Macaron Chronicles V: A Study of the Sucre Cuit Method

Macaronplate   

The Tartelette alerted me of Pierre Herme’s new book simply titled “Macarons”. After we decided that it would not be feasible for Helen’s mom to get the book for me and bring it on her next visit to the U.S., I promptly went to Amazon France and put in my order. And she was right; I probably couldn’t wait to get my grubby fingers on it anyway.

The book arrived at a time when I was busy with work and couldn’t find an opportunity to sit down and translate the recipes I was interested in. Pierre Herme uses sucre cuit – the cooked sugar method, or more commonly known as the Italian Meringue (IM).
I had my misgivings about the IM method because earlier trials were very sweet and I did not like the texture.

As mentioned in my Macaron Chronicles I, I caught the macaron bug in San Francisco. Most macarons I had earlier tried were hard shells that tasted more like meringue and I wondered what all the fuss was all about. The macarons from Miette were different. They were made from raw almonds instead of the traditional blanched ones. The cookies had a slightly crisp shell that gave way to a pillow-like layer that you would just love to sink your teeth into.

I then decided to go to other pastry shops to continue my tasting but they were more of the same meringue type. I began to wonder if my concept of the macaron was wrong this whole time. Was Miette’s rustic San Francisco version just an aberration and not Parisian at all?

I was apprehensive when I attended Pierre Herme’s class in Chicago. He’s the Oracle on macarons. What if his were like the hard crackly meringue shells that I detested and presumably was how a macaron was supposed to be like? The first sampling came during a teatime break where the passion fruit milk chocolate was offered as a petit four for the tea.

The first bite met slight resistance; the thickness of that layer was as whisper thin as the most fragile of eggshells giving way to a stratum that had substance. I picked it apart just to taste the shells by themselves – it had none of the cloying sweetness that I had earlier experienced from some mail order ones I’ve tried. A sigh of relief! This is the macaron I loved! “A macaron should not give the impression of being chewy at all and that it was okay if it appears undercooked”, says Pierre Herme. I happen to agree. But he uses the sucre cuit method…a method I swore produces those thick jaw breaking sickeningly sweet shells.

His recipe in his book, “Macaron”, is a scaled down version of what we had used in class. He uses a standard macaron formula and rarely adds flavoring to the shells. I have translated what is essential to the recipe – ingredients, temperature etc. I suggest you read more on Helen’s Macarons 101 first – specially the steps about proper “macaronage”.

 

ItalianMering 

Macaron Shells

300 g almond flour
300 g confectioner’s sugar
110 g egg whites
300 g sucrose
75 g water
110 g egg whites

Mix TPT (the almonds and confectioners sugar) with the first 110g of egg whites. (Bring water and sugar to a boil until it reaches 245F or 118C). When the syrup reaches 239F(115C) start whipping your egg whites to soft peaks at high speed and then set lower to 2nd speed. Once sugar syrup reaches 245(118C), pour it on the whipped egg whites. Continue whipping the whites until the meringue reaches 122F (50C) and incorporate it with the almond mixture. (Note: read Macaron 101 for the flows like magma description)

Preheat oven to 356F(180C).
Pipe macarons 3.5 cm with a no. 11 tip on a silpat or parchment paper. Let dry for 30 minutes.
Bake for 12 minutes with the vent open.

Take the macarons out and flip the sheets on a wire rack. Take them off the paper/silpat and pipe with the filling.

Below is my own recipe for Saffron-Pear ganache. I was going to make PH’s peach-apricot-saffron ganache but I thought pear is more appropriate with the season.

Saffron-Pear Ganache

225 g white couverture chocolate
130 g heavy cream
35 g pear puree
1/4 tsp ground saffron

Using a mortar and pestle, ground enough saffron threads to get about ¼ tsp. Add a tiny bit of sugar to help make the ground finer.

Partly melt the white chocolate. Bring the heavy cream to a boil. Turn off and add the ground saffron and let it steep for 20 minutes. Add the pear puree to the cream-saffron mixture and return to boil. Turn off and add to the white chocolate and whisk until well blended.
 

Macomp 

Cooking Notes:

I already knew what the issue was going to be because I had tried the recipes from a PH class a couple of months ago. The recipe, as it stands, has a tendency to get those hard shells – and I will tell you why and what I did then to alleviate this problem. Professional kitchens can grind the almonds with the confectioner’s sugar to a very fine powder without getting greasy, in a relatively short amount of time. With the home food processor, this is possible but can be tricky because the longer you grind the almonds the higher the risk for them to get greasy. More often than not, your tant-pour-tant (TpT) do not have enough small particles capable of absorbing/blending with your whipped egg whites to attain proper macaronage.

To address this issue, I added more TpT. Sifting is very important but I have yet to find a sifter with holes big enough … or small enough to allow the right size of almond flour to go through. If your batter appears too runny, no matter how careful you are about folding, chances are your almonds are not ground fine enough. No problem, just add a bit more dry mixture to the overall recipe. But please do not neglect to give the grinding of the almonds your best shot.

For this post, I followed the exact amounts of PH’s recipe so I can address the issues that may arise – like the thick shells and meringue-like results – and make suggestions that would lean towards more favorable results.

Notice that PH does not add sugar to the whipped egg whites – I figure this is to lessen the meringue- like quality of the macarons. My shells were a bit too sweet and a little too thick but were not jawbreakers – either I cooked my syrup too long or I needed more TpT. I wanted more control over the development of my Italian Meringue so I used Rose Levy Beranbaum’s method of making it. She suggests using a hand mixer to beat the egg whites and pour the sugar syrup to a measuring cup first to stop the cooking – this way you do not lose much syrup as you would when using a Kitchen Aid Mixer because you can pour it right into the center of the whites while moving your whisk out of the way. Maybe the amount of the PH sugar syrup accounts for that loss to the sides of the bowl or the whisk.

I also did an extra experiment with macaronage. After I piped my first shells, I noticed that they were not spreading so much and I knew they were going to get puffy… so I tried beating the remaining batter some more – oops! The circles started to spread more than I liked. Grrr! Maybe I should stick to French Meringue.

Macaron recipes are mostly guidelines. You will more than likely need to make some adjustments because of the type of eggs – aged egg whites are the best, keep them covered in the refrigerator for three days before using. It could also be the type of almonds you use. PH uses Valencia almonds that are not too greasy. A good type of almond to use here in the US is the nonpareil variety – the almonds from California. I did not follow his oven temps and leaving the oven door slightly ajar because the oven I am using would not permit this. This is to let the humidity out, PH says. I usually bake in a convection oven at a low temperature of 280F. The macarons should be done between 12-14 minutes for 1.25-inch disks.
 

Drytop_macs 

Here is a list of problems one might encounter while making these delightful but finicky cookies:

1. Shells spreading too much and are misshapen- If you piped them properly, the most likely cause is over mixing. Remember to start slowly and then beat harder in the end, but not overly so. The sugar is what holds the water molecules of the egg whites in place, that’s why cooked sugar is more stable because they form a stronger bond, but if you beat too much they would start leaking and make the batter runny. If that was not the issue, then just add more tant-pour-tant. You would be surprised what an extra 10 grams can do.

2. Cracked shells- the cause may be from two things – over beating which releases more moisture and therefore prolongs the drying time of the tops or humidity. A definite way to prevent this is to touch the top of your piped circles and make sure they are dry before you pop them into the oven.

3. Lopsided shells – your shells got too dry. The foot got too attached to the parchment so that it cannot be lifted up any more. I realized this when I got a phone call just as I was about to pop my tray of macarons into the oven. I was already done with the first trays from the same batch of batter and they were perfect. I was gone for an hour. I thought I would have better shells but I ended up with some macarons that were lopsided.

4. Beaked shells – Yes, the ones that looked like Donald Duck wanted a guest-starring role in your macaron making!  Most likely your nuts are too oily.

5. Spaces between the skin and the foot – this can be really tricky to diagnose as this maybe oven temperature related, or it could be not enough folding (which can leave a lot of meringue with no TpT to give it structure). Or it could just be that the almonds are not ground enough, or you need to add a little bit more TpT

6. No Feet – over mixing, too dry. Too much tant-pour-tant (yes, I have done this before being overzealous with almond flour it decimated my meringue – I could hardly pipe it out)

7. Thick shells or too sweet – cooked sugar beyond 245F, not enough TpT or not enough folding. As I have stated earlier, I did try increasing the TpT and this addressed both the sweetness and the thick shells. However, I am also wondering if my sugar syrup was cooked beyond 245F and this concentrated, thus adding to the sweetness even more.

And there you have it – my take on sucre cuit method of Macaron Making. I find that it needs more involvement and requires more precision than the French Meringue. It all depends on what you are used to doing. I personally hate boiling sugar but if you are someone who loves playing with sugar syrup like one French pastry chef I know, have a go at it!

My preference for my macarons is not to taste too sweet. I tend to add more almonds, which make the shells less than traditionally smooth. I also use raw almonds, which mutes food colorings – but on the other hand it adds speckles to my shells, which I love.

This is also my entry to Anita’s Sugar High Friday over at Desserts First. Her theme is: Spice. And I’m thrilled to be able to use my favorite spice of all – Saffron with my favorite cookie!
 

 

Macshells

45 thoughts on “Macaron Chronicles V: A Study of the Sucre Cuit Method

  1. thank you so much! you—you must be another macaron professional like Helen, haha, ah but the yellow and saffron red is such a brilliant color combination, that's what i want to do next, something yellow and red.

    I lived in Paris all of last year, and i spent wayyy too much time in the cookbook section of the fnac and at this small cookbook shop called la cocotte (http://boutique.lacocotte.net/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=2752) where i met clotilde from chocolate and zucchini—there are a thousand books on macarons! which was one of the reasons i was so nervous to try to make them, but studying Helens macarons 101 made it quite simple. i am excited to do them again…for christmas.

    and yesssssss amazon.fr est fantastique je suis en d'accorde avec toi.

  2. Thank you a thousand times for your informative post. I was about to begin my first attempt at these little beauties and have read about the difficulties. This post was so thorough and addressed the all of the possible problems that could occur. I now feel well armed for the battle.

  3. Veron- this was a great post! so detailed.. i normally use the french meringue method but have a specific choc mac recipe that uses italian meringue that is fantastic. just like you described it. but that is the great thing about macarons. it's not the writing on the paper, but your intuition and experience!

  4. What a wonderful post for the macaron lover! I've tried the PH method a couple of times and it has worked very well. I LOVE your filling, great entry for the SHF. Saffron is one of my favourite flavours!

  5. For those who are serious about making macarons, I would purchase a room thermometer with a built-in hygroscope – humidity indicator. It at leasts lets you know ahead of time what to expect when you make your macarons. Like one time I knew that my macarons will take around 45 minutes to dry instead of the regular 20 because it was cold and wet.
    snookydoodle – sucrose is simply sugar. In this case the best one to use is caster sugar which is much finer than the regular granulated kind.

  6. Oh..italian meringue-based macarons are my favourite! They were the only batch I got right when I first tried making macarons. The French meringue method left me stumped for a while!

    Pear-saffron filling sounds so divine!! And thank you for the detailed steps and tips from the pastry demi-god.

  7. Must be something in the air, I just made macarons the other day. I'm perpetually playing with recipes to find one that works most of the time, but I still search. I've had the most luck with this method but my original 'foolproof' method is a bit too sweet for me. They come out gorgeous though so maybe I should try this recipe next?

    I've found that since I moved to a different coast, I'm having problems with humidity the most. The damn shells take a VERY long time to dry out. Not having a convection oven really makes it a hit-or-miss proposition when I bake off the not-so-dried macarons. I got lucky this last time because the weather has turned cold and the humidity levels are going down-down-down.

    Great shots, btw.

  8. wow these look fantastic. MAacaroons are not that popular here . the only ones I tried were hard and sweet like the ones you described and in fact i said what the fuss was about. But yours look great and wish to try these, Where do you buy sucrose ??

  9. This is awesome! I always tried the sucre cuit method and it never worked – things didn't dry, no feet, etc. Sounds like I could have used more Tpt. Just lately I tried again with the French meringue method. Much easier with more consistent results, I agree.

  10. Wow, talk about thorough… I'm bookmarking this post to read through when I can give it my full attention! I still want to make vegan macarons some day… Plus, that saffron pear ganache sounds to-die for!

  11. Oh thank you thank you for this post! Veron, you've answered all my questions. I've just launched my mini 'business' selling macarons, but the past week has been plenty of tears trying to make these crazy 'cookies'! I've been using sucre cuit, and have only been successful in some. Perhaps I should try the French method? and yes my friends do comment that the macs are very very sweet, and I just said sorry, there's nothing i can do abt it~! My shells have consistently exploded, and formed beaks that wont flatten, and when I do atempt to flatten them with moist fingers, they get the moisture and need SUCh a LONG time to air dry! It doesnt help that we're currently experiencing a very wet monsoon season at the moment. arggh!! I think it'll be a while till I can sell my stuff at a large scale :(

  12. V ,

    When i combine the ground almond,icing sugar and egg white together,the batter became a very dried paste , it was very difficult to stir……then i spoon in some whipped Italian meringue and stir till well combined(just a few strokes)…..

    My macarons batter is almost like a sponge cake batter(quite fluffy) , could it be i under-mix the batter ??? or somethings goes wrong the almond + egg whites paste ??

    Grace

  13. Hi Veronica,

    I would like to know why my Italian meringue method Macarons look like Amaretti Biscuits(no feets) ???

    Thank you

    Regards,
    Grace

  14. Hi Veronica,

    I am so tempted to buy PH's Macaron book,
    are the recipes foolpoof and easy to follow ?

    Regards,
    Jennifer

  15. Astrid – The IM method is more exacting because the sugar syrup needs to be at a certain temperature…and then you have to worry about folding. With the French Meringue the catch is just the folding, I think that is why he used that method in his other books so that others will be encouraged to try it. He never like it to be meringue-like…I think that is why he omits the sugar when he beats the eggwhites and all of the sugar comes from the syrup. With true IM, you have some little sugar in your beaten egg whites before you add the sugar syrup.
    Jennifer – the new PH macaron book is geared more to the serious food enthusiast than the regular home cook. So it depends which group you belong to. But if you love PH – I would say you are a serious food enthusiast :). There is some degree of difficulty involved but his fillings and ganaches look relatively easy. Also, PH is very meticulous. He takes forever to make his fillings because he wants it well emulsified.

  16. Lovely detailed post, very useful thanks! I read it avidly as I too prefer macarons that aren't too sweet and have a thin shell. I am very puzzled though that Hermé would recommend the Italian meringue method. In the book by him that I have (Secrets Gourmands), his macaron recipe uses no meringue at all, just beaten egg whites into which you fold the almond and sugar mixture. I quote: "les blancs — qui n'ont pas été sucrés pour ne pas donner un goût de meringue aux macarons — sont un peu retombés; ce n'est pas un défaut, bien au contraire, car cela évitera que les macarons, à la cuisson, ne forment une petite coque sèche comme une meringue." He is precisely recommending avoiding any type of meringue so as to keep the shell thin! I don't understand, did he change his mind since publishing this book?

  17. Wonderful write-up with very helpful insight, Veron!

    Personally, I've had more luck with italian meringue than french for macarons. I completely agree with you that italian meringue gives thicker macaron shells. Fortunately, they aren't sweeter.

    In my own experiments, I find that french meringue tends to give a chewier macaron. Any thoughts on that? Or perhaps I just need more practice!

  18. …….. I really don't know what to say…. these are too beautiful, I don't think I could bring myself to eat one (I know, I know, that's what they are for, but still!). I love the subtlety of saffron, also.

  19. I justy love your work and dedication on macarons . . . Pure Dedication, just love your work, will try them soon.
    Now I am on wedding cakes projects, . . completed one a few more to go this month! posted one, have a look!

  20. I LOVE your website and I LOVE your macarons even more! I am so tempted to try them myself, but I'm scared that I will have all of the possible problems at once… Maybe one day when I have off from school I'll get the nerve to try, until then I'll get my supply from the farmer's market!

  21. ClairUk- macarons made with Italian Meringue have a tendency to have a harder shell and become more sweet – although a properly made IM macaron does not taste all that sweet at all. The French Meringue has a more fragile shell and has less tendency to taste like meringue …also the shells are shinier.
    I am doing more experiments with both methods…God only knows how much sugar , egg whites and nuts and a string of thermometers I have gone through to understand these cookies…but I am close to a final analysis…:)

  22. What are the different in taste between Macarons made from French and Italian method ??

    Are they both taste the same ?

    Which one is less sweet ?

  23. Ahhhhhhhh! So those were your Macarons I had at Lis' wedding!! Fantastic!! That was my first taste and I am hooked!
    Be forewarned, I am gonna attempt a batch and you and Helen will be my first resources! Now, should I fail (I am betting on it), I at least know that I can have em shipped!!
    Again, they were HEAVEN!!!

  24. After reading this post (& your previous macarons posts) I am REALLY intimidated about trying to make these! I did get my M. Hermé Chocolate Desserts book (& the cute little macarons card that accompanied it) and I am thrilled. :-) Everything sounds divine and I can't wait to start baking from it! I think I'll start out with one of the chocolate sable recipes as it is not as scarey as macarons! Thanks so much for the book, Veron! I really enjoy reading the blog!

  25. Grace – mix the tpt with the egg white right before you mix it with the Italian meringue otherwise it does get too stiff. Also rest the macarons just until the tops dry. Resting them too long might not make the feet lift or will make the macarons lopsided.

  26. Pingback: Ponto de Teste: Macaron au Chocolat — Prato Fundo

  27. Thanks for a great PH recipe Veronica. I always used the IM method and always bear success. Would love to get my hands on the PH macaron book, but it’s out of print. Great flavours too w the pear and saffron! yum.

  28. Pingback: Not quite Pierre Herme’s, but close | Kitchen Musings

  29. Hi Veronica– I baked my first Macarons today, using the Tartlette FM recipe (after reading your various posts and watching your YouTube video!). It was a success, although a bit sweet (I should’ve used your recipe, appears to have less sugar?). I live in SF, am very familiar with Miette’s macarons. What sort of filling do they use (italian or swiss buttercream), do you know? Thanks for your fabulous blog (and shop). (A halo-halo macaron would be fun ;)

  30. Hi Jasmin,
    I’m not quite sure what they use, but I think it might be more Italian since it holds up pretty well. Glad you have success with the macaron!

  31. Hi Veronica,

    I have been trying to perfect the macaron here at the bottom of the world in Tasmania and have had some success with your helpful website! I was wondering what size and type of baking trays you use for the best results (some say stacking 2 or 3 trays together helps them from sticking) and whether you know where I could find a macaron piping template!

  32. Pingback: Macaron Chronicles VII: And the saga continues | Kitchen Musings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s