Macarons was the 2nd thing which I learn to bake (the first was cupcakes). And over 40 tries and failures, I finally managed to master the secrets to Macarons. The are no secrets, just muscle memory and alot of "to dos" and "not to dos".
Here are some common Macaron Myths which I am about to share with you to help you bake better macarons in the future.
7 Macaron Myths from the Macaron Maker
1. You cannot bake macarons during rainy days
This is a total myth. Rainy or not, pastry chefs or macaron shops will still have to sell macarons. If this is true, most cake shops will face financial crisis during rainy seasons. LOL! So the next time don't blame it on the rain.
2. You need aged egg whites
This is not true as well. I have been using fresh eggwhites, aged eggwhites, a mixture of fresh eggwhites for the longest time since I remember. On a very practical note, we don't always have balance white egg whites stored in our chiller all the time. So throw out the myth that you need aged egg whites.
3. Your egg whites need to be at room temperature
Most of the time in a professional kitchen we don't have the time to defrost our egg whites. So even if you just take your eggwhites out from the fridge, you can use them right away! I have tried using different eggwhites of varied temperature. I would have to say eventually what matters most is beating the meringue into stiff peaks. As long as you get that, the rest are not important.
4. You need to dry or rest your macarons
Most people have problems when they do not rest or dry their macarons. However, from our professional experience there is absolutely no need to rest or dry our macarons. Usually we will just pop it into the oven right after it is piped. In fact according to some famous pastry shops who bake macarons on a daily basis, baking macarons right away provide a 'shine, sheen' on the macarons. Which makes them extra pretty.
5. You need icing sugar without corn starch
Like anyone who is in Singapore, i use Phoon Huat aka Redman's icing sugar. Sometimes when I am desperate and I need to buy icing sugar, i use SIS from NTUC as well. And if you refer to their ingredients list, you will realise that there are corn flour added in the icing sugar, since I do not face any trouble when I am making those macarons using these commonly available ingredients, I don't think you should face any problem too (PS. even when I was working in a hotel, we also use Phoon Huat's icing sugar)
6. You need to follow the methods of the "J-fold"
For years I have been duped by the internet and all the youtube self proclaimed 'bakers' (sorry not sorry) that you will need the J-fold to create cakes etc. But if you ever attend of my class, I will always tell you the same thing, the J-fold is a myth. We never learnt the J-fold in school. We do not use the J-fold in the industry, J-fold is a lie. J-fold is good for people who have problem scraping the bottom of the bowl - it acts as an reminder. In fact J-fold will deflate your cake and macaron batter faster than you can control as a beginner. How would i do it? I stir it. Good old fashion stirring. No specific since in what direction to go, eventually you will reach the stage where your macaronage is ready. As the saying goes - all roads leads to rome.
7. Using cream of tar tar or lemon juice in your egg whites
I have never used this item in any of my meringue. Be it for macaron or for my soft sponge cake. Reason being? I am efficient (thats my way of saying I am lazy), so I do not believe in buying another ingredient for my cakes. Furthermore, I have been baking cakes without cream of tar tar for the longest time and I do not have any problems. I would like to believe that I have removed a varible from the macaron equation, hence my macarons have highly stability.
Things not to do
1. Do not use icing colour or liquid food colouring for your macarons
Most students and home bakers have this problem. Brown macarons. The problem lies with you food colouring. When you have brown macarons, there are two main reasons (a) your oven is too hot or (b) you are using the wrong food colouring. Some food colouring are meant to be used for icing - example wilton food colour, so when they come in contact with heat, they will change colour and turn into a ugly shade of brown. Another food colouring which is a big NONO would be liquid food colouring. Liquid food colouring are terrible as they add unwanted liquid to the macaronage - altering the final macaron's texture, hence affecting the stability of the macaron itself.
2. Do not reduce sugar in your recipe
The french call the macaron and icing sugar recipe "tant pour tant". It is a classic french pastry term which is the basis of alot of cakes etc, it simply means "half and half". So when you reduce the sugar in your recipe, you make your macaron unstable - ie failure. People always complain macarons are 'too sweet'. But macarons are meant to be sweet, they are a treat which is meant to be enjoyed in one or two pieces. We always try to adjust the filling to a not so sweet version - a buttercream with a curd to balance the sweetness. So next time when you are tempted to reduce the sugar of the recipe, hold that thought and ask yourself if you want a successful macaron or not. ;p
3. Do not use a recipe too small
Personally I have the same issue when it comes to baking macarons. We try to divide the recipe by half, thinking we want to lessen the yield so that there will not be so much wastage at home. I am guilty of this. However, this is one of the main reasons i fail (even when my macarons never crack / turn out hollow etc, ever). Reason being? Stability. When you reduce your ingredients by half, you risk stability. The lesser the ingredients, the more you will have to be careful and there is lesser room for marginal errors. So next time follow the instructions and not reduce the recipe.
4. Don't follow a recipe blindly
Recipes are meant to be a guide line. Please don't ever follow a recipe blindly. If the recipes says to bake at 140 degree for 20 mins, you have to use your own judgement to decide if it works. First up - the size of the macaron could be different. Personally I always use 140 degrees and 15 mins as a gauge. If there is a need, i will always crank up the timing until the macaron is done.
I would love to hear what are some commonly faced problems by you macaron makers! So let me know and I will be happy to help you troubleshoot them!