Ah, friends. I’m so sorry I’ve been missing you. In January, we celebrated Miss Ru’s first birthday (check Instagram for pictures) and literally three days later, Rose came down with a stomach bug that ravaged our family. Two additional illnesses later, we reached the month of February and I feel like it’s taken me all of February to recover…so there was no blog post in February. But I did think about you a few times!
This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. On my original vegan French macaron recipe, perhaps I was not as empathetic as I could have been to aspiring macaron bakers. Macarons are difficult cookies themselves to master, but vegan ones are even more difficult, in my opinion. I can cut corners and be a bit lazy with regular macarons, but that’s not so with their vegan counterparts. On my original post, I would write comments like, “Oh, so sorry they didn’t work out. Please try again.” And perhaps I didn’t understand your frustration. But I CERTAINLY DO now.
The hard part is, there are lots of things that can go wrong or change the outcome of vegan French macarons, so it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where the problem lies. This post is supposed to help you pinpoint your own shortcomings, like I did, and hopefully you can master this cookie.
Here’s my quick story: I was asked by a magazine to throw together a lavender vanilla bean vegan French macaron recipe and to have it done by January. It took me SIX TIMES to get it done correctly! Perhaps when I lived in Virginia, I had beginner’s luck; I didn’t have to work too hard to achieve “feet” in my vegan recipes – a step that took me too long to remaster this winter. I hope this troubleshooting advice will help you with your own baking adventures. And I do plan to share the lavender vanilla bean recipe soon, as the magazine CHANGED its mind on the flavor soon after I’d finished. Just keeping it real, people 😉
Things to Consider When Baking Vegan French Macarons
1. Humidity – This is always one of the first culprits I blame. The lower your humidity is, the easier it will be for you to achieve good feet. When I lived in Virginia, I had almost no problem developing “feet” in my macarons (the little raised edges around the cookie); South Carolina is a different animal altogether. You’ll need to follow this advice more closely if you live in a humid area. And don’t bake vegan macarons on rainy days!
2. Your Pans – There are two items here. First, if you want even feet, you must make sure that your pan is not warped or wonky. I only have one perfect, flat pan like this and I even call it my “macaron pan” fittingly. Also, for vegan macarons you want your pan to be a medium thickness (for regular ones, I would choose a thicker one). You’re basically dehydrating these cookies, so overall, thinner is better. No need to double pan them, as you sometimes do with regular macarons. Bake the macarons for 30-40 minutes. I’ve had vegan macarons cave in after 30 minutes because they needed more time. A little extra time won’t hurt, especially after you fill them. Also, one pan only in the oven at a time. It’s a pain, but I think it’s necessary.
3. Silpat vs. Parchment – I like the way that my regular macarons turn out with Silpat, but for vegan macarons, I would lean toward using the parchment. Sometimes I think that the vegan macarons stick to the Silpat a little more.
4. Coloring – DO NOT add too much liquid food coloring to your batter! It will water it down wayyyyyy too much. If you can, choose a gel or powdered food coloring (beet powder, carrot powder, etc.). Vegan macarons were never meant to be bright, bold colors. Can you even imagine how much food coloring is in those bright macarons?! TONS.
5. Dry Batter = Better – A year ago, I never would have thought this, but it’s true. While your folding the dry ingredients into the wet ones, it’s okay if it’s a touch dry. After you finish le macronage step (number six on this list), you batter should be A-OK. If it still seems too dry, you can add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to help. But your need for this would be rare.
6. Le Macaronage – This video helps to demonstrate the technique (not mine). Basically, you need to fold the batter over and over again until it becomes a little more pliant. I’m talking 40-50 folds of batter. If your arm isn’t a little tired after doing this, you haven’t folded enough (or you go to the gym too much!). I’ve found this step to be crucial in making those feet appear. I never worried about this step too much because I always folded my regular macaron batter a dozen times and the feet always develop. That’s not so for vegan macarons.
7. Dry the Batter – Once you’ve piped out your macarons, let the batter dry on the counter for 2-3 hours. It seems like such a long time, but again it’s necessary for the feet to develop. I used to only do 1 hour, but I’ve gotten better results with the longer I’ve waited
Now that you’ve read this somewhat helpful list, you might say, “Aileen, you’re crazy. This is too much!” But I’m hoping to help those people who don’t know what they’re doing wrong – at least maybe guide them in a general direction. Let me know if you think that I’ve missed anything and if it’s helped you tackle your macaron recipes!
And here is a link, one more time, to my original vegan French macaron recipe, Chocolate Amaretto Macarons.