*Disclaimer* I don’t claim to be a macaron master, I have had many macaron fails – including one this week – and this recipe is NOT foolproof!
Macarons are the pinnacle of meringue mastery. People do find them daunting to make and I definitely have had my fair share of macaron disasters; cracked or soft macaron shells, no feet on the macaron and hollow centres are all common errors. But with a bit of macaron knowledge, you will know what went wrong so you can improve the next time.
Cracked macaron shells suggest that the oven may have been too hot. Cracking occurs in lots of baked goods where the air trapped inside the mixture expands too much, forcing the surface of the bake open – think of cakes! There are also other factors that result in cracked shells such as the batter not being dried out enough; the moisture evaporates, turning into steam which expands quickly, resulting in cracks.
No feet on your macarons means that you’ve not rested the batter for long enough. Feet are formed during the baking process; as the surface bakes and solidifies, the macaron cannot expand anymore which forces it up, resulting in the feet.
Hollow centres are caused by the macarons being baked too fast. A good tip is to cool the macarons on the trays so they have a chance to settle and the structure to form so that you can lift it off easily.
You can see the effect of taking the macarons off from the tray too early here as well as how you can get such huge variation in a batch of macarons. Some of the shells have cracked suggesting that the edges of my oven are hotter, so I could have lowered the temperature by 10°C which could have prevented the cracking. Also lifting off the macarons too early meant that the shell collapsed so this tells me that they needed longer cooling.
The procedure of macaron making is not difficult however they are very volatile. You can definitely improve your macarons just by practising and understanding what the mixture should look like at various stages. This is why I suggest using a 1 egg white batter to practise, that way you aren’t wasting as much if they do happen to go wrong but is a good way to scale up. The precise measurements mean you should invest in a digital scale accurate to 1g. Macarons are not the time to use imperial measurements.
I based this recipe off of John Whaite’s Lemon Macarons recipe from his book, Recipes For Every Day and Every Mood.
Here are other food bloggers’ macaron recipes:
1 egg white
24g granulated sugar
38g ground almonds, sifted weight
56g icing sugar
6g cocoa powder
75g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
100ml double cream
Prepare a baking tray by lining it with a sheet of baking parchment.
Into a container, sift in the icing sugar, cocoa powder and ground almonds. Remember that the weight of the almonds is after sifting. Set aside and add the egg white into a clean and dry metal bowl with the granulated sugar.
Using an electric whisk, whisk on a medium speed for around 2 minutes until it reaches a stiff peak. This means that when you invert the whisk, the meringue mix stays vertical and doesn’t flop. It should look quite shiny as well.
Add the dry ingredients all at once and using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture together, no more than 50 times using a combination of pressing the dry ingredients into the meringue and stirring. The mixture should be smooth and glossy and when you scoop up some batter with the spatula, it should fall, leaving an inverted triangle. At that point, fill a disposable piping bag with the macaron mixture.
Use any leftover macaron mixture on the spatula or in the bowl to stick the baking parchment down onto the tray to prevent it from moving. Cut out a 0.5cm hole off the end of your piping bag and then pipe rounds of the macaron mixture 3cm wide on the baking tray – I managed to fit 24 on my tray. You should hold the piping bag vertically and continue to exert pressure until you have a 3cm macaron at which point stop exerting pressure and move the bag in a circle to get that last bit of mixture on the macaron and then move along and repeat.
Once all the macarons have been piped, give the tray a few firm taps on the surface to expend any larger air bubbles. Leave in a cool and dry place to dry out the batter for 30 minutes. By this time, the surface of the macarons should not stick to your hands.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 170°C. When you are ready to bake, turn down the temperature to 160°C and leave the oven door open for 5 seconds. Then place the macarons in to bake for 12 minutes. I like to open the oven door twice during the baking, at 4 minutes and 8 minutes, so I can keep an eye on them and prevent the oven getting too hot. The macarons are done when the feet have formed and the surfaces are crisp, shiny and set.
Leave to cool on the trays for 20 minutes before using the parchment to remove the macaron. If you peel the parchment from the macaron rather than the other way round, you are less likely to break the shell. Transfer upside down to a cooling rack.
While they are cooling, prepare the chocolate ganache filling. Heat up the double cream until you cannot hold your finger in it for more than 2 seconds. Immediately pour it over the dark chocolate chunks and leave for 2 minutes. Then stir until the chocolate and cream have fully amalgamated and looks shiny. Place in the fridge for about 45 minutes to set up slightly. It shouldn’t have solidified but it should be thick enough to pipe easily. Put into a disposable piping bag.
Match together similar sized macaron shells and then pipe on a good tablespoon of chocolate ganache onto 1 half of the macaron pairs and then sandwich together, pressing down so the filling is visible around the sides.