Macarons are my eternal challenge: I can never be sure how they would turn out before the moment of truth comes: the baking time. That’s why I usually try to put myself in a “macaron mood” before starting to bake them: very focused on every stage of the preparation and baking in order to avoid any moment of distraction that could ruin my efforts. Until recently I was very proud to say that I always had the predominant percentage of my macarons without cracks and with feet. Until recently though…
For these Cinnamon Macarons with Dulce de Leche Filling I decided to use my favourite proportions 1: 1,3: 1,6: 0,8 – egg whites/ almond meal/ powdered sugar/ granulated sugar. I have made macarons several times in the past using the same proportions (examples here and here) and they were always quite successful. But everyone makes mistakes and when it comes to macarons just a little distraction can lead to not that good looking results.
Apparently I forgot to fold enough the macaron mixture. And due to the undermixed batter, the shells cracked very fast and didn’t form any feet. Not nice. They almost looked like amaretti cookies!
The first two pans were a complete disaster. I did not take measures immediately because firstly I thought the reason for the cracks was the high temperature of the oven. But even after lowering it the shells did not improve.
I had only one more baking trey with shells left so I decided to save it at all costs. It was already late to fold again the batter as it was piped long ago. So I took the following extra measures:
- left the piped shells to stay on the trey for over 40 minutes before baking them
- used hairdryer (no joke) to dry them out better: just with the cold button and at about 30 cm distance
- lowered the oven temperature to 100 degrees C. I placed the tray with the macarons shells inside and in 5 minutes increased to 120 degrees, then in 5 more minutes to 150 degrees.
Not sure which one of the three actions was the most successful (I think all of them contributed actually) but at the end majority of the macarons in the third trey were perfect! As a result I had something like 4 perfect macarons out of the whole batch. Obviously even the ugly, cracked ones were equally delicious but they did not had that luxurious and pretty look of the macarons from third baking trey. I was annoyed and impressed at the same time: it was true that I had a big quantity of not good looking macarons but I learned something very useful which would help me and my readers to bake better macarons!
Let me actually explain what happened: by not folding the mixture enough, it retained almost all the air from the beaten egg whites. When the macarons are in the oven, the extra air is raising them and cracking them (same as a regular cake is raised and often cracked). Therefore the folding is needed in order to take away some of the air – but not all of it, otherwise the macarons will remain completely flat and with no feet. You need to make sure you fold the mixture enough but not excessively – which is one of the biggest macaron challenges.
By drying them out I managed to create firmer shells which did not crack easy. By lowering the temperature of the oven I did not allow a very fast raising which very often is a reason for cracks.
And by the way all these macarons were really tasty, including the cracked ones, as several people had concluded after tasting them.
Cinnamon macarons with dulce de leche filling
For the shells:
- 70 g egg whites, 2 medium
- 91 g almond flour
- 112 g powdered sugar
- 56 g granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- food colouring by choice, I used black gel colouring but the shells turned almost violet
For the filling:
- 150 g dulce de leche
- 80 g ground walnuts and/ or hazelnuts
- 40 g biscuit crumbs
- Sift together powdered sugar, cinnamon and almond flour in a large bowl.
- With an electric mixer beat the egg whites at high speed until foamy. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Add the food colouring and beat just for a few seconds, until absorbed.
- Gradually fold the almond-sugar mixture into the egg whites, using a rubber spatula. Keep folding until the mixture thinners a bit without becoming too liquid. Avoid mixing too much or too little: the consistency of the macarons should not be too liquid (overmixed) or too thick (not mixed enough).
- Pipe circles onto trays lined with baking sheets or silicon mats and then leave the shells to dry out for 30-40 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Bake the macaron shells for 10-15 minutes. They should be dry and should be removed easily from the paper. If you are not sure in your oven, you can start from 120 degrees and gradually increase the temperature while the macarons are growing. In this case you have to watch them all the time.
- Let the baked shells stay for 5 minutes on the baking trey before transferring them to a wire rack.
- In a bowl combine all ingredients and whisk well. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Pipe or spoon the filling on the opposite side of one macaron shell and cover with another one. Arrange the macarons in airtight containers and keep them in the fridge for 2-3 days.