Air Pockets: hollow gaps between a thin shelled macaron and where the shell cooked on the baking sheet. These tend to form if egg whites are too fresh, or if the initial oven heat is very high. The shells forms, but some batter remains stuck to the silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Bain Marie: indirect heat source, such as a double boiler used to melt chocolate or a water bath used to bake a cheesecake.
Bittersweet Chocolate: high quality chocolate with a low sugar content, typically sold as a chocolate in the 70 percent range.
Blanch: to boil a food item briefly in hot water, and immediately plunge it in ice water to stop the cooking process. Examples include: nuts (to loosen their skins so they can be rubbed off); citrus (to remove the bitterness from the zest to make marmalade); and tomatoes (to loosen the skins for removal). The process is also used when cooking vegetables, to retain the bright green color (chlorophyll) and crispness of asparaguses or peas.
Candy Thermometer: commonly available tool that allows the baker to judge the viscosity and temperature of a sugar syrup as the water evaporates out in the cooking process.
Cocoa: dry powder processed from the cocoa mass after most of the cocoa butter has been extracted. Used to color and flavor chocolate macarons.
Cocoa nib: little pieces of roasted cocoa beans. Cocoa nibs give a chocolate texture/crunch when incorporated into recipes.
Compound: concentrated commercial flavor compound often used for more unusual flavors of macarons. It allows the baker to create an intensely flavored shell without changing the composition of the ingredients and adding too much liquid, as one would with extracts or juices. Typically, try adding 3 tablespoons (60 grams) per batch of base batter (600 grams gross weight) – but what works can vary by brand.
Couverture: highest quality eating chocolate, which can be used for tempering. It must contain a minimum of 32 percent cocoa butter by law, and is most often sold in bulk boxes by specialty chocolate retailers and wholesalers.
Cracking: an unfortunate and undesirable side effect in a macaron shell. Cracking seems to be caused by multiple issues, including: oily or wet almond flour; whipping the meringue for too long; over-folding the dry ingredients into the meringue; and excessive moisture in the batter.
Crashing a Meringue: the collapse of a meringue while it is whipping, typically as a result of: adding sugar too quickly before it can be incorporated into the egg proteins; whipping on too high a speed for the air bubbles to be stable; and/or both issues in humid weather conditions.
Emulsion: to combine two or more non-homogenous ingredients together through whisking, stirring, shaking, or blending (such as cream and chocolate in a ganache filling, egg white and butter in a buttercream, or oil and vinegar in vinaigrettes or mayonnaise).
Explosions: an unfortunate and undesirable effect in a macaron shell. Explosions seem to be caused by multiple issues, including: incorrect measuring of either confectioners’ and/or granulated sugar; too strong a dried shell before the inside batter can cook; and/or inadequate oven heat (with too many baking sheets, or too low a temperature). The batter has to go somewhere, so it explodes outward.
Extract: strong flavor infused into alcohol, such as vanilla extract. Look for natural extracts; synthetic ones often have an odd chemical aftertaste.
Firm-Ball Stage: sugar syrup cooked to 245ºF to 250°F on a candy thermometer. Without a candy thermometer, you can check for the right viscosity by dropping a drizzle of syrup into ice water; it should form a “firm ball.”
Firm Peak: egg whites, or a meringue made by whipping egg whites with sugar, brought to a stiff, glossy peak. If you stop the mixer and check with a spatula, the mixture will hold its shape three-dimensionally at a 90-degree angle.
Foot: A ring around the base of the cookie, firmer than the shell, which forms once the macaron has acquired its crust (skin). Feet will not form in an oven that is too hot, where the macaron bakes too quickly and the crust itself cannot form properly. In such a case, the interior batter will still be moist, causing steam and therefore some bubbling; cracking is a typical result.
Gerbet: Another name for Parisian-style macarons.
Gluten: a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, or barley, which is the source of much of a batter’s elasticity. Macarons (and all the fillings in our book, except for Thai Chile–Peanut) are gluten free.
Hollow Shells: a convex opening at the bottom of the baked shell. These tend to form if the shell cooks too quickly in an unevenly heated oven; try baking using an additional baking sheet to disperse the heat.
Humidity: high moisture in the air that can interfere with correct meringue formation, create a sticky and/or overly stiff batter, and help cause cracking in macaron shells.
Infusion: a flavored liquid made by steeping a flavor into hot or cold liquid. Tea is an infusion.
Luxemburgli: a Swiss-made macaron with a slightly flatter appearance than most Parisian macarons. The famous ones are made by Sprungli, in Zurich. They have a feet and the smooth skinned-dome, and are also sandwiched together in sets -- but are typically made with a non-cooked meringue method (French meringue).
Macerate: to draw out the natural juices from fruits by sprinkling them with sugar and an acid, such as lemon juice, and letting them sit for a while.
Macaron: a smooth skinned, slightly footed French-style cookie, typically made from almond flour, sugar, and egg whites.
Macaroon: a cookie related to a macaron that has neither a foot nor smooth skin, typically made from almond paste or coconut, sugar, and egg whites.
Macaronnage: unique incorporation of the dry ingredients into the meringue to make a French macaron, typically through folding (but it can be done on a mixer with a paddle attachment). The ingredients must be folded enough to just see movement in the batter, or the batter will be too stiff to form the correctly shaped shell (which will have “tails,” or peaks). They cannot be overfolded, or the macaron will spread too much, and may have an uneven shape and or cracks.
Medium Peak: egg whites, or a meringue made by whipping egg whites with sugar, brought to a medium, glossy peak. If you stop the mixer and check with a spatula, the mixture will hold its shape three-dimensionally at a 45-degree angle.
Milk Chocolate: high-quality chocolate blended with powdered milk.
Purée: strained berries or other fruits. Can be cold processed or heated.
Sandwich: in this case, to fill two macaron shells with a filling.
Semisweet Chocolate: high-quality chocolate with a medium sugar content, typically sold as a chocolate in the 60 percent range.
Shell: the smooth-skinned, French-style macaron cookie before it is filled.
Slamming: to release the baking sheet from about six inches above the table surface several times in order to release excess air in the batter; the air is one factor that can cause hollow shells when baking. Be vigorous: see the video on this website for a demonstration.
Soft-Ball Stage: sugar syrup cooked to 235ºF to 245ºF on a candy thermometer. Without a candy thermometer, you can check for the right viscosity by dropping a drizzle of syrup into ice water; it should form a “soft ball.”
Soft Peak: egg whites, or a meringue made by whipping egg whites with sugar, brought to a soft, glossy peak. If you stop the mixer and check with a spatula, the mixture will hold its shape three-dimensionally at a 25-degree angle.
Tail: a peak (or point) on a macaron shell, caused by moving the pastry piping bag while squeezing the batter, and/or movement upward. Piping practice will help.
Unsalted Butter: type of butter generally preferred by chefs, because salt is a preservative that can disguise rancidity and therefore decrease the quality of baked goods if the butter isn’t fresh. Salted butter can also make for overly salted baked goods if the recipe already contains salt.
Vanilla Bean: the fruit of a member of the orchid family. It can be expensive because it requires hand pollination and is very susceptible to weather changes in the rainforest. It is used to flavor batters and liquids through the oils on the outside of the pod and/or the seeds within.
White Chocolate: high-quality chocolate blended with powdered milk. Unlike bittersweet, semisweet, or milk chocolate, it does not contain any cocoa mass.
Zest: the colored part of citrus skin, which contains its flavored oils. It is best removed with a Microplane zester to avoid removing the bitter white pith that is directly below it.