How not to make macarons

How not to make macarons: an outline of 3 different methods for making macarons and their results.

The first macaron I ate was about 2 years ago at Le Panier in Pike Place. Somehow, I had avoided ever tasting one up until then. I had just started blogging and funny enough when I sat down with my latte and macaron on the one open stool in the packed bakery, I noticed 2 girls obsessively taking pictures of their individual macarons with crazy big lens outfitted cameras. At the time I was still using my 5 year old point and shoot and had no idea what could be so interesting about a baked good to spend 15 minutes taking pictures of it instead of shoving it in their mouths instead. As I was leaving, I overheard a sentence of their conversation and the word “blog” and put it all together. Fast forward 2 years and I’d probably fit right in with them at that table now. Although, I would order multiple macarons so I could shove one in my face before taking pictures. Priorities.

Since then, they’ve been unavoidable when you follow far too many food blogs than should be admitted and the thought of attempting to make them myself has slowly grown on me as one of those “must dos” when your life sort of revolves around food. When Lindsay announced this month’s kitchen challenge I took it as a sign and convinced myself this needed to happen.

I’m not a baker. I don’t own a kitchen scale (and refuse to buy one for the sole purpose of weighing macaron ingredients). And my pastry bag & tips consist of a ziplock bag with the tip snipped off.

That might give you a bit of an idea of how this all went…

How not to make macarons

I followed this recipe exactly. Stella kinda knows her stuff so I figured I might be able to swing these fickle little things after all. I watched the videos that Mardi made based on Stella’s recipe about 3 times before starting and I’ll admit, I was feeling a bit confident in myself.

That feeling lasted up until about minute 6 of beating the egg whites.

Mardi claims that she’s used chilled liquid egg whites with no problem in this recipe and since I’m a cheapo that didn’t want to waste half my organic eggs by using them (because let’s be real, what the hell do you do with the yolks when custard isn’t really something you want to take on that day?), I went that route straight out of the gates. Except by minute 6 when they were barely even foaming as the mixer beat away at them I had a feeling I was already in trouble.

At minute 12 when they looked like nothing more than bubbly egg whites, I had resigned to failure and went upstairs to put store appropriate clothing on so I could run out for more powdered sugar, food dye and eggs for batch #2. I happened to leave the mixer running though and when I came back downstairs at minute 22ish, they actually happened to look somewhat fluffy and whipped. So I threw my bag down on the chair, flipped the speed to 10 on the Kitchen Aid and whipped the shit out of them for another 2 minutes. I figured it was a 50/50 shot at this point and just went with it.

Folding in the dry ingredients actually went much more according to plan than I thought it would and when I put them in the oven (on wax paper instead of parchment by accident) I had hope.

I sat in front of the oven door, praying for those little suckers to puff up and grow feet like an absolute idiot who was literally talking to them at one point.

18 minutes later and this is what I had.

Making macarons

Tiny little feet but almost flat as a pancake. When you bit into them there was hardly any of that chewy middle underneath the eggshell-esque outside.

Oh, and then there was that whole wax paper thing.

How not to make macarons

It’s not non-stick, in case you were wondering.

A mid-day 12 mile bike ride ensued to clear my head a bit and then to the store I went to restock and reattempt.

How not to make macarons

Things were looking good with this batch. When my egg whites looked like this after the 10 minutes or so of whipping, I was thinking “yep, this is the batch”.

macaron batter

I piped them out, stuck ‘em in the oven and was confident those little feet would appear and I’d have conquered the art of macaron making.

Except, that didn’t happen.

How not to make macarons

I got good “puffage” except not even a freakin’ toe, let alone feet.

How not to make macarons

These tasted great though. Good texture inside & out and the silpat vs. the parchment didn’t seem to make a difference either way.

I had a bit of batter left in the bag at this point though so I marched on to attempt #3.

How not to make macarons

After googling things like “why won’t my macarons grow feet”, it seemed like people swore by letting the batter rest after piping before going into the oven (even though Stella said this doesn’t matter). Something about it drying it out and a whole bunch of other baking terms I won’t pretend to understand but figured I’d attempt it as a last ditch effort.

So I sat impatiently, uploading my failures to instagram for the next hour and waited while they “dried”.

How not to make macarons

And….the result.

Probably the worst batch of the day. Completely hollow underneath, no chew factor and obviously no feet considering they more closely resembled amputees from the waist down.

At this point I gave up, showered and got ready for a birthday dinner where I shoved a bacon manhattan and 1lb. of king crab legs down my throat to forget about these bastards of a pastry and the frustrating day.

I will conquer these suckers eventually though. I get obsessive about stuff like this and can’t end on failure. I’m pretty sure success is going to require a kitchen scale and an oven thermometer though so I gotta work on that first.

If nothing else, Ginger enjoyed a few extra snacks for the day and it was a good excuse to play around with a new lens & tripod. I’m in love with the tripod, not so sure about the lens yet.

Got any macaron tips?

share it on →
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Stumbleupon

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Ah the frustratingly addictive macaron… I feel your pain, having spend months perfecting these and even now I still have my bad days.

    And yes, the scale makes the magic. I would never attempt making macarons using volume measures ever again (I have a few times and it’s a complete disaster).

    Also, I mostly do bring my liquid egg whites from cartons to room temperature – not for hours but at least so they are not chilled. But I haven’t had the 22 minutes whipping issue so it makes me think there might have been something up with the liquid egg whites. Some egg white cartons say “great for meringues” and those are the ones I would use. Many of them are not “ideal for baking” so will not whip properly. Also, sometimes if my mixing bowl is not completely clean (like, it you have used it to make butter cream or something with some oil content, there might have been residue left in the bowl – that can ruin egg whites too.)
    In any case, the first batch look promising – the batter might have been a little over mixed or the oven might have been too hot (did you double up your trays?).

    Good luck – you WILL conquer them (but a scale is important!)

    • 2

      Gina Matsoukas says

      Thanks so much for the comment, Mardi! Yeah, not using the scale was stupid. I’m just stubborn like that ;) I will try the doubling trays thing next time. I’ve never checked my oven’s temperature so I really have no idea how true it runs, but it does seem (based on the cracking) that it might be a little hot so that should help. And thank you for those videos. The visual of Stella’s directions was so helpful!

  2. 4

    says

    Last year I took a macaron making class taught by a French pastry chef here in town (she sells them to a local cafe in town and at the farmers market). It was a three hour class and I left feeling like I could conquer the world! Have I ever made them on my own since that class? No. However, if you honestly want the recipe she gave us and my notes that go along with it, I will gladly send it your way! She was a Chemist turned baker and it shows. …I am far too much of a chicken shit to try doing it on my own LOL. I’ll find the recipe and send it your way!

    • 5

      Gina Matsoukas says

      haha, yes please, send them my way if you find them! You should totally try them at home and if they fail miserably, we can commiserate together ;)

    • 7

      Gina Matsoukas says

      don’t be! if nothing else, we can laugh at our failures together but who knows, you might nail them! All that’s wasted is some sugar and eggs ;)

  3. 10

    says

    Listen to Mardi…get a scale! Also, when I had success with these I aged the whites on the counter overnight AND I aged the macs on the sheet for an hour before baking.

  4. 11

    says

    Awww, that poor lil’ first batch. They looked like they so badly wanted to rise more! Can’t believe you had the patience to not only take gorgeous photos but try twice more and write a funny post about the experience, haha! Try Martha Stewart’s French Macarons recipe if you’re up for another go… never tried it but have heard great things. I’ll get back on that horse one day!

  5. 15

    says

    Aww I was really feeling for you over the weekend seeing the photos pop up in my IG feed. I was seriously waiting for the next photo from you to be “the one”. Having never tried making them before, but always wanting to, I was totally rooting for you to get it right so I could finally try it, with a little less fear ;) Hope you get it right. I do have to say, bought a kitchen scale a few years ago for baking gluten-free bread and I really use it a lot, especially with baking. Really makes for much more perfect and consistent results. Plus when you read those official things that say just how much cheese or meat, etc – that you “should be” eating, you can see just how off you really are from that. haha ;)

  6. 16

    Madeline says

    I am terrified to try these. I LOVE macarons. However, I am not much of a baker, and I live at over a mile above sea level. So I imagine that will add some difficulty to it all. I’m almost positive it will, as none of the local bakeries sell them. I’m guessing that’s really saying something about the altitude here in New Mexico!

  7. 17

    says

    Yeeeeahhhh so macarons frustrate the hell out of me. I tried them twice, pretty much gave up after the second try. It’s just so exhausting to fail and deflating. Definitely don’t got tips for you but I’m going to root you on if you decide to make them again…

  8. 18

    says

    Yeah, macarons can be a total bitch to make – but please don’t give up. I am still working on mine, but I consider myself pretty damn lucky that my first two tries worked out fairly decently. Really I’d rather just buy a few for $1.50 a piece and save my sanity – but it is nice to conquer them and show them who the eff wins.

  9. 19

    says

    I feel your pain! My first few batches all turned out *exactly* like your third attempt so I took a class with a local pastry chef and as a result, gave up both the French meringue method and the silicon mat and switched to the Italian meringue method and parchment. Success! I’ll give the French method another go one day, but for now I’m not going to mess with what works. It might be worth a try for you, too. Either way, good luck! :)

    • 20

      Gina Matsoukas says

      I actually have plans to try the Italian method with some friends/bloggers in the near future. Screw the french! ;)

  10. 21

    says

    So when I first starting reading this post my brain was like “Macarons! I should totally do that this weekend!”, now I’m like “heeeeeeeck no”, haha. I’m so impressed you gave it 3 shots; I normally get pissed off and give up after one try. Sad but true.

  11. 22

    says

    This is the first time I’ve ever read through a blog post completely. I actually felt all your frustrations!! Lol. My first few attempts (I called them maca-wrongs on my blog) came out off and everytime I tried to fix it it was worse!

    Recently I attempted again and they were great! I haven’t had a chance to post them yet due to having a toddler and infant and no time, but will soon.

    I think a scale is definitely worth it to buy. Especially because wasting almond flour/eggs/powdered sugar adds up too. The heat really makes a difference too. My oven has hotspots, the macarons in those areas tend to have no feet and crack. So my assumption is that you might be baking them at too high a temp, giving them no time to puff up and grow feet. The resting helps the top layer thicken a bit to help with the cracking too. In one experiment I rested them at 0 mins, 30 mins, and over an hour. The best results I had was 30 mins. Over an hour there were almost no cracks, but actually got really brittle.

    Anyway, longest comment I’ve ever written. But I felt your frustration and enjoyed reading about your macaron attempts. Good luck in the next batch! :)

  12. 23

    Alex says

    Hi, I am pretty successful at getting the feet but am not completely happy with the crunch/soft ratio of mine. The trick I use is to stack 3 baking sheet and since I have an old oven I keep the door slightly open using a wooden spoon, not sure if that’s what does it but this is the tricks that were passed down to me :).
    I have been doing the French meringue method for year with success but decided to try the Italian one last time as it was suppose to be fail safe, I am not sure if it’s because I am French but it was the opposite for me…
    Oh and yes, definitely go for a scale! Don’t give up, good luck with the next attempt!

  13. 24

    Kristie Y. Haley says

    5. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 300 F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. I bake my macarons with crack open oven, I use wooden spoon for this.

  14. 25

    Sue-Lee says

    Hi Gina!

    This is the first blog I have read about macs going wrong and I totally feel your pain!
    I actually took a course at the Cordon Bleu in Paris on how to make French Macaroons and it was exhilarating! I came back home confidant and felt like I could change the pastry world with this recipe in hand but disaster struck with my first attempt using wax paper and no scale. Three tries later and I went to Walmart and invested in a $7 scale. I finally got a decent batch with my 9th try!!! I (actually my hubby) discovered that my oven is unevenly heated and I have to cover the bottom rack of my oven with two cookie sheets. And I bake my cookie sheet at a time at the top rack.

    I have made many batches (probably grind up more than 3kg of almonds) and 25% of the time they don’t turn out as I over mix my batter and sometimes am too impatient to wait for my egg whites to stiff. I just finished making 4 batches yesterday and today and only one batch came out perfect with the second batch OK, third batch had no feet and fourth batch was sticky and hollow – even my 2 year old toddler did not want to eat them :) Oh and if there is a lot of humidity in the house, you will not be successful – I learned that the hard way! I must say making macaroons keeps me humble! I love to bake and decorate cakes and they always turn out but with macs its another story.

    Good luck with your macs and definitely give it another try – I promise you when you finally get the perfect batch, you will be jumping for joy. I equate it to winning the lottery.

    Cheers,
    Sue-Lee

    • 26

      Running to the Kitchen says

      it’s so funny you wrote this yesterday because I actually spent the entire day with a (baker) friend attempting macs for the second time around! I’m happy to say they came out perfectly this time! The scale was definitely a necessity I didn’t have/use the first time and we actually did these the “italian” way by pouring the simple syrup into the egg whites to create a meringue. The macs came out awesome and so so delicious :) Good to know that you still have failures from time to time as I’m sure in future attempts, I’ll have plenty! Here’s a pic of them: http://instagram.com/p/Zv7rIrD2nY/ I feel like a proud parent, had to share :)

  15. 27

    says

    GAH — this was soooooooooo me today. Well, except for the wax paper part. And the going for bike ride part.

    Anyway, deterred by $2/cookie prices but DETERMINED to have these things for my daughter’s birthday party next weekend, I set out to make them … confident (after reading and reading and reading different tutorials) that I would master it.

    I had fragile little, cracked, no-feet monsters. I was so mad.

    Of course, I live in Texas, where humidity stays about 196% all year long AND I have a gas oven, which I just read isn’t ideal for these stinkin’ little cookies.

    Grrrrr ….

  16. 28

    Laura says

    I have to say, this is the first blog where your results have been similar to mine. My first batch looked almost identical to yours (except the wax paper), my second was pretty good except for a little bit of hollowness inside, then disaster!! Cracking, no feet, just awful. I got a digital oven thermometer and my gas oven will soar up to 330 and drop down to 275 all within one batch. I am going to try getting a pizza stone to put on the bottom rack – I read somewhere that helps even out oven temperatures. The challenge is too great not to triumph. Plus, they are a delicious gluten-free option!

    I’m going to start calling my failures craparons, that is hysterical.

  17. 30

    Megan says

    At least you baked them I made 6 batters before I even tried to bake them! The ting is you just have to use a food processeser! Believe me it is magic when I comes to macaroons!

  18. 31

    Miki says

    Thanks for the good laugh :D I’m going to attempt making these for Valentine’s Day. Good luck on your future macarons, but at least your second try was pretty good!

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *