If you didn’t know already, I am an absolute macaron-nerd. I love those little textural biscuits that are sandwiched with delicious fillings, but I am terrified of making them myself. They are very technical and damn hard to get right. I recently let you know that Key had bought me an Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier packaged macaron mix and I was building up the courage to make macarons for the first time. I must admit, I didn’t have high expectations as my best friend, Mrs. No Vowels (who is easily the best baker that I know) had been unsuccessful with this pack. My baking skill level is much lower than hers, so I was determined to try to do everything right and to follow the instructions implicitly.
Quick disclaimer goes here. We bought this pack with our own money and these opinions are mine only. I don’t expect that everyone will have the same results. I’m a big fan of Adriano Zumbo and it will take a lot more then a little packet of macaron mix to change that. I think he is inspiring and so extremely talented and you can find his website and shopfront details here.
Here is a what went down on the fateful day that I attempted to make macarons for the first time using Zumbo’s Packaged Macaron Mix. Let me warn you, it’s not pretty.
The pack comes with two piping bags, a cardboard tracing ring, chocolate for the filling, almond meal mix and a powdered macaron mix. All that you need ingredient wise is ¼ cup of water and 2 tbs of thickened cream for the filling.
The instructions on the back of the pack were fairly straight forward (I half thought there would be more detailed ones inside the pack) but there was a website mentioned where you can watch an instruction video online. Off I went to watch it. The video made it look quite straight forward and provided some more detail including some great tips on making your piping template and how to tell when your macarons have been mixed enough.
Here appears a major issue though. The video clearly states that after resting the macarons, they can be baked. Excellent. I had expected resting time, but on the packet it does not mention even resting the macarons, let alone how long for. It simply instructs to pipe them and then the very next instruction is to bake them. I watched the video again, it clearly mentions resting, but not for how long. I searched the whole website looking for any mention of resting. The only other mention of resting the macarons, that I could find, was this answer in the macaron troubleshooting guide:
Macarons have no feet or very little feet
Resting time was not long enough / no resting time. If the weather is rainy or very humid, the resting period may take longer.
Ummm…that’s great, but how long do I rest them for?
Annoying. I paid money for this pack and I felt like I was already being set up to fail. I quickly looked up macaron resting time and the general consensus is that macarons need to be rested for 20-40 minutes, until the surface is dull and the surface no longer sticks to your finger when gently touched. Ok, I was feeling a little miffed, but onwards I went.
Stencil time. The video did provide great hints on making your macaron template. Use the cardboard ring to map out the circles on the curled up side of the paper, so that once it’s turned over, you can still see the drawn on guide marks without the ink touching your macarons, or the edges of the baking paper curling up.
It also showed how to use the stencil to not only ensure there is enough room horizontally between the macarons, but also vertically. This is something that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on without the video.
The video and packet instructions both called for completely flat baking trays which I don’t have. I simply turned mine upside down so that I was using the flat underside surface. Could this have been my downfall? I personally don’t think so, but perhaps it was a factor.
The packet also clearly notes states you should glass or metal equipment that is very clean and dry. Again, not taking any chances I re-cleaned and dried all of my metal utensils and my metal mixer bowl.
The video used a hand held electric mixer, which again I don’t have. I didn’t see any issues with using my stand mixer though and the video instructions helped me get to what, I thought at the time, was the correct lava-like consistency. The instructions and video were quite clear that the mix should only be pulsed after the almond meal is added to ensure that it is not over worked. I did have to mix it a touch more than the video appeared to, but at the time, I felt like my final result of the batter looked very similar to to the video.
I was also loving the colour at this point, look at that beautiful hot pink.
And here is where is all went wrong. As I piped each macaron the little pointy tip of the biscuit looked right, but almost as soon as I’d moved onto the next one, they collapsed and spread out. Oh no! The mix was definitely too wet, or too heavy.
I was game to persevere and I hadn’t given up yet. You can see in this pic how the macaron surface definitely dulled after the (non-mentioned) 50 minute resting time that mine needed. This pic also shows how much the macarons spread out of their circular guide mark though. They became quite large indeed.
Side note: on the day I made these, it was quite cool (around 19°C) and definitely not humid in my kitchen.
About half way through the cooking time I could tell they hadn’t worked. Sob! They were flat, had almost no feet and the tops had bubbled up a bit and cracked. I think perhaps they were over baked (as well as the other issues I’ll mention below) but I did cook them at the temperature and the amount of time as suggested on the pack.
Look at those poor little feet. Now have a look at these to see what they should look like.
They were flat and chewy, although the flavour was delicious and I could tell that if they had of worked they would have been lovely tasting macarons.
I didn’t bother filling them, although we did eat most of the chewy little biscuits that I ended up with. The flavour was still good and the texture reminded me of a chewier ginger nut biscuit.
I’ve saved the chocolate and second piping bag for a more fitting use. I’ve also kept the template as I definitely feel like this is the perfect way to make a macaron piping template.
What I Did Wrong and Other Top Tips?
Beating the egg white mix:
At the time, I really did feel like I’d beaten the initial mix until it was very stiff as directed. I even had to beat a little longer than the instructions stipulated, perhaps because my stand mixer was not as fast as a hand held one. In hindsight though, my mix had not fluffed up and expanded anywhere near as much as the one shown in the video. Plus I was only able to pipe out 27 shells as opposed to the 40 that the pack suggests I’d get. To me this shows that my mix was not aerated and had not expanded enough.
If you make these, I’d recommend using a hand held mixer for that extra speed and control and really do make sure that your initial mix comes to a very stiff peak.
Despite the packet instructions not mentioning it anywhere, I really do recommend resting the macarons before baking them. I’ve never heard of macarons being made without resting, so I hope this is just a packaging oversight that will be corrected by the Zumbo team.
Don’t attempt to make these without watching the video:
It really did help me with knowing when the almond meal had been mixed in properly, making the template and how to pipe out the macarons. It also however highlights the fact that the packet instructions don’t mention resting the macarons.
Use clean and dry metal or glass utensils:
I’m fairly confident this is one part that I did get right :)
Such a shame these didn’t work out and a little frustrating that perhaps the instructions were missing a vital detail in not including the resting details.
Would I buy this packet mix again? No, but I will try to make macarons again in the future. I just feel like if I’m going to go to all of the effort and careful accuracy, then I may as well start from scratch.
Not using the Zumbo packaged macaron mix is also a good excuse to buy them already made directly from the man himself, because damn, that man and his team sure know how to make making a macaron look easy while coming up with visually appealing and delicious macarons :)
If you want to see the pros do it (including Zumbo) check out my reviews page for some Australian and Singaporean-based macaron reviews.