Friday, 28 March 2014

Tips on Baking Macarons by Charlynn Gwee

Tips on Baking Macarons

Macarons have been projected to be tough bakes that are difficult to deal with and having a real bad
reputation for failing. I’m here to refute some of the myths from the experiences of macaron baking
I have gathered over my bakes.

In short, macaron is a French dessert that is made up of mainly almond flour, icing sugar and egg
whites. They are these dainty cookies that took the dessert world by storm and everyone is trying to
replicate them at home, for they are expensive yet addictive. They are so versatile with the array of
flavours you could add to them, be it sweet or savoury.

Below is a fool proof recipe which I use for all of my macaron bakes!

Macaron baking can go wrong in 4 areas. The ingredients measuring stage, macaronage stage, drying stage and baking stage! (DON’T BE AFRAID, I’M JUST TRYING TO POINT OUT DIFFERENT AREAS WHERE THINGS MAY GO WRONG) Your query will be answered in the FAQs further down this article
**The way of folding your macaronage for both the French and Italian methods is the same.

** The troubleshooting areas are mostly the same too, just that some of the Italian methods doesn’t require the drying of shells.

Just remember, macarons are not as difficult as they are seemed to be. They are pretty easy once you get the hang of different aspect. Believe me, I have been thru most of the frustrations and being self taught, I had to experiment with different possibilities.  (I would consider myself lucky though, I only failed 2-3 times before getting a decent batch of macaron)

Don’t get disheartened should your macarons fail and instead of just throwing the whole batch down the bin, try to figure out what is wrong, what went wrong along the process? I used to pen down the amount of time I take to whip the meringue, how many folds it takes to get the macaronage, at what temperature and how long do I bake them for? These are small details that people always assume they got it, but many a time, it’s these small details that are making the macarons fail, not things like “I didn’t sieve my flour twice today”  

Most of the time, it’s easier to troubleshoot should you have a more specific detail to share. E.g. I have whipped my egg whites for an hour and they have yet to get to the stiff stage rather than saying I have whipped it for a long time yet it has not reach the stiff peak.

From there we can conclude things like, “your egg whites/bowl has oil content that is hindering the protein structure from forming?  Or your definition of very long is just 3 mins, which isn’t enough to form the peaks?

This is how a “properly baked macaron should look like”
Disclaimer: I never claim this is perfect. Just a picture for your reference.

Firstly, there are a couple of pointers to take note before starting.

1.       Have you read your recipe carefully?

a.    Make sure your recipe gives you measurements in grams. Any recipe that uses cups, try not to use them (unless you are sure every cup that you scoop up are same in terms of weight). Not only are there differences between the UK & US metrics, macarons are finicky in terms of the measurements. It has to be right. Too much or too little of anything is never good for macarons (that’s where you get cracked shells, bumpy shells, no feet, spread too much, peaks on the shells and this list can go on forever), or rather any form of bakes.

2.       Are you doing a French or Italian Method?

a.       (I’m doing French)

b.      I don’t like the idea of having to cook a separate sugar syrup and my macarons feet are no less shorter than the Italian meringue method. But that’s entirely up to you.


3.       Have you aged your egg whites?

a.     (I swear by using aged egg whites)

b.    The whole idea aging egg whites is just so that extra moisture will be removed from the egg  whites

c.     Moisture are big taboos for macarons

d.     I have experimented and there’s no difference from aging them between 1-5 days.

e.     To age, just pour your egg whites in a container and instead of closing it with its lid, put a piece of serviette over it and secure it with a rubber band or tape


4.       Do you have all your ingredients ready?

a.      Try not to substitute any ingredients in the recipe. (I’ll talk about substituting different kind of nuts as you read on)

b.      Most importantly, are you ground almond flour still fresh? Does it feel/look oily to you? If they are, you could toast them in the oven for a bit or if they are extremely oily (if you kept it in a humid environment/ or for too long a period), discard them

 Once this check list is done, let’s move on to FAQs

1.       Do I have to age my egg white? Is it compulsory?

·      Personally, I’m a diehard fan of aged egg whites. I have tried variations of making them without aging, and results have always been inconsistent. Fresh egg whites contain too much moisture so how do i age my egg whites? I leave them in a container and instead of covering it with its lid; i put a piece of serviette over it so the whites could dry out in the fridge. People have said age for 3-5 days, but for me, 1 day is good. i have tried 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 days, and i do not see any significant differences in the end product


2.       Do I have to sieve my almond flour and icing sugar twice?

·      Personally, I do not do that. I only sieve it once and the only reason is because I’m too lazy to sieve the second time and that if you are using a fine sieve, nuts that don’t pass thru, you probably have to give it another blitz.


3.       Does icing sugar with corn flour affects the end product?

·      No! I have tried most of the icing sugar available in our local supermarket. They do not affect in any way. We can stop blaming the icing sugar. HAHA :D


4.       How do I colour my macarons?

·      Always use colour paste/ powder! NO liquid colouring! You do not want to add additional moisture to your shells.

5.       Can I reduce the amount of sugar in my macarons?

·       Yes & No! You could reduce the sugar in your meringue slightly but never the icing sugar in the almond flour mixture. The icing sugar is the once contributing to the structure of forming the feet.

6.       Can I substitute almond flour for something else?

·         Yes, you could substitute them with ground peanut, ground pistachio or any nuts that you prefer.

7.       How do I know if I have gotten to the right macaronage stage?

·        Personally, this is all up to your own experience with folding. Remember, FOLD & not STIR! I would say for 3 egg whites, I’m doing anything between 40-50 folds.

·        When your macaronage holds a “V”shape, resembling viscous molten lava, you are good. STOP!


8.       How long do I have to dry my shells?

·      You could dry them either in an aircon environment or just dry it with a fan. It can get anywhere from 30 mins to 1.5 hours. It’s not about the timing here, it’s the environment you are in. So gauge by touching the shells and not the time.

·      It’s also untrue that you can’t bake macarons when it’s raining. Due to the humidity, it could take slightly longer to dry. You could aid the drying process with a fan/aircon

9.       How do I pipe round and consistent shells every time?

·         I have always done it free hand. But you could go ahead, get a piping tip and trace the circles on the parchment paper. Or you could get a template online.

·        Do a mental count while piping, like “1,2,3”than lift up. That way, you know your batter is almost the same amount in every cookie.

·      I always pipe my macarons at an angle instead off straight up. It reduces the chances of peaks on top as well.
10.       How do I know if the shells are ready for baking?

·      Once they are no longer tacky when you touch them, you are good to go

11.       Why do my shells not dry even after a couple of hours?
·         There are a couple of factors that contributes to this. You could have over mixed you macaronage? Meringue is not stiff enough? Egg white has too much moisture?
·         That’s why I emphasis it’s important to write down the timing/ no of times of action you did in a particular step for easy troubleshooting
12.       Why does my batter have a peak after I pipe and rap on the bench?
·         You have under mixed you macaronage. Give it a couple more folds.
·         A quick check would be to scoop a spoon of batter onto a plate. Peaks should disappear in a good 5 secs. If they don’t it’s probably still slightly under mixed
·         REMEMBER, do a few folds at a time. You can never undo extra folds. Do not waste you effort after coming this far J
13.       Why are my piped shells rough and uneven?
·         You almonds might have been under blitz. It needs to be really fine!
14.       Why do my piped shells spread?
·         You have over mixed your macaronage. They should stay roughly the same size as the batter that you have pipe. If they get super shiny and spread, you know it’s over mixed.
·         I would say throw the whole thing away. I never had any good shells with over macaronage.
15.       Why do my baked shells crack?
1.       You might have your meringue over whipped. Too much air was incorporated into it.
2.       Folding time too long (Over mixed)
3.       Shells not dried before baking
16.       Why is there no feet?
1.       Too little sugar (This is what happen when you reduce the sugar)
2.       Over mixed macaronage
3.       Under mixed macaronage
4.       **You should get the feet 5-8 mins into baking.
17.       Why are my shells hollow?
·         Bang the baking sheet a couple more times before resting
·         Hollow shells are caused by air pockets when piping (That’s why I pipe at an angle)
18.       Why do my shells have a sunken centre?
·         It’s not getting enough heat from the bottom.  You could move the tray a rack lower or use a slightly thinner baking sheet
19.       Why does the shell stick to the parchment paper?
·        They are under baked. (if the shell shows sign of browning, lower your baking temperature and add a couple of minutes. Either that, or you could tend a foil over it)
·         Un-aged egg whites. Too much moisture
·         A gentle reminder to always let your shells cool down before yanking it off the baking sheet
·       They should look like the picture below. (Clean base that comes off the parchment paper without much effort)
I hope this short write up will help you all clear some doubts. Should you have any further queries, feel free to drop me an email at

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