Macs and Ovens

My oven is giving me grief. I set it 75º lower than the temperature I want and it’s 25º higher than I want! How on earth am I supposed to have any success making macarons with an oven that’s even more finicky than the macarons I’m trying to bake??

Oven aside, I decided to give macarons another try this weekend. This time, I’m making Pistachio Macarons with Pistachio Cream Filling, another recipe I found through Pinterest. For the first time since starting on this adventure, I’m not using the basic recipe I’ve been using so far. This time, I’m following the recipe for the Pistachio Macarons exactly as written. As of right now, as I’m writing, they’ve been in the oven for a few minutes (5 or so) and already have feet! I mentioned in my last post that I was going to follow the advice of numerous bloggers and place another baking sheet on the lower rack of my oven because, in addition to not being able to control the heat, this oven also bakes unevenly.

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Two sheets, ready to bake… for a total of 26 completed macarons

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You can see that they’ve dried somewhat and are ready for baking.

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Feet… we have feet! (I tried to adjust the colour… unsuccessfully. In reality, they’re a lovely pale shade of green.

All that’s left to do now is to make the Pistachio Cream filling. Silly me, I thought about taking butter out of the freezer last night but totally forgot by the time bedtime came around. I now have to wait for the butter to soften enough that I can cut off what I need. They may not be filled until later today (I don’t think that’s an issue). Early this afternoon, we’ll be going to my daughter’s to help supervise my grandson’s eighth birthday party. The filling likely won’t be made until after we’re back… possibly even tomorrow.

… and a couple of hours later, the Pistachio Macarons are cooling their heels in the fridge.

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I decided to roll them in crushed pistachios for that little extra pop of pistachio flavour (colour’s still off).

I did make the filling; I found a way of hurrying the butter along. That is a seriously delicious filling! It isn’t overly sweet, which makes me happy. I’m really not excited about tooth achingly sweet things.

From what I’ve seen so far (haven’t tasted a completed macaron yet), they look amazing but I think I have a bit of hollowness again. As John said, though, considering the oven I’m working with, they are what they are. With a better oven, I know I’d have better results. Incidentally, placing the extra baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven did seem to make a difference. The feet throughout the entire batch are pretty much the same, a first.

Will I make these again? Oh yeah! Having tasted each of the components, I can’t wait to try the whole.

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Macarons – Round Two Critique

Ok, I’m being hard on myself. This is, however, a journey of learning. If I’m not critical of myself, how else will I learn?

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What I made yesterday were very basic macarons. I want to get them right before I start playing with colours and filling flavours. They’re getting better. However, they’re hollow. I realized that almost immediately upon taking them out of the oven.

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There are things I definitely did right. The texture is great. The flavour is amazing. They’re just…. hollow. That said, the macaron on the right, the one with the cocoa and chocolate ganache, is better than the macaron on the left, apart from being slightly underbaked. What’s the difference? Well, the one on the right is from the first batch of macarons baked. The oven was a touch hotter than subsequent batches. Lesson learned: set the oven at a touch higher than 250ºF. The oven needs to be closer to 325º than 300º (don’t forget – my oven runs about 50º hotter than indicated).

Here’s what Natalie, over at Love and Macarons writes:

To get rid of hollows aside from the batter making, you need to make sure your oven is the right temperature. Raising up the temperature a little higher than 300 (my recipe) if your oven thermometer says it is not actually 300 will help. I bake on the middle-high rack, since my heat is mostly from the top. I use a convection oven as well. You also need to bake them a little longer, like 13 minutes. This will prevent hollows and ensure a stable inside. However, the trade off is that you will have crispier macarons than normal. If you have a high-moisture filling, it will disappear with a day or two of maturation. If you have a low-moisture filling like buttercream, you can additionally brush the bottoms of the macarons with milk or whatever will go with your flavor, like jam or coffee. This will help maturation proceed faster, and your once-cripsy macarons will turn into fluffy, soft, chewy confections.

Love and Macarons

 And this quote from Not So Humble Pie

Overall, after testing several batches of macarons under different conditions, I found that temperatures in the range of 270-310°F for 15-20 minutes produced the best results (in my kitchen, mind you). The lower you go the longer you’ll need to cook them. Minding them carefully as should you go too low and too long, you’ll make extra-crisp meringues not macarons and they’ll require a prolonged maturation to become proper macaron cookies. Too low and too brief and your cookies’ will have hollow shells since the insides will never dry out enough to set and then collapse while cooling. While testing progressively lower temperatures (towards the 250-275°F range) I also noticed that the cookies were more likely to be hollow.

Not So Humble Pie, Macarons 101

So, the conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m doing everything right but I need to monitor my oven more closely.The same post that the above quote came from also linked to the video below. It shows the process very well, especially how to blend the sugar/almond into the meringue.

Macarons – Round Two

One challenge has been overcome… I think. This time, I used three egg whites instead of four and let them age overnight. I aged them in the fridge overnight, then took them out and let them stand at room temperature for a few hours (our suite is chilly; we have electric heat and turn it off at night… night time temperatures outside hovered around -18ºC last night). By this afternoon, I was ready to bake.

I did something a little differently from all the recipes I’ve read so far. I came across an article yesterday that I found fascinating. I’ll link to it in a moment but wanted to quote the part I found interesting.

“The operative word when you make macarons, aside from quality, is slow,” said Auzou as he peered into the bowl. The froth of egg whites and sugar soon became a firm, snowy mass. Chef William Liebaut, who has worked at Auzou for thirty years, removed the bowl from the mixer, inserted a second, empty bowl, and carefully scraped about two-thirds of the softly beaten egg whites into it. He then turned the mixer to low and slowly poured in more sugar and ground almonds. Within moments the mass was at the “soft point” stage, and judged ready. “We don’t make meringue here,” Auzou said. “The mixture has to be soft. If it gets too hard, we’ll mix in some of that reserved egg white and sugar mixture to soften it.
– from The Macaron Wars by Susan Hermann Loomis

(emphasis mine)

There were a couple of things I found interesting about this section. First, Auzou said, “We don’t make meringue here.” They beat their egg whites to “softly beaten egg whites”. Huh! Second, the icing sugar and almonds were blended into two thirds of the egg whites. That way, if there was too much moisture in the eggs, you wouldn’t be wasting the entire batch. If you needed more egg white, it was there to use as needed. Third, they don’t mix the egg/almond mixture by hand! It’s done at low speed in the mixer.

I wasn’t quite ready to try the last part but I did follow the second part. After my egg whites reached the just stiff peak stage, I scooped out about one third into a clean bowl, then mixed the icing sugar and almond mixture into the egg whites. Because I’d used less egg whites this time, I did need that one third and incorporated it easily. My mixture was the perfect (I think) consistency for piping. It went so much easier this time. As well, they developed a shell well within the 15 minutes to half an hour that most recipes recommend.

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As to the second challenge, my oven, we did buy an oven thermometer last night and when I tested my oven today, I was shocked to realize that it runs about 50º hotter than the indicator shows. That means that if I need to bake the macarons between 300º and 350º, I need to set it at about 250ºF. That’s what I did and it went SO much better than my first try.

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And you know what else? We have FEET!!

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This batch is looking so much better than the first batch. I can barely believe the difference between the two batches. That said, we haven’t tried them yet. I will reserve judgement until we’ve had a chance to fill them, bite into them. We shall be critical.

My recipe, making 1.5″ shells made 70 cookies, or 35 “sandwiches”. I’ll post our thoughts, and pictures, tomorrow.