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RuthWells

Macarons: Troubleshooting & Tips

235 posts in this topic

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..."

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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.

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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 hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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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.

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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Yikes, sorry to hear that. I haven't made a lot of Macarons (four attempts), so that comes down to only a few hundred macarons; I'm just starting.

My first attempt was last year; slightly porous, tiny tiny feet, definitely undermixed. The next 3 are pictured here and are within a few days of each other.

gallery_53129_4592_8065.jpg

Second attempt: worst batch ever. I could name a lot of things I did wrong: didn't work the syrup to the correct tempt, crystallized all over the place, a lot of it stuck to the bowl. I don't think these were undermixed, but I set the temp to 150C, no baking stone (my oven's only heat source is from above). Never developed any feet, tops started complaining, broke out in ugly pores. Horrible. Baked only for 12 minutes!

(By the way, these were not over-rested; they barely did.)

Third attempt was a good batch, but identical to the last one:

Patrick, this is for you: (sorry about the pics!)

gallery_53129_4592_15928.jpg

Fourth attempt: Definitely undermixed. I've resolved that an undermixed batter can only be saved by a few more strokes of the spatula. So if the "nipples" aren't sinking into the piped blobs in a minute, it will never, so next time, I'd remove the contents of the piping bag back into the bowl, and fold again until a test drop does. By the way, I didn't have such patience for this batch, so I just ran a wet finger through the tips. It looked good going in, but the tips were magnified as they baked.

This time: only 135C, baking stone under. The feet are still pathetic, I know, but that's the best I've ever managed. I blame the 90% humidity (though I have no scientific basis). Baked around 11-12 minutes.

gallery_53129_4592_2383.jpg

This is still the fourth attempt. I learned my lesson from the first batch I baked and gave the remaining batter a few more folds. Worked like a charm.

gallery_53129_4592_6649.jpg

Bit-into. Largish air pocket, but I'm happy with it overall. I know it's a function of the temp mostly, but I've seen the results at higher than 135C in my oven and it still comes out. I could go lower (130C? 127C?) so there isn't much expansion from within the macaron and they stay relatively flat, but I'm afraid of not making any feet at all or underbaking them severely.

Now waiting for Duncan to laugh at these.


Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

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I think my ears are burning!

Hmm, lots of problems people are experiencing and as so often with macarons, oven and mixing are the two major causes of problems, but telling you which is almost impossible without knowing your oven and mixing;)

If a macaron doesn't rise properly, the first suspect is weak heat below the tray. If the shell is very thin when finished as well, then it's probably overmixing instead.

There's no grounds to aim for a lower oven temp than about 160C (non-convection), unless you're trying to rectify an idiosyncrasy of your particular oven's design. Many professionals' recipes combine phases of high heat then lower heat, but never below 160C to my knowledge.

Lopsided macarons is mostly due, in my experience, to resting the tray on a slight angle or, indeed, having an oven on an angle (rare).

Nipples -- sure, this means the batter is probably a little too thick (which isn't the same as undermixing necessarily... it would be possible, presumably, to overmix an overly thick batter, and vice versa). Remember to tap the trays a lot if you have nipples -- most will disappear if you do this, except for the most grotesquely thick batters. And as jumanggy observes, don't try to "retouch" the nipples with a wet finger. Any moisture on the surface creates a weak spot in the shell.

Air pockets... alas, I have no definite solution, but small-batch testing showed it was temperature-dependent in my oven.

I guess I should say that there is rarely reason to bake X trays of bad macarons -- it's possible to do a test run of just three shells on a little piece of baking paper so that you can see if the oven temp or other factors are right, before piping out the rest. No point in shoving in a whole tray in fear of disaster! We often forget this :(


-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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Those who still have difficulty with Italian method can try using a higher temp syrup, eg about 245f

this should make the batter set faster, also imho chocolate tends to set easier due to the cocoa powder dryness.

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I tried the italian meringue method and on my first attempt it was successful enough to make macarons (maybe not perfectly professional looking, but atleast no cracks, holes, lopsided macarons etc).

I thought about it for a long while and I think I realized what the problem was. The term "aged egg whites" is kind of misleading. I think we need to emphasize that the egg whites need to be uncovered and left there for a few days (not just left there for a few days covered, or partially covered, it needs to be out in the open with a wide top evaporating as fast as it can, and yes lots of dust and nasty crap flies in). I noticed the consistency of the eggwhites after I had left it for about 5 days and it felt so thick it had reduced to probably about 1/5 of its original mass.

I was thinking about it, and most likely the protein structure of the macarons are not strong enough using regular eggwhites. My theory, which could quite possibly be wrong (please correct me if I stating something blatantly wrong), is that I could make the comparison that if macarons were a building, and we were originally building the frame with balsa wood, the italian meringue method replaces the balsa wood with steel frames. If we were to use aged eggwhites with a portion of egg white powder, it would be like using lumber, (much stronger than balsa, but not as failproof as steel).

My macarons that failed were aged, but covered with a paper towel because I was afraid of the critters that would crawl in, but I also noticed that not much egg white evaporated. It wasn't until the 3rd day that I decided to take off the cover and on the 5th or 6th day I noticed the eggwhites had turned REALLY concentrated, almost into a hard gel.

Thanks for all your help guys! I'm so glad this egullet forum exists!


Edited by leoni (log)

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by the way, I live in the United States in Dallas, a pretty major city, but I really can't find any unadulterated powdered sugar or powdered eggwhites in any of the major grocers.

What kind of specialty shops should I be looking for these kind of ingredients?

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Hi Leoni -

I have found Deb El's 'Just Whites' powder in grocery stores. This is readily available because it is cholesterol free.

I started to do a search for pure icing/powered sugar...I'll keep you posted.


"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..."

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Leoni, if bugs are a problem, maybe cheesecloth would be a good cover for your aging whites to let some air in and keep bugs out.

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Leoni, while I think it's great that you've had greater success with the Italian method and aging egg whites (pictures please!!), I have to disagree with your statement that the egg whites have to be uncovered.

From Pierre Herme's "Macaron" (which uses the Italian Meringue method:)

Liquéfier préalablement les blancs d'oeufs: après avoir séparé les jaunes des blancs, partager ces derniers dans 2 jattes, recouvrir d'un film étirable percé de quelques trous et laisser reposer au réfrigérateur au moins 3 jours.

Source: http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/saveurs/rece...ise_564064.html

He only requires 3 days in the fridge with a cover of plastic wrap pierced with a few holes. This is how I age my whites.


Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

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congrats,

your food processor might be able to grind regular white sugar into powdered form.

or use a blade coffee grinder which will work for sure.

where are you getting almond flour or are you making your own ?

by the way, I live in the United States in Dallas, a pretty major city, but I really can't find any unadulterated powdered sugar or powdered eggwhites in any of the major grocers.

What kind of specialty shops should I be looking for these kind of ingredients?

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Leoni, while I think it's great that you've had greater success with the Italian method and aging egg whites (pictures please!!), I have to disagree with your statement that the egg whites have to be uncovered.

From Pierre Herme's "Macaron" (which uses the Italian Meringue method:)

Liquéfier préalablement les blancs d'oeufs: après avoir séparé les jaunes des blancs, partager ces derniers dans 2 jattes, recouvrir d'un film étirable percé de quelques trous et laisser reposer au réfrigérateur au moins 3 jours.

Source: http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/saveurs/rece...ise_564064.html

He only requires 3 days in the fridge with a cover of plastic wrap pierced with a few holes. This is how I age my whites.

You know you are probably right, but I just refuse to accept this as voodoo that some people can get the French method to work and some can't (with a 50% degree failure rate as Duncan from Syrup and Tang says). There has to be a key factor here that I'm missing and I don't think it's humidity since I make sure the macarons are bone dry before cooking. (I've even tried waiting until the next day before baking). Can anyone experts on this subject matter explain why the French method works for some and doesn't for others?

There's also the bain marie, I dont know if this partially cooks it so its halfway set, but as for the egg whites, I'll try the refrigerator with a few holes in the plastic... can I get a link to your recipe jumanggy over PM?

I buy my almond meal at Newflower, which is actually Sunflower, but they call it Newflower in texas because Sunflower was already taken. I've also seen it at whole foods.

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Also, I wanted to ask you helpful people a few questions (cooking for me is about understanding logically the science behind it rather than the results themselves)

1) Are there any advantages of using the french method over the italian meringue method? It seems to be less reliable and more time (to age the whites) to make. Some people have suggested that it is sweeter using the italian method, is this true? If it is, can you lower the powdered sugar/granulated sugar content and add more almond meal to compensate?

2) And for those who use the french method, what is your success rate? What's the secret? Is your success rate 100% or there are times that you just can't explain why they failed?

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Leoni, while I think it's great that you've had greater success with the Italian method and aging egg whites (pictures please!!), I have to disagree with your statement that the egg whites have to be uncovered.

From Pierre Herme's "Macaron" (which uses the Italian Meringue method:)

Liquéfier préalablement les blancs d'oeufs: après avoir séparé les jaunes des blancs, partager ces derniers dans 2 jattes, recouvrir d'un film étirable percé de quelques trous et laisser reposer au réfrigérateur au moins 3 jours.

Source: http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/saveurs/rece...ise_564064.html

He only requires 3 days in the fridge with a cover of plastic wrap pierced with a few holes. This is how I age my whites.

One more thing, in his recipe does he whip them straight out of the refrigerator or are they let to room temperature before whipping?

Edit: I'm sorry I just realized that the recipe you just mentioned is using the italian meringue method. When I used the italian meringue method I used fresh eggs. Aging wasn't even necessary at all.

I will still stand by my hypothesis unless someone has any disagreements:

In order to make macarons the french style, the eggwhites must be aged in a manner that they will lose water content so the proteins are more concentrated when using a specified amount of mass in order to increase the structural strength of the macaron. (Unless using the bain marie method)


Edited by leoni (log)

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Also, I wanted to ask you helpful people a few questions (cooking for me is about understanding logically the science behind it rather than the results themselves)

1) Are there any advantages of using the french method over the italian meringue method?  It seems to be less reliable and more time (to age the whites) to make. Some people have suggested that it is sweeter using the italian method, is this true? If it is, can you lower the powdered sugar/granulated sugar content and add more almond meal to compensate?

2) And for those who use the french method, what is your success rate? What's the secret? Is your success rate 100% or there are times that you just can't explain why they failed?

I've noticed that the Italian does seem sweeter, and the shell seemed thicker. But, since it didn't work for me, could have been my fault or whatever causes it to flop.

As far as success rate with the french meringue method for me, I had to make 5000 shells for 2500 sandwiched macarons once. It took me three days of doing nothing but that. I only had two sheet pans that had flops on them. Now, I had been making them at this caterer for a while then, and I had the method down. But, as good as that recipe is, it will still give you a headache once in a while. I made espresso ones recently, and half of once sheet was all messed up. Have no idea why.

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OK, thought I would try the method posted using with almond paste.

First photo - all looks well.

Second - results.

These 'macarons' never got feet, the shell is soft and a bit wet - I did not fill these out all the way.

They remind me of Vanilla Wafers just with almond.

I forget who posted the recipe but I would be curious to see the results that you got using almond paste.

Sorry, I'm back to Italian meringue...

gallery_63688_6677_19702.jpg

gallery_63688_6677_68616.jpg


"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..."

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Leoni, I think you're making this much more difficult for yourself than necessary -- you're adding more and more variables, yet seeming to forget the advice of even people like Pierre Hermé. Don't start tinkering with the formula until you're comfortable making successful ones. Most people find the basic shells very sweet. It's the final constructed macaron's balance of flavours that should be the goal.

There are strong indications that the French meringue method benefits from aged egg whites. Italian meringue macarons are much more stable and so aged egg whites are less important (though many professionals will use a very small amount of egg white powder).

The ageing is not just about moisture loss, but also a change in the proteins over time. There is absolutely no reason to leave your egg whites out for five days and I've never seen any proper recipe recommend that.

No-one has suggested leaving shells out until they're dry (ie for a day). Some recipes suggest a few hours. Most of us do just fine resting them for 10-30 mins.

It seems to me that you need to focus on working with one (or two) recipes that people have had demonstrated success with and consider the two main causes of problems: oven heat distribution and how they were mixed. Please read my post above, along with other tips from experienced makers.


-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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OK, thought I would try the method posted using with almond paste.

First photo - all looks well.

Second - results.

These 'macarons' never got feet, the shell is soft and a bit wet - I did not fill these out all the way.

They remind me of  Vanilla Wafers just with almond.

Hey cakemuse:) I've only once had this sort of porous shell, but I've seen lots of people experiencing it online. I *think* it could be due to undermixing, though your batter doesn't look like it. Perhaps it was just too damp. Remember though, if in doubt, only pipe a small batch to test.


-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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Hey Duncan -

I think that batch has to do with using almond paste. I added ingredient amounts per the recipe that was posted with this method.

I was just curious....they are still sitting on a tray and damp, damp, damp!

They make me laugh :laugh:

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..."

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Leoni, I think you're making this much more difficult for yourself than necessary -- you're adding more and more variables, yet seeming to forget the advice of even people like Pierre Hermé. Don't start tinkering with the formula until you're comfortable making successful ones. Most people find the basic shells very sweet. It's the final constructed macaron's balance of flavours that should be the goal.

There are strong indications that the French meringue method benefits from aged egg whites. Italian meringue macarons are much more stable and so aged egg whites are less important (though many professionals will use a very small amount of egg white powder).

The ageing is not just about moisture loss, but also a change in the proteins over time. There is absolutely no reason to leave your egg whites out for five days and I've never seen any proper recipe recommend that.

No-one has suggested leaving shells out until they're dry (ie for a day). Some recipes suggest a few hours. Most of us do just fine resting them for 10-30 mins.

It seems to me that you need to focus on working with one (or two) recipes that people have had demonstrated success with and consider the two main causes of problems: oven heat distribution and how they were mixed. Please read my post above, along with other tips from experienced makers.

1) Could you please explain what happens to the proteins from aging that makes them more suitable to make macarons if moisture loss isnt the only reason? Or point me to a resource that I could read that would explain it?

2) Could you also explain the general theory for heat management on macarons?

3) You suggested that weak heat is generally the cause of a bad rise. What's the purpose of putting shielding underneath the macaron tray?

4) If an angled baking sheet, or oven is the cause of lop-sided macarons, why do the macarons all tilt in multiple directions instead of one?

5) What causes cracks in the macarons where the "feet" ooze out from the cracks instead of from below?

I don't think overmixing is my problem since I've tried both over and under mixing and I would like to assume that I've pintpointed the sweet spot (flows like magma, nipples smooth out in 30 seconds, and pale like ivory), but it's probably heat management. Is there a theory behind macaron heat management? I would have thought shielding underneath is to stop strong convection currents (the type of heat that rises) and encourage radiation heat (heat that bounces off the walls from all directions). But is there a general theory behind this? (ex: strong heat needs to come out from underneath to encourage a strong rise, a crack in the oven door allows steam to escape, etc.)


Edited by leoni (log)

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I will still stand by my hypothesis unless someone has any disagreements:

In order to make macarons the french style, the eggwhites must be aged in a manner that they will lose water content so the proteins are more concentrated when using a specified amount of mass in order to increase the structural strength of the macaron. (Unless using the bain marie method)

I disagree. I only make them French-style (no bain marie), and I don't leave my egg whites uncovered. I am usually using older (frozen) whites, but I don't leave them out to lose water content, and I have a 99% success rate (the 1% failure is usually because I knock out too little air from the final batter).

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I will still stand by my hypothesis unless someone has any disagreements:

In order to make macarons the french style, the eggwhites must be aged in a manner that they will lose water content so the proteins are more concentrated when using a specified amount of mass in order to increase the structural strength of the macaron. (Unless using the bain marie method)

I disagree. I only make them French-style (no bain marie), and I don't leave my egg whites uncovered. I am usually using older (frozen) whites, but I don't leave them out to lose water content, and I have a 99% success rate (the 1% failure is usually because I knock out too little air from the final batter).

could I get your recipe?

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