Troubleshooting Soft Macaron Tops: Tips and Tricks

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Hello,
So I am an avid macaron maker. I love making them because they're a challenge. Over quarantine, I started to make them frequently and in the beginning, I had really good batches going for a while. This was when I lived with my parents. However, ever since I moved out, I have not been getting consistent batches and they have all been wonky. The one issue im having the absolute most trouble figuring out is soft macaron tops, meaning the skin of the macaron shells are thin and a little fragile. I cannot figure this out for the life of me and I have tried SO many things.
Here are some things to consider about my macaron making technique and my environment
- I wipe down equipment with vinegar
- I dry out almond floor (i used to get oily tops and drying them in the oven seemed to help, so I've been doing this for every batch now)
- I use Kirkland costco brand for my flour (it has worked with me for the most part so I stick with it also because its cheaper too than other brands)
- I use a stand mixer to whip my egg whites consistently (because based on research, thin tops are a result of an inconsistent meringue)
- My oven is an electric conventional oven (no convection setting, no fan, the main heating element is at the bottom of my oven)
- My environment is not humid at all
- I started using egg white powder in my recipe recently because I've heard it strengthens the meringue, so I thought this would solve my issue
- I whip my meringue slowly (I start at level 2 and whip until I'm at level 6 or 8)
- I use Americolor gel food coloring (I ordered a couple powdered food colorings as well cause idk if my food coloring is the issue now)
- I use a scale to measure all my ingredients
- I use the French method (I don't want to learn the Italian method even though I've heard its stronger. I just don't want to get into the whole extra process of making a sugar syrup and using even more egg whites for the almond paste. I will consider Swiss method though)
- I store my almond flour in the pantry and not in the fridge
- I don't age my egg whites because I personally have never found a difference in my macarons between aged and fresh (I leave my fresh whites at room temp before using)
- I use Baketoujours aka Nicole's recipe. We literally have the same equipment and all LOL
(130g each of icing sugar and almond flour, 100g of egg whites, 90g of sugar and 3-4g of egg white powder)
- I've been experimenting with different oven temps (ranging from 275-300°; i even have an oven thermometer to make sure)
- I flip my macs half way through
- I do the same macaronage as Nicole and I stop when it flows slowly like lava (I never overmix)
- I whip my egg whites until stiff (I keep an eye on my meringue the entire process just to make sure I don't overwhip)
- I tap all the air bubbles out after piping and I have a scribe/needle to poke them out afterwards too

I have tried nearly everything for troubleshooting. Using only 1 drop of food coloring in case the gel is messing with the batter, whipping egg whites more consistently, using aged whites/fresh whites, underwhipping egg whites slightly in case my meringue has been too stiff all these times, different oven temps, etc...

Guys.. what am I doing wrong here? I attached two photos: the pink ones I made yesterday. You can see that the skin is quite thin.. they're beautiful but im not proud of them. The white ones I made back at home. Its obvious that the skin in the white macs are much sturdier. I don't care if there a small gap at the top, it usually fills up during maturation. But seriously, would anyone be able to tell what my problem is :( ? This is the most stressed I've ever been because I want to start selling very soon! I currently don't have a job (even though I was supposed to start one not that long ago) so I need some cash coming in, but I don't want to sell something that I'm not proud of yet.
And the thing is: I had had a few good batches at my new place. I dont know what I did right those times but I've had good sturdy batches here. Could it be my oven?? I'm so used to using the convection setting so the fact that my oven doesnt have one is quite frustrating.
Is my almond flour the culprit maybe? I heard that blue diamond is a very consistent brand-its just that Kirkland has always worked for me so for it to just.. suddenly stop working kind of makes no sense. also I have 2 more bags in my pantry so I kinda need to use those.
Another thing I've been noticing with my batches these days is that the feet on my macs look a bit.. fat? They protrude very slightly (pic below from tonight's batch). Is this an indication of anything?

I'm actually desperate for help at this point. Any advice would be appreciated!!!
Thank you
 

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1. Those are not “thin” tops. They are hollow shells.

2. Hollow shells are caused my a number of reasons:
  • not knocking enough air out during macronage
  • not knocking enough air out when you rap the baking sheet on the counter; rap it hard several times
3. Stop using egg power. Egg powder is dehydrated egg white. You are throwing the ratio of you egg whites, fresh egg whites, powdered sugar, and almond flour of by adding in extra egg whites. Bakers have baked billions macaron without egg powder. You don’t need it.

4. Pierre Hermes 1) the arguably the greatest pastry chef in the world; 2) French; 3) famous for his macaron—uses the Italian method. The Italian is the best macaron. Any decent pastry class you take on macrons will teach it. It is the standard for macarons. So if you are scared, just sign up for a class.

5. Stabilize your egg whites with an acid like cream of tartar. Don’t add your sugar too soon, add it slowly. I’ve written a lot on this site about whipping eggs properly. You have to be careful no to over beat.

6. Make sure you understand the difference between stiff and and firm peaks. If I see another idiot turn a mixing bowl upside down as a “test” for peaks, I am going to scream. Whether the meringue stays in the bowl is not how to tell if the difference between a stiff and firm peak.

You can read about how to beat egg properly in this




In this thread I explain the science of why the sugar has to added slowly




=================================================================================

Fresh Egg Whites Before Beating. Do Not Add Anything. Beat Until Just Frothy
9BB07D2F-1AA2-4949-A874-6657FCE6FC39.jpeg



Frothy, but translucent Now Add Cream of Tartar—BUT DO NOT ADD SUGAR YET! Beat about 1 minute until foamy.
2ACB33E6-95E6-43E7-B2FB-8B3FB12D4CBB.jpeg



Foamy. Now gradually add sugar in a steady stream
B87CA37F-235B-4CBA-BB64-E81C04D0133A.jpeg


FIRM Peak—Correct for macaron. Note the Curl and how the Tip is POINTED!!! A Soft Peak will have a ROUNDED TiP. A Firm Peak will Stand Straight UP. Turning a bowl upside down will not show you any of these characteristics.
33FA81C6-6CEA-44AA-BD3E-E36A6B19781E.jpeg



STIFF Peak WRONG FOR MACRONS! NOTE HOW THE MERINGUE IS SO STIFF IT STANDS STRAIGHT UP. THIS IS BEAT TOO MUCH FOR MACARONS.
08E4F92A-990D-448E-A5F8-FD1A1FDAFA45.jpeg


This is not my photo. I wish I could credit it.
22A785DE-36A2-4096-857D-A0DF3B6CBC40.jpeg
 
Joined
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Hello,
So I am an avid macaron maker. I love making them because they're a challenge. Over quarantine, I started to make them frequently and in the beginning, I had really good batches going for a while. This was when I lived with my parents. However, ever since I moved out, I have not been getting consistent batches and they have all been wonky. The one issue im having the absolute most trouble figuring out is soft macaron tops, meaning the skin of the macaron shells are thin and a little fragile. I cannot figure this out for the life of me and I have tried SO many things.
Here are some things to consider about my macaron making technique and my environment
- I wipe down equipment with vinegar
- I dry out almond floor (i used to get oily tops and drying them in the oven seemed to help, so I've been doing this for every batch now)
- I use Kirkland costco brand for my flour (it has worked with me for the most part so I stick with it also because its cheaper too than other brands)
- I use a stand mixer to whip my egg whites consistently (because based on research, thin tops are a result of an inconsistent meringue)
- My oven is an electric conventional oven (no convection setting, no fan, the main heating element is at the bottom of my oven)
- My environment is not humid at all
- I started using egg white powder in my recipe recently because I've heard it strengthens the meringue, so I thought this would solve my issue
- I whip my meringue slowly (I start at level 2 and whip until I'm at level 6 or 8)
- I use Americolor gel food coloring (I ordered a couple powdered food colorings as well cause idk if my food coloring is the issue now)
- I use a scale to measure all my ingredients
- I use the French method (I don't want to learn the Italian method even though I've heard its stronger. I just don't want to get into the whole extra process of making a sugar syrup and using even more egg whites for the almond paste. I will consider Swiss method though)
- I store my almond flour in the pantry and not in the fridge
- I don't age my egg whites because I personally have never found a difference in my macarons between aged and fresh (I leave my fresh whites at room temp before using)
- I use Baketoujours aka Nicole's recipe. We literally have the same equipment and all LOL
(130g each of icing sugar and almond flour, 100g of egg whites, 90g of sugar and 3-4g of egg white powder)
- I've been experimenting with different oven temps (ranging from 275-300°; i even have an oven thermometer to make sure)
- I flip my macs half way through
- I do the same macaronage as Nicole and I stop when it flows slowly like lava (I never overmix)
- I whip my egg whites until stiff (I keep an eye on my meringue the entire process just to make sure I don't overwhip)
- I tap all the air bubbles out after piping and I have a scribe/needle to poke them out afterwards too

I have tried nearly everything for troubleshooting. Using only 1 drop of food coloring in case the gel is messing with the batter, whipping egg whites more consistently, using aged whites/fresh whites, underwhipping egg whites slightly in case my meringue has been too stiff all these times, different oven temps, etc...

Guys.. what am I doing wrong here? I attached two photos: the pink ones I made yesterday. You can see that the skin is quite thin.. they're beautiful but im not proud of them. The white ones I made back at home. Its obvious that the skin in the white macs are much sturdier. I don't care if there a small gap at the top, it usually fills up during maturation. But seriously, would anyone be able to tell what my problem is :( ? This is the most stressed I've ever been because I want to start selling very soon! I currently don't have a job (even though I was supposed to start one not that long ago) so I need some cash coming in, but I don't want to sell something that I'm not proud of yet.
And the thing is: I had had a few good batches at my new place. I dont know what I did right those times but I've had good sturdy batches here. Could it be my oven?? I'm so used to using the convection setting so the fact that my oven doesnt have one is quite frustrating.
Is my almond flour the culprit maybe? I heard that blue diamond is a very consistent brand-its just that Kirkland has always worked for me so for it to just.. suddenly stop working kind of makes no sense. also I have 2 more bags in my pantry so I kinda need to use those.
Another thing I've been noticing with my batches these days is that the feet on my macs look a bit.. fat? They protrude very slightly (pic below from tonight's batch). Is this an indication of anything?

I'm actually desperate for help at this point. Any advice would be appreciated!!!
Thank you
Your oven is running cold.
 
Joined
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Your oven is running cold.
1. Those are not “thin” tops. They are hollow shells.

2. Hollow shells are caused my a number of reasons:
  • not knocking enough air out during macronage
  • not knocking enough air out when you rap the baking sheet on the counter; rap it hard several times
3. Stop using egg power. Egg powder is dehydrated egg white. You are throwing the ratio of you egg whites, fresh egg whites, powdered sugar, and almond flour of by adding in extra egg whites. Bakers have baked billions macaron without egg powder. You don’t need it.

4. Pierre Hermes 1) the arguably the greatest pastry chef in the world; 2) French; 3) famous for his macaron—uses the Italian method. The Italian is the best macaron. Any decent pastry class you take on macrons will teach it. It is the standard for macarons. So if you are scared, just sign up for a class.

5. Stabilize your egg whites with an acid like cream of tartar. Don’t add your sugar too soon, add it slowly. I’ve written a lot on this site about whipping eggs properly. You have to be careful no to over beat.

6. Make sure you understand the difference between stiff and and firm peaks. If I see another idiot turn a mixing bowl upside down as a “test” for peaks, I am going to scream. Whether the meringue stays in the bowl is not how to tell if the difference between a stiff and firm peak.

You can read about how to beat egg properly in this




In this thread I explain the science of why the sugar has to added slowly




=================================================================================

Fresh Egg Whites Before Beating. Do Not Add Anything. Beat Until Just Frothy
View attachment 3416


Frothy, but translucent Now Add Cream of Tartar—BUT DO NOT ADD SUGAR YET! Beat about 1 minute until foamy.
View attachment 3417


Foamy. Now gradually add sugar in a steady stream
View attachment 3418

FIRM Peak—Correct for macaron. Note the Curl and how the Tip is POINTED!!! A Soft Peak will have a ROUNDED TiP. A Firm Peak will Stand Straight UP. Turning a bowl upside down will not show you any of these characteristics.
View attachment 3420


STIFF Peak WRONG FOR MACRONS! NOTE HOW THE MERINGUE IS SO STIFF IT STANDS STRAIGHT UP. THIS IS BEAT TOO MUCH FOR MACARONS.
View attachment 3419

This is not my photo. I wish I could credit it.
View attachment 3421


Question if the author above is around: I all but have given up on macarons. However, I had egg whites left over so I thought what the hell, torture yourself some more. I followed a recipes from
 
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Your oven is running cold.

Question if the author above is around: I have all but have given up on macarons. However, I had egg whites left over and thought what the hell, why not inflict more torture on your all but beaten self. This time I followed a recipe from Jayce Baudry, executive pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s Épicerie Boulud’s, which I also believe is the same recipe used on Cupcake Jemma’s Youtube Channel, in any case they both are the Italian method.

What I noticed in both videos was that the meringue looked like marshmallow. It went totally over on itself … it looked neither firm nor stiff… but it had a peak at the tip. On that video Mr. Baudry stated that it was impossible to over whip this meringue, claiming you could leave it whipping for six hours and nothing would happen; going against that typical mantra for almost every macaron mistake…”You over whipped your meringue”. It’s actually ridiculous how many things are blamed on over whipping meringue so you never really know what you did wrong. Quite frankly there are so many methods and do this/not that statements out there it’s beyond comprehension. And of course everyone has an opinion, and everyone’s are the best, and they all know that best techniques for the easiest macrons that are so foolproof a one armed paper hanger can do it in no time.

Ok, I digress…because as usual, my meringues did not come out well again and I need to let out some steam. I did every trick…all of them…didn’t miss a one. And still failure! They did not rise enough and the tops were soft like a cookie. They are not hollow and they actually taste pretty good, but the top is not crisp. GRRRR. Now, before you say my over was too cold it was accurate (350 F), not only did I use an thermometer, but I also used a laser and my Thermapen (LOL). I said to bake for 14 minutes - turning once (I am not a big fan of opening the oven door). By the time 14 minutes were up they were over done… the pretty pink looked like old peach. The next time I did 12 minutes, the color was still pretty and they didn’t move when I shook them a bit… but their feet were not so high.

I don’t know what happen… I’m guessing it was the meringue (again). I have a seven quart Kitchen aid and I was whipping 63 grams of egg whites - since the whites were left over I have no idea how many eggs that equaled. However, my beater barely touched them and beating them on #4 was hardly doing a thing. I was going to use my hand mixer but I was worried about stabilizing the bowl while pouring the sugar and beating at the same time. Oh, I should mention that there was also 95 grams of whites that were mixed into the flour/sugar mixture (I whipped) prior to the whipping stage to create a paste. Anyway, I had to beat it on high to get it going (I know, that creates large air bubbles and does not allow for the strands to circle the bubbles…. Yada, yada) and once I saw that it was looking thicker I added the heated (245 F) sugar and continued to beat on high until the mixer was cool/warm to the touch. When I lifted the beater my meringue didn’t seem as fluffy as I thought it should but still had a peak that fell downward. I added a third to the macraronage and mixed vigorously until incorporated and then added the rest. It seemed to come together way to quickly… I was able to make the figure eight without breakage in no time and it was nice an shiny. I don’t know if that is how quick it should have happened because the paste was made earlier or if my meringue was completely wrong and too soft making the macoaronage too soft and hence the top of the shells.

I actually don’t even know if an answer of any sorts will help. I would much prefer to pay for an pay someone to give me a private class in my house until I get it right or am just told that I need to stop the insanity. If any one lives close to New Hope, PA that is a proven expert in Italian meringues and would love to help a poor failure I would be externally grateful.
 
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you can usually identify when its too soft or wet, it will spread excessively when piped out.
leftover whites can absorb moisture, depends how they're stored, the french often let them dry out uncovered on the table with a cloth over it for that reason.
 
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Question if the author above is around: I have all but have given up on macarons. However, I had egg whites left over and thought what the hell, why not inflict more torture on your all but beaten self. This time I followed a recipe from Jayce Baudry, executive pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s Épicerie Boulud’s, which I also believe is the same recipe used on Cupcake Jemma’s Youtube Channel, in any case they both are the Italian method.

What I noticed in both videos was that the meringue looked like marshmallow. It went totally over on itself … it looked neither firm nor stiff… but it had a peak at the tip. On that video Mr. Baudry stated that it was impossible to over whip this meringue, claiming you could leave it whipping for six hours and nothing would happen; going against that typical mantra for almost every macaron mistake…”You over whipped your meringue”. It’s actually ridiculous how many things are blamed on over whipping meringue so you never really know what you did wrong. Quite frankly there are so many methods and do this/not that statements out there it’s beyond comprehension. And of course everyone has an opinion, and everyone’s are the best, and they all know that best techniques for the easiest macrons that are so foolproof a one armed paper hanger can do it in no time.

Ok, I digress…because as usual, my meringues did not come out well again and I need to let out some steam. I did every trick…all of them…didn’t miss a one. And still failure! They did not rise enough and the tops were soft like a cookie. They are not hollow and they actually taste pretty good, but the top is not crisp. GRRRR. Now, before you say my over was too cold it was accurate (350 F), not only did I use an thermometer, but I also used a laser and my Thermapen (LOL). I said to bake for 14 minutes - turning once (I am not a big fan of opening the oven door). By the time 14 minutes were up they were over done… the pretty pink looked like old peach. The next time I did 12 minutes, the color was still pretty and they didn’t move when I shook them a bit… but their feet were not so high.

I don’t know what happen… I’m guessing it was the meringue (again). I have a seven quart Kitchen aid and I was whipping 63 grams of egg whites - since the whites were left over I have no idea how many eggs that equaled. However, my beater barely touched them and beating them on #4 was hardly doing a thing. I was going to use my hand mixer but I was worried about stabilizing the bowl while pouring the sugar and beating at the same time. Oh, I should mention that there was also 95 grams of whites that were mixed into the flour/sugar mixture (I whipped) prior to the whipping stage to create a paste. Anyway, I had to beat it on high to get it going (I know, that creates large air bubbles and does not allow for the strands to circle the bubbles…. Yada, yada) and once I saw that it was looking thicker I added the heated (245 F) sugar and continued to beat on high until the mixer was cool/warm to the touch. When I lifted the beater my meringue didn’t seem as fluffy as I thought it should but still had a peak that fell downward. I added a third to the macraronage and mixed vigorously until incorporated and then added the rest. It seemed to come together way to quickly… I was able to make the figure eight without breakage in no time and it was nice an shiny. I don’t know if that is how quick it should have happened because the paste was made earlier or if my meringue was completely wrong and too soft making the macoaronage too soft and hence the top of the shells.

I actually don’t even know if an answer of any sorts will help. I would much prefer to pay for an pay someone to give me a private class in my house until I get it right or am just told that I need to stop the insanity. If any one lives close to New Hope, PA that is a proven expert in Italian meringues and would love to help a poor failure I would be externally grateful.

You just need unteaching what you think you know, I see it over and over the people who don't know much to begin with are the ones who have no trouble, vs experienced bakers are plagued by their own experience.

If you follow all the typical known precautions when making the meringue (french method) you'll have trouble.
If you carefully fold the dry ingredients into the meringue, like a souffle, you'll have trouble. Its the opposite.

Italien meringue is not needed unless you're using a depositor machine to drop them for mass production.
 

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