were coming from. So long as people jump in and start making macarons, having fun, and eating them I don’t care whose recipe they use.
@nicole, hurray, I’m so happy to hear it! Piping macarons just right does take a bit of practice, it’s like the last two you pipe always turn out perfect because you’ve got the knack by then, haha.
@azelia, interesting! I hadn’t heard that about macarons, but it makes perfect sense! Thanks for sharing that story. Likewise, pasteis de nata are new to me too. The theory I’ve always heard on aged whites is that they physically lose moisture, which creates the dry meringue ideal for macarons. And most recipes with aged whites don’t whip the meringue stiffly, so it may not matter about that protein. Intriguing. You’ve given me a lot of googling to do.
@Carmel, thanks so much for stopping by. I agree. Life’s too short for snobbery!
Nov 06, 2011 · 1:28 PM
Hi! I attended the FoodBuzz Festival this weekend and was listening to you talk at the Social Networking session so I decided to pop on by and check out your blog. WIsh I’d done so sooner!
I was just talking about how scared I am to try macarons with another attendee. Looking over this and your other macaron post give me a lot of courage!
And also — Picard quote = you rock ;D
· Michelle · www.delishiono.com
Nov 07, 2011 · 8:39 PM
Okay, I’m inspired. I’ve made macarons twice but they haven’t come out smooth on top, and the frilliness on the bottom has been inconsistent. But now I think I’ll try again, if only to get one of those gorgeous macaron photos of my own. Thanks for the info!
· Karen @ The Tamale Girl · tamalegirlblog.com
Nov 07, 2011 · 10:17 PM
@Michelle, thanks so much for coming to our session! I’m so thrilled to see how many geeky bakers there are out there. Hope you conquer macarons soon!
@Karen, you’re so welcome. I hope you get the macarons of your dreams soon!
Nov 08, 2011 · 9:18 AM
Hi Stella! So nice to meet you at the FB Festival I am not at all surprised that your blog is… how shall I say… Trekkie-inspired??? Those macaroons look divine… I am STILL wondering who stole the last macaroon at the FB Festival!!! Pfffft.
· Stephanie @ The Travelling Tastebuds · www.thetravellingtastebuds.com
Nov 10, 2011 · 3:03 AM
· Kemi · www.nipponnin.com
Nov 10, 2011 · 7:50 PM
@Stephanie, well, if it makes you feel any better, I didn’t get any macarons at FBZfest. Ha! It was so nice to meet you too, thanks for stopping by!
Nov 14, 2011 · 10:56 AM
@Marita, there’s like my grand-macs or I’m a mac-match maker? Thanks for coming by!
Nov 21, 2011 · 2:12 PM
Stella, how did I miss this fabulous post? Great round-up of pics from the macaron lovers. Couldn’t agree more with you – although perhaps we’re using different egg whites. Sometimes it works when I don’t age them but I prefer to. If I manage to get professional egg whites, though, there’s no need for keeping them aside, as it does act differently. Totally agree with cutting out all the other superstitious steps and on taking the fear out of them. I posted about many posh Parisian pastry shops that even SELL macarons that are not perfect. Their taste is wonderful but do they care about how they look? Nope.
Cheers to many more delicious macarons and coffee!
· Jill @ MadAboutMacarons · madaboutmacarons.com/archives/3429
Nov 22, 2011 · 12:23 PM
@Jill, it depends on the recipe as to whether or not aged whites work well or not. I formulated mine with more sugar and a hyper-dry meringue, which gives similar results to aged whites. My main theory was most people are making macarons as an experiment and aren’t doing much advanced planning, so aging whites is often a prohibitive step. But for recipes that are formulated differently, it’s essential.
I love that for Parisians, it’s about how delicious they are, not how perfect. Because, really, isn’t that the point? Some of those shops, as I understand, have machines to do the piping. If you don’t have a mechanized process, then inevitably your results will vary from batch to batch. We’re just people after all. Everyone needs to relax and enjoy them!! As always, thanks for stopping by, Jill!
Nov 22, 2011 · 7:27 PM
I have made macarons few times with good results, but wanted to perfect them so I tried your recipe and method. I was a little disappointed because they came out completely hollow!! I read somewhere that underbaking would be the cause and I made sure to overbake the next batch and still completely hollow! Any idea to why?
Nov 24, 2011 · 10:35 AM
@Arissa, oh no! I have really struggled understanding why some people experience hollows and others don’t. 95% of the time, mine turn out fine, but sometimes they do turn out hollow as well. I am not fully versed in the hows and whys of it, but in my experience, it seems to be when I whip the whites to a stage where they seem stiff, but do not actually clump in the whisk. Most times, my whites are in a nice, stiff clump. Sometimes, when I lower the bowl, the whisk just lifts cleanly out of the whites. It’s those batches that I feel are most likely to turn out hollow. I wish I could explain that more, but unfortunately, I just don’t fully understand the mechanics. :p
Nov 29, 2011 · 6:24 AM
Thanks for your answer, Stella. Totally agree. It’s funny about the perfect vs delicious not always being in sync. I also believe they need to be delicious, but if you are paying through the nose in some places, then you do expect them to be rather perfect looking, too. If we’re making them at home, we should just be less hard on ourselves, as you say.
Sorry, the post I linked to was broken: but I mentioned this going around some Pâtisseries. Also- even seeing some pâtisseries in action with their piping machines, they don’t all come out perfect (but the taste was great!)
· Jill @ MadAboutMacarons · madaboutmacarons.com/2011/04/perfect-macarons/
Dec 02, 2011 · 5:22 AM
My love-hate relationship with macarons started after my dad and soon-to-be stepmom returned from a trip to Spain, Italy and France, with a perfect little box of macarons.
There they sat: little puffs of colour, looking foreign yet inviting, intimidating yet delicious. They had saved me a pink one; raspberry flavour with a sweet, jam-like filling and a tangy aftertaste.
This delicacy was something completely new to me. In South Africa your chances of walking into a bakery and seeing a batch of macarons on display are extremely small. Here you barely even get almond flour or vanilla pods. We have a lot of little bakeries called “Tuis Nywerhede”. But in these you will find your typical South African baked goods: koeksisters, hertzoggies, lemingtons, some cakes, some cookies, some cupcakes, and always melktert. Never macarons. And while there is nothing wrong with any of these treats, it gets kind of dull after 22 years.
I never knew I liked baking until i tried it. Now I’m completely, irrevocably and utterly in love with it. And of course, like all arrogant first-time home cooks whose first attempt at a Devil’s Food Cake didn’t flop and who can manage a decent Lemon Meringue, I decided that all these traditional ‘easy’ recipes that everyone over here can make isn’t for me. Why make koeksisters when you can make pasteis de nata? Who would want to bake melktert when you can bake a delicious Gateaux St Honore?
Oh, things were a lot of fun at first. Each new thing I tried came out very good, if not perfect. So The Ego grew and grew and became an all comsuming monster: “Anything you can bake, I can bake better!” I’d see a new recipe on some lifestyle show on TV and The Ego would whisper slyly into my ear: “You can do that. You know you can. Maybe even better.” Most of the time I could. My first attempt at home made marshmallows even turned out perfect, way better than anyone expected. After that came all the other sweet treats. Butterscotch, Turkish Delight, Fudge, I was at the top of the world in my little culinary empire. Queen of the Kitchen.
And then my dad returned with those tiny little bits of melt-in-your-mouth heaven. At first the thought of baking them myself didn’t occur to me. But then I saw a bag of almond flour in a local health shop and I though to myself, “Why not?” At home I jumped on Google and typed in ‘recipes containing almond flour’. The search results shouted macarons, and my tastebuds sang beautiful little angelchoirs in anticipation.
The first recipe I tried was a delicious chocolate macaron. But arrogant and hasty, I didn’t do half the things I should have. The result was a baking pan full of darkness. No form in it, they didnt even slightly stay in circles, it looked like I tried to make brownies. Tasted like brownies as well, quite delicious. But definitely an enormous macaron failure.
The Ego suddenly whimpered. No more boasting, “Oh that’s easy!” or any clapping myself on the shoulder. I treaded light footed around all further macaron recipes I found. I’d enter my kitchen kingdom, whip out a macaron recipe, start to get all the ingredients out, and then The Ego and The Guts would remember the previous attempt. Together we’d sneak back out of the kitchen like embarassed fools.
The next time I had the guts to try macarons again was two years later. This time I came prepared. Armed with a better electric mixer, better pans and ingredients, and more knowledge on meringues and macaronage, I tried again. And this time, I actually had some success. Out of the oven came delicious little shiny shells, but getting them off the pan…that was an entirely different story. Every single one of them stuck to the pan. They wouldn’t budge. No matter how hard I tried, no matter what technique I used, they just would not come off. So into the dustbin went sheet upon sheet of cracked, stuck little shells, garnished with a few tears, The Ego, and The Guts.
6 months later, and I decided to try again. I was in charge of planning and organizing my step-mom’s bridal shower. For the first time since the last failure, The Ego showed up to the party. This time he didn’t try to convince me that I can make perfect macarons, no. This time he whispered other sly, evil little plans in my ear. “Your in-laws are coming as well. They can all bake. At least they think they can. If you don’t bake something utterly delicious and foreign, you’ll always be at the bottom of the foodchain.”
So instead of following the same path everyone else did when hosting a large party and buying all my food from tuis nywerhede and restaurants, I decided, no. I’ll do the cooking and baking myself. For two days straight I was baking away like crazy. My stepmom’s own mother (The Grandma) helped me with the food, and I baked. The party was going to be at this same mother’s house, and since she had two ovens (She has a guest house), we decided it was better to do everything there. Out of our assembly line came piece after piece of delicious baked treats. Irish coffee chocolate cake, pasteis de nata, fruit millefeuille, pavlova, lemon granadilla meringue. I even made sugared roses to decorate the cakes and plates. Everything was beautiful.
Our last item that we decided to make was at this stage, my worst fear. Macarons. Even more so, considering The Grandma had already made quite a few successful batches on her own. And she is a perfectionist in the kitchen. She couldn’t bake cupcakes to save her life, but she could make macarons. Once again The Ego and The Guts fled the kitchen and left me standing alone with The Fear, The Intimidation, and The Grandma.
She meticulously weighed every ingredient to the last gram while I stood by and trembled everytime she asked me to do something. I was afraid my bad macaron mojo would spoil these ones as well, and I could not afford to have these spoiled.
Sha basically did everything. All I had to do was decide if they were pink enough, tasted enough of rosewater, and pipe them. Then I had to time them to the second while they rested. She’s one of those people who believe in MacaronMagic. If you don’t do it EXACTLY in a certain way, they WILL fail. The Fear trembled and The Intimidation grew and The Grandma chasticed me everytime it would look like I was going to do something ‘wrong’.
Into the oven the rested shells went. and to MY absolute delight, out came perfect little shells that actually came off the sheet. But The Grandma wasn’t satisfied. They had a foot. Her idea of perfect macarons don’t have a foot. They weren’t even enough. They weren’t all the same size. And everything that went ‘wrong’ was blamed on my piping and me not letting them stand long enough (30minutes, not 20 minutes). It seemed to her that my bad MacaMojo had followed me, and she then decided that “next time, I’ll do it”.
So now here I sit, looking for something to bake. My family is coming to stay for the weekend and I want to bake something delicious for them. My tastebuds scream for macarons, but The Guts haven’t yet returned from their holiday with The Ego. In their place The Fear is still here to keep me company. And The Fear is a sad little pessimist, always whispering, “What if your oven isn’t accurate with its temperatures? What if they stick to the baking sheet again? What if everybody thinks you should just stick to painting and leave the baking to the people who know what they are doing???” The Fear is a mean little companion.
I will try macarons again. Not today, probably not again in this year. But one day, I WILL conquer The Fear and master The Macaron. But until that day, I’m perfectly happy to drool over your gorgeous macaron pictures and dream of eating them again, one day.
Dec 02, 2011 · 10:31 AM
@Krieksie, what an epic story!! Although, of course, as an American I’m totally enchanted with the tales of all of these South African baked goods I’ve never heard of! I think you need a blog because a) that’s a heck of an entertaining story by b) I think people would love to hear about the pastries you’re so bored of. Maybe seeing people’s enthusiasm would renew your feelings for the desserts of your home. Hmm…
At any rate, I hope you give macarons another shot, without The Grandma there to stress you out! You need a no pressure chance to experiment. Thanks for sharing your story!
Jan 06, 2012 · 10:50 AM
I LOVE you and your blog and your macaron myth busting, no nonsense approach. I too have admired for years the humble macaroon, as they are known over here, but only ever experienced them in London and I’m a good 3 hours from there! I bought a couple of books and it all sounded so intimidating what with sugar thermometers and liquified egg whites so I gave up on the idea, but you.. YOU.. you made me want to try and try I did, I made my first batch made earlier this week half of them blew cracks and half of them were perfect on the same sheet so Im thinking oven is too hot by the walls maybe.. but you know.. they all TASTED amazing and really isnt that what this is really about – if the criteria in this life that mattered were only pretty then frankly most of us wouldnt be allowed to leave the house… and it would be a pretty shallow place to be, but give me bumps, lumps, cracks and breaks any day – in my book thats character – my macaroons were so good most of them never even got filled, my husband couldnt stop eating the shells before I got to fill them! I only managed to fill about 12 of them and Oh MY they were sublime – so THANKS so much – Im making a new batch and turning down the oven, and if that doesnt work I will try and do something else, but its just not always about pretty is it.. I mean look at the truffle butt ugly but one of the finest most exquisite flavours on the planet!
· alysonsblog · alysonsblog.com
Jan 06, 2012 · 9:16 PM
@alysonsblog, haha, so true! It’s what’s inside that counts! I’m so happy to hear about your delicious macarons, congratulations! It can definitely take some practice to master macarons, so you might as well enjoy all the scrumptious “mistakes.” Thanks for stopping by to tell me about how yours turned out, it brought a smile to my face. Cheers!
Jan 09, 2012 · 3:52 PM
First off, let me thank you for posting this blog on macarons. I had a real hoot reading and learning about the myths and commandments. I started making macarons exactly 1 week ago (using different recipes until I found one that had potential) and by last Friday evening, after making 2 batches consistently every single evening (with the recipe that looked promising), I finally arrived to what I consider to be almost perfect macarons – Wohoo! Silky skin, perfect feet, delicate textute, firm dome, no overt “decoloration”…
The only issue I still had was the “hollow” problem but once the shells are filled and the macarons have had time to mature, the hollowness is not AS obvious (especially for those who are not very connaisseur – they are just happy to be eating a very tasty and colorful macaron!).
But being the neurotic perfectionist that I am (I admit….I need to be working on that issue myself!), I went looking for a new recipe to experiment with and to see whether I can just get rid of the hollow shells. That’s when I stumbled on your blog and recipe. I was very excited to read about the myths and not having to use aged egg whites (the other fool proof recipe I used also had us use fresh egg whites that we warm up on a bain-marie for a few seconds). I was even more ecstatic to see the beautiful pictures of your lovely macarons. That was more than enough to have me try out your formula. Seeing that it was my first time and that your recipe yielded many, many shells (and I prefer to make small batches so I can have different colors each time), I cut your recipe in half and went about making the macarons.
Atlas, complete disappointment and frustration. I could almost tell from the minute I started to do the “macaronnage” that the batter was too liquid (and I had given a few strokes only). I read the recipe again and I noticed that your amount of almond meal was much, much lower than my other recipes for the amount of egg whites contained therein. I don’t know how else to explain this ‘failuire”, although I ackbowledge that you and others have successfully made macarons using your recipe. The only difference I could think of is that I used a hand mixer rather than my Kitchen Aid (with half the egg whites, my whip from my KA would not have touched the bottom of my huge KA bowl). Nevertheless, I still respected the 11 min whipping, increasing the hand mixer’s power every 3 min. The mering was much firmer than my usual “bec d’oiseau” (not quite grainy but close….with the meringue being fumbled up on the whisk like the picture from Mardi’s blog). Having said this…I just don’t know why it did not turn out OK. I know that I have now experimented enough to see the differences between the folding textures -underfolded, overfolded and good lava-like folded.
The other thing I did differently was to add the coloring at a different stage than yours. Since I wanted to make 2 colors, rather than add the powder at the meringue stage, I divided the batter into 2 batches after I started mixing the almond/sugar mixture to the meringue. Right before the batter came to the ripe lava texture, I added color powder (and a bit of matcha powder)to one, and color powder (and 1-2 drops of peppermint oil) to the second.
The resulting macarons using your recipe (with the exception of the coloring stage above) had no feet, they cracked, they had wrinkles rather than a silky skin, etc….
I am afraid to give this recipe a second trial. Perhaps it is because of this coloring stage that was different from your instructions…who knows? Still, I was a little surprise by the small amount of almond meal but if you and others did not have a problem with it, why should I? Anyhow, thought I’d let you know what kind of result I got with your formula. Thanks again for posting it.
Jan 12, 2012 · 10:43 AM
@Mado, You know your macaron recipes! My recipe does indeed have a different ratio of ingredients compared to most, and I’m sorry to hear you didn’t get the results you were looking for with my recipe. I have never made macarons with a hand mixer before, so it may be possible that it simply doesn’t beat the meringue quite dry enough.
It’s possible, even on a Kitchen Aid, to beat the meringue until it’s fluffy enough which is different than it being dry enough. When it’s beaten that dry, it takes about 15 turns to even get the almond flour to incorporate, so if yours became runny after only a few strokes, it may be that the meringue was not dry enough. I don’t know that the problem was with your meringue (you describe it as being nice and stiff), but the difference of equipment sounds like the biggest difference between your attempt and others’ so it’s the first thing I look to. You may be able to experiment with your whipping times to find a better time-frame for your mixer. I hope some of this helps, thanks for your detailed account! Cheers!
Jan 14, 2012 · 2:15 PM
Inspiring! I need a challenging recipe to continue pursuing my passion of cooking and learning more about food. Will definitely look forward to making your macaroon recipe very soon.
· Sanura · www.myliferunsonfood.com
Jan 15, 2012 · 12:50 PM
@Sanura, will if you’re up for a challenge, the macarons won’t let you down! They definitely take a bit of practice to master, so just treat each batch like a learning opportunity and make the most of it. Thanks for stopping by!
Mar 14, 2012 · 10:44 PM
Why do you beat the meringue on different speeds? I’ve made a stiff meringue (for macarons) by beating on high speed the entire time, and they’ve turned out fine. Just curious…
· Christina · edibletimes.com
Mar 15, 2012 · 11:55 AM
@Christina, good to know! The different speeds/times are just part of an effort to standardize the processes and eliminate variables for beginners. It by no means is something anyone needs to adhere to, but for those just starting out, a framework can be helpful in determining how long to whip and how to avoid overwhipping.
Mar 29, 2012 · 11:48 PM
Just made myself some wagon wheel macarons, using your recipe. You are a true inspiration, not just for the fact you have the best Macaron tutorial out there, but because of your ability to inspire and encourage the success of others! Couldn’t thank you enough. .
Mar 29, 2012 · 11:56 PM
@JaySains, you are oh so welcome. Congrats on a successful batch! I love that you piped out a fun shape; too cool! Many happy (macaron) returns to you.
Apr 04, 2012 · 4:49 PM
@Sabrina, you are so welcome. Have fun and enjoy the delicious results!
Apr 07, 2012 · 2:15 PM
Hi Woori! Yes, Ruzihas first batch was undermixed. I hope you have some luck with my recipe, but remember the key to macaron success is consistency. If you change recipes, flavors, and techniques all the time, you’re starting from scratch each time and what you learn from one batch doesn’t apply to the next. So whether it’s my recipe or someone else’s, just give yourself plenty of time to learn. Good luck and happy baking!
Apr 08, 2012 · 11:14 AM
I just wanted to thank you. I have been wanting to make macarons for over a year but every time the urge to try it struck me, I realized I hadn’t aged egg whites for 2 days or it was rainy, or it wasn’t a full moon. I stumbled onto your post yesterday and decided to go for it. I followed your recipe and they turned out perfectly, cold eggs straight from the fridge and all. I have frilly feet, pefect domes, and most importantly, a tasty Easter dish for my family. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Apr 08, 2012 · 12:00 PM
@Aimee, congratulations! Thanks so much for taking the time to report back on your macaron success, what happy news. I’m glad you decided to give it a go. Happy Easter!
May 21, 2012 · 5:35 AM
I’ve tried making macarons but feet just refuse to grow out. I think my meringue has been mixed properly (or did I over-mix it?) and then piped. But I can’t just make heads or tails why they are flat, the insides kinda hollow, tops a bit cracked and the total absence of feet. The meringue was also lava-y, so to speak, enough after folding the dry stuff in. Please help D:
May 21, 2012 · 10:57 PM
@Krysten, it’s hard to diagnose without seeing the macarons or knowing all of the details, but usually when feet refuse to form it has to do with there being too much air in the mixture. Sometimes you can “stir” the dry ingredients into the meringue enough to get a good lava texture, but without deflating the meringue as much as it needs. Try to rub the batter against the sides of your bowl with a spatula to crush some of the air out and see if that helps. Good luck!
Jul 08, 2012 · 5:01 PM
Hi, first let me say I love your blog! Now, I wonder if there are any suggestions you could make for baking at a high altitude (5700 ft.)? made my first Macarons yesterday. Most cracked. And they were hollow. I’m putting too much pressure into this….I would absolutely adore to have these beauties at the shower I am giving for my first grandchild! Regardless, I would love to get this right sometime! Thank you so much for any help you may offer!!!!
Jul 09, 2012 · 4:41 PM
@DeeDee, I’m sorry to say I don’t have any experience in high altitude baking. If you check out my recipe and search through the comments though, a lady from Colorado left a few pointers on how to do the meringue at high altitude. Hope that helps!
Sep 19, 2012 · 10:28 AM
I’m absolutely in love with your blog!
I’ve tried to make the macarons 5 times already, but it failed every time. My macarons turned out like the picture Ruziha had when she first tried (picture above).
All 5 times my shells have turned out flat and crackly. Can you please tell what I’m doing wrong?
Thank you so much!
Dec 10, 2012 · 11:07 AM
Not sure what took me so long to jump on the macaron bandwagon, but once I did I was a goner. First I fell in love with them at a little chocolate shop in Southie. So naturally when the owner hosted a “make your own” class, I signed right up.
Despite the confidence I felt after that class (it’s amazing how much easier macaroning becomes when you can pass the bowl between 3 people!) — it took me 6 months to try them on my own.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh when I found your series of posts this morning — after cursing out 50% of my macarons last night. But despite the less than perfect-looking results, as of this morning I was actually pretty proud of myself for sticking it out. And now I’m more excited to try my next batch (perhaps batchES) this weekend.
This set of posts is going right to the top of my bookmarks — thank you!!!
· Lena · lenaonthebeach.wordpress.com
Dec 11, 2012 · 6:23 PM
Hi Lena! Congrats on jumping in and making macarons at home! It definitely takes some getting used to, no matter whose recipe you use, because there are just so many variables. Enjoy the learning process and give away bunches at a holiday cookie exchange, now’s the time to bake your heart out!
Dec 19, 2012 · 12:09 AM
Is it possible to halve the recipe? I’ve been learning to make them, and halving the recipe each time. Could it be one more reason why they mostly come out hollow?
Also, is there a difference between using a handmixer vs. a stand mixer in beating the egg whites?
And lastly, how do you adjust the baking time when baking multiple trays?
Hollow they might be, they are still yummy nonetheless. Drives me crazy tho, that I can’t make that near perfect one..
Dec 19, 2012 · 8:02 AM
Hi Caro! You can absolutely make a half batch, just don’t go any smaller. Quarter batches, etc, just don’t get the right volume and are so tiny that macaronage is weird. But a half batch should be fine!
There’s a big difference between hand vs stand in the case of macarons, it can take up to 30 minutes to whip on a hand mixer (or that’s what some readers have told me). It’s just a horsepower issue.
Good luck baking!
Jan 01, 2013 · 9:12 PM
So I made some honey macaroons today with the following recipe:
3 egg whites
225g icing sugar
125g almond meal
60g caster sugar
Rested them until shield formed (even though you don’t use that method) and cooked in a fan force oven on roughly 100 degrees Celsius. I cooked them for about 20+mins because they weren’t coming off the baking paper nicely (leaving their middles behind).
Despite this they turned out beautifully, smooth domes they even had little feet! So I was very excited… until I bit into a shell to try it and found that it was completely hollow. Just the top and bottom, no gooey-chewy inside either. That I could normally handle, but they were really crunchy. Too crunchy. Almost brittle.
I know this isn’t a technique thing because they looked like macarons, and i could feel how dense they were during cooking when I was rotating trays, changing levels (because my ovens evil), etc so i thought they would be beautiful.
I’m going to make them again soon, but what is happening that changes my macs from delicious chewy middle-crunch on top to a brittle yet pretty jawbreaker….?
Jan 02, 2013 · 6:04 PM
HI Kelsey! I’d say 100° C is waaaaaay too low to bake macarons. My best guess is that, at that low temperature, despite turning out pretty on the outside, the insides collapsed early on. Then they just spent the rest of the time baking into a hard lump. The lowest temperature I ever bake macarons is 148° C.
Jan 07, 2013 · 5:43 AM
Thanks for the quick reply! Tackling some plain old chocolate macs as I speak. Cranked the oven up to 150 deg C and they are like mini pancakes, no feet (don’t think my meringue was fluffy/stiff enough) but I’m going to eat them and enjoy them anyway. They are going to taste awesome with ice-cream and chic ganache drizzled on top.
Until the next batch.
Jan 08, 2013 · 8:51 AM
Glad to help, Kelsey! It could definitely be your meringue, or just a case of slight overmixing. But you’ve got the right attitude! Have fun baking and enjoying your “mistakes” and you’ll have perfection soon enough.
Feb 13, 2013 · 5:20 PM
I make macs using the Italian meringue method and they usually work OK. Recently though, I’ve had a couple of batches where the shells just separate from the underneath bit. They’re not really hollow, just detached! I bake at 130 degrees C in a fan oven, and wonder if I should lower the temperature 10 degrees and cook them a bit longer? It’s also quite cold here at the moment so am thinking maybe they’re cooling too quickly? If you have any ideas I’d be beyong grateful!
Love your blog!!!
· Catherine · cmcakes.co.uk
Feb 13, 2013 · 10:26 PM
Hi Catherine! I’m sorry to say, having never tried the Italian merignue method with macarons, I don’t know if the temperature adjustment would help you or not. Try cooling them upside down and see if that helps, in wintertime especially they’re prone to shrinking a little like that…
Feb 14, 2013 · 12:42 PM
I love your site. Thanks for all the troubleshooting and advices …,
I be been making macarons for a month and attended a class .. I could say I manage to make nice macarons but my problem is after the 24 hour maturation in the fridge with the fillings my macaron shell is not crispy anymore It doesn’t feel like a crunchy egg shell. (but i do get the chewy center) I dun think its my filling soaking up to the thin crust that was suppose to b crispy. So what is the problem . The texture of the thin crust is more like a crunchy cookie being left out for a while but I kept my macarons in a freezer zip lock bag and some in air tight container .
Please help !!! My teacher in that class couldn’t answer me !!!
Thanks so much
Feb 14, 2013 · 5:48 PM
Hi Macaron addict! It sounds like you’re describing a prefect macaron to me! A good macaron should not be crunchy. Macarons should have a wonderfully chewy texture, which is sounds like yours still have. It may not be what you’d like, but it isn’t a “problem.” Now, of course, there is such a thing as too soft. Macarons can get “wet” or overly soft when fillings like jam, curd or soft ganaches are used. Macarons like that will feel like they’ve almost dissolved, and will not be chewy. Hope that helps!
Feb 14, 2013 · 11:51 PM
Thanks for the reply Stella … Sometimes it is really hard to know what is the right texture .. I have tried alot of cafe and theirs seems to have a thin egg shell like crunch and then the chewy part .. But I never get that crunch-less after maturation . And recently my macarons are not airy instead it’s thick .. I have been using cream of tartar and 1tspb egg white powder. With 165g almond flour 165g powdered sugar 150 g sugar French method. Is there something you think doesn’t seem rite ? Or will itallian method be better to achieve the right texture ?
Thanks so much Stella and happy valentine day !!
Feb 15, 2013 · 9:25 AM
Hi Macaron addict! Yeah, it’s hard to figure out what a macaron should be because seemingly every cafe in the world makes theirs a little differently, and many want to capitalize on macarons popularity, but lack a skilled staff to prepare them. So there are a lot of macarons out there!
Without actually tasting your macaron, it’s hard to say if you’re texture’s right, but I thick of macarons as being fairly thick, or at least, I don’t think of them as being airy. You can see a photo from inside one of mine here and maybe use it to compare to yours?
I use a very different ratio of ingredients in my recipe (no cream of tartar, either). I wouldn’t say I’m a macaron expert, I just know my own recipe really, really well. I don’t know what sort of results your recipe would produce, but by all accounts your macarons sound like they’re wonderful. I’ve never been a fan of the Italian method, too much work for me.
Feb 19, 2013 · 1:21 PM
I used your recipe for basic French Macarons. This wasn’t a complete fail, because never have I thought it was possible to bake so tender, soft and moist Macarons at home However, I have to work on my technique because they came out cracked and without feet I wrote about them in my Macaron post.
Thank you for your encouraging posts and lessons about Macarons! Love your blog!
· jazzy · http://jazzykitchen.net/
Feb 19, 2013 · 9:52 PM
Hi jazzy! Aw, thanks so much. Despite whatever cosmetic issues they may have had, the interior texture of your macaron looks perfect! Since I am way, way more interested in how things taste than how they look, I feel like you scored the bigger victory. Hope you continue to enjoy your macaron journey, thanks for sharing your blog post!
Mar 25, 2013 · 9:24 AM
I found myself with extra egg whites the day before a party for my sister. She loves macarons, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I just picked a random recipe and went for it, ignorant of all the hype and superstitions surrounding the ‘perfect macaron’. My first result was decent, which as a first try, I was happy with. Then I found your blog posts about all-things-macaron, and thought how nice it was that someone out there was just passionate about the food, not about the reputation of the food. Thanks for helping make my second batch (and many more to come) better.
· Sarah · startingwithingredients.com
Mar 25, 2013 · 10:21 PM
Hi Sarah! Oh man, jumping in completely unaware of the hype is the only way to go! Haha, I wish I could go back in time to that place! I’m glad you had some good success, and I hope you continue to enjoy the process if you give ‘em another go.
Apr 14, 2013 · 8:39 PM
I would like to thank you from the bottom of my butter filled heart. I had to make macarons in one of my baking classes (going to graduate this semester, yay me!) Macarons were the only things I could not make. I can make
every other thing containing eggs, sugar, chocolate, butter, etc. But woe is me when it came to macarons. I started school late, so in all my many years (over 37) of baking I failed. I was scared, literally scared, to try macarons again.
Well, my boss wanted me to test recipes for macarons. He wants to make gelato sandwiches for the summer.
I got my baking books out, one especially about macarons, one that Thomas Keller put out (just went to Bouchon Bakery last week and had the coconut macaron!)Then I started scouring the internet. I came upon your most wonderful blog. You, girlfriend,are IT! The real deal, the mostest, da bomb. Yes, you are all that and a chocolate chip cookie.
With your instructions, 10 things to do, 10 things to not do, I made macarons. I made a vanilla batch to see if I could do it. They turned out darn good. I then made a strawberry batch. I am getting the hang of this whole macaron thing.
Thank you Stella, for doing what you do
Apr 14, 2013 · 10:04 PM
Oh, Patti, congratulations, that’s wonderful!! I’m so glad to hear you were able to conquer the tough assignment from your boss. Macarons are no walk in the park, even for pros, because they’re all about experience and learning how to handle the meringue and batter. I’m so happy I could help walk you through it. I think you are it!