I have decided that I might be over-thinking the French macaron process. I’ve been trying too hard. After my successful third batch (here), I set off for the fourth and fifth with only mild anxiety. I was fueled by my first nearly-perfect macarons but I was anxious because I intended to share the next two batches with some of my food blogger friends in a holiday cookie swap. I wanted to make a good impression and as it happened, most of the 60+ macaron shells were hollow. I had not encountered this problem before and as I had been using the same ingredient ratio and technique, the hollow shells left me baffled.
What have I done wrong now?
After reading several tips on the web, I narrowed the possible causes to the following:
1) over-beaten egg whites (I remembered the egg whites being quite a bit stiff for the hollow batches)
2) too low baking temperature (though I followed everything exactly from the third batch).
This time, I beat the egg whites just enough so that I had fairly stiff peaks at the top but the whites at the bottom of the bowl were just a little less stiff. Because of this, the macaronnage step didn’t require as much folding before I reached the “lava flow” stage. I baked the shells at higher temperature and for just a little longer and gosh, my shells for this sixth batch were all perfect! I’m not certain if I was just having a good day and I won’t know until I make another batch if I have found the perfect technique given my ingredients, tools and oven but I was very pleased with the results.
“Make the filling pink,” my husband suggested after seeing my food color collection. I think he’s caught my macaron-mania and has really enjoyed seeing the finished product and eating them the last few months.
“These are matcha green tea flavored. I can’t think of a complementary filling that should be colored pink,” I countered. “I’m using chocolate ganache.”
He wasn’t convinced that the matcha and chocolate combination would go well…initially. But after tasting them, he was a fan. My husband is not really a pink kind of guy (though he’s allowed me to dress him in pink shirts finally) but I might indulge him in the green and pink combination for Spring-themed macarons next time.
(Please scroll down to the bottom of the post for additional notes on baking these macarons.)
- I followed the same recipe from my first macaron post here but since these shells were a little larger, I adjusted the baking time and temperature to good results.
- I didn’t beat the egg whites as stiffly as I’ve done in previous batches. For this quantity (118 grams egg whites and 94 grams granulated sugar) I beat them for six minutes, alternating between speeds 6 then 8 then back to 6 again in two-minute intervals (after the granulated sugar had been incorporated into the egg whites).
- I used silicone baking mats only this time. The feet aren’t as tall compared with baking with parchment paper but the shells are much easier to remove from the mat. The trick is to leave the shells to cool on the silicone mat for a few minutes before carefully lifting them.
- Since my baking sheets are just a little smaller than my silicone mat, I inverted the tray when I baked these to avoid the mat curling upward on the edge of the baking sheet (deforming the shells on the edge). This worked very well. The mat didn’t slip and I had more usable space to work with.
- I baked these shells at 350℉ in my oven and lowered the temperature to 325℉ after 10 minutes. Ideally, for my oven, 340℉ would be perfect but my manual dial makes it difficult to be precise.
- 46 folds during the macaronnage step.
- These shells will be very crispy once they’ve cooled. You will think that they are unusable but they are just right this way. Fill them and store them in the refrigerator overnight (24 hours is best). The shells will absorb the moisture from the filling and will become chewy inside while remaining crisp outside. Take them out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before you plan to serve them.
Here is the guideline I follow:
* Using egg whites as the base, adjust the amounts of the dry ingredients accordingly.
- Egg Whites = 1
- Almond Meal = 1.3 x 1
- Powdered Sugar = 1.6 x 1
- Granulated Sugar = .8 x 1
So if you have 95 grams of egg whites you will need:
- Almond Meal: 1.3 x 95 = 123.5 grams
- Powdered Sugar: 1.6 x 95 = 152 grams
- Granulated Sugar: .8 x 95 = 75 grams
Using this formula will ensure that your proportions will always work no matter what size eggs you use or how large a batch of macarons you make.
Update 7/25/15: I reduced the powdered sugar to 1.3 x 1 and made sure to replace the equivalent amount of almond meal that I had to discard while sifting (in this recent batch I had to discard 30 grams of almond meal that was not fine enough so I added back the same amount while sifting).
- ***For roughly 64 shells or 32 filled sandwiches 1½ inches in diameter***
- 118 grams egg whites (aged 1½ days)
- 153 grams almond meal
- 189 grams powdered sugar
- 94 grams granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon matcha powder
- Pinch cream of tartar
- ***For the Chocolate Ganache (just enough to make 32-34 sandwiches)***
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 4 ounces dark chocolate (at least 72%), chopped finely
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- Preheat your oven to 350℉.
- Prepare two baking pans lined with parchment paper or silicon baking mats. If you have macaron templates, lay the sheets below the parchment paper. Set aside.
- Pulse (a few times) ⅓ of the powdered sugar and all of the almond meal in a food processor. The goal is to make finer the texture of the almond meal and to remove any powdered sugar clumps. Combine this mixture with the remaining ⅔ of the powdered sugar and matcha powder and sift twice, into a bowl, using a fine sieve. Discard any large clumps of sugar and almond meal left behind in the sieve. Set aside.
- To make the meringue: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy, about 1½ minutes (speed 4 on my Kitchenaid mixer).
- Add the granulated sugar all at once and process for 2-3 minutes (speed 4 then 6) until the granulated sugar has been incorporated and the mixture is thick.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the cream of tartar and the food coloring and whisk the egg whites on high (alternating between speeds 6 and 8) until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes.
- Macaronnage: Detach the bowl from the mixer and add ⅓ of the almond meal mixture to the egg whites. Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients a few times following the curve of the bowl, lifting the spatula toward the center of the mixture and pressing down on it, rotating the bowl as you go. The goal is to fold out some of the air from the egg whites. Once the first ⅓ of the dry ingredients have been mostly incorporated repeat with the second ⅓ then the the remaining ⅓ of the almond meal mixture. Continue with the same folding motion. For this quantity, I repeated the folding motion 46 times. At this point, I had a thick, glossy batter that flowed thickly from the spatula. You should have a ribbon of batter that takes about 20 seconds to be incorporated back into the mixture. If it’s thicker than this you’ve undermixed and if it’s thinner you have overmixed the batter and the shells will spread too much when piped.
- Piping: Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain round tip. I like to place the pastry bag in a tall glass to make filing it more manageable. Pipe 1½ inch rounds (following a template) onto the parchment paper. What works for me is to position the tip directly above the baking sheet and pipe using a slight swirling motion from the center of the round and pushing the batter onto the sheet. Others like to pipe the batter from an angle. Try both ways to see what works for you.
- To remove any air bubbles, rap the baking sheets against the counter several times, rotating the sheet as you go. Let the rounds rest until the tops form a “skin” or a slight crust. You’ll know they’re ready to bake when you touch the tops of the rounds and the batter doesn’t stick to your finger. Depending on humidity, this can take as little as 15 minutes or even as long as 30 minutes.
- To bake: I baked my macaroni shells in two batches. The sweet spot in my oven is the second shelf from the top. Bake for 13-14 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking period. The feet should develop in the first 5-6 minutes. Be careful not to let the macarons get brown. Remove the first batch from the oven and repeat the same steps with the second.
- Let the baked macaron shells sit in the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. You will know they are done when they lift easily off the parchment paper or silicone baking mat. If the shells stick, they’re undercooked. Using the French meringue method here, the shells will be crisp but get chewy once filled and allowed to mature for 24 hours. The shells can be prepared 1-2 days in advance, before filling, if kept in an airtight container.
- Make the ganache: Heat the whipping cream over medium heat in a small pan until just before it boils. You should see bubbles along the rim of the heated milk. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Wait about one minute to allow the chocolate to warm up then add the butter and whisk the mixture until it is glossy and smooth. Cool to room temperature before using.
- Fill the macaron shells: Using another piping bag and tip, transfer the ganache to the pastry bag and fill half the macaron shells (match them up according to size once they’re cool) and cover with the other half to form sandwiches.
- Tip: The gain the additional chewiness that is sought after in macarons, fill the shells at least 24 hours before you plan to serve them, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature before you serve them. This process is called “aging” the macarons and allows the filling to soften the inside of the macaron shells a bit, lending more chewiness. The outer shells will remain crisp.