Mysteries of the Macaron

macaron
Salted_caramel_macaron_on_plate,_profile,_February_2011

Depending on the country it is either ‘The French style Parisian Macaron‘ or  ‘The American Macaroon‘.

My job as an Export Corporate Pastry Chef at Felchlin, allows me to visit & work in different countries all the time. Working in different facilities with different infrastructure and ingredients could cause recipes to behave differently. On the top of that list is the ‘Macaron’. So, what is the mystery and how does one get  satisfying results?

Characteristics of a Macaron:

  1. Appearance : A Macaron is a well defined structure(usually round), moderately shiney or glossy surface with the bottom foot(layer) in proportion & not too flat on the surface. It can have a pastel or intense colour by choice.
  2. Texture : The shell should have a delicate crunch (not too heavy or thick) & the interior should be moist & lightly chewy.
  3. Flavour : Generally the shells are plain, vanilla or can be flavoured to anyone’s choice. Most of the flavour is contributed by the filling.

 

Ingredients

The main ingredients used are egg whites, sugar, powdered sugar & almond flour.
Salt, vanilla, acid, egg white powder & colours are also used depending on the recipe.
– The egg whites should be aged as older egg whites work well (about 3-4 days old) because they have lower water content.
– The almond flour used should be well refined & it may be either blanched or with skin. If it is very moist/oily, dry it in the oven briefly before use.
– A finer crystal size of granulated sugar is preferred for Swiss or French Meringue.
– A starch free  powdered sugar/confectioner’s sugar is preferred & should be combined & sifted with Almond flour.

Follow your recipe for preparing the Meringue(French, Swiss, Italian) & combining it with the other ingredients.

Baking :  According to me , this is where there is a lot of room for errors. The baking time & the temperature are crucial for a good finished product.

Common errors:

  1. Low baking temperatures can lead to a dry macaron with a hard & heavy texture, a spread out foot which is not in proportion to the shell or a wrinkled shell. 

    Fix: Increase the initial heat in the oven. You may not double or triple sheet pan your macaron, also do not open the oven door too often.

  2. Sticky/hard to remove shells or a distorted top could be caused if the macarons are under baked, if there is uneven heat distribution in the oven or if the temperature in the oven is too low.
  3. Uneven rise of the macaron in the oven could be caused by uneven heating of the oven or the fan in a convection oven pushing the macaron in the opposite direction. It could also be a result of improper mixing.
  4. An overheated oven can lead to the shell rising too quickly, an incompletely developed foot, a fragile shell or an under baked/raw interior. In this case, there is also a possibility of the shell bursting in the oven & the browning of the macaron.
  5. Air/space between the shell & foot can be caused due to improper mixing. In other words, not getting the excess air out of the batter & baking too fast. 

    Fix: A well combined batter can help resolve this issue. Also, remember to tap the sheet pan after piping. Develop the meringue at a moderate speed – not at a high speed.

There could be several other reasons related to ingredients, mixing, piping etc. which could lead to a macaron not turning out right.

At every new place when I make a macaron, I always start with a small test batch & do a baking test with 5-10 macarons to get my parameters right before baking an entire batch.

For reference, I recommend a good book ‘Les petits Macarons’ written by a dear friend, Kathryn Gordon (with Anne E. McBride).