Diary of Chef Mary A. Moy-Hochstetler: French Macaron Frustration

We dug through our archives at Cake Central Magazine to bring you this tale of French macaron frustration and victory, written by Chef Mary A. Moy-Hochstetler. Be sure to check out her macaron recipe, too!

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When you meet me, the one thing you will find is that I am as stubborn as they come. Failure is not an option and I will tweak something until it is perfect according to my standards.

In one of my many sugar adventures, I was introduced to something I can only call “heaven encased in a small, delicate dessert.” What is this life-changing dessert you ask? The French macaron! When my friend led me on a guided tour of Beverly Hills, I was taken to a small bakery. As I was looking in the window, I saw the signature bright colors of the French macaron. I bought every flavor, but my first bite was into a delicate, passion-fruit-filled macaron.

From that moment I was hooked.

“How hard can it be to make this dessert?” I asked myself. Crispy outside, cakey inside with a beautiful filling sandwiched in the middle. Heck, I can make a five-foot, nine-inch tall cake!

As you can imagine, my culinary confidence bubble was smashed immediately. I laid out the pile of recipes I found on the internet. All were different, but all contained the same batch of ingredients: almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, granulated sugar, and egg whites. Now, I know a thing or two about baking right? Well, by batch number ten, I was not looking so hot. Every day, my executive chef would walk through the kitchen and nod his head while laughing at me. I would throw another batch of flat, ugly meringue goo into the garbage, exasperated. In most photos you see of French macarons, there will be a small “foot” at the base of the cookie. As the weeks passed and people grew tired of my mumbling about no feet, I thought, “What is a girl
to do?” I was running out of spare time at work and my patience was at its end. I sat down and did extensive research and I have to say, everyone has an opinion on how to make these little monsters.

Some recipes say to leave the egg whites at room temperature for several days. Huh? Really! Others say for two hours, and some say use right away. To sift or to Robot Coupe? Let them sit for an hour, or only for 20 minutes after piping? Ugh… my head was spinning! So, I have compiled a list of Dos that works for me. I hope that my lost sanity and restless nights will help you in the pursuit of the perfect French macaron!

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Here is my advice:

  • Buy the highest quality ingredients.
  • Make sure your confectioner’s sugar is at least 10X. This means it has been sifted at least ten times.
  • Use a gas convection oven. You can use electric, but it needs to be reliable.
  • Maintain consistent temperature. All ovens bake differently and have hot spots.
  • Use parchment paper. Silicone baking mats are not so great because they harbor a greasy film.
  • Let freshly-piped macarons sit for about five minutes before baking.
  • When coloring, use a water-based gel and add it only after the egg whites have formed stiff peaks.
  • Sift or food process all of your dry ingredients.
  • Tack down the corners of your parchment with a dab of meringue between the parchment and your baking sheet.

Best of luck, bakers!

 

Feeling inspired? Check out Mary’s macaron recipe to give French Macarons a try.

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