Attempt no. 1: the basic macaron – part 3: the shells.

It’s been three days, and the egg whites are aged perfectly, so I’m ready to make a basic french macaron. No colors, no special flavors, just a plain almond flavored macaron. First I assemble my ingredients:

Granulated sugar, castor sugar, almond flour, egg whites, and vanilla - looks simple.

Granulated sugar, castor sugar, almond flour, egg whites, and vanilla – looks simple.

I put together the castor sugar and the almond flour easily enough. The hard part is whipping the egg whites into a meringue.

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So far, it looks like meringue.

When do you stop whipping, though? Step 5 of the recipe explains (emphasis added):

5. When the almond mixture is just incorporated, you will need to transform the batter into the appropriate texture. Using the flat of the spatula, “punch” down into the center of the batter, then scrape more batter from the sides to the center, and punch again. You will need to repeat this 10-15 times (or more, depending on your arm strength and the beginning texture of your batter) until the batter slowly and continuously drips back into the bowl when you scoop it up with the spatula. Think of the consistency of molten lava. For the best results, punch the batter a few times, check the consistency, then punch a few more times, etc. Do not make the batter too runny or the macarons won’t rise as they should, and you could end up with oil stains on the surface.

Since I grew up in Needham, Massachusetts rather than Mount St. Helens, I don’t know what molten lava looks like firsthand.  Fortunately, a guy called Bryan Lowry ( was kind enough to post this on YouTube:

With this visual guide, I beat the meringue only until it ran smoothly off my spoon into the bowl, and then I poured it into the pastry bag and began piping.

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The tails on top of the meringues are a bad sign, but they look right on the Silpat.

I bake them, and when the 18 minutes are up, I take them out, and they are a failure.  They have no feet, and the tops are cracked in a way that makes them look like berserk, eyeless smiley faces.

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A macaron fail. The decision goes to the meringue.


About cohn17

Photographer and baker of macarons.
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