Baking your own macarons at home can be challenging and one of the many problems, my baking courses students sometimes struggle is how to stop macarons from cracking.
Whilst it might seem like cracking macarons is just a visual thing, it’s actually much more than that. Cracking macarons are unstable and difficult to fill and they might fall apart when you try to eat them. It’s usually nothing to worry about, when you are making them for yourself, your family or friends, but it’s a little more important when you want to give them as a present to somebody or even want to set up your own bakery business and sell them.
Here are few basic things you need to get right to make sure your macarons don’t crack when you are baking them.
Using the right ingredients
The finely grounded ingredients you use, the smoother finish you’ll have on your macarons. This means using a very fine confectioner’s (icing) sugar and ground almonds. You can always put them through a food processor to ground them a bit more if you are not able to buy them finely ground in the shops.
I also sieve both the icing sugar and ground almonds to make sure that any large particles are not going to end up in the macaron batter.
Macaron batter needs to be perfect before you bake it and this means that the ingredients need to be measured correctly. Unless you’ve already tested your recipe and you know your measuring cups and spoons, I would really advise you to use digital scales. These are much more precise and you’ll need them to weigh out your egg whites as each egg is different size.
Preparing and mixing the macarons
Although your macaron batter needs to be smooth and completely mixed, you need to make sure you don’t over mix it.
When you are whipping the egg whites, make sure that they are nice and firm, based on your chosen recipe. When you get to incorporate the egg whites into the rest of the ingredients, this is where you need to be very careful. During this stage you want to make sure that you are more folding the batter than whisking it, because you want to take out some of that air bubbles and you certainly don’t want to create any new ones!
I usually use just a spatula and mix the batter several times to bring it all together. Then I scrape the batter from the sides of the bowl and lift the batter to see whether it’s easily falling down. If it’s not, I mix the batter for a bit longer. You should end up with a smooth, thick batter, which is silky, but not runny.
The timings of each mixing (by hand) are no more than 30 – 40 seconds.
Release the air bubbles
As we mix our macaron batter we create air bubbles. If we leave the air bubbles in the batter and bake the macaron shells, the changes are that the air bubbles will cause the batter to split, causing the cracking.
You can prevent this by firmly tapping the macaron tray down, just after you’ve piped your macaroons. Once or twice is enough to release the air bubbles and keep the macaroons smooth.
Resting your macarons
Once you’ve piped your macarons, leave them out to rest in a room temperature. This will help the macaroons to form a skin over the tops of their shells and give them their smooth finish.
You need to make sure that you have a warm room, but not too humid. In a regular domestic kitchen, you can create the perfect atmosphere by:
- Putting the oven on very low and opening the oven door to warm up the kitchen
- Close doors and windows, especially if it’s raining outside
- Don’t do any washing up, water your plants or boil potatoes/rice/soup on the hob at the same time
- Use a hairdryer if you are in a hurry, but be careful, so that you don’t damage the unbaked macarons as you are drying them.
- Make sure that your macarons are firm (no movement or just very slight) before you put them in the oven
Making sure the oven temperature is right
Double check your oven temperature with a secondary thermometer, before you start to bake your macarons. Higher temperature will make the batter come up/bake too quicky and the batter will rise and fall, creating the cracks as it does.
Bake the macarons
I find that when I open slightly the door of the oven, when I’m baking the macarons, it helps the moisture to escape instead of getting back to the macarons (which is what causes them to crack).