Hello macaron baker friends! Here’s an exclusive post. Today I don’t bring a macaron recipe (but you can find plenty of macaron recipes and macaron ideas here), yet I bring to you a guide on how to make macarons, and today we will talk about the Meringue Stage.
What is the science behind the Meringue?
Speaking of structure of the meringue, let’s quickly talk about it, from a somewhat superficial level, just so you understand what I mean by “structure of the meringue”.
When you start whipping egg whites, the whipping process unravels the proteins in the whites, which are formed of basically two types of amino acids: hydrophobic amino acids (repel water), and hydrophilic amino acids (bond well with water).
As you whip the whites, you add air to the mixture and also unravel the proteins in the whites. Whites are made of mostly water (90%) and proteins (10%), so the way you make liquidy whites into foamy meringue, is by whipping air into it quickly. The act of whipping will cause the amino acids that like water to be attracted to it, and the amino acids that don’t to form a structure protecting the air bubbles that have been added to the whole mixture.
Anyway, a properly whipped meringue will guarantee that the protein bonds are forming a stable structure holding the water content of the meringue in place. The right amount of time whipping the meringue will form new chemical bonds that coat the air bubbles protecting them from those water particles.
A soft meringue won’t have a strong enough protein structure to contain the water particles, and won’t have enough air and chemical bonds between the hydrophobic amino acids that will protect the air that it does have.
And a over whipped meringue will form such a tight protein structure that it will cause it to collapse, releasing the captured water, and the formed air, which will cause the whole structure to break down.
All of this to say that a stable meringue structure is extremely important for making perfect macarons!
The Swiss Meringue
Using the Swiss method, we start by making a syrup of sugar and egg whites, by whisking them together over a double boiler until the sugar melts.
Once the sugar has melted, the syrup is then poured in the bowl of an electric mixer and it gets whipped until the meringue achieves stiff peaks. And we will talk about exactly what the peaks are supposed to look like, and how to whip the meringue in order to best achieve that.
How to whip meringue when making macarons? How to know when the meringue is whipped? How to recognize the stiff peaks in the meringue when making macarons? These are frequently asked questions, and things you should be observing, because if you are having issues making macarons, the meringue might just be where you are making the mistake.
Whipping the perfect meringue for macarons
After you’ve transferred the meringue to the bowl of the mixer, turn the mixer on LOW (speed 2 on the KitchenAid) and whisk for 30 seconds or so, until mixture becomes foamy and frothy.
Start raising speed to medium (speed 4 on the KitchenAid), where you will whip for 1-2 minutes until you start to see streaks of the whisk being formed on the meringue. In the picture below I couldn’t capture the streaks from the whisk because the mixer moves way too fast for me to capture, however, this is what the meringue is supposed to look like, very white, thick, but still soupy.
Once you identify this stage, you can start raising speed to medium-high, or high, and that can be anywhere from speed 6 to 10 on the KitchenAid.
Then whip the meringue until stiff peaks are formed. This can take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes. Usually my whipping time takes about 10 minutes.
This will vary greatly depending on your mixer and on the speed you are using.
I’ve heard of bakers saying they whip the meringue on medium (speed 6) all the way through the end, to avoid hollows.
My preferred speed is between 6 and 8, I’ll whip on 6 for a while and then raise to speed 8 towards the end.
Now, I get people asking all the time: how long should I whip the meringue and what speed?
And honestly, that will vary, and my mixer might be different than yours and have less or more powder, so you shouldn’t base yourself on the time and speed recommendation from someone else, but rather find out what time and speed work best for yourself.
The point is that you need a stiff meringue. With peaks shooting up!
So if that’s the shape of your meringue, you’re right on!
How to know if the meringue is not whipped enough? The peak will be too long and bending down to the side, and in that case, the meringue isn’t ready yet.
How to know if you whipped the meringue too much? The peaks will be too stiff, short, and sticking up. The meringue will be separating into chunks, instead of having an elastic consistency. That’s when you know your meringue is over whipped.
What happens if I don’t whip the meringue properly when making macarons?
Several things might result from not whipping the meringue properly. So let’s talk macaron troubleshooting!
Here is a quick chart that might help you.
If you are kind of new to macaron baking, it might be harder to identify what your mistake is when making macarons. However, the more you practice, the better you will become at identifying what could have went wrong, and knowing more about troubleshooting can help you adjust for next time.
So basically, if you UNDER-whip the meringue, these are likely things to happen:
- Shells with no feet (which can also be caused by other things such as not enough resting time, and low oven temperatures)
- Hollow shells (also can be caused by overwhipping the meringue, underfolding the batter, not tapping the macaron tray before resting, etc)
- Cracked shells (which can also be caused by hot oven temperature, or not tapping the macaron trays)
- Wet batter (which may cause macarons to stick to the baking pan, not form a bottom skin, become mishapen)
If you OVER-whip the meringue, here are some possible results:
- Tall feet (which can also be caused by high oven temperature)
- Bumpy shells (when you overwhip the meringue, the macaronage might become a hard process, since the meringue will be too stiff to incorporate fully with the dry ingredients, causing your shells to have bumps and points on top when you pipe the macarons)
- Hollow shells (look above to see other things that could cause hollow shells)
Anyway, you want to aim for getting this stage of making the meringue JUST right, and this way, your chances of nailing the results will increase. And, of course, you will have to pay attention to the other aspects of making macarons such as the macaronage, the oven temperature, etc. We will cover those some other time!
I hope you enjoyed today’s post and found it useful in your macaron journey! Don’t forget to also check out the video where I show you how I make this stage work!
Here is the video tutorial on Youtube.
Visit Macaron School to see more informative posts about macarons.
Here are some posts that might interest you:
- How to make perfect macarons
- The most important stages when making macarons
- Frequently asked questions (coming soon)
- Understanding your oven
- Macarons for beginners
- Macaron Troubleshooting Guide
- Tools I use to make macarons (coming soon)
- Vegan Macaron Troubleshooting
- Hollow macarons