More Macarons…

And so, I became obsessed with macarons. On my second try, my macarons were so imperfect that I didn’t even take pictures. I didn’t even bother to fill them! Batch 2, basic macarons with a little espresso powder for a (too) subtle coffee flavor, was just plain ugly. The macarons had huge feet (even bigger than the first batch), they had tips that wouldn’t settle down, they were browned on top (macarons should’nt be browned) and they were basically completely hollow. They did have a few virtues. They easily lifted off the baking sheets right out of the oven, and they also tasted pretty good. They were crunchy and chewy and nutty, so I decided to take them to Seattle to share with my relatives.

First I did some research. I used Not So Humble Pie’s  French Macaron troubleshooting guide to diagnose my macarons. I decided that my batter was under-mixed (maybe because I didn’t do a piping bag transfer like I did in Batch 1), my ingredients inaccurately measured, and my macarons cooked for too long. I impulsively ordered a scale on Amazon (I’m the least impulsive person you’ll ever meet, so it says a lot that macarons reduced me to an impulse buy!)

In Seattle, my whole family had a delicious Friday night dinner at a small bakery, soup and sandwiches with eclairs and other pastries for dessert. I had been telling my family about my struggles with macarons, and they suggested that I ask the pastry chef for some tips. I ran out to the car to collect my tins of un-sandwiched macarons to show him. He said my oven temperature was fine (I set it to around 290 instead of 300 since my oven tends to cook things quickly), but that I might want to try blanched almond meal instead of ground sliced almonds for a finer, more liquid texture.

Back in New York, I set out to make Batch 3. I used Tartlette’s macaron recipe, but substituted 25g powdered sugar for 25g cocoa poweder. Based on Daydreamer Desserts’ macaron tutorial video, I weighed out all of my ingredients carefully, and sifted the almond meal and confectioner’s sugar together not once, but twice. I used my oldest eggs to date, aged five days while we were away. I was nervous about overbeating, but I kept at it until the batter flowed easily (definitely more than 50 strokes, but I’ll chalk that up to my folding technique or a difference in climate).

Batch 3 seemed to be going well at first. I decided to set my oven to 270, to make sure the macarons didn’t brown. The tips settled within a few minutes of piping, and the feet rose well in the oven. But as soon as I took the first tray out of the oven, the beautiful smooth shells started to sink and crumple like wax paper. When I took the second tray out, the macarons looked perfect, but within 20 or 30 seconds they also started to sink. I quickly stuck them back in the oven, since I figured they were undercooked, but they sunk anyway.

Batch 3 had a much better texture than either Batch 1 or Batch 2, with crisp shells and soft, full insides. The feet were tall but some were a little crooked, and I had a little trouble lifting them off the trays. It was nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a few drops of water under the parchment paper, but it was disappointing. Nobody else would know I had to use water, but I knew. I filled the chocolate macarons with chocolate ganache anyway, and sat down to consult Not So Humble Pie.

Not So Humble Pie had several explanations for rumply tops, but I eliminated some (I knew I had rested the macarons long enough since the domes were tacky to the touch). I decided that either my oven temperature was too low or the macarons were undercooked, which would also explain why they stuck to the parchment paper. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to make another batch over break, but I plan to bake Batch 4 at 290 degrees.

And once I figure out my oven, I’m going to go absolutely crazy with flavors and fillings. I’ve been wanting to do something with pistachios for a while, and Daydreamer Desserts’ recipe for pistachio macarons with white chocolate ganache sounds really good.

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