Sunday, 14 August 2022

Stable vs Unstable Meringue Macaron Recipe

 This blog post is a compilation of content from a 4-part series that I posted on Instagram (my IG is @phay_shing) about stable vs unstable meringue macaron recipes. I compiled the reels into a single video available on YouTube for ease of reference for those of you who don't have Instagram. Colour-coded bullet points within each part are used to explain the same point or make comparisons of specific features from both types of batter. Just in case you are wondering why I have so many rainbow coloured hearts in my post!


PART 1: Experiment explained

I've been making & teaching macarons for a number of years & a FAQ I get is:

What is THE BEST macaron recipe?

Answer:

Any recipe that gives you a STABLE & COMPACT Meringue!

You may have heard that macarons is more about technique than recipe. This is true except for one type of recipe.

As a newbie years ago, I struggled with a type of recipe that seemed temperamental & left no margin for error. Many older macaron recipes follow this tricky ingredient ratio & I want to save you the agony if you're still figuring it out.

As shown in my coffee bear experiment, quality of meringue is a huge factor in success of macarons. Although other factors such as ingredient quality, oven, humidity & baker competency come into play, if your meringue isn't good, chances are macawrongs will happen.

For this reason, I prefer Swiss or Italian meringue methods as the cooked egg whites add stability, although I prefer French if batch size is tiny & design is simple as it's fuss-free.

Swiss & Italian method recipes are generally ok so for the purpose of illustrating how important ingredient ratio is for French method recipes, I compare two types of recipes found in internet/recipe books with the same total amount of sugar BUT distributed between dry ingredients & meringue very differently. Sufficient sugar in meringue is needed for stability as you will see.

To make this a fair experiment, I

◾Bake batters on same tray for same drying & baking conditions 

◾Use exact same amount of colouring 

◾Overfold gently by same number of folds


Types of French Method Recipes:

Case 1: Stable Meringue

✴️Egg whites 1 part

✴️Sugar in meringue 1 part (0.8-1)*

✴️Almond flour 1.2 parts (1.1-1.3)*

✴️Powdered sugar 1.2 parts (1.1-1.3)*


Case 2: Unstable meringue

✴️Egg whites 1 part

✴️Sugar in meringue 0.3 parts (0.3-0.6)*

✴️Almond flour 1.2 parts (0.9-1.2)*

✴️Powdered sugar 1.9 parts (1.6-2.2)*


*Typical range 


PART 2: Comparison of Meringue & Batter

Case 1: Stable Meringue Recipe

๐Ÿ’œ Meringue is compact, firm & stable, has smaller air bubbles 

๐Ÿ’™ Same amount of colouring results in lighter meringue & batter

๐Ÿ’š Batter is thicker/ flows more slowly 

๐Ÿ’› Takes more folds to get the batter overfolded

๐Ÿงก Piped batter spreads less 

❤️ Piped batter dries faster


Case 2: Unstable Meringue Recipe

๐Ÿ’œ Meringue is loose, soft & unstable (breaks down faster), has larger air bubbles

๐Ÿ’™ Same amount of colouring results in darker meringue & batter

๐Ÿ’š Batter is runnier 

๐Ÿ’› Batter is easily overfolded

๐Ÿงก Piped batter spreads more especially when overfolded 

❤️ Batter dries slowly especially when overfolded


Explanation:

Understanding the role of sugar in meringue will help us see why it's necessary to have enough of it for stability. Meringues are foams made of dispersion of gas (air) in liquid (water), with a network of proteins separating the two. 

However, the protein network is weak on its own & will collapse with time, resulting in the two separate phases merging with their respective parts (water merging with water, air merging with air). 

Adding sugar increases the viscosity of the water phase, making it harder for the air bubbles to merge together & escape while leaving behind a pool of water. So the higher the sugar concentration in egg whites, the more stable the meringue. It's harder to knock air out of stable meringues so you see the features ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿงก❤️ for case 1 which has over 3x more sugar in meringue than case 2! 

Having said that, there is a limit to how much sugar you can add. More is not always better. If the sugar doesn't dissolve fully in the water in egg whites, it will contribute to instability.


PART 3: Comparison of Baked Shells 

Case 1: Stable Meringue Recipe

๐Ÿ’œ Bakes fast. Comes off parchment easily. Overfolded batter needs to bake longer to prevent sticking to parchment.

๐Ÿ’™ Freshly baked shells are slightly patchy when overfolded.* No patchiness for correct consistency.

๐Ÿ’š Smooth tops even when overfolded.

๐Ÿ’› Straight feet when batter consistency is right but have protruding feet when overfolded. 

๐Ÿงก Full shells


Case 2: Unstable Meringue Recipe

๐Ÿ’œ Stuck to parchment unless baked longer. Overfolding significantly increases the need for longer baking time.

๐Ÿ’™ Freshly baked shells appear patchy*. Overfolding causes more patchiness.

๐Ÿ’š Smooth tops from correct consistency batter. Overfolded batter causes wrinkled tops with cracks.

๐Ÿ’› Protruding feet

๐Ÿงก Slight hollows from correct consistency batter. Full shells from overfolded batter. 

*Patchiness is reduced/eliminated after drying baked shells in a cooling down oven that's switched off.



Explanation:

You can tell the strength of meringue by looking at the appearance of baked shells.

Continuing from part 2 about foam structure of meringues, both unstable meringue & overfolding cause collapse of/weak foam structure, although a stable meringue can withstand overfolding better.

๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’™ A weak/collapsed foam structure results in runnier & wetter batter. As a result, the baked shells stick to parchment & appear patchy due to excess moisture.

๐Ÿ’›A weak/weakened foam structure results in protruding feet as there's less resistance to expansion of batter sideways at base of shells during baking.

๐Ÿ’šA severely weakened foam structure like the case of overfolded batter of unstable meringue recipe may cause surface of shell to appear wrinkled & cracked as surface layer & internal foam structure can't hold up & collapse during baking.

๐Ÿงก No hollows except for a slight hollow for unstable meringue batter with correct consistency, as surface layer is somewhat strong enough to hold up but internal foam structure starts breaking down during drying or baking.


PART 4: Summary & Conclusion

(This may be a repetition from parts 2 and 3 but some of you may find it helpful to see everything at a glance)


Case 1: Stable Meringue Recipe

๐Ÿ’œ Meringue is compact, firm & stable, has smaller air bubbles, lighter coloured 

๐Ÿ’™ Batter is thicker & takes more folds to get overfolded

๐Ÿ’š Piped batter spreads less & dries faster

๐Ÿ’› Bakes fast & comes off parchment paper/mat easily. Overfolded batter needs to bake longer to prevent sticking to mat.

๐Ÿงก Freshly baked shells are slightly patchy when overfolded. No patchiness for correct consistency.

❤️ Shells have smooth tops even when overfolded.

๐Ÿค Shells have straight feet with right batter consistency but have protruding feet when overfolded. 

๐ŸคŽ Full shells


Case 2: Unstable Meringue Recipe

๐Ÿ’œ Meringue is loose, soft & unstable, has larger air bubbles, darker colour 

๐Ÿ’™ Batter is runnier & easily overfolded

๐Ÿ’š Piped batter spreads more & dries slowly especially when overfolded 

๐Ÿ’› Stuck to mat unless baked longer. Overfolding significantly increases the need for longer baking time.

๐Ÿงก Freshly baked shells appear patchy. Overfolding causes more patchiness.

❤️ Smooth tops from correct consistency batter. Overfolding batter causes wrinkled tops with cracks.

๐Ÿค Protruding feet

๐ŸคŽ Slight hollows from correct consistency batter. Full shells from overfolded batter. 


Conclusion:

✅ Choose Swiss or Italian method recipes if possible, especially in humid climates like mine.

✅ If you must use French method due to small batch size, equipment limitations or personal preference, make sure SUGAR CONTENT IN MERINGUE IS AT LEAST 80% OF EGG WHITES BY WEIGHT for a stable meringue & batter that isn't too easily overfolded. I usually use 90%.

✅ Technique is still more important although the right recipe helps!


with love,

Phay Shing

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