Macarons wouldn’t be macarons if they weren’t fussy things. Though they are at their core very simple little cookies, a variety of things can go wrong during their preparation, preventing them from achieving the Platonic ideal. Me, I don’t see why that’s the end of the world. However I confess that if mine didn’t come out as I expected, I’d want to know why. So here are a few common macaron problems and their solutions.
1. No feet. This is very often the result of not allowing macarons to rest long enough before baking. Note here that macarons made via the Italian method don’t need to be rested. If your Italian macarons don’t have feet, it could be that your oven temperature is too low. Another possibility, of course, is over-mixing. Too many bubbles popped and the macarons didn’t have the lift they needed.
2. Cracks. Very often the result of under-mixing. In other words, too many bubbles — too much air — in the macaron. The meringue gets dried out in the oven and cracks appear. Steam escapes and little if any rise occurs. However cracks can also result if there is too much moisture in the batter. If the air is too humid, say, or the egg whites were a little too big. Try cutting your moisture back a bit, by maybe 15%.
3. Runny batter. A result of over-mixing. This isn’t necessarily a catastrophe. It might simply mean a thin cap with feet underneath. That’s well within the bounds of a successful macaron. Bake, cool, fill and declare victory.
4. Feet that protrude sideways. This occurs when your oven is too hot. The batter at the edges of the macaron heats and expands too quickly, then explodes outward. Put the net batch on a lower rack. Some folks like to prop the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon. The result is more even heat than the typical hot-cold cycling that goes in inside a closed oven.
5. Large spaces under the cap. This happens when bubbles in the foam pop. Try cutting back on your resting time a little. Another tactic might be to add a bit more sugar to your batter to help shore up the bubble walls.
6. Lopsided macarons. There are a couple of possibilities here. First, lopsidedness can occur from too much resting prior to baking. The exterior begins to harden on one, side so the interior pushes out the other as the macaroni expands. Another possibility is under-folding…uneven distribution of the air bubbles. But try solution 1 first.
Those are the biggies. Should you experience any other problems not covered here, send me an email and I’ll do my best to help.