[Teach a Fool] Macaron Tutorial ~ Pt.1 Intro

Hello world,

It's been a while since I last wrote something online for ThePuffaron. For the past year I've been on a sort of baking hiatus (excluding a special wedding). I've come to a point where I could be ok with taking an indefinite break from baking. It's not that I don't like baking anymore but taking some time off helped me realize that there are so many other things that I love and things that I have an interest in pursuing. The idea of taking time off from baking to pursue those interest sits well with me and I feel completely content with leaving baking to be a side hobby for now.

That said, I've been thinking about what I want to do with ThePuffaron. Over the years I've accrued a ton of knowledge simply from countless hours of trial and error baking sessions at home and online research. I've read through more blogs that I can count and I have a huge playlist of macaron how-to videos saved on Youtube.

Back when I was still researching macaron tutorials and blogs, I came across a lot of so called "fool-proof" macaron recipes. In short, I don't think such a thing exists. It's a blogger scam. If there were such a thing as a fool proof macaron recipe, I wouldn't be able to charge y'all $2 per macaron. 

Macarons are inherently a finicky dessert. They are still capable of stressing me out every time I work on an order despite having practiced for 4 years. I've visited a lot of bakeries and let me tell you, even some professional pastry chefs still only make sub-par macarons. Taking all of that into consideration, I stand by my believe that a "fool-proof" macaron recipe doesn't exist.

As you may have noticed, the title of this blog post  has been labeled "Teach a Fool" Macaron Tutorial. Although I don't believe in "fool-proof" recipes, I believe that any "fool" can learn the basic and integral steps to making macarons. Whether or not the steps work out will rely on intuition and practice. 

The plan is for this post to be the start of a series where I write down all the knowledge and tips I've gathered both borrowed and created on my own for making macarons. And hopefully all of this information will serve to help you, the reader, build off of my own experiences to make successful macarons. 

I believe I have said enough. If you've made it this far in the post I assume you have some interest in learning the art of macarons, so without further ado…let's start with the very very basics then!

Dissecting a Macaron:
There are many different parts to a solid macaron. The two most general parts are the shells (on the top and bottom of the macaron) and the filling which lies between the two shells.

The part that a lot of bakers judge a good macaron by are the "feet." Bakers like to call the small ruffles that encircle the bottom of each macaron the "feet." When you bake macarons, they can come out will all sorts of different feet. Some feet are tall and straight, some are lopsided, some are tiny, some balloon outward, and some are just non existent. 
The feet are mainly important because they usually correlate with whether or not your macarons have hollow insides. For all of you who have taken stats, you may notice that I said correlate...not cause. I don't think anyone really knows exactly why hollows form, but there are many tips that people have discovered through trial and error that help to minimize their occurrence. 

Here's  a link to a site where they've gone through a lot of macaron problems and tips on how to fix them. Remember that not all tips here are a definite solution as there are many many other factors that can effect how your macarons turn out.

I've noticed that oven temperature and heat distribution within the oven has a large effect on the feet as well as what kind of lining you use on your baking tray (e.g. parchment paper vs. silicon). It's hard to tell exactly how different your oven is from other ovens. But for the most part when making macarons, you will have to tailor your method to your particular oven. For example, the oven I bake in at my parents house is different from the oven I bake in in college. The one back with my parents is electric powered and the one I use in college is gas powered. Every time I change ovens, the first couple batches come out a bit off.

A good & solid macaron should have the following properties
  • Thin crispy egg shell like exterior to the top and bottom of the macaron 
  • solid insides for the shells with a chewy meringue like texture (aka: no hollows)
  • nice ruffled feet 
  • good filling that isn't too sweet 
cross section of a macaron

In my opinion, the most important part of a successful macaron is having no hollows. Macaron hollows occur when the inside of the shell has bubbles. But if you're just learning how to make them, I wouldn't worry too much about them. In the end as long as the macarons still taste good, then that's all that matters. 

That said, if you really want to chase after the no-hollows theme there are a few hacks I have found that help you cheat and make the hollows disappear after baking them. I'll probably include the hacks later in this series. 

The next very important step to making macarons is what EQUIPMENT to use! Woooo here's where the $$$$ comes in and makes you broke

Essential Tools & Equipment:

  • Kitchen scale
    • a kitchen scale isn't integral to normal home baking, but for macarons it's a must-have since the ratio of ingredients needs to be as precise as possible
    • a tip for using a kitchen scale: the unit button means grams, oz, lb, etc. while the tare button zeros out the weight on the scale (this means if you place a bowl on the scale then press tare, the weight on the display will go to zero) 

Image result for kitchen scale

  • Hand held electric mixer
    • you don’t "have" to have one…by all means do it by hand, don't say I didn't warn you though. You don't have to have a stand mixer, but hand held mixer is a must 
  • Mixing bowl
    • I find that a metal bowl gives more grip than a glass bowl, but this is just a personal opinion. Having a nice bowl helps you with the macaronage, which is the trickiest and most important stage in making a macaron
    • Make sure you pick one that's big enough. It's better for the bowl to be too big rather than too small
Related image
  • Spatula
    • Integral to the macaronage portion (a thinner and lighter one also helps prevent over-mixing)
  • Sieve
    • MUST HAVE best baking tool and step to add to anything you bake to raise your baking to another level texture wise for any recipe you make
    • P.S. this is also my special pancake hack 
Image result for sieve
  • Baking tray
    • Get a proper baking tray it helps a lot (don't use a cookie sheet)
    • a cookie sheet is completely flat (we don't want that). A baking tray has 90degree edges lining all four sides
Image result for baking tray
  • Parchment paper or Silicone mat
    • Silicon mat is better for long term use also doesn't wrinkle the macaron base in my opinion. But Parchment paper is cheaper for first time macaron bakers and works
    • Please note that parchment paper is NOT wax paper
Image result for silicone mat    Image result for parchment paper

  • Piping bag & tip
    • You can use a ziplock bag if you want, but for all those who ask me how I get such perfectly circular macarons, here's your answer
Image result for piping bag
  • Oven Thermometer (optional - but helps)
    • The oven I used during college was an old gas oven so there was no digital display for the oven temperature and I was pretty sure the knob on top wasn't the most precise indicator of the internal oven temperature. I got a hanging oven thermometer to help me make sure the baking temperature was accurate before I put the macarons in. This step/tool will help a lot if you really want to fine tune your macaron baking skills since oven temperature has a large role in how the macarons bake and how they come out

Image result for oven thermometer

Macaron Ingredients: 
  • Shells: 
    • Almond Flour
    • Powdered Sugar
    • Granulated Sugar
    • Egg whites

  • Filling: (French Buttercream)
    • Butter
    • Egg yolks 
    • Granulated sugar

That's it for this post! Next time I'll dive into what the different methods are for making macarons (French vs. Italian) and which method I use as well as the pros & cons to each method. See ya next time!


Macaron Recipe Methods: (Sneek Preview) 

The main difference between these two methods is the type of meringue used

The Italian Method: 

  • More stable, but taste is different
  • Most pastry shops use this method because it ensures the most consistent results (aka less cracked shells and less hollows)
  • My preference: takes a lot more work

The French Method

  • Less stable, but tastes more delicate
  • Most home bakers start off with this recipe because it's the most simple to make
  • My preference: I stick with the french method because of it's simplicity 


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