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Zumbarons. And eating my words.

I’m all about keeping it real on this blog, as those of you who read regularly will know. I have no problem posting dishes that don’t quite work out as they are supposed to or posting complete failures because one of my own pet peeves as a blog reader is blogs where people post about difficult dishes – like MACARONS – with no nod to the fact that they require practice and patience.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I have been a little, ahem, obsessed, with the not-so-humble macaron. Getting them right is important to me. Especially now I am teaching other people how to make them.

I’ve done a pretty decent job of the basics of French meringue macarons over the past year (see here for the description of the different types of meringue) and have been able to pass that on to others through my classes. But so often, people will ask about the Italian meringue method. You know, the one Hermé uses. The one Zumbo uses. The method I was taught over and over again last summer in Paris “because it’s more reliable.”  I KNOW it’s more reliable. Of course it is. You’re cooking most of the egg whites before they even go near the oven, with a hot sugar syrup. So less chance of failure. Less chance of “no feet”. Less chance of cracking.

Why, then, do I persist with (and teach) the French meringue method?  Because I have always felt (since the first class I took in Paris – at Lenôtre, where they DO use the French meringue method), that it required a true understanding of the chemistry of ingredients in baking. I really felt that if I understood how those ingredients worked together without the helping hand of the sugar syrup to cook the egg whites before the shells are baked, then I would be able to say I had mastered the macaron.

Recently though, just in the last few weeks or so, despite the fact that I feel I have had pretty good success with my French meringue macarons over the past year, I’ve started to experience the dreaded hollow shell (more on that on Wednesday). Despite doing what I have always done, despite not changing one single thing, I’ve been getting hollows. Most people don’t even care but when Neil notices and comments on it, then it’s time to figure out what is going on. I’ll be posting a “fix” on Wednesday for the French meringue method but in the meantime, I really wanted to try the Italian meringue method – for the first time on my own since all those classes in the summer.  I figured now was as good a time as any, as I pondered the mystery of the hollow shells using the French meringue method.  The arrival of this was also an incentive…

I’ve actually visited Zumbo’s patisserie in Sydney (excuse the dreadful pictures – I had only been blogging for 2 months) and was pretty impressed. I like that Zumbo’s macarons are not giant, like some you come across. But on the whole, I have not really been a fan of the consistency and texture of the Italian meringue macarons… I find the Italian meringue makes for a heavier, more substantial macaron so bigger does mean sweeter.  I encountered this in Paris – where I found Hermé’s macarons overly sweet and just a teeny bit too big for my liking.  So I figured in my experimentation, I would use Zumbo’s method (though I do own Hermé’s Macaron book) and my sizing.  In general I tend to pipe my macarons much smaller than many people (about 1.5″ in diameter) and I figured that if they were that small, even if they were more substantial and sweeter, this might be acceptable to my own palate.

Zumbo calls for a much lower temperature than I am used to for baking the shells and also rests the shells pre-baking.  I obediently rested the shells and baked them at 275˚F but the macarons were a little undercooked (beautiful, but undercooked) – the shells looked a little wet on top just out of the oven and even though this was not a problem after a couple of days (they dry out a little), I knew they were not baked enough.  The second tray I baked at 300˚F and they were perfect.

Simple chocolate macarons with banana buttercream and a dob of chocolate ganache inside for a surprise!

I didn’t find the method very difficult – sure it dirties a few more dishes but what’s a few more? ;)  I actually found because I know what the batter is supposed to look like when it’s ready to pipe this was way easier than I expected it to be.  What I found rewarding was the fact that there were NO cracked shells. And they ALL had feet (some of the pink ones were a little wonky which I later realised was because my baking trays are warped…).  Considering I normally count on at least 5 or 6 cracking or not forming correctly (my oven has hotspots that normally make this happen with the French meringue method), this was hugely encouraging.  And ok, the resting part (30 minutes before you bake the shells) is a bit annoying, adding time to something that I have pretty much got down to 45 minutes in the kitchen (for one batch of macs) but hey, during that 30 minutes resting time you get to pre-heat your oven and tidy your kitchen!

For the pink macarons, I used a tiny amount of powdered freeze-dried strawberry in the shells then again in the buttercream.  I cooked them for the same amount of time as the chocolate ones but at 300˚F – just slightly higher. They were pretty perfect.

Ah yeah, I have some very lucky colleagues and neighbours. There have been a LOT of macarons around my house lately (even though I usually only make maximum 20 per batch, I rarely eat more than 1, if that). These days I’m more likely to be cutting into them (they don’t like to be cut into so you can see a cross section) to check what they look like on the inside…) than eating them. Though when I give them away and people start eating them, I will ask them to show me what they look like on the inside. Or, if they are not eating them right away, to send me a picture. Yeah. I am weird like that.

So what WERE these like in terms of texture?  Well take a look for yourself:

Pretty great, if I do say so myself. Definitely chewier. But also definitely not hollow. These were declared my “best yet” by delirious oh-so-close-to-March-Break colleagues (I beg to differ about the chocolate ones but the strawberry ones were pretty darned good…). So yeah, M. Hermé, Mr Zumbo, I am declaring here that maybe after all, I DO like Italian meringue macarons. On my terms, you understand ;)  Crowd-pleasing, easy on the eye macarons? Who could ask for more?

I will definitely be experimenting more with this method. The sturdy-factor means that you can play a lot with the shells in terms of flavour (as well as adding things sprinkled over like nuts, coconut, sprinkles etc…). I love that they are reliable and that they transport well. All things to consider when one bakes many macarons a month and totes them with her all over town ;)

Buy Zumbo’s fantastic book from Amazon Canada, Amazon USA  or for free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository.

*** I’m submitting these to Mactweets this month – their theme is Jour du Macaron celebration. Yup, it’s the Jour du Macaron on March 20th and for the first time, Toronto patisseries will be participating – I cannot wait!!!

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59 Responses to Zumbarons. And eating my words.

  1. Mr. Neil March 12, 2012 at 07:32 #

    As I’m usually the one adding wine commentary, I’ll give a metaphor for Mardi’s two macaron styles…

    The French Method is more akin to an old-world wine. Finicky, if made in haste may not live up to expectations…but when all is mastered, and the stars are aligned – divine.

    The Italian Method is definitely new-world. A little more forward, definitely reliable, rewarding…but somehow missing a little bit of that mystique.

    I enjoy them both. Just wouldn’t want to be limited to *just one* forever more. :-)

  2. Cher March 12, 2012 at 08:02 #

    Mardi, you are my hero! You know that cookie making & I go together about as well as chocolate milk and a bowl of tomato soup – so I am totally in awe of your macaron excellence :-)

  3. Nicole @ Making Good Choices March 12, 2012 at 08:23 #

    Hi Mardi! Haven’t commented in awhile, but it’s so fun to read about your macaroon successes. Your neighbors and colleagues are very lucky people…and your husband of course! :)

  4. Jamie March 12, 2012 at 08:25 #

    damn I wanted you to have posted the recipe! These are absolutely gorgeous macs, Mardi – and that pink is perfect! The color is gorgeous and so uniform – my problem is and has always been dicoloration of the shells in my oven so I never get shells are beautiful as yours. And I am glad you also use French meringue. I also have to say that the fruity ones sound lovely (I’ll be trying with freeze-dried raspberry) but the chocolate-banana combo is fabulous!! I always love you baking with us!

  5. Jill Colonna March 12, 2012 at 08:54 #

    Mardi, in awe of all of your photos. Beauties indeed! Gorgeous colours and fun that you cut yours as much ;-) Interesting looking zumbo chocolate ones there. You say they’re chewy but are they as soft in the inside? Personally I still adore the French method. Agree with you on the Hermé ones: I find the same. Love the freeze dried strawberry in the shells. I need to find it – where do you get yours? Fabulous!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 12, 2012 at 09:06 #

      Hi Jill, yes they are soft inside – like gooey brownies if that helps. I am liking these more and more but I prefer subtler flavours and smaller size than those on offer at Hermé.

  6. Maria March 12, 2012 at 09:58 #

    Mardi the french method almost worked for me, i didnt get big foot but I have only tried twice. I thought that maybe is because I use a hand mixer and had to figure out the different speeds. I must try the Italian meringue and tell you later. I have a question can I bake macarons in convection oven? Thank you…. and sorry for my English.

  7. Paula March 12, 2012 at 10:46 #

    Soon you will be offering your macaron classes in both French and the Italian!! These are beautiful Mardi and the fillings sound delicious. I think your smaller macs are adorable and the *interior* shot really shows makers of macs what they should be aiming for.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 23, 2012 at 20:08 #

      I hope to be able to teach both methods eventually. The space at le Dolci is just not set up for making the Italian method work right now.

  8. Lora March 12, 2012 at 11:09 #

    What a macjourney you have taken with making macarons. I love readin about it and these are so lovely. Wow.

  9. Rochelle (@AcquiredLife) March 12, 2012 at 11:44 #

    Miss Mardi, I know I say this just about every time I see your macarons, but really this time I mean it… I have to try making macarons again! I see these photos (gorgeous btw) and hear you talk about them and I want to make them, I just always get distracted. I would like to try the Italian method and the french one again to compare them… Hopefully in the near future I will get my chance.

  10. Choc Chip Uru March 12, 2012 at 14:46 #

    Your delicious macarons look just as good as his – what a terrific cookbook :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Rich Sticky Date Pudding w/ Butterscotch Sauce

  11. Daisy@Nevertoosweet March 12, 2012 at 15:08 #

    I flew all the way to Sydney just for Zumbarons hehe :) i really like his macarons I think he does them really well and I like the special flavours he has ~ I looked at his book but it looked too advanced for me hehe

    You’ve done so well~ the macarons look perfect!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 23, 2012 at 20:06 #

      The method itself is not that advances, the flavours to fill them are a little complicated though…

  12. Kiri W. March 12, 2012 at 15:13 #

    That does look like a heavenly texture! :) Delicious! I have never made macarons in either of the approved methods, but judging from my meringue attempts, I don’t think I’m born for it.

  13. Tina March 12, 2012 at 18:17 #

    I love this post, just shared it on twitter :)
    And you’ve only been blogging for 2 months?! Because your photos are very good and I really enjoy reading your recipes and blogging!!

  14. Athena March 12, 2012 at 18:32 #

    A friend referred me to your blog and I’m happy to see all your mac posts! I’ve been obsessed with macs and after a few failures at home following the French method I finally took a class where I learned the Italian meringue method. I’m still practicing but I love the method as I’ve made several successful batches since the course. I’m going to Paris this summer and would love to take a macaron class there; will be reading up on all your experiences and look up the Zumbo book on Amazon!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 23, 2012 at 20:04 #

      Oh you definitely need to take a macaron class there – I loved Lenôtre and La Cuisine Paris.

  15. mike @ TheCulinaryLens March 12, 2012 at 20:35 #

    I know exactly what you mean about being honest about the difficulty of certain things. I bought Jill Colonna’s book at the end of last year and still have not gathered the courage to try making macarons.

    Your photos really inspire me. Some of our higher end clients have us order Bouchon macarons and they are quite amazing and we do buy some from an Italian bakery which while not the same airiness are sturdy things and are enjoyed by most.

  16. Chez Us March 12, 2012 at 23:08 #

    Mardi – I can only think of one word when I see these photos. Gorgeous! Love these macarons …. I so need to get back to baking these little kisses of heaven. Thank you for feeding my French cravings today …

  17. Yummy Inspirations March 13, 2012 at 05:23 #

    The Macaron’s look AMAZING! Have Buzzed & Pinned you!

  18. Barbara @ Barbara Bakes March 13, 2012 at 09:29 #

    Gorgeous macs! I guess I need to try the Italian method now.

  19. Stephanie March 13, 2012 at 13:18 #

    Those looks amazing!

    I have similar feelings towards no-knead bread and traditional artisan bread. I know that I can just mix some stuff up, bake it the next day and have great bread and yet I still fuss over my starter and age my dough for three days and practice making slashes. There’s something to be said about learning from mistakes and understanding the process for sure!

    I am adding that book to my to-buy list

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 23, 2012 at 20:02 #

      I think the biggest thing I have learned from making macs is that process and precision are important in baking. Because it’s just science, right?

  20. Laura G March 13, 2012 at 17:29 #

    Beautiful photos and food styling! I’m sure the chocolate ones are delicious but my heart belongs to strawberry. Love those tiny flecks of pink I can see in the filling. Wish I had one to bite into right now!

  21. Marsha @ The Harried Cook March 13, 2012 at 21:58 #

    Wow… these macarons look absolutely fabulous! And I love your photographs! I have always admired Adriano Zumbo and I think this sounds like a great book! The strawberry ones are calling out my name!

  22. Pam M March 14, 2012 at 02:26 #

    The Macs are beautiful, can’t wait for Summer.

  23. Lindsey March 14, 2012 at 03:07 #

    I love how you document your trials and tribulations with the “mac” – you’re such a fantastic baker and at this rate, you’re going to end up with a macaron shop in Canada, I just know it! The chocolate with banana buttercream have my name on them – think you can bring some this summer?? :) Fantastic post!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 23, 2012 at 20:00 #

      I don’t know about that Lindsey ;) But thanks for the vote of confidence. We’ll make chocolate banana ones together, don’t worry!

  24. Lisa March 15, 2012 at 13:41 #

    Since reading several of your posts on Macarons I had wanted to try one. I finally tried a raspberry one this past week in Mexico. I liked it.

  25. HI Cookery March 15, 2012 at 16:23 #

    We, too, enjoy the challenge of making macarons but only eat a few ourselves and share the rest with friends. You are a trooper for perfection! Your macs look great and we bet they taste unbelievably delicious!

  26. Scott_D March 20, 2012 at 19:08 #

    I’ve had limited success with the French method. (Although they all got eaten.) I even used the Bravetart method and read all the myths and commandments. Still, what works better for me is the Italian method. You should always do whatever works for you. It’s not like they can’t be called macarons if made via the Italian method. Either method I’ve found that getting the right consistency is the most important thing; learning under mixed vs. over mixed vs. just right.

    None of my friends knew what feet were when I was apologizing for my first batch. They didn’t care if they were hollow. A surprisingly large number disappeared that evening. And they’ve since snarfed down several batches.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 23, 2012 at 19:59 #

      I think the Italian method works better for everyone – I mean, how can it not. You’re cooking the egg whites before they even go near the oven! But being the stubborn Taurus I am, I still feel the need to get the French method right… And you’re right – my friends couldn’t care less whether they are perfect or not!

  27. Kate @ FoodBabbles March 20, 2012 at 20:35 #

    Mardi, as usual what lovely macs! Love your choice of flavors and all the information about your experience with the Italian meringue. I’ve only made macs 2 times now, both times using the French meringue. I just ordered Zumbo’s book so I think I’ll give this method a try this month for MacTweets and see the difference. I’m so curious now! A fantastic post and happy macaron day!!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 23, 2012 at 19:57 #

      Well it took me nearly 2 years to get to making Italian meringue ones. I figure I know enough about how they work to tackle this!

  28. Japs June 15, 2012 at 23:59 #

    Hi there!

    Your macarons look great!! I just want to take a bite! Hehe! :) I was wondering though…for the chocolate macarons…do you add chocolate or cocoa powder to the shell? And during which step? I have attempted (twice!) to make them using Zumbo/Herme’s recipe but have yet to try adding the chocolate flavor to the shells.

    Any advice would be awesome! Thanks!!

  29. Jay October 7, 2013 at 16:57 #

    I may be the only one up the stream here. I have been succesfully making macarons using the french meringue. But never ever had any success with the italian meringue, the macarons came out lopsided. i tried everything from double panned, open the oven door ajar, aged the egg whites, tried various recipe with different kind of ratio among almond powder, confectionery sugar, eggs whites and the granilated sugar. Its so frustrating coz I love the chewy consistency with the italian meringue. But the feet always uneven. I m using a new convection oven, and i checked that my oven is level so is the table where I left the macarons batch dry before baking. I also tried to bake them when the macarons have not completely dry. lopsided never go away. Could you provide some advice about what possibly I should correct? I also tried multiple ways of making the meringue. Frm whipping the white only to soft peaks before I poured in the hot sugar to whipping thw white to stiff peaks. They all gave me uneven feet. Pleaseeee HELP.

    • Mardi Michels October 7, 2013 at 20:45 #

      Here’s a really silly question (well it sounds silly but it actually makes a difference!) – are your trays perfectly straight? Some of my cheaper trays are a little warped and my Italian meringue macarons always were wonky because of that. Also, it could be caused by uneven heat in your oven.

      • Jay October 8, 2013 at 00:06 #

        Mardy-
        I agree that warped tray can be an issue, but all my cookie sheet/tray I used to bake the macarons are no warp type. I thought the same thing, it is possible that the oven is the culprit. But how come when I bake the French Meringue method macarons, all the feet raise evenly.

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