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Macarons – The delicate French invention.

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Okay, I know that at one point in my life, I've actually succeeded in making chocolate versions of these little cookies, but recent attempts have resulted in something resembling what a Macaron should be. They are either cracked, over dried, or so gooey that they fall apart. What's worse was that they lack the shiney eggshell like sheen. I'm working with the Pierre Herme recipe, but am willing to try others. Does anyone out there have any ideas and tips? I appreciate any suggestions thrown this way.

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It's been several years since I've made macarons. I used to make them alot. I tried just about every recipe published, or so it seemed. My favorite is Herme's. But I did have to make some changes. I added more dried egg whites and less fresh, that made a huge difference in my piping consistancy and the look of my finished product (it looks like his photo). When I baked his recipe exactly, they were much flatter and didn't look like his photo.

I didn't have a gram scale at the time I was making these so I had to convert all his recipes. Sorry about the weird decimals, to some extent you have to guess where .86 lands on the scale. When guessing, lean toward a drier product.

I changed Herme's macarons:

19.75 oz almonds

33.86 oz. xxxsugar

10.20 oz. whites

.75 oz. powdered whites

Follow his proceedure. I found it was better to use the hotter oven temp.'s in the "sole" oven description (even though I was using a convection oven at the time). Although he doesn't mention it in the "sole" dirrections, make sure to double your pans.

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I have a friend staging at Pierre Herme now. For the first 5 weeks almost all she did was macarons. BG and Sinclair, how are you making them? Does PH's recipe call for drying? They dry theirs for 3 days before baking. I can get more specifics from her as well.

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Loufood, I'd love to know as much as you can find about about anything at Herme's! I think his work is brilliant.

As for drying, I've followed recipes with and with-out. Following what-ever the recipe called for. I think that making macarons is really about hair splitting details, technique and recipe. The smallest detail makes a noteable difference in your finished product. As to dry or not- and how long to dry, it is something you have to discover in each recipe.

If I've dried them before baking, I've never done so for 3 days! On silpats or parchement (I'd guess parchment would let them dry too much)? Only a couple hours at the most, I have always followed dirrections on this step, then either liked the recipe or never repeated it.

I can (think I) understand how he's arrived at that length, but I've never done that much experimenting. As a pastry chef I've never had a job that would allowed the type of in depth study of repeated product production that happens in a bakery situation.

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Two cents from a non-baker. I realize "macaroon" seems to be the accepted English translation of the French "macaron," but I find the French macaron so different from the coconut macaroon that I think it's often misleading not to adopt the French spelling for that cookie to distinguish it from the macaroon.

For what it's worth, Dorie Greenspan, co-author of Desserrts by Pierre Herme and Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme says (in her Paris Sweets cookbook)

Unfortunately for us, real French macarons are hard to find in America and difficult to make at home. However, as soon as you get to Paris, you can do what Parisians do: taste-test the macarons of the city's best pâtisseries and find your favorite. Then, like a true Parisian, you can say, "I always buy my macarons at [fill in the blank]." There's nothing that will make you feel more like a native than having a trusted--and superior--supplier of something luxe and luscious.

I've posted that not to dissuade you from trying to make your own professional quality macarons even though excellent ones are available in NYC, if not all over America, but just to remind you of how hard they are to get right--hard enough that Dorie didn't include a recipe in Paris Sweets, just a reminder to try them when in Paris. Of course we are looking forward to saying "I always get my macarons from Bond Girl." :biggrin:

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We haven't made macarons at school yet, but the subject came up and I picked up a really interesting (and possibly helpful) tip: They leave their egg whites out at room temperature in an uncovered (very important) bowl for 24 hours so they lose some moisture. The "dried" whites create a much more stable foam. Of course the students were concerned that this would be a sanitation risk, but we learned that egg whites actually have some natural anti-bacterial agents in them - the instructor even said they could leave the whites out for a week and he would personally drink them to show they were fine :blink: . He did stress that the bowl had to be uncovered or the whites might start to get moldy.

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when I was making macaroons for my pastry club cookie sale, the pastry chef who I work with said to leave the egg whites out for 3 days. I thought thats gross and didn't do it. My macaroons came out ok, but were not as tall as he said they would be if I let the whites sit out longer.

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As I recall Herme's recipe calls for old whites, fresh whites, plus the dried whites.

The idea of raw whites sitting out to loose some moisture doesn't seem right to me (I picture the top layer hardening and nothing changing the rest of the bowl). Why not use a percentage of dried whites in that case?

I think it's about loosening up the alum in the whites (or aging them) because they do whip differently then fresh whites. But you can achieve that leaving them in the cooler for days too.

I also think that your height is in dirrect coralation to how thick your batter was when you piped them. The thinner the batter the more they spread. Which is the biggest problem with the majority of recipes I tried...they were just a hair too thin (less then 1 white too thin). That's why using some dried whites is brilliant, you can change your density.

Perhaps I'm ignorant but I don't find macarons to be the ultimate cookie and perhaps that's why you don't find them all over the place (Americans don't buy them because they aren't familar with them). It's not an American type of cookie, period. My relatives like the "macaroon" cookies they sell at the grocery stores. That's really a coconut flavored sandwich cookie!

Also Dorie Greenspan writes for home cooks. She's become the "interpetor" for the great French chefs. And as such she tries to simplify dirrections and change weight measurements into imperial ones. In the case of macarons theres a feel for the right consistancy and that's my guess as to why she didn't include a recipe for them in her last book. Not that they were too difficult to make. I find them far more difficult to store with-out cracking the tops then to make....they are a bit of a pain. And I think that's what most Americans would think too.

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I tried making macarons yesterday. I did gerbet macarons because I thought smaller ones would be easier to do on my first try than larger ones. Foolish food adventurer that I am, I actually did leave my egg whites to sit out uncovered for 3 days per Nightscotsman. I did notice that the whites whipped up much faster and seemed more stable than regular room temp egg whites. I used a recipe from The French Cookie for lemon gerbet macarons but followed loufood's directions. One thing that I definitely did wrong was use Silpat instead of parchment. I had problems with sticking, so I broke several while trying to remove from the Silpat. Another mistake was forgetting my 2nd batch in the oven and they got a bit too brown. I've never had macarons before, but they looked like all the pictures I've seen -- no cracks, shiny dome, frilly stuff around the edges. As for texture, crisp outside, chewy inside. Does that sound right? I was supposed to fill with a lemon buttercream, but I ended up just putting some homemade blackberry ice cream. I have a few more left and I'll try to take a pic tonight. I'm eating some of my broken ones now and they taste better today than yesterday.

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One thing that I definitely did wrong was use Silpat instead of parchment. I had problems with sticking, so I broke several while trying to remove from the Silpat.

There is nothing wrong with using a silpat. Just freeze the silpat and attached macarons (or parchment even) for a few minutes, and it will be much easier to get them off.

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There is nothing wrong with using a silpat.  Just freeze the silpat and attached macarons (or parchment even) for a few minutes, and it will be much easier to get them off.

Thank you! I should have asked before I started. Truthfully, I was too scared to do the parchment and water steaming thing. I would have cried if all my macarons ended up in a soggy mess in the sink.

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I once took a cooking class w. Nick Malgieri whom,

if memory correctly serves, chatted about his

early experience w. making macarons. His chef

kept the egg white in the open and they had

to strain out the flies [!!] before using them

in the recipe. Interesting to think that this

was 'technique' vs. frightening sanitation.

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There is nothing wrong with using a silpat. Just freeze the silpat and attached macarons (or parchment even) for a few minutes, and it will be much easier to get them off.

Tried this technique last night and it worked great. I only lost one macaron out of 2 sheet pans. Only problem I could see, and I don't know if it's the Silpat or the freezing, is that some macaron recipes do not call for a filling to stick the 2 halves together and rely on the stickness of the fresh baked macarons to hold them together. The ones I baked on a Silpat and froze were too dry and smooth on the bottom to do this (I was using a filling anyway).

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One thing that I definitely did wrong was use Silpat instead of parchment. I had problems with sticking, so I broke several while trying to remove from the Silpat.

There is nothing wrong with using a silpat. Just freeze the silpat and attached macarons (or parchment even) for a few minutes, and it will be much easier to get them off.

I've read about the best places to get Macarons in Paris

Best Macarons in Paris

and now I'd like to try my hand at making macarons at home. I've read through this and related threads, read my book, The French Cookie Book by Healy and Bugat and my knees are knocking a little...

One question I had before I jump in and try these is the cooking surface. I don't have Silplat and I also don't have the newsprint heavily suggested in Healy and Bugat's book.

Does anyone know if parchment paper will work?

If so, should one use the method of running some water in between the parchment and cookie sheet to help steam them off?

Thanks, just wanted to check if I had a reasonable chance of success without purchasing a Silplat or trying to hunt down unprinted newspaper!!!

Edited to add that Healy and Bugat say that parchment paper will negatively effect the cooking and subsequent steaming to release.


Edited by ludja (log)

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Nigella Lawson's Pistachio Macaroons... from Domestic Goddess. These are quite simply spectacular. Here's her own description:

"These are the world's most elegant macaroons. The color alone, that waxy pale jade, perfectly matches the aromatic delicacy of their taste; and their nutty chewiness melts into the fragrant, soft paste with which they're paired. Of all the recipes in this book, this is the one of which I think I'm most proud: cookie bliss."

and here is the recipe:

Pistachio Macaroons

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Nigella Lawson's Pistachio Macaroons... from Domestic Goddess. These are quite simply spectacular. Here's her own description:

"These are the world's most elegant macaroons. The color alone, that waxy pale jade, perfectly matches the aromatic delicacy of their taste; and their nutty chewiness melts into the fragrant, soft paste with which they're paired. Of all the recipes in this book, this is the one of which I think I'm most proud: cookie bliss."

and here is the recipe:

Pistachio Macaroons

Thank you very much for the recipe Naomi and personal testimonial. In the recipe, it says 'lined' cookie sheet; have you used parchment?

Thanks

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Oops--sorry for the too quick question; I re-read it a third time and saw "parchment lined"-- Thanks again!

Edited to add: I'm still interested though, if anyone has used parchment successfully (or no) with Healy and Bugats recipes in The French Cookie Book... :smile:


Edited by ludja (log)

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i made them every day for several weeks at work and we only used parchment. i think professional kitchens tend to use parchment for everything except tuiles and sugar...the home chef gets suckered into buying these at a huge markup and think they should use silpats for cookies, etc. it's a little ridiculous.

use parchment, and if your macarons are baked properly (to correct doneness) you shouldn't even have to use the water/steaming method. you should be able to lift the parchment and peel it away from the back of the macaroons (a little easier than trying to lift the macaron from the parchment as sometimes, you'll just remove the nice crisp dome and leave behind the semi-chewy interior :biggrin: ).

good luck

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macarons are really not quite as complicated as all of this

first of all lets clarify

macarons with egg whites or macarons with coconut known as "rocher" or "congolais"

coconut macs are best made with dessicated coconut, that is dried and unsweetened. to add moisture back you add a small amount of very reduced apple puree (you can purchase a product known as "super pomme" from patisfrance) You cook the mixture over a water bath very slowly to reduce the amount of liquid in the mix, let it rest overnight and then bake.

for egg white macs, i have spent some time working in pierre hermes kitchen and made many a mac. 1. old whites are best, we save all of our extra whites everyday and use them for macs, biscuit etc.. however i will caution against frozen egg whites as they tend to be nasty and whip up in seconds and then collapse immeadiately. 2. italian meringue, yes this is correct 3. silpat is easiest

4. let dry until the tops form a nice crust, maybe 20-30 minutes

the way they do it there is to pipe all the macs out (and this is maybe 4-5000 a day) and by the time they have piped the last of them the first are ready to go in the oven.

5. when the macs are cool they are each sprayed lightly on the inside with a syrup that matches the mac, say simple syrup and rose water, then filled.

and let me just say the best time to eat one is standing in the walk in right after you are finished for the day, not the next day when they are for sale at the shop.

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I've made the Bugat recipes with parchment with no problems (at least no problems due to the use of the parchment paper).

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for egg white macs, i have spent some time working in pierre hermes kitchen and made many a mac. 1. old whites are best, we save all of our extra whites everyday and use them for macs, biscuit etc.. however i will caution against frozen egg whites as they tend to be nasty and whip up in seconds and then collapse immeadiately. 2. italian meringue, yes this is correct 3. silpat is easiest

4. let dry until the tops form a nice crust, maybe 20-30 minutes

the way they do it there is to pipe all the macs out (and this is maybe 4-5000 a day) and by the time they have piped the last of them the first are ready to go in the oven.

5. when the macs are cool they are each sprayed lightly on the inside with a syrup that matches the mac, say simple syrup and rose water, then filled.

and let me just say the best time to eat one is standing in the walk in right after you are finished for the day, not the next day when they are for sale at the shop.

nicolekaplan, is there a recipe you could post where you use italian meringue to make macarons as you had explained? or can I simply use a normal macaron recipe and simply boil a sugar (with a little water) to the soft-ball stage and pour it into the whites to make the meringue. :blink:

one more question, you had mentioned that you worked in pierre hermé's kitchen. I wanted to ask if you knew the composition of the filling of the sesame macaron sold at his boutique? is it some almond paste flavoured with black sesame?

thanks for your help! :laugh:

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I saw Pierre on the Food Channel recently with platter of pinkish macaroons with rose petals and raspberries. They looked wild. I've tried French macaroons a bunch of times with limited success. I can never seem to get the almonds ground finely enough. And the instructions to mix the batter just till it deflates...I don't know...seems simple enough but I find these hard to make the way I want them to look. Used both Pierre's recipe and Healy and Bugat. And I tried the thing of pouring the water under the paper...totally unnecessary in my opinion. Certainly don't need it with parchment. A quick rest in the freezer and the cookies pop right off. I used to have to make almonds macs every day, the almond paste kind, and would often do coconut macs for parties. Alive Mederich has a good recipe in her little book that uses sweetened coconut and I have a formula from school that uses dessicated. Both involve heating the mixture I suppose to tighten up the egg whites, but letting it sit overnight is a new one on me.

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If you can't get the almonds ground finely enough, there are sources for almond flour, like the Baker's catalogue from King Arthur Flour, and I have bought it at Whole Foods Market under the Hodgson's Mill brand.

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I could also contribute a recipe for his chocolate macaroons if anyone's interested - He stopped by the restaurant I worked at this summer...Amazing to watch him in action - According to him, we had to wait at least a day to try his delicious creations...

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