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Macarons: Troubleshooting & Tips

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217 replies to this topic

#1 RuthWells

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Posted 08 April 2009 - 06:02 PM

I have been making macarons for a few years now, and have been making LOTS of macarons lately for my new baking business, and what occurred tonight is a first for me. When baking off my trays tonight, I'm getting meringue cookies (no glossy hard top, no foot) instead of macaron shells.

I baked off several dozen earlier today with no problems, so I don't think it's an issue of the weather -- but it's been dry. The texture of the (freshly made) batter was as usual, as was my oven temp. The formula is one I've used many times before, with success. I weigh my ingredients carefully.

What the heck did I do wrong, and how can I prevent it from happening again?!

Edited by heidih, 29 June 2009 - 07:21 PM.


#2 schneich

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:43 AM

we always had issues with our macaron shells, sometimes they were perfect, the other day they had no feet, or had a rough surface, or were hollow etc. etc. etc.

but i think ive nailed it:

its "just" the broyage (tpt, almond flour/conf. sugar mixture) that we use. since we get a special broyage just made for making macarons (atlas 50/50 parisienne) we havent had a single problem they turn out perfect every time with shiny top and everything....



cheers


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#3 Lisa Shock

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 06:41 PM

Were the pans clean? I've been sabotaged by other employees not washing the grease completely off pans...

#4 gfron1

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 07:40 PM

its "just" the broyage (tpt, almond flour/conf. sugar mixture) that we use. since we get a special broyage just made for making macarons (atlas 50/50 parisienne) we havent had a single problem they turn out perfect every time with shiny top and everything....

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Does anyone know if there is an equivalent to this being sold in the US?

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#5 RuthWells

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Posted 10 April 2009 - 07:16 AM

Were the pans clean? I've been sabotaged by other employees not washing the grease completely off pans...

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The Silpats were clean, yes. I'm going to chalk it up to a full moon, as the subsequent batch later that same evening were perfect. !!!!!!!!

#6 cakemuse

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 02:35 PM

ARGH! Can not get a consistent result with macarons. First couple of times, all was well. Last few batches look like the inserted photo - they split almost in half.

Have tried:
Egg whites aged for a few days
Egg whites not aged

Great mixture of almonds, powder sugar w/wo cocoa - sifted
Egg whites are not over whipped

Leaving the macarons to sit for 20 minutes before baking (and have tried putting directly into oven, re David Leibovitz recipe with a high temp of 375 F)

Baking at a lower temps (up to 310 F degrees).

I have read the great thread on macarons. I think my photo says it better than words.

I know this batter is a bit dry - but even when it isn't, sometimes the same result.

Posted Image


Thanks for any advice!
"But you have no chocolate? My dear, how will you ever manage?"
-- Marquise d Sévigné

"If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake, hired a band, goodness sake..."

#7 Fredzo

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 06:24 PM

I feel your pain! I've tried French meringue and Italian meringue with difficulty reproducing the results. My issue is getting voids in the macaroons.

Something I didn't see mentioned in your post was nesting the baking pans. I've found nesting the pan with the macaroons inside another helps to get consistent results.

Good luck.
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Sometimes you're the statue.

#8 JeanneCake

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 06:52 PM

Does anyone know if there is an equivalent to this being sold in the US?

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I was looking at pastrychef.com for colored sugar pearls and they have a macaron mix from Patisfrance. It's $80 for an 11 pound bag.

#9 cakemuse

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 10:16 PM

I feel your pain!  I've tried French meringue and Italian meringue with difficulty reproducing the results.  My issue is getting voids in the macaroons.

Something I didn't see mentioned in your post was nesting the baking pans.  I've found nesting the pan with the macaroons inside another helps to get consistent results.

Good luck.

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Fredzo -
Not quite sure what you mean -- nest one pan inside another or??

Thanks...
"But you have no chocolate? My dear, how will you ever manage?"
-- Marquise d Sévigné

"If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake, hired a band, goodness sake..."

#10 lamington

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 10:39 PM

Cakemuse, it's difficult to diagnose, but from the photo I'd guess the heat below the pan was a little weak (outward ooze of batter). As the batter was too thick, it's hard to troubleshoot the final shell. It also sounds like you're using French meringue technique which is always less predictable than Italian meringue technique (though it doesn't remove the risk of tears and frustration either).
-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham
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#11 Fredzo

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 05:18 AM

What I mean is you use two baking pans. Pipe the macaroons onto one pan and then place that pan inside the second so they're stacked, or nested. Apparently this moderates the heat on the bottom of the pan with the macaroons on it.

This method has helped me get more consistent feet on my macaroons.
Sometimes you're the pigeon,
Sometimes you're the statue.

#12 cakemuse

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 09:38 AM

Cakemuse, it's difficult to diagnose, but from the photo I'd guess the heat below the pan was a little weak (outward ooze of batter). As the batter was too thick, it's hard to troubleshoot the final shell. It also sounds like you're using French meringue technique which is always less predictable than Italian meringue technique (though it doesn't remove the risk of tears and frustration either).

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Thanks, Lamington.
Yes, have been using the French technique. On to the Italian with high spirits and optimism.

Frezdo, got it - I will keep the pan trick in mind as well.

Thanks to you both!
"But you have no chocolate? My dear, how will you ever manage?"
-- Marquise d Sévigné

"If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake, hired a band, goodness sake..."

#13 lennyk

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 07:12 PM

Have you read Duncan's website ?

Italian with syrup at 240 is the only way to go

your batter has to be folded to a smooth flowing consistency.
it should be loose enough so that if you rap the sheet below with your hand they will smooth out the tops, even the little tail from when the piping tip is pulled away.

They should dry to touch within 20 mins and spring back when touched with a finger, if not dried to touch then results will be unpredictable.

I dont use double sheets, single sheet with silpat.

The rack height makes a difference,
I used to do 2 sheets in the middle 2 racks and would have to rotate after 5 mins otherwise one would cook a lot faster

I now use the top 2 racks and do not have to rotate at all.

good luck

#14 cakemuse

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 07:38 PM

Have you read Duncan's website ?

Italian with syrup at 240 is the only way to go

your batter has to be folded to a smooth flowing consistency.
it should be loose enough so that if you rap the sheet below with your hand they will smooth out the tops, even the little tail from when the piping tip is pulled away.

They should dry to touch within 20 mins and spring back when touched with a finger, if not dried to touch then results will be unpredictable.

I dont use double sheets, single sheet with silpat.

The rack height makes a difference,
I used to do 2 sheets in the middle 2 racks and would have to rotate after 5 mins otherwise one would cook a lot faster

I now use the top 2 racks and do not have to rotate at all.

good luck

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Thanks again! And no, did not know that was Duncan writing! Have just visited Syrup and Tang and will read on.

Hey, Duncan - cheers!
"But you have no chocolate? My dear, how will you ever manage?"
-- Marquise d Sévigné

"If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake, hired a band, goodness sake..."

#15 hansjoakim

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 11:03 AM

I'm a complete newbie when it comes to macs, but I had a pretty successful first attempt at making them earlier today:

Posted Image

As pointed out above, I've read that many think an Italian meringue is best to get the most predictable results. However, I had just read Helen's article about macarons in Desserts Magazine, where the French method is described, so I opted for that for my first iteration. Also, I don't find almond flour in stores around here, so I ground blanched almonds with powdered sugar as finely as my food processor will let me. I believe for that reason the shells are a bit uneven. I used a recipe for completely plain macs, and let them dry out for 30 mins., before baking them in a convection oven @ 155 degrees Celsius with the door slightly ajar the entire time, for roughly 9 minutes. They were baked on a perforated sheet pan (no double/triple panning). I was very careful with not overmixing the batter, but I think I could've given it a few more folds. But, from what I've read, rather undermix than overmix...

Although they clicked for me this time, I'm partly ascribing that to beginner's luck :wink:

There are so many variables floating around here, that I'm guessing they'll crack on me next time...

Edited by hansjoakim, 01 July 2009 - 11:05 AM.


#16 cakemuse

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 04:32 PM

OK, success with Italian macaron method. Not completely satisfied but at least I'm moving in the right direction.

The finished ones are not particularly shiny on top. I think the foot could be better.
I also need to invest in a macro lens.

Thanks all for a point in the right macaron direction. Duncan, I'll be keeping up with your, well, everything!

Posted Image


Posted Image


Posted Image
"But you have no chocolate? My dear, how will you ever manage?"
-- Marquise d Sévigné

"If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake, hired a band, goodness sake..."

#17 lennyk

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 02:36 PM

nice results, I also grind the almonds myself with the icing sugar.
Its a little work as you have to sift them and then put back the large pieces back in the processor and make sure it has enough sugar so they don't bind.
Dry them in the oven first before grinding by turning on the oven at 300 and then put them in on a sheet and turn off the oven and leave for a couple hours.

You will get the hang of how much to fold and your preference on how tall, the thicker(less fold) the more likely for them to be taller.
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#18 jgarner53

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Posted 11 July 2009 - 12:14 PM

When it comes to the baking, I made a small batch (plain) and piped out a few macs per sheet tray, baking each one separately, testing different oven temps, oven door cracked open vs. left closed, etc, position in the oven, everything. It was the only way I could eliminate the oven as a source of any problems.

My main problem with the Italian method is not getting the syrup stuck to the side of the mixer bowl. If I have a helper (aka my husband) who can hold the bowl while I whisk in the syrup by hand, it comes out perfect. Otherwise, so far I've stuck with the French method - no assistant required.
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#19 NickLam

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Posted 11 July 2009 - 01:32 PM

When it comes to the baking, I made a small batch (plain) and piped out a few macs per sheet tray, baking each one separately, testing different oven temps, oven door cracked open vs. left closed, etc, position in the oven, everything. It was the only way I could eliminate the oven as a source of any problems.

My main problem with the Italian method is not getting the syrup stuck to the side of the mixer bowl. If I have a helper (aka my husband) who can hold the bowl while I whisk in the syrup by hand, it comes out perfect. Otherwise, so far I've stuck with the French method - no assistant required.

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Instead of introducing hot syrup to egg whites, try heating the egg whites along with the sugar over a bain marie until it hits 70 degrees, than start whisking it. You'll need a mixer for this though. I do this with small batches of macarons for testing, when making an italian meringue would be impossible with the small amounts of sugar called for.

No difference between the end results for this method or italian meringue method. The most important thing is sifting the almond powder so those damn tiny bits don't show up.

#20 jumanggy

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Posted 12 July 2009 - 01:38 AM

I've thought about using a swiss meringue- makes sense that it would work. I have a hand mixer and it's 7-minute frosting levels of easy. However, we were just gifted with a single-hob induction cooker, and it's been lots of fun just putting the sugar and water in a tiny saucepan and setting the temp it should be at (120C here)- didn't even need to swirl/stir/brush it! I stabilize the bowl with the egg whites on something (wet towel or gas hob), hand mixer on right hand, making revolutions, while the left hand pours the syrup in small increments on a single spot.

I have a fan-forced oven, and since the heating element is only at the top, I need a baking stone for feet. Keeping the temp as low as 130-135C gets rid of giant air pockets. My only problem now is the occasional undermixing, and the fact that while I get good feet in the oven, they nearly immediately sink back down to tiny feet as soon as they're out of the oven. Also, humidity is 90% here, so I need to freeze them on the parchment so they're not too friable when handling. (pictures soon).
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#21 cakedecorator1968

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 11:52 PM

Has anyone had success at Macaroons using a convection oven?

#22 pastrygirl

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 12:35 AM

Have any of you developed a preference for baking macarons on silpat or on parchment and why? I had a recipe that I used to bake on parchment and was happy. I've been given a new recipe and told to bake them on a silpat and they stick. Is it the recipe, the sheet liner, or something else?

Cakedecorator, I've used convection and not had problems. Don't know if I'm making the perfect macaron, but they are good enough for me.

#23 Scout_21

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 06:30 AM

I prefer to use parchment then put them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes after they cool down to make removal easier. I have used a silpat before but they seem to come out a little more undercooked than parchment. Perhaps that's due to a little extra insulation from the thickness of the silpat compared to the thinness of the parchment paper which should reduce heat transfer from the baking sheet. But that's just my best guess.

Oh, I also put the silpat cooked ones in the freezer for a little bit after they cook to help with removal.

Cheers



Have any of you developed a preference for baking macarons on silpat or on parchment and why?  I had a recipe that I used to bake on parchment and was happy.  I've been given a new recipe and told to bake them on a silpat and they stick.  Is it the recipe, the sheet liner, or something else?

Cakedecorator, I've used convection and not had problems.  Don't know if I'm making the perfect macaron, but they are good enough for me.

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#24 leoni

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 07:49 AM

I was wondering if anyone could please help me troubleshoot the problem with my macarons? Is this problem I'm getting a common newbie mistake? This is my 7th attempt and every attempt no matter what I change I keep ending up with this problem:

Posted Image

Posted Image

The problem is that they keep cracking at about the 2-3 minute mark if I'm propping the oven open at 350 degrees F and where the "feet" are supposed to come out from the bottom, they are coming out the cracks and the holes. I'm using the syrup and tang's recipe. If anyone has any suggestions (especially there is some really great talent here) I would greatly appreciate it as this is my favorite dessert treat I've failed every attempt at making it!

edit:

80g confectioner's sugar (has cornstarch)
50g egg white (aged or not this keeps happening)
65g almond meal
40g castor sugar

I'm using the french method.

And yes, even though this batch is very brown, the problem happens at the 2 minute mark even if I take it out earlier this problem is already occuring. I have tried lowering oven temperature, shorter baking times etc, putting sheets in racks below letting it sit for atleast 1 hour before baking, etc, but I'm all out of ideas, I'm starting to wonder if its my ingredients since I've tried recipes from 8 different sources and the sample problem keeps arising... does anyone know what the key factor is in developing the feet from the bottom and not cracking? I have also tried barely folding the batter at all but the problem also occurs

Edited by leoni, 18 July 2009 - 07:55 AM.


#25 jumanggy

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 08:38 AM

Sorry to hear about your predicament, Leoni. Wasting 7 recipes worth of ingredients is extremely stressful, I can imagine. Unfortunately I've only ever done the Italian method, but Duncan of Syrup and Tang once told me when the crusts escape from a sea of insides (or something), it's overmixed. However, it's not a problem exclusive to overmixing, I would imagine, and the persistent nipples of the macarons tells me there's undermixing going on. (Sorry I can't be of more assistance; maybe you should try the Italian method too?)

But the fact that you consistently get it after 8 different sources tells me there's something fundamentally wrong with the resources, whether it's the ingredients, the oven, or the atmosphere. I hope someone else can tell you exactly what to do.
Mark
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#26 cakemuse

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 10:51 AM

Leoni,
I'm a Duncan fan and convert - see syrupandtang.com

Here is the ratio he suggests (Italian method):

50gr egg whites
67gr powdered sugar
67gr almond meal

67gr sugar
16gr water (to make the syrup with sugar)

I've had great results.

Good luck!
"But you have no chocolate? My dear, how will you ever manage?"
-- Marquise d Sévigné

"If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake, hired a band, goodness sake..."

#27 lennyk

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 05:22 PM

I too use Duncan's ratios, they roughly work out for me to:

3 large egg whites
300g of almond flour + icing sugar
150g sugar in pan to make the syrup for italian meringue
(3 tbsp cocoa powder if making chocs)

I grind the almonds myself along with the icing sugar so they are premixed.

I used to have similar problems using the French method,
they would not "set" properly.
The Italian method works because it cheats by partially cooking the mixture.

The key thing with macarons is that they must dry to touch before going in the oven and the heat of the oven makes the crust dry and crispy which then forces the inside to expand and form the "feet"

I have no problems at all using silpats and they sit perfectly flat in the sheets,
plus I put dabs of red silicone on the underside of the silpat to mark where to pipe the circles.

#28 Kerry Beal

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 05:44 PM

The one thing I noticed in Duncan's website is that when he refers to icing sugar - he calls it 'pure icing sugar' i.e. it is without cornstarch.

#29 Patrick S

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 05:42 PM

I feel your pain Leoni. My last two attempts using Italian meringue have ended up looking a bit like yours, and I'm not sure why. I've used Italian meringue methods in the past with success. I have been using an IR thermometer to cook the syrup because my probe thermometer broke, and I'm wondering if that has something to do with it (not sure if it is measuring the syrup temp accurately). Both times the batter has been really stiff and seemed overly dry -- I had to use a wetted finger to tap down the little tips left from piping.
"If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?" - Rumi

#30 RWood

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 06:02 PM

I feel your pain Leoni. My last two attempts using Italian meringue have ended up looking a bit like yours, and I'm not sure why. I've used Italian meringue methods in the past with success. I have been using an IR thermometer to cook the syrup because my probe thermometer broke, and I'm wondering if that has something to do with it (not sure if it is measuring the syrup temp accurately). Both times the batter has been really stiff and seemed overly dry -- I had to use a wetted finger to tap down the little tips left from piping.

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I finally took the time to make a couple of batches today. I've never had any luck with the Italian method, and still didn't today. They all exploded in odd places, and if they had a foot, it was only on one side with a slant. I felt the batter was too stiff, too.

I broke out my usual French method recipe, and it worked as always. I made them with pistachio flour and pistachio buttercream, they are my favorite :wub: .
I have made literally thousands of these things, and that recipe works 99% of the time. It took a lot of almond flour and trials when I worked at a large caterer, but after trying many different recipes and methods, I'm going to stick with what works for me. I've used almond, pistachio and hazelnut flours with the same results.
One thing we found when testing is that warming the whites seems to help. Maybe it makes up for aging, which I never did.





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