This is by no means an exhaustive list and it doesn’t mean you will get perfect macarons every time. Those without patience would probably close the browser right now.
What they would have missed are the little hints that I have collected so far in this macaron journey, that have helped it become less of a stressful exercise and more of a rewarding experience.
I will continuously add tips to this page.
1) I always bake on a low humidity day. I almost never make macarons on a rainy day. Why? The shells just won’t dry and without the skin, you won’t get nice feet. If you are desperate and must produce macarons then you will need extra drying time. You can try using a hair dryer to gently dry the surface too.
2) If your oven is too hot, the shells will cook too fast and get burnt on the outside before the inside is cooked. It might crack your shells too. Lower your oven temperature. Also important is how your oven heats. I have my oven on the fan baking setting instead of the top and bottom elements, as I found that this setting allows for more even baking.
3) Cocoa powder shells always need a few more minutes in the oven. Bake it for 20 minutes.
4) Careful when piping and rounding off your shells. Do it in one motion. Remember to stop squeezing before you flick the tip of your piping bag.
5) To reduce the amount of kitchen time in one go, I often pre-weigh my ingredients. That way everything is ready when I get into it.
6) I don’t age my eggs. No problems so far. Do try to use eggs that have been left out at room temperature.
7) I do use meringue powder, it has made a difference to how stable my batter is. When I don’t add it, I had to be extra careful not over mixing the batter, and added colouring to the sugar syrup instead of the batter to avoid that. Otherwise I could easily overmix it. You could still add the colouring in at the batter stage but aim to undermix the colours, it’s quite cool with the marble effect.
8) Italian vs French method: the only difference is in how you treat the sugar. I have tried both ways and found that the Italian way worked for me. Others swear by the French technique, which most would agree is simpler. The Italian method, calls for a sugar thermometer and making a sugar syrup. To be honest, those were the things that made me try the other ‘simpler’ method first. I didn’t own a sugar thermometer and didn’t want to make a sugar syrup. However when I read and saw the macarons made in the Italian way, with a sugar syrup, I saw how stable mixture was in comparison to my earlier attempts via the French method. I tried and I succeeded. I was instantly converted. I did try going back once, but it went straight to the bin, how unsuccessful that was.
This also became some sort of a turning point for me – if I could teach myself to make something as ‘fancy’ and ‘complicated’ – not true, I would call it ‘refined’ and ‘experienced and patience required’ – as macarons, I could do anything ( well not rocket science or medicine perhaps). Just needs practice.
9) Fillings: There are so many flavour combinations! The sky’s the limit here so if you are thinking of any particular flavours, give it a go. I sometimes use flavoured chocolate bars if I’m in a hurry or wanted a particular flavour.
10) Chocolate to cream ratio: enough to make 20-25 macarons
Dark chocolate 100g : Cream 100ml
Milk chocolate 100g: Cream 80ml
White chocolate 120g: Cream 60ml
11) The basic recipe I have makes about 40 bite-sized macarons. I normally make double the volume each time, making two different colour shells. In deciding shell colours, I match them to the flavours I want to make. For example, a raspberry flavour ganache will be paired with a rose coloured shell.
12) To maximise the number of flavours produced for each batch of two different coloured shells, I usually make 3 different flavours. The third flavour would be paired with one shell of each colour. For example, a watermelon ganache is paired with a green and a red coloured shell.
13) Try sprinkling powder (freeze dried fruit powder, cocoa etc) on top of shells. That introduces a different flavour dimension to the treat.
14) Bake macarons on a double metal tray. This helps with even heat distribution and reduces chance of deformed shells.