Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Art of Perfecting Macarons

Bright Pink Beauties!
Sometimes you fail, and it happens to everybody, don't let it get the best of you. Macarons are one of those things that I thought I would never get right... Two years and three attempts later, I finally have hope that maybe I can get it right. Yes, two years. Every time that I failed, it was a blow to my ego. I know that I said don't let it get the best of you, but it did steal a little from my motivation each time I failed. But then like everything, the feeling passed and I was ready to give it another go. I have to admit, I documented each journey of macaron failure with the thought that I would never get to share my progress.

I am extremely happy to say that I made such progress today with this batch of macarons that I just had to share the bad and ugly along with the good.

Attempt #1: Cracked shells, No feet, and Hollow

Attempt #2: No feet and Hollow (Yay, no cracks!)

Attempt #3: No cracks, with feet but Hollow (Yay, no cracks and WITH feet!!!)
1. Cracked, No feet and Hollow, 2. No feet and Hollow, 3. Hollow

Now, I must learn to battle the Hollows.

Overmixed during Macaronage
Based on my research and blog reading, it would appear that Attempt #1 was over mixed during the Macaronage stage. You can tell this by how flat they lie on the sheet pan. I found it confusing to know what recipes meant when they said "molten lava" consistency or until "ribbons" fall in the batter. Apparently I think molten lava is pretty runny, but it flowed in "ribbons"... so what is it suppose to be molten lava or ribbons?! I definitely learned that under mixing during macaronage is best. I found Kitchen Musing's description of Macaronage to be helpful and the pictures even more valuable.

1. Almost there, just a few more folds, 2. Too late, over mixed

No feet and Hollow
Attempt #2 was not as clear to me what went wrong. However, based on Not so Humble Pie, it would seem that maybe I over beat the meringue and perhaps did not let them "form a skin" long enough before baking them. With my latest attempt, I was sure to let the shells rest for a full hour before preheating the oven. That seems to have solved the no feet problem. I also watched my meringue very carefully to avoid over beating them. You want to go for a firm peak, but not quite stiff peaks. This Visual guide over at The Kitchn can help you determine what's considered firm peaks.
Look for firm, glossy peaks, but not stiff peaks

So excited to finally have FEET on my macarons!
I believe that my latest Attempt #3 and the hollows is due to under baking. According to BraveTart, when shells are under baked, the inside has not fully setup and therefore it collapses as it cools and leaves behind a sad hollow shell. My shells were just barely hollow and should have baked a few more minutes. I should have know better when I tried to test the corner macaron and pull it from the parchment it was still sticking to the paper. But stubborn me thought it had to be done since it had baked a full 20 minutes at 295 degrees F. The cookies know best, not the timer. Always trust the cookie and what you see, not the clock. I should know better, shame on me.

Lessons Learned:
(1) Don't overmix during Macaronage,
(2) Don't over beat the meringue,
(3) Allow at least one full hour for the shells to rest before baking, and
(4) Allow shells to bake completely, don't rely on the timer.

The recipe that I used was from Not So Humble Pie and next time I am aiming for a perfect macaron and hopefully from each lesson that I have learned, I can finally achieve the greatness that is the French Macaron!

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