Tips for Using your Mix

Thank you to everyone who purchased mixes from Bijou Fair and Etsy this weekend. I so appreciate your support and enthusiasm for these little french cookies!

The instructions on back of the package are pretty thorough, but for those of you who are feeling a little nervous about your first macaron adventure, here are a few extra tips, pictures and video clips to help you along. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions you have.

1. Preparing your Egg Whites

It is REALLY important that when you are separating your eggs you are careful not to get any yoke in with the white. Any kind of oil will compromise your meringue making it so that it will not firm up properly. It will wreck your cookies sooooo really try to watch out for this. 

Every baker has techniques that work best for them. I have found that when separating my egg whites it is better for me to crack the entire egg into my hand and then let the egg white slip through my fingers into a bowl like so. 
This method works better for me than trying to cradle the egg yoke between two cracked shells.  The sharp edges of the shell can easily pierce the skin of the yoke and before you know it your done.

2. Making your Meringue:

If you plan on using a stand mixer this method will work like a dream!

  • 3 minutes @ level four
  • turn off mixer, add entire bag of egg white powder & sugar
  • 3 minutes @ level six
  • 3 more minutes @ level nine
  • add food colouring (gel or powder is fine) and beat on ten for a final 20 seconds.  
You should get something that looks like this:
If you haven't achieved this consistency after nine minutes just keep beating until you do.  Don't worry about over-beating your meringue.  I include egg white powder in my mixes because it strengthens the egg white proteins and makes it practically impossible to over beat a meringue.  It would take you about an hour of beating on high speed to wreck this meringue (trust me I've tried!). 

3. The Fine Art of Macaronage (aka folding in your almond flour).

When the meringue is all beat up there is a lot of air in it.  When we fold in the almond flour and sugar we are trying to get rid of some of that air.  I like to take my spatula and press the batter up against the sides of the bowl.  I find that for me it takes about 50 strokes to get to the "right consistency."

Finding what the "right" consistency can be tricky.  All the macaron making blogs tell you to mix until you get to a point where the batter "flows like lava."  That sounds vauge but once you start working with the batter it will totally make sense.  Basically what this means is that when you pick up a little bit of the batter with you spatula and dump it on back into the bowl it forms a mound and then after about 10 second totally reincorporates into the rest of the batter (you shouldn't even be able to tell you poured some batter). Don't feel like you need to rush this process.  Take your time and everything will turn out just fine. It should look something like this:
I am working on a little video of this, but in the interim Chef Nini does a great job of showing how it is done.  This video is in French--but even if you don't speak the language--you'll get a really good idea on how to baby this batter.   Oh and one note from me before you watch.  Chef Nini adds her almond flour in three steps.  I don't do this anymore because I can't tell that it makes a huge difference in how the batter turns out.  The part that is relevant to us kicks in at 1:49.

4. Pipping your Cookies

If you have a pastry tip and coupler go ahead and use them.  They provide a little bit of extra stability in your pipping bag.  You don't have to use them, however (they aren't included in the mix because I often don't use them). 

Hold your pipping bag at a 90 degree angle from your pan.  You'll want the tip of your bag to be about 2 mm above the pan.  This is important because it will ensure you get a nice perfectly round macaron.  If your bag touches the pan sometimes the cookies shapes warp a little bit.  (This doesn't bother me all that much when I am making macarons for myself or my family--but if you want to get technical and make a perfectly round cookie, this is important).

5. Letting them Rest. 

Check my post here to find out why! 

Anything I missed?  Shoot me an email and I will try to address your question!

Macaron Class Video

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of teaching a few Utah bloggers the in's and out's of macaron making.  Our group included Shelly of House of Smiths, Jen of Tater Tots and Jello, Amy of The Idea Room, Lara of Less Cake More Frosting, Elizabeth of Dear Lizzy and Emily of Ruffling Feathers/ Bijou Market.  Colin Kartchner made this adorable little video to capture evening in the kitchen.

Mercedes White Macarons- Blogger night from Collin Kartchner on Vimeo.

Using my pre-made mixes we learned how to whip a proper meringue, the art of maraconage, and how to prevent pesky hollow shells.  If you are interested in trying your hand at baking your own french macarons--one of my mixes is the way to go.  I've streamlined the process and simplified a lot of the steps.  We will be selling them at Bijou Market this weekend in Provo.

Mac Tips: Parchment vs Silpat

When I first started making macarons I noticed lots of discussion on cooking blogs about which is better for lining pans: parchment paper or silpats.  When your attempts at making macarons look something like this, the distinctions between the two seem kind of nitpick-y.

If you are still trying to figure out how to make a macaron (that looks like a macaron) check out my section on cooking tips.  If you are at the point where you want to start getting technical about things--this might be useful.

The truth is you can make great macarons using both silpats and parchment paper---but there are variations in the outcomes you get.  Ultimately you decide what works best for you, but here are some things I have noticed about baking with each.  

environmentally friendly
easy to care for
macaron shape tends to be more consistent because macarons on a silpat rise more evenly

macarons just don't rise as much
expensive if you don't bake often 

Parchment Paper:
beautifully risen macarons
affordable (Gygi has the best price I have seen.  7.99 for 100 pre-cut sheets)

macarons sometimes do not rise evenly
must use batter to "glue" parchment to pan.  it makes a big old mess (and just in case you are curious--when making macarons for photo shoots I use parchment paper, for clients I use silpats)

Mac Tips: Dying out Piped Macarons

There has been some talk recently about whether or not you actually need to dry out your piped macarons and if so for how long. 

If there is one thing I've learned about making macarons--it is that what works in one kitchen won't necessarily work in another.  Temperature, altitude, humidity, equipment and ingredient quality all pay a role in how your macarons turn out.  Some you can control, others not so much.  So with that said, from my experience drying my macarons for about 60 minutes vastly improves outcomes in two key ways. 

First, I get a more nicely formed foot. It is the difference between something that looks like this

A very small foot. Boo.  Image via afterhourskitchenette
 and this:
A nicely formed foot. Image via cravingworthy
Getting the foot right is important because it is what makes macarons unique from other cookies.  It is also what gives the macaron its interesting texture.

Second, I've found that when I dry out my pipped macarons for an hour or so I never have problems with cracking.  Nothing is worse than slaving over a batch of macarons only to open the oven and see this:  
Oooooppppps. Image via kawaiikitchen
I hate when this happens! Luckily you can avoid it by just giving your macarons a little time to hang out before popping them in the oven.  I find I need to give my macarons that have cookie toppings (such as grasshopper below) a little extra time to dry out. Happy baking friends!  Let me know if you have any questions.  
Image via Mercedes White French Macarons