Nearly Losing My Mind Over Macarons


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Hiya Bakers! I'm new here; a non-professional, amateur baker, who simply loves to bake.

Five years ago, I (surprisingly) had great luck with baking macarons. I recently revisited the lovely world of macarons and I am miserably failing, and I feel like I'm about to lose my mind.

I've tried 5 different recipes (multiple times), both French and Italian methods, and fresh/aged/powdered egg whites. I've been following recipes to exact (to the gram) measurements, tested oven temperature, piped and let the formed batter sit 15/30/60/90/120 minutes, placed the macarons on different rack levels, and baked between 280-310F.

To bake these, I'm utilizing the KitchenAid Classic Plus, silicon spatulas, all stainless steel bowls/equipment, organic brown cage-free eggs (at room temp), Bob's Red Mill super fine almond flour, confectioners'/powdered sugar, C&H Baker's ultrafine sugar, cream of tartar.

The tops consistently come out wrinkly (crinkly?) but, concurrently, the macarons never burn, the bottoms peel off perfectly, the shells are always full and never hollow, and the flavor is good. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out the culprit. Such an oddity since, irrespective of the recipe and methods, the tops end up wrinkled/crinkled. Is it the ingredients, the oven, the mixing,...is it ME?!

Has anyone experienced anything similar? Please, please, pretty please help a fellow struggling macaron baker out. This is nearly maddening. I would be immensely grateful for any advice/recommendations.

Thank you so very much, in advance!
 

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Hiya Bakers! I'm new here; a non-professional, amateur baker, who simply loves to bake.

Five years ago, I (surprisingly) had great luck with baking macarons. I recently revisited the lovely world of macarons and I am miserably failing, and I feel like I'm about to lose my mind.

I've tried 5 different recipes (multiple times), both French and Italian methods, and fresh/aged/powdered egg whites. I've been following recipes to exact (to the gram) measurements, tested oven temperature, piped and let the formed batter sit 15/30/60/90/120 minutes, placed the macarons on different rack levels, and baked between 280-310F.

To bake these, I'm utilizing the KitchenAid Classic Plus, silicon spatulas, all stainless steel bowls/equipment, organic brown cage-free eggs (at room temp), Bob's Red Mill super fine almond flour, confectioners'/powdered sugar, C&H Baker's ultrafine sugar, cream of tartar.

The tops consistently come out wrinkly (crinkly?) but, concurrently, the macarons never burn, the bottoms peel off perfectly, the shells are always full and never hollow, and the flavor is good. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out the culprit. Such an oddity since, irrespective of the recipe and methods, the tops end up wrinkled/crinkled. Is it the ingredients, the oven, the mixing,...is it ME?!

Has anyone experienced anything similar? Please, please, pretty please help a fellow struggling macaron baker out. This is nearly maddening. I would be immensely grateful for any advice/recommendations.

Thank you so very much, in advance!


Consistency: you’ll never resolve the issue if you keep changing recipes. You have to figure out where the mistake(s) is in the process. Not knowing the mistakes, you just repeat them from one recipe to another.

When troubleshooting it’s best to pick a recipe and start testing one variable at a time to find the problem.

Judging from the photos, the shells did not form feet and a crown. Even though the shells are not hollow they did not raise properly. Look at the cross section photograph. See how the shell edges are low and the center high? The edges shouldn’t be lower than the centers. When the shell rises properly it forms frilly feet and a nice smooth crown.

So troubleshoot for no feet. These are the most common causes of shells not forming feet and a crown.

Egg whites not aged. It’s important age the egg whites to allow some of the natural water to evaporate. Too much hydration interferes with rise.

Egg whites under/over beaten. This is probably the number one cause for no feet and crown. And given the shells have very dense interiors and did not rise properly, is an indication it’s an improperly beaten meringue problem.

For each egg white use a scant 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar. The acid stabilizes the eggs whites and prevents over beating. Below are pics of beaten eggs whites at different stages. For me, I find the firm peak works best. I have seen some recipes especially with the Italian meringue that says to beat to a soft peak. But that is just too weak of a meringue.

Over mixing the batter deflates the egg whites to the point they collapse in the bake. If the batter spreads thin after piping and/or when baked, that’s usually an indication that it is been over mixed. From the photo I can’t tell how much they spread during the bake.

Under mixed batter will not spread or form feet. When piped it forms chubby blobs instead of disks. It then bakes into a big blob. But given the look of your big shells I don’t think under mixing is the issue.

Knowing when the batter is mixed enough just takes experience. To test if it’s deflated properly, scoop up batter with the spatula, then let it flow back into the bowl. The batter should flow off the spatula in a smooth ribbon and pile up in the bowl for a few seconds before sinking in. If the batter breaks into blobs as you pour it off the spatula, then it needs more deflating.

This is a firm peak—not a stiff peak. Note the curl of the tip
A2EAB7B2-197B-4B68-9A63-19F9BF010D3C.jpeg



This is a stiff peak. Note the tip is straight. Stiff peak works best in my opinion
F7B0E1CB-1879-4A36-A345-54E20DA5C7CA.jpeg




Stages of beaten egg whites
429E3792-EB9C-4851-9F26-8CF7CA1757A3.jpeg
 
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Agreed.

They look like they have risen then collapsed, creating the wrinkles. Be careful when you're folding everything together - you don't want to lose too much of the air you've created, but you also need it to be liquid enough to pipe. Check out videos on YouTube so that you know what kind of consistency you're looking for.
 
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Thank you, both, so very much! Norcalbaker59, the images and detailed advice were incredibly kind and helpful. Becky, I will definitely treat the folding process with respect. I've watched so many YouTube videos and I tried so many different things to improve my macarons. It has been a humbling (and frustrating) experience with these.

I'd tried the same recipe multiple times, with multiple recipes, under/overmixing, resting the shells lightly and a couple hours, and it just didn't show me any love. I finally had a batch that was decent (not crinkly) but far from great--hooray for progress! I believe the culprit was undermixing the meringue and resting the shells too long; however, I will keep practicing and likely be back for more expert advice.

I sincerely appreciate the love and support on this forum!
 
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Hi all, new to the Forum! I've ventured into Macaron territory, and I'm having an issue that is MADDENING. I've got the batter down, it's perfectly mixed, macronage game is strong! But, I can't get them to stop browning on the bottom. I have tried 325/300/285/275 degrees, I've used a double pan, I've placed aluminum foil over the bottom rack to shield from the heat, but they still brown slightly, even when under cooked. I could move the rack up, but I just finally got them to stop browning on top!!! And, they are sticking to the parchment paper when they seem done (I use the movement test, touch the top to see if it moves on the foot or not). Is there a better way to test doneness and something else to prevent browing? They aren't burned, taste and texture is good. Thanks!!!!
 
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add that you’re still getting over browning despite dropping your oven temperature.

What type of metal is your baking sheet?

Is it dark metal? Coated non- stick?

These types of metal pans conduct heat more intensely.

An uncoated jelly roll sheet like Chicago Metallic Uncoated or NordicWare Naturals is best since they don’t conduct heat too intensely.

Let your macarons dry out before baking. I mean really dry out. I few bakers think this is not a necessary step, but I always get a better result with a dry macaron.

Rotate your baking sheets midway between baking.

Judging when the macaron is done trial and error. When your feet are formed, and your tops are just set take them out of the oven off. They don’t need a full hard set on top. They’ll continue to bake on the baking sheet.

The macarons will stick to parchment paper, but should peel off when cooled. It’s perfectly normal to stick. Let them cool for about 10 minutes then peel them off and set them on a rack to cool completely.

There’s three types of parchment paper, 1. unbleached, untreated; 2. quilon treated; 3. silicone treated. Maybe try a different brand. I don’t know what type they sell at the grocery store. I use Prime Source Pan, a quilon treated paper that I buy from the restaurant supply store.

Silicone treated is more expensive, but silicone is a conductor of heat, so like a silicone mat, it will brown more.



 
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add that you’re still getting over browning despite dropping your oven temperature.

What type of metal is your baking sheet?

Is it dark metal? Coated non- stick?

These types of metal pans conduct heat more intensely.

An uncoated jelly roll sheet like Chicago Metallic Uncoated or NordicWare Naturals is best since they don’t conduct heat too intensely.

Let your macarons dry out before baking. I mean really dry out. I few bakers think this is not a necessary step, but I always get a better result with a dry macaron.

Rotate your baking sheets midway between baking.

Judging when the macaron is done trial and error. When your feet are formed, and your tops are just set take them out of the oven off. They don’t need a full hard set on top. They’ll continue to bake on the baking sheet.

The macarons will stick to parchment paper, but should peel off when cooled. It’s perfectly normal to stick. Let them cool for about 10 minutes then peel them off and set them on a rack to cool completely.

There’s three types of parchment paper, 1. unbleached, untreated; 2. quilon treated; 3. silicone treated. Maybe try a different brand. I don’t know what type they sell at the grocery store. I use Prime Source Pan, a quilon treated paper that I buy from the restaurant supply store.

Silicone treated is more expensive, but silicone is a conductor of heat, so like a silicone mat, it will brown more.



Hi, thanks. I'm using NordicWare pans, and I let them dry for an hour. I rotate halfway. Whenever I was over cooking them (we're talking oven on 325 and cookies really browned on top!), they didn't stick. I let them cool around 15-20 minutes, but have tried 30 minutes. I do believe they are just undercooked now, due to the lower temperature that I'm trying. The bottom browing I'm getting is slight and it's only on the very bottom, the feet aren't browning anymore, so I solved that issue at least. I'm gonna experiment a little more with baking time, and maybe a 5-10 degree bump in temp to see what happens. Thank you!
 
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Hi, thanks. I'm using NordicWare pans, and I let them dry for an hour. I rotate halfway. Whenever I was over cooking them (we're talking oven on 325 and cookies really browned on top!), they didn't stick. I let them cool around 15-20 minutes, but have tried 30 minutes. I do believe they are just undercooked now, due to the lower temperature that I'm trying. The bottom browing I'm getting is slight and it's only on the very bottom, the feet aren't browning anymore, so I solved that issue at least. I'm gonna experiment a little more with baking time, and maybe a 5-10 degree bump in temp to see what happens. Thank you!

Are you grinding your own almond flour or using a pre-ground almond flour? If using pre-ground what brand are you using?

What brand of sugars are you using?

I use Mandelin almond flour. It’s the brand that’s used by a lot pastry chefs because it’s extremely fine in texture and produces really really nice shell. I only buy it directly from the company. I didn’t think the almond flour mattered, until a pastry chef in Southern California insisted otherwise. I experimented with several brands and she was right. In the year since I’ve discovered that quite a few pastry chefs only use this brand.



I only use C&H or Domino brand cane sugar. Sugar quality varies.

3724CA3A-C851-4DF4-A4F1-82BFF89D1B99.jpeg


 
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I've been grinding my own, then triple sifting, but I do still notice some large granules in the finished batter. I'll have to check out the pre-ground. I was using some generic brand sugar, it's what I keep on hand for all baking/sweetening needs. I will do some experimenting with other brands. That could be the final piece to my puzzle!!!
 
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I've been grinding my own, then triple sifting, but I do still notice some large granules in the finished batter. I'll have to check out the pre-ground. I was using some generic brand sugar, it's what I keep on hand for all baking/sweetening needs. I will do some experimenting with other brands. That could be the final piece to my puzzle!!!

I would encourage you give the Mandelin and C&H a try. I only purchase the Mandelin directly from the company. I know suppliers will post on Amazon but I don’t trust the freshness of third-party products. You don’t know how long they’ve had it in their stock.

Shipping is always an issues when buying online; but when I make a purchase I buy a large quantity of other products so I just bite the bullet. Just be sure to store in a cool dry place.

if you haven’t tried Pierre Herme’ recipe, the one that I attached in the link, you might want to give that one a try some time. I’ve use that one many times with very good results.

The pastry chef featured in that blog post, Nicole Plue, is a James Beard winner. I’ve not taken the macaron class, but have taken other classes at her pastry school in San Francisco. I know they use C&H cane sugar there as well. Brand of products really in baking.
 
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I would encourage you give the Mandelin and C&H a try. I only purchase the Mandelin directly from the company. I know suppliers will post on Amazon but I don’t trust the freshness of third-party products. You don’t know how long they’ve had it in their stock.

Shipping is always an issues when buying online; but when I make a purchase I buy a large quantity of other products so I just bite the bullet. Just be sure to store in a cool dry place.

if you haven’t tried Pierre Herme’ recipe, the one that I attached in the link, you might want to give that one a try some time. I’ve use that one many times with very good results.

The pastry chef featured in that blog post, Nicole Plue, is a James Beard winner. I’ve not taken the macaron class, but have taken other classes at her pastry school in San Francisco. I know they use C&H cane sugar there as well. Brand of products really in baking.
I give you....pistachio macarons!!
 

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@HotStrawberry
Yeah!!! Those are BEAUTIFUL! The color is nothing short of magnificent, really bright and not a hint of browning. Way to go girl.
Thank you, thank you! I ended up using Bob's Red Mill superfine almond flour. I mixed it with the powdered sugar, ran the mix through the food processor, then sifted. I used C&H sugar and Simple Truth roasted pistachios, and baked at 285 for 7 minutes, turned the pan, did 7 more, they weren't quite done so I let them bake another 2 min for a total of 16 minutes. Ah, so happy. I ate two, had to test you know. They are DIVINE!!!!
 
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Thank you, thank you! I ended up using Bob's Red Mill superfine almond flour. I mixed it with the powdered sugar, ran the mix through the food processor, then sifted. I used C&H sugar and Simple Truth roasted pistachios, and baked at 285 for 7 minutes, turned the pan, did 7 more, they weren't quite done so I let them bake another 2 min for a total of 16 minutes. Ah, so happy. I ate two, had to test you know. They are DIVINE!!!!

oh so Bob’s Red Mill superfine really works nice! I was wondering if it was any good. i’m so glad you posted. Now that I know how well it works, I can use this as an alternative.

brand of products really matters in baking because baking is a chemical reaction of all the ingredients to temperature and time. Professional pastry chefs are neurotic when it comes to the brand of products they use.

They really are beautiful macarons. I’d say you nailed it girl.
 
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oh so Bob’s Red Mill superfine really works nice! I was wondering if it was any good. i’m so glad you posted. Now that I know how well it works, I can use this as an alternative.

brand of products really matters in baking because baking is a chemical reaction of all the ingredients to temperature and time. Professional pastry chefs are neurotic when it comes to the brand of products they use.

They really are beautiful macarons. I’d say you nailed it girl.

Today I'm trying chocolate, and they are NOT cooperating!! I am getting vicious air bubbles, even after tapping the pans and popping with a toothpick. As they sit to cure, MORE keep coming to the top. Ugh! Also, the only variable that's different today is that it's raining. Does this affect macarons like it does souffle or mousse? And does the cocoa powder cause issues? I'm using Hershey's. The other issue is that they are cooking lopsided (could be my piping technique) and one shell on each batch cracked, just one.
 
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Today I'm trying chocolate, and they are NOT cooperating!! I am getting vicious air bubbles, even after tapping the pans and popping with a toothpick. As they sit to cure, MORE keep coming to the top. Ugh! Also, the only variable that's different today is that it's raining. Does this affect macarons like it does souffle or mousse? And does the cocoa powder cause issues? I'm using Hershey's. The other issue is that they are cooking lopsided (could be my piping technique) and one shell on each batch cracked, just one.

Oh girl, you just had to go jump into the fire!

When it is high humidity, and especially when it is raining, then you will have trouble with macarons. Sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it pulls water from the environment. You can see the hygroscopic affects of sugar by leaving a piece of unwrapped hard candy on the counter overnight, it will be sticky in the morning. Powdered sugar contains about 3% cornstarch to prevent caking. Cornstarch is very hygroscopic—that is why it is used to thicken gravies, sauces, custards, fillings, etc.

Then there is cocoa powder, it is very hygroscopic as well. Adding cocoa powder changes the hydration levels in your batter as the cocoa powder competes with the powdered sugar and cornstarch for the free water molecules in the batter. Remember I mentioned pastry chefs are neurotic about brands of products. Cocoa powders are not created equal. American brands are cheaper, they have so little cocoa butter left in them that are bone dry. So not only is American cocoa powder flavorless, but it will such up more liquid and cause more havoc in your baked goods than other brands.

I you use baker’s percentages, try to keep the cocoa powder between 15% - 17% of the weight of the egg whites. So if your egg whites weigh 180g.

180 x .15 = 27g cocoa powder
180 x .17 = 30.6g round up 31g cocoa powder

If you are not using baker’s percentages, I would recommend you make the switch. Consistency in production is dependent on accurate ratios of ingredients. With macarons, it is the percentage of the weight of all ingredients based on the weight of the egg whites.

Whisk the cocoa powder into the powder sugar to disperse it well, then sift it the sugar and cocoa powder into the almond meal.

There is also two categories of cocoa powder: Dutch and natural. It’s important when you use leavening, since there isn’t leavening in macrons, I won’t get into it. I use Bensdorp (owned by Barry Callebaut), Callebaut, and Valrhona cococa powders. The one exception to American cocoa powder is Guittard, but I have never used it in a macaron. Guittard makes very good chocolate and cocoa powder.

You can read about Dutch cocoa powders here. I have only used the brands mentioned above, so I cannot speak to any of the other brands Stella Parks mentions in the article. I know my local Whole Foods sells re-packaged Valrhona. I also buy cocoa powder online from Olive Nation and Divine Specialities. But the only online source I buy chocolate is Divine Specialities because they are the only ones who will pack with ice packs.

And speaking of chocolate, when it comes to white chocolate, it is Valrhona, or nothing. Years ago when I took a macaron class the pastry chef told insisted on Valrhona Ivoire 35%. And that is what we used in class. When I got home, I bought Callebauto_O The difference in the flavor was so extreme, I have never used another white chocolate. I’ve heard Callebaut Zephyr White is good, but I haven’t tried it.

https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/12/best-dutch-cocoas.html


This is how Whole Foods repackages Valrhona cocoa powder. I have never seen it in smaller container at my local store, but the amount in the container will vary some.
C1588EA4-1E92-4DAC-BB02-E6B324D9F596.jpeg


AAF1E969-A943-488D-AF82-B6572C2E46DB.jpeg


This is how Olive Nation repackages Bensdrop, Callebaut, and Valrhona cocoa powder. They repackage in several sizes, they have smaller sizes.
65020CF2-296A-4C20-AC48-59ED62CD1045.jpeg
 
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Oh girl, you just had to go jump into the fire!

When it is high humidity, and especially when it is raining, then you will have trouble with macarons. Sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it pulls water from the environment. You can see the hygroscopic affects of sugar by leaving a piece of unwrapped hard candy on the counter overnight, it will be sticky in the morning. Powdered sugar contains about 3% cornstarch to prevent caking. Cornstarch is very hygroscopic—that is why it is used to thicken gravies, sauces, custards, fillings, etc.

Then there is cocoa powder, it is very hygroscopic as well. Adding cocoa powder changes the hydration levels in your batter as the cocoa powder competes with the powdered sugar and cornstarch for the free water molecules in the batter. Remember I mentioned pastry chefs are neurotic about brands of products. Cocoa powders are not created equal. American brands are cheaper, they have so little cocoa butter left in them that are bone dry. So not only is American cocoa powder flavorless, but it will such up more liquid and cause more havoc in your baked goods than other brands.

I you use baker’s percentages, try to keep the cocoa powder between 15% - 17% of the weight of the egg whites. So if your egg whites weigh 180g.

180 x .15 = 27g cocoa powder
180 x .17 = 30.6g round up 31g cocoa powder

If you are not using baker’s percentages, I would recommend you make the switch. Consistency in production is dependent on accurate ratios of ingredients. With macarons, it is the percentage of the weight of all ingredients based on the weight of the egg whites.

Whisk the cocoa powder into the powder sugar to disperse it well, then sift it the sugar and cocoa powder into the almond meal.

There is also two categories of cocoa powder: Dutch and natural. It’s important when you use leavening, since there isn’t leavening in macrons, I won’t get into it. I use Bensdorp (owned by Barry Callebaut), Callebaut, and Valrhona cococa powders. The one exception to American cocoa powder is Guittard, but I have never used it in a macaron. Guittard makes very good chocolate and cocoa powder.

You can read about Dutch cocoa powders here. I have only used the brands mentioned above, so I cannot speak to any of the other brands Stella Parks mentions in the article. I know my local Whole Foods sells re-packaged Valrhona. I also buy cocoa powder online from Olive Nation and Divine Specialities. But the only online source I buy chocolate is Divine Specialities because they are the only ones who will pack with ice packs.

And speaking of chocolate, when it comes to white chocolate, it is Valrhona, or nothing. Years ago when I took a macaron class the pastry chef told insisted on Valrhona Ivoire 35%. And that is what we used in class. When I got home, I bought Callebauto_O The difference in the flavor was so extreme, I have never used another white chocolate. I’ve heard Callebaut Zephyr White is good, but I haven’t tried it.

https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/12/best-dutch-cocoas.html


This is how Whole Foods repackages Valrhona cocoa powder. I have never seen it in smaller container at my local store, but the amount in the container will vary some.
View attachment 3718

View attachment 3720

This is how Olive Nation repackages Bensdrop, Callebaut, and Valrhona cocoa powder. They repackage in several sizes, they have smaller sizes.
View attachment 3719
Okay, new issue here. I am trying to use ground up, freeze dried fruit in my batter, but these macs always brown badly. Is it the fruit causing it? I have tried everything and they brown no matter what. Since I'm attempting raspberry, I am tinting them with pink to enhance the fruit's color, and they brown like crazy. Today I tried blueberry, and they look like mud with some blue in it.
 

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