You know that feeling: having only one ticket left at a food festival and deciding what to buy with it? Because of course, you don’t want to have any left-over tickets, but ooh, there’s so much to choose from!
When that happened to us recently, we decided it was time for dessert with those left over coins. We ended up eating a brownie & macaron. And that was a great choice! The brownie was soft and goey whereas the macaron was crunchy and soft and had a great flavour! Having discussed brownies before, it’s time for macarons now. We’ve made macarons ourselves only a few times, it’s such a hassle to make them. But they’re very fascinating from a food science point of view.
I’ve made brownies often enough, but only tried macarons twice and I don’t have any proof. Nevertheless, since I ate a macaron it was time to write macarons. Even without making them extensively it’s easy to write about macaron science since so many others have actually explored dozens of recipes. So let’s do it a little different this time. I’ll present to you my favorite macaron science blog posts of other writers, discussing their findings and theories!
How are macarons made?
Good question to start with for those unfamiliar with the process! A macaron consists of two crispy halves: these are French meringues. In other words, whipped egg whites with sugar that have been baked in the oven. The special thing about these macarons is their shape: they have so called ‘feet’ at the bottom and a nice smooth top. In between these two meringues there’s a filling, any type you like!
The challenge in making macarons sits in the meringues. Here’s a video for those unfamiliar with the process. Beware, this is a basic video, but as you will see below, they tend to hang onto some myths (though not too many) as well!
BraveTart – Debunking macaron myths
This is a great post to start with if you’re thinking about ever trying to make macarons yourself. Even though a lot of myths float around on the internet about how to make the best macarons (think: how long to store egg whites, how to mix ingredients, how long to wait or at which temperature to work at, just have a look here), this post does a great job at debunking them by testing them for herself.
- In the video they mention to always use cold eggs, Brave Tart explains all types worked for her.
- She even ditched out the almonds completely and used other nuts, no problems!
- Drying out macarons before putting them in the oven? They don’t do it in the video I’ve shared above, Brave Tart doesn’t do it either, no use to it!
Not so Humble Pie – Macaron 101
Ms. Humble has tried a lot of different macaron recipes and has written a mega long post on her journey. It’s a fascinating read for those interested. She even introduced a ‘scatter plot’ which I think is super cool of course.
She’s really tried a lot of different things and has come to a way of working that works well for her. That’s the kind of post I like, not repeating myths and tips others have mentioned, but actually checking whether they work for you!
One of my favorite parts is where she tested the difference between parchment paper and silicone mats. It’s not something you would comonly change but there’s quite a difference!
Food science guy – Comparing icing and granulated sugar
A great complete article style report in which the science of macarons is described. Two different types of sugar (regular granulated vs confectioners icing sugar) are compared when used in making macarons. Interesting article, although the literature study does seem to repeat several of the myths described above.
Closing science remarks
Ok, even though I haven’t made these macarons that often myself. There’s quite a bit I can analyze from a sciency point. The crux to making a good macaron is making a good french meringue. Here’s a super quick macaron science evaluation of the meringue:
- For macarons the egg whites and sugar are whipped up together. There’s no reason not adding all the sugar at once. If anything, if adding the sugar all at once it might take a little longer to whisk up the egg whites. This is because the sugar makes the egg whites more viscous and dense and thus it takes a little longer to incorporate all the air.
- Macarons rise in the oven. Since there is no leavening agent in the mixture, this all comes from the egg whites themselves. In the oven the water in the meringue heats up and evaporates. This causes the batter to expand thus the meringue to rise. If the batter is very weak, gases escape, if the batter is very dense it isn’t flexible enough to rise.
Good luck if you decide to give macaron making a try! There’s enough recipes in the posts I referred to that seem reliable and well-working for you. If you have any questions about the science, let me know!