Thirty-five degrees Celcius and counting. What better way to sweat to death than whilst writing about macarons de Paris? Again.
I can’t make macarons today because the heat in the kitchen would make me droop like Safeway’s out-of-season asparagus. It’ll be 40C by lunchtime (that’s about 475F for dark-age foreigners). At least the humidity ain’t so bad.
This has been my month of the world’s most temperamental type of macaroon… La Macaronicité at Syrup & Tang, as I dubbed it, which tried to cover almost everything one might need to know without me actually excising the reader’s creative spirit. Time to squidge everything together with scrummydumtious fillings and go on a picnic.
A few others joined in the fun and folly and spoke of it to me
* Vida was brave/impatient enough to accept my challenge to try out Shannon Bennett’s recipe in his book My Vue. I didn’t think it would work (too cool, too damp) and brave Vida confirmed privately that chef Bennett’s restaurant hats (stars) ought not apply to his macaron recipe… disaster.
* Thanh of I Eat Therefore I Am was the other impatient soul who launched into the task with gusto. He tried the simple recipe (French meringue) and was disappointed, almost throwing in the towel. Then he tried the advanced recipe (Italian meringue) and his cries of joy could be heard from afar. Then he was overcome by Christmas pressures and almost had a nervous breakdown as he juggled macaron mixtures after midnight.
* Towser at Spot4Nosh emailed me and subsequently published his adventures with macarons and, teething problems aside, also produced some lovely macarons.
I hope more will take up the challenge. I know there are others in Australia who make macarons independently of my exhortations, including Ellie at Kitchenwench who has also written about them, Mellie at tummyrumbles who has also made them and Y at Lemonpi who apparently makes them in her dayjob occasionally but doesn’t actually love them in the way some fanatics (little old me) do.
In the other parts of the La Macaronicité series I’ve linked to bloggers/sites elsewhere who offer inspiration and useful information. You can surf the web and you’ll find more writings. I’ve probably missed one or two really good ones, perhaps forgotten a classic here or there, but I’ve also deliberately omitted some because they don’t acknowledge whose recipe they’re using (which I think is very bad form).
I haven’t written about chocolate macarons. I originally contemplated a special article on them but decided there wasn’t much point — although the internet shows many comments claiming chocolate macarons are the hardest to make, I simply can’t agree. I’ve had no problem making them with the Italian meringue method (just reduce the other dry ingredients slightly to compensate for the cocoa) and even the French meringue method worked well for me (and David Lebovitz has had many complements for his recipe).
One of my commenters, DC, mentioned that there are now a number of books in French about macarons (I think I saw four earlier this year in Paris), and more interestingly, he saw one addressing the issue of failure. I think we all know by now that making macarons involves a certain amount of wastage, with singed edges, soggy middles, wrinkles and more (including tears). I wrote about an alternative use at the end of the second part of La Macaronicité and look! I now have pics:
This was Christmas pudding-ersatz (my mother’s kitchen is under renovation so it was a slightly alternative Christmas dinner this year). Macawrongs + port + morello cherries + cherry juice + lightly whipped cream.
Thanks to everyone for their comments and questions. Don’t hesitate to add more as time passes.
The delicate divas have left the building… (wearing sunscreen and floppy hats to ward off the sun).
Can you guess what flavour the macaron below is?
You can also read La Macaronicité 1: an introduction to the macaron.
La Macaronicité 2: basic technique and simple macaron recipe.
La Macaronicité 3: the more reliable macaron recipe and a few tips.
La Macaronicité 4: fillings, flavours, frippery.
53 thoughts on “La Macaronicité 5: macawrongs and macarights, macarons day and night”
*standing ovation from the stalls*
I love the macawrong puddings! (For their name and their spirit, as well as for texture and taste.) I’m tipping more morello cherries and coconut in the last macaron, though I daren’t guess the flavour of the macarons themselves.
Thanks Cindy! The macawrong puddings really taste great, and the gradual change in texture of the shells as they go from somewhat chewy to mushy-marzipan is fun.
Alas, your guess for the mystery macaron is not so close. I should clarify that the shells themselves are plain, so it’s really a game of guess-the-filling…
Bleedin’ heck, that’s a lot of ‘Macawrongs’~!
As for the recipe from Bennett’s book – it was the first one I tried and from all the recipes I’ve tried to date, it gave the WORST results. On the whole, I’m just pretty darn unimpressed with most of the recipes that I’ve tried from that book – either Bennett put in no effort when writing the book and scaling down the recipes, or he’s deliberately f*cked things up so the more fabbo dishes can’t be replicated at home and we HAVE to go to Vue de monde to get ’em. The sod.
Well done for this macaron study – it must’ve taken quite a few egg whites and more than a bit of time. So, what happened with all the yolks? 😀
I know what flavour that macaron is, but I won’t say! I don’t believe anyone will guess!
Thanks for the mention Duncan, and for sharing around the fun! As for your mystery filling it’s hard to tell from the pic but err…some sort of rice pudding and jam?? Bizarre.
(ps. you may have missed a ‘Spot’ in your hyperlink to my post)
@Ellie: It’s only half the macawrongs I have in the freezer! This was a batch of orange-zest macawrongs made with the French meringue. They were very sticky. Good to hear someone else disapproves of the Bennett recipe… I read it and just thought ‘how on earth will that work?’. Eggyolks: they became a delicious apricot ripple icecream! Twice. But I still have about six yolks frozen.
@Debbie: good on you for not spilling the beans:)
@Towser: fixed your link, sorry. Rice pudding is way off, but the jam is kinda close (not jam, though, and you’d need to guess the flavour of it too:P)
Thanks for all the great articles on macaron Duncan. And special thanks for guiding me through a lot of the steps so patiently via email.
That is a lot of macawrongs. I don’t feel so bad now. I’ve been eating my macawrongs with nutella and they taste really good.
I’m guessing that pictured macaron is cranberry jelly and coconut to go with the Christmas theme. Am I close?
Ok you have inspired me to make them!
Macawrong sundae looks brilliant! You’ve started a whole new trend! Another thing you can do with crispy macawrongs is crumble them up til quite fine and sprinkle them on top of macarights before baking. They look quite speckly and pretty (especially if they’re some attractive colour). We used to deliberately make macawrongs some times for this purpose.
My guess for your mystery macaron was going to be coconut and cherry jam, but just to be different, I’m going to suggest something way out on the leftfield : Goats cheese and Tomato relish Macaron?
(already I’m regretting even saying that aloud..)
@Thanh: my pleasure:) I think the hardest thing was convincing you that the wrongs can be right too:P
@Amelita: you’re an adventurous soul, Amelita… go for it! (And maybe after that you’ll try your hand at puff pastry too:))
@Y: My god, you mean people actually try to to do macawrongs?! That’s like, um, ethically questionable isn’t it? LOL. Your macaron guess is a lightly closer than some! (And one of my books has a recipe for spiced foie gras macarons, so the limits might be boundless…)
**insert Homer drooling noise**
Thanh, I’ll take whatever macawrongs you care to send me, My touch is not delicate enough for macarights!!!
fig & coconut?
is there a prize?
should i keep guessing?
Grocer, there probably isn’t a prize… especially when people are so far from the truth. NO COCONUT folks. Fig is an interesting idea (I have some fig jam in the fridge right now), but not in the case of Exhibit A.
Okay, as no-one wants to guess anymore…
Port jelly and roquefort!
Damn! It so looks like rice too!
I love your website!! I am hoping for some much needed help — I have made 4 different batches of macaroons — letting them air dry for an hour before putting in an oven. The most recent time, I used your recipe. Still, they all come out lopsided. They develop a foot on one side, but do not rise at all on the other side. Sometimes, they even ooze out on the risen side. I have made one successful batch a few months ago, so I know its not a matter of the oven. Am I letting them airdry too long? Could it be a matter of too wet a batter? Any advice/help would be greatly appreciated!!!!
@khilde: I have no explanation for the lopsidedness, I’m afraid. Not something I’ve experienced, though I’ve read others’ reports of it. I would guess there might be uneven temperature in the oven or you haven’t used multiple baking trays, but not certain. And anything oozing is almost certainly an indication of too wet a batter. You didn’t mention which method you used and what oven. [UPDATE: Oozing during baking can also be a result of too much heat from the bottom. Layer your trays.]
In general, I have to reiterate that macarons are difficult and you have to follow the instructions to the letter until you’ve got the hang of the good and bad signs. I’ve had quite a few emails asking me to diagnose problems, but often people just aren’t actually following the instructions in the first place, or don’t tell me enough about what they did.
hi, i’ve been making macarons using the french meringue method but mine usually turns out kinda chewy and wet. i don’t use aged egg whites. Any suggestions on how to improve or trouble shoot on that?
@alexia: probably by reading the rest of the macaron articles in the series.
I lived in France for a while and I fell in love with them while there. I bought a dozen little ones every time I went grocery shopping. But now I’m back in the US and can’t have them anymore. I’m excited to try and make them. Could you tell me what kind of filling they usually use in France? I loved the vanilla ones especially and would like to make those. I don’t think it was a ganache but I don’t know.
Wow, Duncan, I kneel before you in admiration for your efforts. If we could only buy a decent macaron in this country there would be no need to attempt to replicate the diviness of the Laduree or the Pierre Herme. I too have scorned the abominations at Laurent, and more recently at Jones the Grocer. I have vowed not to try any more until (if) I return to Paris.
Thank you so much for the recipe. It took me a whole week before I gather enough courage to attempt the French style recipe. I don’t bake much but I like to. I used your 1 recipe, divided into 5 different bags- Plain (dark chocolate ganache filling), Black-Brownish due to cocoa & red color & ground coffee (with chocolate & coffee ganache filling), Yellow due to yellow drops & lemon rind (with buttercream filling), Red (with raspberry buttercream filling), and Green due to green tea powder (with macha buttercream filling).
It almost came out perfect…GOOD PART (1) had pretty frilly “feet” around 5 minutes… you should see my joy, jumping up & down, smile from ear to ear (2) crispy, glossy top… how did it happen? By luck… (3) cake like texture in the bottom & center. hmmm
BAD PART (1) the shape was not perfectly round- I use a sandwich bag to pipe. QUESTION: DO YOU HAVE A RECOMMENDATION ON PIPING BAG? (2) some of the colored ones did not rise up as much as the plain ones or other colored ones. QUESTION: ONCE YOU ADD LIQUID COLOR, DO YOU COOK AT DIFFERENT TIME? SHOULD I USE POWDERED COLOR INSTEAD? IS THEIR A LOCATION I CAN PURCHASE FLAVORED POWDERED? (3) some was very hard to peel off- I used parchment for some & foil for another part. The foil was easier to take out after you freeze it for a few minutes. Overall, parchment was better.
Turned out so good (according to me & my family) that I want to bask in the glory & stop here. But deep inside I want to perfect this so badly that I can see the perfect round creature dancing inside of me. Can’t sleep without thinking how round I can get this.
Sleepless in Houston,
I had made my first batch of macaron last week before I come across your website. Thank you for being so analytical about the whole making process. It’ll definatly help me in my macaron adventure. I do however want to know where about you can find colour powder or flavouring? As I’m just a beginner in baking and all. I’m still trying to find my way around to find ingredients.
You can colour macarons pretty well with gel colours (just google that term). Cake supply stores will carry them and you can find some on ebay too. Powdered colours and flavours are less readily available, but professional suppliers are the best option. Many cake-decorator enthusiast sites will provide useful tips about colours and flavours.
Wow, what great material you have written on macarons! I wish I had discovered this before my first attempt!!
Your articles have inspired me to try again using your suggested recipes. If I don’t have a candy thermometer (or any thermometer), am I better off trying the first recipe? Do more people get better results from the Italian meringue recipe?
Keep up the great work. Your macarons are little parcels of perfection!
I’m so happy I found your web site. When in Paris, I got hooked on the macarons at Laudurees. I just tried the french meringue macarons from a recipe on-line that stated they’re sooo easy to do. They didn’t turn out at all-flat & cracked. Not one to give up that easy, I immediately “whipped” up another batch. Those were even worse! Now that I read your web, I don’t feel so awful and I plan to try the Italian meringue recipe as soon as I have another day off. Thank you
Here’s another way to use up macawrongs….
Soufflé aux macarons. Intrigued?
Recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It uses pulverised macarons – macarons baked in low oven for about 1 hour then pounded.
You mixed the macarons gently into a standard soufflé mixture before incorporating beaten egg whites.
My first experience with true macarons was in Lyon, and they were wonderful. Tried to make a batch last night and they were flat as a pence and I was so depressed. Saw your article, (thanks Google!)and used an Italian meringue. They look fabulous! Loved the trick with the water to help them off the paper. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I’ve had two macawrongs, using Eric Lanlards deceptively short recipe (don’t recommend). After the first batch failed (too lightly mixed I think) I put the mix in muffin containers, turned the oven down to 100C and cooked for 21/2 hours to make a divine nutty meringue smothered with cream and berries yum. 2nd failed- batch was too thick and crumpled when it came out of the oven. The weather was extremely hot and humid as well. Tired of piping I slapped the remaining batter on the tray with a serving spoon made giant macaron cookies and used them as a base for trifle. I’m going to get a silicon baking sheet and kitchen scale today and follow the method on this site which seems to give the appropriate level of detail. Anyone have ideas on how to adjust for humidity?
@Margie: in general, making a slightly thicker batter can help with cooking in higher ambient humidity. “Crumpling” is usually due to overmixing.
Hi Duncan, thanks for walking me thru all of the questions I have regarding my macarons dilema on email. I am moving on to my 5th macaron baking attempt tomorrow, somehow I know it will be just another heartaching attempt…I start to think if I am just not destined to be a baker or my brain really doesn’t work well on baking …and for either reason, I should just stop trying.
well, i had to share with someone who is as deeply devoted to the macaron as i have become!! thanks to you and some of your links, i created tasty, pied-laced cardamom (my favorite flavor on earth) macarons on my second try!!! they weren’t perfection, but they tasted delish and inspired me to hope i might reach perfection yet.
so, from the states, a big thank you for your guidance. i adore your blog.
Duncan, wow your macaronicite is extremely thorough! I’m not quite sure if all the info has bolstered my resolve to try macarons again or left my mind in a total macaron-boggled mess!! Maybe one more try, but I fear my fate will be similar to Thahn’s and I will be left an utter macaron-hater, scarred for life!
I thank you for the info. It has been enlightening. At least I know what turned my first try into flat,chewy,wrinkled pancakes (over-mixed!!). My son (4yrs) now calls macarons ‘disasters’ (as in ‘can I have another disaster please, Mummy?’. Must have heard me muttering to myself! Oh the disappointment after the hours of research, careful egg-white ageing and meticulous to-the-letter (well, obviously not quite!)recipe following! Wish me luck.
Oh and I forgot to mention. When dealing with my disasters I had a brainwave idea to turn my chewy macawrongs into chocolate covered truffle-style balls. Yummy. Don’t tell anyone that’s not what they were supposed to be….;)
Thanks so much for this. I’ve been using your Italian meringue recipe for a while now and have had great success with it. I had a couple of failed batches today, but that’s what I get for trying to bake on 4 hours of sleep with screaming kids running around the house! Other than that, I haven’t had much trouble. I really love experimenting with different fillings. Thai tea buttercream is one of my absolute favorite flavors.
Where do you get almond meal? (esp in UK). I’ve seen ground almonds, but not fine enough. I don’t have a food processor. If I got a coffee grinder, would that grind them finely enough, or do I need to get it ready made? I’ve tried everywhere I can think of.
I tried the Herme macarons from Selfridges this week, and am in love. I thought mine had turned out ok last month, but they were incomparable once I’d tried the real ones.
@allegra: almond meal is ground almonds. It is rarely fine enough (except perhaps in the small, really pricey packets in the supermarket). You could try using your coffee grinder, in small batches and only for a very few seconds.
What a wonderful web-site to find! I am obsessed by macaron, to the point of taking my 7 year old daughter to Paris pretty much specifically to have tea at Laduree! I didn’t think it would be possible to make them at home, as I’ve only found recipes for the English kind (delicious but not the same) I wanted to ask though, what do you mean by stacking the baking sheets? Also, I cook with an AGA and I,m thinking top oven for 5 mins then bottom oven, which would replicate your open door advice.
Very detail and helpful blog about macarons you have here, I loooove it!! I have followed your recipe, and there’s one question left in my mind : is there any possibility of reducing the sugar quantity without risking the macarons form? Everyone said that it’s too sweet. Thanks ya
@indira: there is a little scope for changing the amount of sugar, but not a lot. Macarons are by definition sweet. But that sweetness should not be a problem if an appropriately judged filling is used. Alternatively, don’t serve them to people who don’t have a sweet tooth.
If you buy ground almonds, which are too coarse, grind it to powder together with the icing sugar to ensure that it stays dry and doesn’t turn into oily clumps.
Looks a bit like branston pickle! That really would be a macawrong!!
Great site – I now feel up for the challenge.
This has made very interesting reading. Having spent the last four months making macarons obsessively using the italian meringue method from Jose Marechel (it took 11 attempts to perfect them which i’m not sure I should be admitting to) I seem to have suddenly lost the ability to get them right! I use the same recipe, method, ingredients, insulated baking trays, no change to the oven and I live in the UK so no humidity here. The macaron is a tricky little creature – thanks for the troubleshooting tips.
I think maybe I should have a go with the french method and see if this helps.
Thank you so much for sharing the detailed instructions ! I have been struggling with macawrongs untill I discovered your site. I am still using the French meringue method with success. However, my macarons are dull looking now. They are not shiny. Any idea why ?
@Thien: humidity can be part of the problem. And you could experiment with how long you rest the shells before baking.
Never try macaron my whole life… Your macaron photos make me fall in love and wanna try to bake it.. Thank you
Just had to let you know that I followed your recipe featuring Italian meringue (to the letter) and it produced amazing shells the second time out. The first time I messed up the meringue and it was lumpy. Oh how I wish I could post a picture!!! I quadrupled the recipe and then split it into two batters, one uncolored batter for vanilla and one pink batter. And when I baked the shells, I have now learned what to look for in the pipped batter in order to get the perfect no-too-tall shell. I had under beaten my batter for the plain shells and the second batch with the pink food coloring got the perfect amount of beating. The shells peeled off the parchment no problem with perfect feet, smooth bottoms, no air pockets, no cracked shells. I DID age them 1.5 hours and cooked at 350 and used heavy half sheet pans, no pan doubleing necessary. THANKS A MILLION.
They were a massive hit.
I’ve been working on making a consistently good macaron for months– consistent is the operative word here. Basically I have these issues and would appreciate your advice. Using the French method I have tried both gas, gas with fan, electric, electric with fan and I just bought a counter top electric convection because my home oven was just too spastic. If I keep the convection temp at 150-160 for 11 minutes the cookie browns too quickly around the edges (crunchy) but less time and the center appears dark and collapses (looks like wrinkles), the feet are large and protrude out too far, and my lavander cookie looks a peculiar shade of brown. I tried lowering the temp to around 140-150 for a longer time (18-20 minutes) but the top slid off the feet into a gooey mess. The best but not great attempt was start at about 175-180 and immediately turn down to 150 letting the temp come down gradually– still had some of these dark spots in the center that were too soft and chewy. In all of this there was very little hollows– just this uncooked looking splotches and wrinkles. Some of it resolves with filling/aging. I thought maybe the almonds were too damp so I tried drying them in the oven for a bit before using and that had no effect on the final product. Do you have any idea what the heck is going on? I tried the Italian method and still had the dark spots and they were very chewy. Those I just tossed immediately.
@Patricia: I would say you are overmixing your batter, given the mention of the dark wrinkly centre. The colour of the lavender shell is a separate issue – blues and reds very easily become dull before the shell is cooked enough. You have to experiment with the amount of colouring (overdosing, basically) to try to compensate.
Hello Duncan and All,
I’ve posted some pics of a third attempt at macarons. First two tries were not pretty, but tasted good. Those first attempts I just jumped in and did it. And now after reading here and other places online on the details and techniques, the posted pics are the result. Hopefully Duncan or someone can give advice on what went wrong and this can help others learn from my mistakes.
As you can see in the pics, the green ones turned out looking ok, but inside, the top half is hollow.
The uncolored shells have exploded feet.
The two are from the same batch, the only difference is that for the uncolored ones, I put the meringue into the flour. For the green ones, I did it correctly by putting the flour into the meringue and then folding. (that happened because these were from the same batch, but I had to take out half the meringue first in order to color the remaining half of the meringue)
So, are the exploded feet due to putting the meringue into (on top of) the flour, or some other reason?
And the green shells, hollow on top, any ideas as to the specific reason?
recipe from Helene Dujardin at Tarteletteblog.
baked for 8 minutes on top 1/3 rack, then 7 minutes on bottom 1/3 rack.
oven heated from top and bottom.
@bruswain: Thanks for popping by. From the photos, I’d say your mixture is probably badly overmixed – the paper-thin shell +/- air pocket is a giveaway for that. As for the exploded feet, that’s a not uncommon symptom of mixture or temperature problems with the French meringue method – I really believe in keeping things simple to start with, so why change rack heights and times during your early macaron-baking experience? Sure, it *can* turn out to be useful, but start with one rack, one temp, and watch the time… Then explore adjustments if necessary.
Changing racks was just me following the instructions that I saw from a different recipe I think. But you are correct, I should have started out simple.
I tried your Italian meringue method. The results were much better, but still there are so many variables it’s hard to say if it’s because this method is more forgiving or if stars aligned and everything just fell into place. I didn’t have a candy thermometer though so had to use a meat thermometer to approximate.
My problem is, I don’t know what a proper macaron texture is supposed to be like (dry? chewy? cake-y? crispy?). I’ve tried a few local places here in southern california, and all were different. I’ve also tried them from the Fauchon satellite store at hong kong airport. I doubt those were fresh since they were supposedly flown in from france.
@bruswain: as long as your sugar syrup is in the range of 110-120C, you should be safe.
As for texture, this is where so many people are misled by poor commercial manufacturers into misunderstanding the correct goal. A thin, lightly crisp shell. Absolutely not something that goes crunch. Delicate. Easily broken. Soft inside. Barely any chewiness (the only real resistance should be the change of texture as your teeth reach the denser ganache/buttercream).
I would expect the Fauchon store at HK airport to be a fairly reliable indicator – at worst, I would imagine staleness would have made the shells a little too fragile (usually collapsing softly at the slightest touch).
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