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I was wondering whether there's any reason you shouldn't whisk macaron batter like you whisk merengue batter, i.e. first whisk the egg whites until you get soft peaks, then add sugar (in the case of macaron batter, sugar and almond meal mixed together) and then keep on beating for a little while? It seems it'd be easier to get a batter with meal/sugar properly incorporated yet not too runny. But while this method is standard for making meringues, it's obviously not for macarons, so I'm guessing there must be some kind of a reason for it?

The reason I'm asking is because I tend to either undermix the batter (giving the macarons proper feet/pied, but lumpy domes) or overmix it or otherwise getting it too runny (getting smooth domes, but no feet/pied). It seems like it'd be easier to maybe have the batter a little too stiff, and then just massage it a little when it's in the piping bag.

edit: I actually tried it out (with a batch of just a single egg white) and I guess I realized the answer to the question. As soon as the almond meal/sugar mix is added, the egg white contracts and it becomes impossible to whisk any more air into it. So my follow-up question then is if it might work better to add only the sugar first, and then, after reaching the desired consistency, add the almond meal? Or would you only be creating an unnecessary extra step with no big difference in outcome?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

The process I follow for making macarons is:

  1. Whisk egg whites until foamy
  2. Add caster sugar gradually and whisk until very stiff, adding any colouring near the end.
  3. Stir in almond meal and icing/confectioners sugar (there is no need to fold gently)
  4. Use a dough scraper to mix the batter in a back and forth motion until the batter falls like a ribbon off the scraper.

I tend to hand-whisk the almond meal and confectioner's sugar together before adding to the egg whites to ensure even mixing.. Since I have started using the above method, found in Jill Collonna's book Mad About Macarons, I have always had very nicely shaped macarons, with excellent feet. Prior to this, I had been carefully folding in the almond meal/sugar with generally poor results.

You are correct in your findings that adding the almond meal during whisking the egg whites prevents more air being incorporated. The almond meal is oily and the oil 'kills' the meringue. This is why your beaters and whisking bowl should always be spotless, and why you can't have any egg yolk in your whites.

Making macarons is part science, part art, and it takes a lot of practice to get the results just right. I have cracked the macaronnage (mixing) stage, but I'm damned if I can bake them correctly without browning the top! Keep practising and you will get there.

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Thank you for the advice! Will give it another go this weekend. –  Marcus Sep 5 '12 at 1:36
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