This post is subtitled, “Why yes, I am going to obsessively track my macaron progress.”

I was analyzing my recent macaron progress and realized I was having some issues with hollow shells.  Based on reading online tutorials, I believe that my problem lies with a too-hot oven or being baked too long.  I’ve been using two oven thermometers so unless my oven is possessed (hmmm, possible), I was baking them at the temperature I intended.  It was starting to look like tweaking my baking procedure was in order.

I think you can guess where this is heading.  I did indeed make another macaron batch today.  I decided to stop getting fancy with flavors and really master a basic macaron recipe first.  Today, I opted for a 1:1.2:2.35 ratio of egg whites to almond meal to powdered sugar.  The level of precision to which I have approached this would make Brian proud!  It seems like just yesterday he was wigging out at me for not leveling my cups of flour with a knife.  Ah, so young, so inexperienced.

I’m still continuing on with the French meringue method.  I thought briefly about using an Italian meringue, but then reminded myself to master one thing at a time.  And it’s not that I don’t think my shells as they are currently baking taste unpleasant.  It’s just that I know that they could be SO MUCH better!

So I whipped up a batch again.  No flavoring, just sugar, almond meal, egg whites and my technique.  I suspect I over-folded a bit this time around.

I piped the rounds onto Silpats this time around (yes, I know I said I didn’t like Silpats but I thought I would give them a chance to redeem themselves).  I opted for a “high heat, low heat” method.  I think the theory is the high heat will puff the shells up initially while the lower heat will allow the insides to cook properly and prevent hollow shells.  So I would raise the temperature back up to 350-degrees F, drop it to 300-degrees F, then open the oven door and pop in a tray.

Tray 1: Rest 20 minutes.  Double trayed.  12 minute bake.  Feet projected outwards rather than up so overall height was low.  I immediately removed these from the hot baking tray and let cool on a rack.  The bottoms were sticky (a problem I always have with Silpats), so I stuck them in the freezer before removal.  Many of them actually had concave bottoms.  😦  The ones that were flat on the bottom had slight hollow-ness.

Tray 2: Rest 40 minutes.  Single trayed.  8 minute bake.  These baked the highest.  Same issue as before, sticky bottoms.  The hollow was a bit more pronounced here and the bottom was thicker.  I suspect that the insides collapsed shortly after removing from the oven.  A tip I’ve seen to prevent that is to let them cool upside down, but the sticky bottoms prevent that.  Now that I think about it, I wonder if immediately turning them upside down while still attached to the Silpat would have fixed that.  Ah, perhaps another day.

Tray 3: Rest 55 minutes.  Single trayed.  9 minute bake.  Smaller foot.  Not as tall when baked.

Lessons Learned: Do not double tray Silpats when using your oven!  Melanie, have you seriously not learned that yet?  A medium rest is best.  Also, I think I should have tried double-baking the last tray to compare rest times and number of trays.  Eeek, too many variables.

Next Test: I think I’d like to try just baking them for longer at a lower, constant temperature but I do feel like I should test this same method using parchment.  I think I will probably do that, but pipe out a few macarons per sheet, so I can better examine the results.

Conclusions:  Anyone feel like macarons?  Come on over!  I’ll even brew a pot of tea, to help wash down the sugar.  🙂

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