Meringue… the Difference that Folding Makes

I am always intrigued by technique and how the simple action of folding ingredients together can completely change the texture and consistency of a product. Such is the case with meringue. The infamous macarons are usually nothing but egg whites with sugar and ground up nuts. But how do they get their tiny feet and the crunchy exterior with the moist interior? I was showing a friend of mine the macaron folding technique or “macaroner”, when it occurred to me that I should also show her how a similar meringue can yield a different kind of cookie.

We made a batch of pistachio macarons with pistachio buttercream and a batch of hazelnut success with salted caramel ganache.

I decided to make some hazelnut success, which are nothing more than baked meringue with sugar and hazelnut meal gently folded in. Success is barely folded compared to the way macarons must be almost turned into a paste. The macaron batter is “worked” into a shiny mass, however, success must be folded with a light hand and gentle touch.

I understand that macaron recipes contain more dry ingredients that the rest of meringues, which also contributes to the completely different texture, but I would say, that is mostly in the hand. When macarons are under-mixed and much of the air is left in the mass, they turn into light crispy meringues and not the chewy interior we all desire.

I think at the end of the day, the reason why all this intrigues me is because it means that a recipe or a list of ingredients don’t really mean all that much unless there is care and touch behind it.

Pistachio Macarons

100 grams almond meal
80 grams raw pistachio meal
243 grams powdered sugar
138 grams egg whites
3 grams egg white powder
81 grams sugar
few drops of all-natural green food coloring

In a large bowl, sift together the almond flour, pistachio meal and powdered sugar. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg white and the egg white powder. Whip in medium speed until egg whites start to increase in volume. When the egg whites are almost fully whipped and very fluffy, slowly start adding the sugar, sprinkle it in. After all the sugar is incorporated, continue to whip the meringue in high speed now until semi stiff peaks have formed. Add food coloring.

Add the meringue to the almond flour and pistachio meal mixture and with a spatula, fold the meringue into the dry ingredients. This is called “macaroner” and is also a tricky part. It is better to fold slowly and test a couple of macaroons because it is possible to over fold this mixture. We are looking for a shiny mass. For this amount of ingredients, I would say that it will only take about 10 to 15 strokes. But again, it is better to check for consistency. We are looking for a mass that spreads a little but not too much otherwise our macaroons will be flat.

Pipe the mass onto half sheet pans lined with silpats. Sprinkle the wet macaroons with pistachio crumble or chopped pistachios.

Let them sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes so they dry. We want the tops to not stick to our finger when we touch them. This will ensure a crack-free macaroon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees. Bake one sheetpan at a time and rotate half way after about 10 minutes. They will take about 16 minutes total but depends on your oven.

Pistachio Buttercream

50 grams egg whites
100 grams sugar
150 grams butter, softened
50 grams pistachio paste

Mix the egg whites and the sugar and place them over a double boiler while you whisk them together. The sugar will start to dissolve and the egg whites will start to turn white and fluffy. Continue whisking until the egg whites feel hot to the touch.

Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer and whip in high speed until light and fluffy and the bottom of the bowl doesn’t feel hot anymore. About 3-5 minutes.

Start adding the softened butter by the tablespoon. Keep adding more butter as it is incorporated into the meringue. It might look like it is curdling but don’t worry, keep mixing. When is well mixed, add the pistachio paste.

Hazelnut Success

50 grams egg whites
40 grams sugar
40 grams powdered sugar
25 grams hazelnut meal

Whip the egg whites fully and slowly add the sugar. Whip to stiff peaks.

Separately, sift the powdered sugar and hazelnut meal together. Sprinkle this mixture over the meringue and fold by hand, slowly. Be careful not to deflate the meringue too much.

Place the mix in a pastry bag fitted with a round tip and pipe long lines of the meringue on a sheetpan lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes or until they dry completely. When they cool you should be able to pick them up from the parchment no problem.

Salted Caramel Ganache

60 grams sugar
110 grams heavy cream
100 grams bittersweet chocolate (64%)
65 grams milk chocolate (38%)
15 grams salted butter
pinch fleur de sel

Make a dry caramel with the sugar. In the meantime, heat the cream and when the caramel is starting to turn fairly dark, deglaze it with the cream.

Have the dark and milk chocolates chopped in a separate bowl. Strain the caramel mixture over the chocolate. Let it sit untouched for a minute. The caramel will start to slowly melt the chocolate. Whisk gently until all the chocolate is dissolved and the ganache has formed an emulsion. When it has coioled a bit, which will happen quickly since it’s a small batch, add the soft butter and mix keeping the emulsion. Add the fleur de sel.

Let the ganache sit at room temperature until it hardens enough to be pipeable. Place in a pastry bag and pipe in between hazelnut success.

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48 Responses to “Meringue… the Difference that Folding Makes”

  1. Christy says:

    Your photos are so simple and elegant!! mmm…I could really do with some salted caramel ganache right now…

  2. fanny says:

    Aran, this is so true it hurts. I mean all my friends think that if you’re good at pâtisserie it means you know ALL the recipes par coeur. And well, this sort of discussion always end up in quite a heated debate.

    Because yes I certainly know a good share of ingredient lists, but what matters the most is and always will be what you do with the ingredients.

    Knowing the techniques is for me part of what makes a patissier a good one.

    Thank you thank you xxx

  3. Patrick V. says:

    Your macarons and success are sooooo nice…
    Sure their taste is unbeleivable…

    Thanks for this post!

  4. Esti says:

    No conozco ni la mitad de las cosas que haces! Las fotos son apabullantes!

  5. Astrid says:

    Both look delicious, I woudn’t know where to start. I assume a success is similar to a dacquoise? And would you guess that properly ageing the egg whites out on a counter might compensate for the lack of powdered egg whites? Please don’t feel pressured to answer, I know you get a lot of comments.

  6. B says:

    They both look amazing! Do you have any tips on avoiding a hollow macaron?

  7. Ann says:

    When are you going to start running classes? :-)

  8. Eileen says:

    I always like reading about technique. The salted caramel ganache sounds wonderful.

  9. Lisa says:

    That ganache looks fantastic. I think my folding technique could use a complete overhaul. I can’t tell you the number of times i’ve ruined sponge cakes by over-folding.

    The photos are really lovely, as always!

  10. pea & pear says:

    Aran, you are so special. When are you going to have a cookbook so I can carry you with me everywhere????!!!!

  11. nadia says:

    Aran, they both look very good and your explanations on textures reminds me of many life lessons!!! photographs are edible!

  12. chefectomy says:

    I am not sure where to start as this posting is all of my favorite things – Macaroons (love them), salted caramel ganache (never had this but desperately want it) and pistachio buttercream (complete lover of pistachio). Your photos are amazing. Like Ann above said – when are the classes?..:)

  13. Tartelette says:

    You know what freaked me out? The fact that I was working on a similar post after I taught Chris how to make macarons over the weekend and we made another meringue based dessert. I am started to wonder if you are related!! My favorite cake is a success based one with tons of chocolate ganache and crunchy hazelnuts :)
    Dang, I am hungry now!!

  14. Robin Sue says:

    The caramel ganache sounds heavenly. I must try it but I’m always afraid of burning the sugar! I will be brave.

  15. This is a much needed comparison. With lovely and helpful photographs. Nicely done.

  16. Alexa says:

    How beautifully worded…
    The pictures are lovely as usual. I love pistachios in anything sweet. I am going to have to try those gorgeous macarons.

  17. Veron says:

    Yup, a crucial part of macarons is in the folding not the recipe itself.

  18. ana dane says:

    it is technique. it’s the same way an article of clothing, or jewelry, can be transformed into something extraordinary based on how its worn.

    i wish i had one of those pistachio lovelies right now…just finished lunch and it would just make my day.

  19. Bridget says:

    That salted caramel ganache sounds heavenly!!!

  20. corine says:

    beautiful photography as always. Guess who’s going to make meringue this week-end! This post explains a lot about my misadventures in meringue making. Thank you.

  21. Aran says:

    Thank you to all of you who take the time to read my blog and even comment on it. I want to tell you that I do indeed read every single comment and it’s very appreciated. It is hard at times to respond but know that I love your comments.

    Astrid- I do both, age the whites and add egg white powder but if you don’t have any, you are right, you can age them at room temperature to turn the whites more acidic and for some of the moisture to evaporate.

    B- Can you please give me more details? Do they have feet? Do they crack on top or just hollow? All of the macarons turn out that way or just some?

    Ann and Chefectomy- Thank you but no classes for me any time soon! Hard enough to run after a 2 year old and being pregnant with the second!

    Pea- Not any time soon but Tartelette will! Can’t wait!

    Thanks everyone!

  22. Thanks for all the detailed info…very interesting! I love the recipes you tried too!

  23. Lina says:

    I am so bad at making meringue and folding, Maybe I overfold cause it always ends up deflating…. I need more practice maybe

  24. Cheryl says:

    You have a very lucky child and child-to-be. Having a mother who whips up not one, but several, desserts daily will give your little ones quite a memorable childhood. And to think some kids just get Oreos or Chips Ahoy…

  25. Aimée says:

    Aran, it’s so humid here I wonder if these would EVER dry!
    PS.I gave a shout out to you on a recent post, btw. :)

  26. Okay, here is a dumb question.
    Do you weigh your ingredients, or do you convert them to cups etc. I for the life of me couldn’t figure out how much 300 grams of milk was. Even Google couldn’t help me out…
    I just found your blog yesterday and I’m already obsessed with all your wonderful recipes.

  27. Baking cake cannot be lazy and use short cut. I remembered once when I was making a durian mousse sponge cake, instead in folding in the flour to the already batter lightly, I just sprinkle the flour into the bowl where the batter was beating. The batter sank lower and lower as more flour was added. The cake turned out dense and hard.

  28. cindy* says:

    these are good things to know! i have had macarons on my mental backburner for a while…i am intimidated like many. the photos are lovely as always!

  29. Brilynn says:

    I still haven’t mastered macarons, I think I have a heavy hand…

  30. Aran says:

    Virginia- No question is a dumb one. I understand that most people are not familiar with the metric system but trust me, it is so much easier because everything is a multiple of 10. Anyhow, I always scale all my ingredients wether in grams or ounces. I only use cups in certain recipes but very seldom and no, I never covert from grams to cups. Weighing everything allows you to have the perfect recipe every time. It’s the key to consistency!

    Aimee- I live in Florida where humidity is always at about 100% especially now in the summer!!!

  31. oh what a wonderful lesson (and exciting recipes!)—thank you for explaining about the technique-so perfect for a novice like me trying to become more successful!

  32. I have never tried making macarons – not brave enough – but yours are a true inspiration!

  33. Y says:

    Another lovely post and a great read, Aran. Thank you :)
    (ps: very excited to hear you have a second child on the way.. congratulations!)

  34. Thank you so much for the info…I’m running out to buy a scale now.

  35. Katherine says:

    My heart skipped a beat. I saw the pictures of the macaroons and I was hoping to see “FOR SALE”. I would like to place an order for one dozen a week for ever. I would place more, but gaining weight could play a factor. Is there a “pre-sale” like when you shop at Nordstrom? The other reason my heart skipped a beat? I thought “oh please, let there be leftovers”. Have I told you lately how much I enjoy being neighbors? LOL

  36. I nominate you for…The Brilliant Weblog award! Stop by Ff for the details…

  37. A_and_N says:

    Congratulations on your ‘success’ :) And the information regarding folding and leaving air inside the macaron was quite informative. Thanks!

  38. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful recipes and demonstration. How long and wide are the strips for the hazelnut success? What size tip do you use? Thank you.

  39. Aran says:

    Anonymous- it really doesn’t matter. you can make them any size you like. i think i used a number 5 plain tip and they were probably 3 inches long. But again, any size works. you can even make them round or any other shape.

  40. B says:

    Aran, thanks for replying! It doesn’t matter if I use french meringue method or italian meringue, I always get hollow macarons! They look perfect from the outside… smooth and shiny with little feet but the top is always thin to crunch into, then it’s just hollow with a tiny bit of chewy centre! At first I thought it was something to do with the mixture not being stable enough, which is why I tried the italian meringue method- to no avail!

  41. Aran says:

    Hi B-

    I’m so sorry to hear tat. I’m not sure if I will be able to help you much without seeing the recipe you are using, how you are mixing it and how your oven works. Those are the three key elements. When you take them out of the oven are they a bit underdone or can you lift them off the parchment or silpat right away? I wonder if you are drying them too much…

  42. B says:

    I use the recipe from Tartlettes blog most of the time. I think you’re right- I might be overcooking them! Thanks for the tip :) I can usually peel them off the baking paper quite easily.

  43. Nisey says:

    Heyz! I love your blog:):):)!!! I made several attempts on baking macaroons. I realised that my batter is a little watery and runny, but i cant figure out whats wrong with it. I use recipes from Tartelette’s blog and my macaroons have feets and when I take it out from the oven i can peel off the parchment very easily. I bake at 160 degree celsius for 15mins. The problem with my macarons is that its smooth and perfect on the outside but the top of the shell is pretty thin and its hollow with a little chewy texture in the centre.. and actually its a little wet and sticky in the middle. ohh, and what are the problems associated if you over or under fold your macarons? Just to let you know i’m using the Italian method. How many strokes do you recommend when i fold?(i think the amount of ingredients i use is slightly lesser than your recipe for this page) In case you are wondering its the recipe from Tartelette and its the nutella macaroons recipe. I actually asked Helen from Tartelette about my hollow centre problem b4, but she told me to lower the temperature of my oven a little and bake it a little longer. How much should i lower the temperature to? I lowered 20 degrees the other time but the problem was still there and the macarons were a little uncooked cause the shell was sooo white(the ones that i usually bake are slightly brown in colour).. I also noticed that your macaroons are a bit puffy kinda like a hamburger… although my macarons have feets and look almost similar to yours but i feel that its not as puffy as it should be as your pictures suggest. Sorry for the extremely long post!!! But i cant sleep if i dont clarify… Thanks a lot for your time:)!!!

  44. Aran says:

    Nisey- well, macarons are supposed to have a thin crust and chewy texture inside so it sounds like you are on the right track. It’s hard to tell exactly what you are doing wrong without really following what you are doing step by step.

    The oven temperature is something you have to play around with. I actually bake my macarons at 300F (about 150C). Always let them cool completely on the rack before trying to remove them. That way, you will be able to lift he macaron whole from the sheetpan and avoid that hollow center.

    If you under mix the batter, you will have “tops”, almost like a hershey kiss but if you overfold them, they will spread too much, be runny and will not keep its shape.

    All tricky i know.

    why don’t you try my recipe and see what problems you find. i might be able to help you better that way.


  45. Nisey says:

    Thanks for your suggestion! I will try your recipe the very moment i have free time:) I’ll update you on my progress:) Thanks a lot for your advice!!!

  46. Nisey says:

    ohhh, I need your advice on something… I was thinking of baking something for a birthday gift, but i cant decide which recipe to use.. I prefer something chocolatey:) Do you have any recipe to recommend?:)

  47. Anonymous says:

    What is an almond meal or pistaschio meal means? and if it isnt available, what could we substitute the, with?

  48. […] the color of your choice as well as the combined mixture of flour and sugar and fold them in gently, until they get incorporated into the egg mixture and you get a smooth, shiny […]

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