Saturday May 21, 2011
The Ten Commandments ...of macarons
Recently, I’ve gotten to know fellow Kentuckian Victor Sizemore. While his photography business has him in Los Angeles most weekends, Monday through Friday he’s a Lexingtonian and (convenient to my purposes) a consummate foodie. He bought my desserts-for-photos pyramid scheme hook, line and sinker.
When I sent him a text along the lines of, “hey, if you want to turn a box of pastries into photography, let me know!” I thought maybe we’d get together the next week or something. But he wrote back, “on my way.” Well, crap.
I had Victor Sizemore, of Mad Men in Vegas fame, en route to Table 310 to do free photography and nothing but laminated dough, a vat of caramel, and unbaked profiteroles on hand. Oh. And macarons. Because I make macarons three times a day, six days a week.
Which got me thinking about how I reached the point where I can say, “macarons save the day” when so many people experience the exact opposite. I tried to consciously notice the little things that help me have a smooth macaron making experience, things I take for granted because I bake professionally, not at home.
I wanted to articulate the aspects of macaron making that do matter since my ten macaron myths focused on the things that don’t. These “commandments” hold true no matter what recipe or kitchen you use. Whether you’ve never made macarons before or have a few batches under your belt, these points will help you more confidently navigate macaron making.
or, don’t say I didn’t warn you
1. Know your oven
Unless you have a state of the art oven, yours likely runs somewhere between 20 and 50° off kilter. To a chocolate chip cookie, no big deal, but to a macaron? Earth shattering. Or, I should say, shell shattering. Either grab an oven thermometer and find out for sure right now how true to temperature yours operates, or find out by ruining batch after batch. Your call.
Once you know how many degrees it’s off, dig out the manual and calibrate it. This short post from the Kitchn has a few tips on DIY oven calibration. Admittedly, most of us don’t know where to find our oven manual; for precisely this reason Al Gore invented the internet. Google “my oven brand +how to calibrate” to find specific information for how to calibrate your model. (If you don’t remember to replace “my oven brand” with the name of your oven brand, your macaron failure might have a more simple explanation…)
Convection ovens have more problems than temperature. When I first started making macarons at the restaurant, quite a few of them always cracked. I blamed myself and tried time and again to figure out what I did to cause the cracks. It took three batches before I noticed the pattern: only one row of macarons ever cracked, the one closest to the back of the oven.
The convection oven’s powerful fan essentially blew the back row of macarons into oblivion. I solved this problem by repositioning the oven shelves to sit slightly above and below the blast of the fan.
What kind of quirks does your oven have?
2. Use a scale
Look. I know you have a Bed Bath and Beyond 20% Off Coupon. If you have a mailbox, I’m gonna guess you have thirty five of them right now. This means you can now buy a $40 digital scale for $32. I promise, you’ll save $32 in ingredients once you stop botching macarons with faulty measurements.
Baking without a scale is a crap shoot; you have a statistical chance of measuring the ingredients more-or-less correctly, but probably you won’t. If you don’t have a scale, you won’t make a batch of macarons, you’ll ruin one.
Put on your big kid boots and go buy a scale. You can’t make professional quality macarons using amateur hour technique. Yeah. I’m a big meanie.3. Grind baby, grind
Peeps out there grinding nut flour in a food processor? Make sure to grind the dry ingredients finely enough that the majority will pass through a sieve. The average batch of macarons can’t handle more than 2 Tablespoons of chunky bits. If more than that makes it into the final batter, you essentially load your macarons with almond shrapnel, waiting to rip huge cracks through the shell on baking.
If you don’t have a food processor, big whoop. Go buy some almond flour. Most groceries sell Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour and using store bought shaves a whole step off the process. Hurray!4. Love your meringue
People focus so intensely on macaronage, the Matrix of the macaron (“No one can be told what the macaronage is; you have to see it for yourself.”) that they let it overshadow the importance of meringue.
In any recipe, a stable meringue serves as the foundation for a beautiful macaron. Different bakers approach this from different angles, but no matter whose recipe you try, listen to what the recipe tells you about meringue. My macaron recipe, for example, hinges on an incredibly stiff, dry meringue. Others call for soft peaks. Handle your meringue as instructed.5. Screw with the sugar, screw yourself
Sugar plays a crucial role in meringue; when you decrease the sugar, you decrease the stability.
This article explains the science behind the mystical union of sugar and egg whites. Cliffs Notes version: you need that sugar.
If you find a recipe too sweet, don’t cut back the sugar, increase the salt.
6. Rome wasn’t baked, er, built in a day
I staunchly believe in making macarons because you want to eat them, not because you want to show off your mad pastry skillz.
For many, though, mastering those spongy feet and shiny shells is a goal in and of itself. If that’s you, start with the most basic recipe. Master it first, then branch out.
Think of macarons as an experiment and the ingredients (egg whites, sugar, salt, nuts, and powered sugar) as the variables. Extracts, herbs, liquors, fruit, chocolate, and colorings all constitute “wild cards” that can derail the result.
With a straight forward macaron recipe, you can quickly pinpoint the cause of a failed batch to a problem with technique, rather than wondering if you added too much food coloring or if that shot of Kahlua in the meringue had something to do with it.
For the experienced macaron maker, this “commandment” translates to areas of intentional experimentation. Limit yourself to trying new flavors or ingredients one at a time, rather than doubling up and not having a way to tell which one might have caused the problem.7. Scrape the bowl often during macaronage
Have you ever had several consecutive macarons crack together, as if the same crack jumped from one macaron to the next following a straight line?
It’s not voodoo or anything to do with oven temperature. It happens because of a streak of rogue meringue. This small bit of unadulterated meringue, lurking near the top of the bowl, seems innocent enough. But it’s not.
When this bit of meringue doesn’t get incorporated during macaronage, but does get scooped up and into the pastry bag, you unintentionally dose it out from one macaron to the next as you pipe. This “thread” of meringue will cause the shells to crack on baking, resulting in macarons with a seemingly contiguous crack. Click here to see what I mean.
If you pipe the macarons from top-to-bottom (or vice versa), cracks in the baked macarons won’t appear consecutive, so the problem isn’t always as obvious as it appears here.
So scrape 360° around the bowl a few times during macaronage and prevent this. Alternately, if you notice a bit of unmixed batter as you prepare to fill the pastry bag, don’t incorporate it.
8. Rap a tap tap
The difference between an All Star batch of macarons and failure so epic you cry yourself to sleep hinges on nothing more than three or four solid whacks of the sheet pan against the counter.
Rapping a tray of macarons before baking dislodges stray bubbles that would otherwise rise up and crack the shells. I never fully appreciated the importance of this step until a recent incident at work.
As I prepared to slide two trays of macarons into the oven, a vendor showed up, told me he had double parked, and needed a check as fast as I could manage. So I threw the macarons in the oven and dashed out of my station to sign the invoice and write a check. Then it dawned on me: I’d forgotten to rap one of the trays.
After the vendor left, I ran back to the Pastry Dungeon and watched, through the glass of the oven door, as the disaster unfolded in slow motion. The tray I’d remembered to rap looked like business as usual. Perfectly circular in shape, precise little feet, and smooth domes. The neglected tray baked into pure mayhem; strange cracks running diagonally, macarons split at the seems and oozing into odd shapes, malformed feet in some places, footless in others. I wished desperately someone could have dropped by to photograph the astonishing difference, but alas.
So don’t forget to rap!
After piping your macarons, take hold of the sheet pan and rap twice against the counter. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and rap two more times.9. Bake until they’re done
Different ingredients can change the bake time of a basic recipe considerably. So don’t blindly rely on a baking time.
Food coloring, whether liquid or gel, can wreak a special brand of havoc on macarons; intensely colored batches can take nearly twice as long to bake in some cases. Likewise, shells made with freeze dried fruit powder need extra time to bake too.
Underbaking will result in dramatically hollow macarons. The meringue inside an underbaked macaron hasn’t fully set, so when it’s removed from the oven prematurely, the meringue collapses as it cools, leaving a hollow shell behind.
The macarons in the corner of the sheet pan are easiest to test for doneness. Pick one up and, without removing it from the parchment paper, hold it perpendicular to the sheet pan. Try to peel the parchment away. If it sticks or tears the belly out of the macaron: not done.
Alternately, just break one open. The meringue inside should have a vague dampness about it, but by no means anything gooey.10. Let the macarons ripen
Once you’ve filled and sandwiched the macarons, put them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge. Macaron experts hotly debate exactly how long a macaron should mature until it reaches optimal snackitude, but most agree a minimum of 24 hours greatly improves their flavor and texture.
Go ahead, enjoy a cook's treat and have a fresh macaron or
twelve two, but they won’t hit their prime until at least the next day. Wait until then to serve them to others.
Hopefully, those commandments will help in macaron troubleshooting, but whatever you run into, leave a comment or to hit me up on twitter with your questions. If you have any photos of macarons gone wrong (or right!), upload them to the BraveTart Facebook page and I can try to diagnose the problem, or offer my congratulations as the case may be.
If you’ve enjoyed these photos, check out Victor’s photography blog or follow him on twitter to see more of his work. With any luck, I’ll share more of his photography here in the future, along with the regularly scheduled programming from Rosco and Sarah.
Pictured, Rhubarb St. Germain Macarons, recipe here.
115 comments and counting
May 21, 2011 · 1:28 PM
Love the tips! I want to make macarons soooooo badly!
· kaitlin · whisk-kid.blogspot.com
May 21, 2011 · 2:17 PM
Thanks so much for these tips! I got macaron fever last year and after getting a couple of successful batches I lost interest. It was as if my only goal was to get them right… I think its time to get back on the mac wagon
· Yuri @ Chef Pandita · chefpandita.com
May 21, 2011 · 2:23 PM
you are a baker mastermind. I probably will never make these but if i did this would be exactly what i need in order to make these. thanks for sharing your genius
· Kimberly · unrivaledkitch.livejournal.com
May 21, 2011 · 3:15 PM
I’m saving this for the day when I feel brave enough to make these. Tried once. They tasted alright but did not have the correct appearance. Yours are just things of beauty.
· Adora's Box · www.adorasbox.net
May 21, 2011 · 4:33 PM
Excellent tips, I really enjoyed your debunking post too. I’ve got to try a batch using your techniques & recipe!
· Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen · wildeinthekitchen.blogspot.com
May 21, 2011 · 4:44 PM
They look wonderful but I get an error message when I click the link to the recipe.
· Fiona · www.fionayoungbrown.com
May 21, 2011 · 5:12 PM
@Kaitlin, holy crap you’re fast!
@Yuri, let me know if you do! I think, for most, success is just a batch away.
@Kimberly, Haha, thanks!
@Adora, thanks honey. For me, deliciousness is the most important factor and beauty’s just a bonus. Make em cos they’re super yummy.
@Vicki, thanks! Let me know if you ever give em a go!
@Fiona, OMG thanks for bringing that to my attention. Typo! It’s fixed now.
May 21, 2011 · 7:20 PM
Both the photos and this recipe are outstanding. I have yet to try my hand at macarons, but now I have all these great tips to guide me!
· Lori@FakeFoodFree · www.fakefoodfree.com
May 21, 2011 · 7:26 PM
Another great post and very timely too. Today is macaron day take three so here’s hoping, with this additional information I will have more success. Thanks for sharing your knowledge in a way thats both informative and easy to read.
· Nic · www.niccooks.com
May 21, 2011 · 8:20 PM
Wow great post! I usually never read blogs and I just read a ton of your posts. Thanks… time to make some more macarons (although mine don’t usually fail)!
· James · www.carpetsteamclean.net
May 21, 2011 · 10:37 PM
@Lori, I hope you give ‘em a try! Based on what I see you doing on your blog, I think you’ll handle them a-okay.
@NIc, keep me posted! Thanks for finding me on twitter, hope it all goes smoothly.
@James, ahhh, a macaron dude! I rarely see “your kind” around here. Bravo!! I am so all about a guy in the kitchen, bakin’ up a storm. And cleaning carpets. Right on.
@Robiewankenobie, don’t worry, I didn’t have a macaron until I was 23. That’s so funny you had these macarons, they were totally at W+M last weekend, right on. I especially love hearing from people in Lexington, thanks for getting in touch.
May 22, 2011 · 3:51 AM
Great advice. Thanks! I love those Rhubarb St. Germain macs. Just brilliant.
· Mad Hausfrau · www.diaryofamadhausfrau.com
May 22, 2011 · 12:09 PM
Marvelous post…I’m antsy to bake my first batch, but my faulty oven is due to be replaced in a week or so. I think I’ll postpone my attempts till then…and I’ll have my Bravetart bible close at hand
May 22, 2011 · 6:00 PM
When I’m ready to make macarons, I will definitely be following these 10 commandments closely! Great resource – and outstanding photos!
· Peggy · mybflikeitsoimbg.blogspot.com
May 22, 2011 · 9:43 PM
omg those macaroons look melt in your mouth amazing, I love the color.
· kate · ahealthypassion.com
May 23, 2011 · 4:24 AM
I just found your blog through Tastespotting and am so happy I did. What gorgeous photographs and incredibly creative recipes! I’ve never made macarons before but they’ve long been on my list. With the help of your commandments I might just be ready to tackle them…
· Katherine · www.katherinemartinelli.com
May 23, 2011 · 2:46 PM
I love this post! I haven’t been rapping my trays, but now I will start! Thanks so much
· DessertForTwo · www.dessertfortwo.com
May 23, 2011 · 9:49 PM
WOW! Victor really killed those! Love that guy’s work. I need to hang around him more…
· Rosco · www.sideshowphoto.com
May 23, 2011 · 9:50 PM
@Mad Hausfrau, I am obsessed with rhubarb St-Germain right now. I have St-Germain profiteroles with poached rhubarb on the menu at the restaurant right now, and should be blogging about it this week or next. It just tastes so…pretty!
@Liz, gah! So jealous you’re getting a new oven, how grand. What a great way to break it in, with a batch of macarons. Keep me posted.
@Daisy, if you ever want to endure the scorching temperatures of the Pastry Dungeon again you can come hang with me while I make a batch.
@Peggy, thank you! Definitely check out my “Myths” too, I think that post goes a long way in taking some of the stressful tedium out of the process by demystifying some steps. Lemme know if you end up making them.
@Kate, I’ve just realized that I’ve done three separate blog posts featuring pink macarons, but each in a different shade. I’m not even a huge pink fan, but I guess I like pink flavored foods a lot.
@DessertForTwo, I guarantee you will see a big difference post-rap (post-rapture?). Good luck.
@Shelley, we just finished a big nut-free macaron photo shoot series. As I mentioned, you can definitely just use pumpkin seeds, or even cornmeal. But soon I will have a separate nut-free macaron recipe posted, with the instructions tailored to that variation. Send me an email and I’ll contact you when I finally post about them.
@Rosco, hey you! Is this what it will be like someday, I'll just hear from you through bloggy comments? Looking forward to Thursday!!
May 24, 2011 · 12:17 AM
Yes, I’ll probably stalk you from afar and lament the fact that people like Victor are reaping the Bravetart benefits after I’m gone. Until then, though, I’ll be clogging the tubes with massive amounts of content. Speaking of which, you should go check for the latest batch of uploads…
· Rosco · www.sideshowphoto.com
May 24, 2011 · 11:33 AM
Ive never made macarons before and have been wanting to for awhile now. This is so wonderful. Thank you for all the tips
· Beth Michelle · bethmichelle.com
May 24, 2011 · 5:19 PM
Thank you for sharing the tips. I have yet to be consistent with mine.
May 24, 2011 · 11:42 PM
@Beth Michelle, let me know if you ever give them a shot. I think their bark is worse than their hype, if I can mash my metaphors…
@Joy, consistency is so hard; we’re human beings not machines, after all, and even when we understand macarons, it’s hard to force our hands to go through the exact same motions time after time. I think, in the long term, success with macarons is in muscle memory. The more batches you have under your belt, the more things will start evening out, I think…
May 26, 2011 · 11:13 AM
Fabulous advice, I’m terribly intimidated by macarons and prefer to buy them from a fabulous baker – I’m better with savory cooking than baking These make my fears all the more real as I see just how much can go wrong…especially given that I’m not so keen on measuring precision
· Lauren · www.bytes-from-texas.blogspot.com
May 26, 2011 · 1:10 PM
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been meaning to try these out for months (mainly because they’re so beautiful) and your tips are so helpful! Working with an oven that is off about 50 degrees is such a pain!
· Jenn (Cookies Cupcakes Cardio) · cookiescupcakesandcardio.com
May 28, 2011 · 9:19 AM
This is awesome! I’m still terrified to try my hand at making them… but at least I’m well-prepared and terrified.
· Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table · www.sprint2thetable.com
May 28, 2011 · 5:12 PM
@Lauren, at least you know your strengths! Macaron making goes so much more smoothly for naturally compulsive types, where as more relaxed cooks often dismiss some crucial step, not realizing its importance. I don’t have a savory bone in my body, so I would totally set up a macaron trade system with you if you lived closer.
@Jenn, let me know if you ever make a batch. And it’s awesome that you know just how off your oven runs. Stinky it’s off, but better to know than not know.
@Laura, haha. You can do it! Take the plunge!
May 29, 2011 · 2:38 PM
OK – you’ve talked me into taking the plunge. Except I’m afraid if I start baking them and get it to work I’ll never bake anything else again!
· Bonnie · www.bakecookeatmove.blogspot.com/
May 30, 2011 · 11:24 AM
@Bonnie, hurray! Keep me posted, I’d love to hear how yours turn out. And, let me say, there are worse problems in life than infinite macarons…
May 30, 2011 · 9:51 PM
I don’t know if I’ll ever make macarons, but if I do, now I know who to turn to for advice. Loved the way you laid out the tips. And yep, just bought a scale…I knew it was going to have to happen eventually.
· Iris · www.thedailydietribe.com
May 31, 2011 · 3:44 AM
Stella, wow, brilliant post! I think my major problem is my electric oven and then I don’t use a digital scale…usually go by the cups.
Hmm…I’ve set my mind on getting a digital scale, a decent oven……a digital SLR….er, it’s a pretty long list
So glad to have bumped into you, trust me!
· Plateful · nashplateful.blogspot.com/
May 31, 2011 · 10:08 AM
@Iris, congratulations on the scale purchase. I love baking by weight because not only is it more accurate, but less messy as you don’t have to dirty up cup measures. Happy baking!
@Plateful, I think you’ll find having a scale may resolve a huge number of macaron issues. Most people can find a way to work around oven issues, but slightly off measurements will derail you every time. A digital scale is the most affordable of your wish list. Go for it!
Jun 14, 2011 · 7:54 PM
These are awesome tips! And those macarons are totally worthy of Victor’s photography and vice versa.
· Amanda · doublyhappy.blogspot.com
Jun 14, 2011 · 11:51 PM
@Amanda, thank you so much. I’m double happy too.
Jun 15, 2011 · 10:12 AM
Great tips! I will remember your tips when I try my first batch of macarons. Thanks!
· Biren @ Roti n Rice · www.rotinrice.com
Jun 15, 2011 · 10:32 AM
@Biren, you’re welcome! Keep me posted on your macaron adventures.
Jun 15, 2011 · 10:34 AM
After trying many recipes, yours is the one that made it into my recipe box. That doesn’t mean it worked the first time, though! I had to figure out all of these commandments and now I can comfortably expect to see perfect little macarons growing in my oven. Thanks so much for all your tips and myths and recipes. I love eating macarons but there’s only one place here that sells them and they’re pretty expensive for something the size of a quarter! Oh and I had no idea I could even calibrate my oven! I’ll be getting right on that.
· kristin · http://idlewife.blogspot.com
Jun 15, 2011 · 8:14 PM
Perfect timing me for me to find your list of tips! Thanks so much for putting this together and putting it out there. I have made my first two batches of Macarons just this week. I am having pretty good success so far but I need to do some tweaking and your 10 Commandments are just what I need. THANKS!
· Lisa@Pickles and Cheese · picklesandcheeseblog.blogspot.com/
Jun 16, 2011 · 10:19 AM
@Lisa, awesome! I think the “10 Commandments” more than anything make an even playing field. Instead of wondering if some outside factor is influencing your results, you can instead focus on your technique. I’m glad you’re macarons are turning out nicely, and I’m sure you’ll have them perfectly to your liking soon!
Jun 24, 2011 · 8:21 PM
Thanks for your tips – found them after my first attempt split (they looked so lovely until then!).
· Lesley MacMichael · www.eatetc-lesley.blogspot.com
Jun 25, 2011 · 1:47 PM
@Lesley, glad to help! Hope your future batches turn out lovely. Keep me posted.
Jun 25, 2011 · 8:32 PM
@Nelly22 sent me here to make me brave enough to try macarons! Wonderful post, thanks.
· Maureen · www.orgasmicchef.com
Jun 26, 2011 · 12:32 PM
@Maureen, yay!! Keep me posted, I’m sure your macarons will be as great as your blog title implies. XD
Jun 27, 2011 · 3:59 PM
you’ve given me motivation to try my own macarons now that I have some tips in my baking arsenal. can’t wait to bake!
· Tara · thetinyhummingbird.blogspot.com
Jun 27, 2011 · 10:38 PM
Good luck, Tara! Let me know how they turn out.
Jul 05, 2011 · 2:36 PM
bless you for giving such detailed break down. It demystify alot of preconceived notion about baking macs. I’m going to try some this weekend, wish me luck!
· patty · pattyanddavidsaid.blogspot.com
Jul 06, 2011 · 9:56 AM
@Patty, good luck! Let me know how your macaron adventure turns out.
Jul 07, 2011 · 10:56 AM
This article + your 10 myths totally made me want to make macarons. So I did. My first time. And feet like clouds. I <3 U very much.
I was originally going to follow an Italian meringue, and even bought a sugar thermometer, but decided to follow the basic recipe, with none of that superstitious “tips” crap you debunked oh-so-logically.
Jul 07, 2011 · 11:07 AM
@Taxic, oh, I could hug you! Congratulations! I’m glad you were able to skip some pain and suffering and jump in to the good stuff. And now you have a sugar thermometer, so now you can make marshmallows.
Jul 09, 2011 · 5:37 PM
Great tips, my beautiful raspberry coloured macs are in the oven while I read this and having checked them I can see a third of them have a huge crack, reading this I know now that this is because I rapped my trays on the rug so as not to wake my baby with a series of loud bangs on the kitchen side! Lesson learnt. And no I don’t believe in the macaron gods either – its usually my meringue thats the problem.
Jul 10, 2011 · 3:16 PM
@Kate, ah ha! Glad to help you get to the bottom of your macaron woes! Although I’d take a cracked macaron over a cranky baby any day.
Jul 13, 2011 · 1:50 AM
This was both amusing and very very accurate!
Excellent tips Stella!
=) I have a blog dedicated to Macarons! Please visit some time!
Jul 13, 2011 · 5:28 PM
@B, what an awesome blog theme! Can’t wait to check it out.
Aug 11, 2011 · 10:49 AM
@Trish, if the first batch burned a little, your oven may run a little hot. Have you been able to use an oven thermometer to confirm how true to the dial the temperature runs?
Aug 18, 2011 · 1:46 PM
Just found your website a couple of days ago. WOW! OMG! I couldn’t get enough. Thank you for all your sharing in recipes as well as tips and techniques. This is greatly appreciated. You are one talented lady. I have been taking some cooking and baking lessons and have come to the conclusion that measuring everything with a scale produces a much better product. But how do you take a recipes with cups measurements and convert back? LOL kind of funny. I am going to attempt to make macarons. You’re inspiring! Cherie
Aug 26, 2011 · 2:29 PM
Hi Stella! I’ve read this post and all your other macaron posts many,many times. I’ve wanted to make macarons for a long, long time but I’m missing one important item- a kitchen scale! The one we have is a little wonky and doesn’t measure accurately. I’ll just have to be patient and save some up for it…
· Sumaiyyah · everylittlecrumb.blogspot.com
Aug 26, 2011 · 7:26 PM
@Sumaiyyah, pinch those pennies! Once you save up to buy a scale, you will be so happy, a good one is worth it’s weight in macarons. I hope you have success when you finally have a chance to give ‘em a try! Cheers!
Sep 15, 2011 · 12:44 PM
Check out these beauties: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidlebovitz/6149020055/
How do you suppose they got the contrasting bullseye? Tres original!
· Kat · cookiecosmopolitan.tumblr.com/
Sep 16, 2011 · 12:13 AM
@Kat, I reckon they just pipe out a dab, then pipe another dab straight in the middle, which will force the first color outward…but you have to have both macaron batters utterly perfect. It’s a definitely advanced technique to pull off successfully! Thanks for sharing, they’re gorgeous!
Sep 21, 2011 · 8:51 PM
@Kits kakes, a reader called “Cricket” let some notes on her high altitude macaron experiments; you can go to the macaron recipe and search “Cricket” to see her remarks in full. But in summary, Cricket found that the meringue needed less beating, about 6 minutes instead of 10. I hope that helps!
Oct 03, 2011 · 11:39 AM
@Confused, it sounds to me like the problem is your oven. When an oven heats unevenly (which can even happen in a convection oven), some macarons will turn out nice and others funky, depending on their position in the oven. You can alleviate this a little by rotating the tray halfway through baking. Hope that helps!
Oct 13, 2011 · 9:24 PM
there are fabulous tips. I have been wanting to make them for such a long time. You said to start with a very basic recipe, is the one you linked up a good place to start? Thanks!!
· Lauren @ Fredellicious · fredellicious.blogspot.com
Oct 14, 2011 · 3:16 AM
Thank yo so much for this. I make Macaroons a lot and love to do so, but it’s always with a bit trepidation. So I’m always looking for tips and tricks to take the fear out of such a pleasurable treat to share with friends.
· Aunty Mum · www.auntymum.blogspot.com
Oct 15, 2011 · 9:05 PM
@Lauren, yes it is. Just go for the straight up vanilla ones, and save the variations (listed below the recipe) for once you’ve gotten comfortable making macs. Good luck!
@Aunty Mum, that’s awesome! I hope these tips can help make macaron-ing a little more relaxing for you. Enjoy!
Oct 18, 2011 · 4:45 PM
It’s 3:42AM here in Singapore and I just took out the 3rd tray of failed macarons. My macarons have feet, the top has turned slightly brown (it’s supposed to be blue!) and crispy but the insides are uncooked!
Helpppp!!! =( I’m supposed to give a set of these macs to a friend as a gift and now I have 3 trays of uncooked and burnt macarons!=_/
Oct 19, 2011 · 10:20 AM
@Huda, sorry I couldn’t get to your question any sooner! Okay, it’s a great sign that you have feet! That means you know what you’re doing. It sounds like you could stand to turn your oven down a bit; maybe put an empty cookie sheet on the top rack of your oven to shield them? Also, you may want to go online and search for some heat safe food coloring. Good luck!
Oct 19, 2011 · 12:56 PM
I follow your blog religiously, more often than I pray..LOL! ;p I baked 3 batches yesterday and 3 batches today and all came out with cracked tops and hollow shells! =(
I know it’s not my oven coz I just baked perfect macs last Saturday and I stick to the exact same method……it can’t be the heavy rain right? sigh..
Tried using a cookie sheet but macs became all hilly with uneven mounds! May I know what brand of colouring do you use? Gosh..I wish you were just next door!=/ My heart is literally aching looking at the baked results..=_( help pls?
P.S. Gave my friend cracked, flat and almost feetless macarons today. She said it was divine! Either my friend is too kind or you’re a good teacher (albeit the physical appearance of the macs!)
Oct 19, 2011 · 7:09 PM
Hi, it’s me again to irritate you with my questions. Just baked another batch and the feet were high and gorgeous! Covered the tray with another so e colour was equally pretty. Problem is, the shells extremely delicate and tissue thin and it was completely empty on the insides! Hollow shells are frm underbaking but I had baked mine for 20minutes!:/ I was held up with some stuffs and had left the trays outside for about an hour plus and they were dry before I popped them into the oven. Can drying for too long cause empty shells? Apologies for many questions! I really wanna get this right, i have just threw out 100plus shells the past 2days..
· Huda · muffillecious.multiply.com
Oct 24, 2011 · 3:01 PM
Thanks for the tips! After a nice streak of what could have only been beginners luck, I made my third batch of macarons (this time, halloween themed) last night, only to result with a half tray of beautiful domes and nice feet, and the other half cracked and ugly. I was devastated! I thought I had ‘the touch’! Ha! After a night of mild depression, I stumbled on your blog today, and am re-energized and ready to tackle my fourth batch tonight. Im going to beat my egg whites like they stole something, then macaronage like a mofo. Thanks Stella!
Oct 24, 2011 · 7:33 PM
@Huda, sorry it's taken me so long to get back with you! I'm glad you had some success in the meantime though! Hollows seem to be more problematic when a macaron batch has excess liquid (like using vanilla extract rather than beans), and also when the meringue isn't sufficiently whipped (ironically). Also, my friend Veron has a theory that hollows (the kind not related to underbaking) can result from a nut mixture that isn't ground finely enough. I haven't fully mastered the logic of hollows, though. I use liquid flavorings & always have a few tablespoons of chunky almonds in my batter and haven't had trouble with hollows. I know there must be some missing element, and I will keep trying to figure it out so I can better pass on my success to others. In the mean time, try switching to all dry flavorings and skipping the extracts & liquid color, for many that is helpful.
@Ashley, no problem! I’m so glad to help. You may try rotating your macarons halfway through; if some turned out nicely while others cracked, there may be an environmental issue like hot spots in your oven or (if it’s convection) too strong a fan. Good luck, let me know how they turn out.
Oct 29, 2011 · 9:57 AM
just left a comment on your macaron mythbusters post, and now I’m back! when you say, “don’t cut back the sugar, increase the salt” are you talking about the filling? Or are you adding salt into the macarons? INTRIGUE.
Oct 29, 2011 · 5:32 PM
@ali, in this case, I’m specifically talking about the macarons (which have a hefty does of salt) but it’s true for most recipes, you should adjust seasonings before adjusting the scaffolding of a recipe.
Oct 31, 2011 · 2:48 PM
So glad I found your blog. These are a thing of beauty.
· TamaraEsq · domesticesq.com
Nov 01, 2011 · 11:16 AM
@TamaraEsq, thank you! Victor knocked these out of the park.
Nov 10, 2011 · 7:51 PM
@Donna, ha! Oh no, don’t say that!
Nov 12, 2011 · 3:50 PM
Hi, just quick question. Would it be possible to show the photos of your macaron taken from angles directly above? I have used silpat which I think a must to achieve perfectly round shape of macaron. Whenever I used paper, the shapes are still round, but not that smooth. Wish to hear your opinion on it. Thanks!
Nov 12, 2011 · 9:06 PM
@Alba, next time I meet up with my photographer for a macaron shoot, I’ll do just that!
I do all of my piping on parchment, but I will readily admit, getting macarons perfectly round takes a lot of practice. It helps if you can position the piping bag perfectly perpendicular to the sheet tray and pipe in a very steady motion. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, so I have definitely had time to get the hang of it, but I can still remember being in culinary school and just struggling to pipe evenly. It takes a ton of practice to get perfectly round macarons. But another thing I’ve noticed: if your almonds are not ground perfectly fine and you have a slightly chunky mixture, the irregular texture makes the macarons ooze out slightly irregularly as well. There are times where I’ve been lazy with grinding and, despite my piping technique, the macarons spread out irregularly due to the chunks of nuts.
Dec 06, 2011 · 5:26 PM
Great blog and top tips on the macarons. I have a batch in now but I think I over mixed them by just a few mixes, plus I have a hand mixer so the egg whites may not have been right. But my team at work get to eat all my failures and they think they taste delicious!
Dec 07, 2011 · 2:05 PM
@London Liz, the most important part is that they’re delicious, so it sounds like you’ve got your eye on the prize! If you search through the comments on the recipe, someone left some detailed instructions on how they mixed their macarons using a hand mixer. Check it out if you’d like to brush up for next time. Thanks for stopping by!
Dec 13, 2011 · 11:14 AM
I would have added an 11th commandment: control humidity. Excess water in your meringue won’t get you the right macaron shell.
· Savorique · www.savorique.com
Dec 13, 2011 · 4:49 PM
@Savorique, so far, I haven’t experienced humidity as a problem factor, after hundreds of successful rainy day macarons I don’t think the weather plays much of a role. In the summer, it’s so humid in my kitchen water beads up on the pipes, but perhaps the more extreme humidity in some parts of the world can be a problem? But, that may not at all hold true with other recipes; my recipe is a bit of a freak in the macaron world, haha.
Dec 18, 2011 · 12:07 PM
Just made my first batch… pink and rose flavoured. Begin at the beginning, me? Ha! So no feet to speak of, 50% cracked on top but seriously yummy and my friends will know they were made with love even if lacking in visual perfection. Thank you for an excellent blog!
· Jeanne · veravenus.com
Dec 18, 2011 · 2:13 PM
@Jeanne, with an attitude like that, you will be a macaron champ in no time. I think half the trouble is people freaking out they can’t get ‘em perfect on the first try. But get a few batches under your belt, enjoy the mistakes, and soon you’ll be cranking out one gorgeous batch after the next. Thanks for sharing!
Feb 21, 2012 · 8:31 PM
@Amy, I’ve never had an occasion to freeze them, so I can’t speak from experience, but they would probably turn out just fine. I have a worry in the back of my mind that the buttercream might weep as it thaws and cause the shells to get a bit soggy, but if you transition them from freezer to fridge before fully thawing, it may not be a problem.
Feb 28, 2012 · 12:26 PM
I just made my first batch and rule #1 was the key for me. Know your oven. Mine is a crappy, electric, rental housing, convection that runs hotter than the dial says. So after some maneuvering and fiddling I managed to get at least one row of perfect macarons per pan but 100% of them were delicious despite some cracking. Thank you for an excellent, excellent tutorial and commandments. I will definitely be trying these again and continue to mess with my oven until the whole pan is perfect.
Mar 14, 2012 · 12:50 PM
I am SO glad to have found you and your recipes. I live in Louisiana and trying to find a “dry” day to make macs is nearly impossible – I think there’s one or two and I usually have a dentist appt on one of those days. I’m going for almond flour as soon as I click submit. I’m just jiggy.
Mar 14, 2012 · 7:18 PM
@Cathey, oh yeah, come spring in Kentucky, dry days are all too rare. Good luck and don’t be scared. The macarons need to be beaten into submission, it’s all about the air.
Mar 18, 2012 · 12:44 PM
Thank you so much not only for the commandments but your helpful troubleshooting. After 2 attempted batches of pistachio and chocolate macarons (and then revisiting your Q&A), I’ve realized that I over mixed the first batch (turned out a bit flat and ripply) and under mixed the second (cracked). Luckily, there were enough good samples to snap some photos, and ALL were tasty. I will definitely attempt again. If for no other reason than because it involves some of my favorite things to do in the kitchen: grinding to oblivion, whipping to peaked perfection, piping out meticulously, and making a big mess!
Mar 18, 2012 · 9:05 PM
@Katie, that’s so awesome! It sounds like you’re really learning a lot along the way, which is the most important part. Have fun grinding, whipping, piping and messing around!!
Mar 22, 2012 · 10:49 AM
@crispycrepe, it often has to do with how finely ground the nut flour is and also on proper macaronage. Undermixed macarons tend to toward matte.
@Victoria, so glad to hear you’re getting to know your oven! It’s the first step to success. Good luck.
Mar 23, 2012 · 4:47 PM
Thank you so much for your no-nonsense approach to making macs! I made my second batch this morning and they came out beautifully. I think I might have over baked them just a bit because they didn’t seem ready at the 20 minute marker; I kind of added a lot of fushia color. I’m very excited to take them to a party tomorrow. Hopefully they will have matured enough?!
· Kristen · serendipityspreads.com
Mar 24, 2012 · 1:02 PM
@Kristen, highly colored macarons can take forever to bake sometimes. I made a navy blue batch that took 50 minutes, no joke. Finally I just pulled them out and hoped for the best. Since then, I’ve avoided super-intense colors because it screws with the bake time so much. I’m sure your fuchsia macarons will be a hit! Congrats on a successful batch.
Mar 24, 2012 · 3:56 PM
They are perfect! Filling them with my Blood Orange Marmalade softened perfectly. They’re now just the way they should be and no hollow shells!
Thank you again for what I like to call, “we’re making good food (in your case pastries in my case preserves) not curing cancer.” It’s so refreshing.
· Kristen · serendipityspreads.com
Mar 25, 2012 · 1:18 AM
@Kristen, blood orange marmalade sounds phenomenal!! I’m so glad to hear your macarons turned out the way you wanted, congratulations!
Mar 25, 2012 · 7:55 PM
hey stella, just wanted to say thank you for sharing this, your recipe and your macaron myths! they have helped tremendously in my baking – my first batch, (and second, and third, and fourth!) have been a success btw, i found that using powder colouring (i sift it in with the dry ingredients) does not affect the cooking time at all.
· steph · absolutely-fuzzy.com
Mar 25, 2012 · 9:59 PM
@steph, congratulations on your string of successes, sounds like you’ve got the technique down pat! I’ve neglected to update my recipe, but I’ve also found powdered colorings to me much more effective and less trouble making. Thanks for the confirmation. Cheers!
Mar 26, 2012 · 10:11 AM
@Ros, you can’t use flour to make macarons, if that answers your question a little more directly. I’ve successfully made macarons with nuts, seeds, cornmeal and cocoa nibs. The last two I would rank as a 10 on the macaron difficulty scale, so something I would not recommend to newbies. Macarons are not something you want to cut corners with and not something you want to experiment with until you really understand them inside and out.
If you don’t have a food processor to grind your own nuts into a flour and can’t find nut flours in your locale, I recommend jumping on line to order some almond meal. You’ll have to wait a bit to get started, but waiting is better than not even trying, right? Hope that info helps, cheers!
Mar 28, 2012 · 7:05 PM
Thank you so much for the wonderful do’s and dont’s! I feel empowered after reading your commandments and mythbusters. I have been quite intimidated ever since my macaron stalking started on google some 6 months ago. this is the first time I’ve come across your site and I couldn’t be more thrilled to find a fresh (and encouraging) take on it! Bless you! The photos are absolutely beautiful and as a person with a pinterest board dedicated to “macarons” they are amongst the most enchanting to me to date. Thank you and I will let you know how they come out!
· Fiercefoodie · www.fiercefoodie.com
Mar 29, 2012 · 11:01 AM
@Fiercefoodie, good luck with your macaroning! Just remember two things: macaronage is about deflating the whites, so don’t be scared. And you can only learn and understand macarons through making mistakes, so don’t sweat those either. Have fun and you’ll get the hang of it soon enough!
Apr 03, 2012 · 5:17 PM
@JeanneW, you’re oh so welcome!! Truly, all the macaron tips and tricks in the world can’t make up for experience. I’m glad you’ve found your groove!