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Although I don’t consider myself to be a picky eater, I do have specific guidelines for the qualities a macaron must possess in order to be deemed “excellent.” Will I eat a macaron that lacks excellence? Probably—it’s hard to make a macaron taste repulsive. But I won’t be very happy about it.
Here’s what I look for in a macaron:
- The cookie-to-filling ratio should be between 1:1 and 2:1. I have seen the atrocity that is a thin layer of filling spread upon one cookie, or a blob of filling that fails to extend to the edge of the cookie. Not cool, man, not cool. I feel like this is one of the easiest problems to “correct” when making a macaron; if the filling looks skimpy, just squeeze in a bit more. Just a bit! But no. We are frequently denied this extra squeezing.
- The filling should be smooth, firm (like ganache), light, and not sticky. Aside from a few wayward crumbs, eating a macaron should be clean. Filling shouldn’t squish out of the cookie nor should it leave much residue on your teeth. (This may not apply to all fillings, such as caramel or jams.)
- The texture and surface of the cookie should be very smooth. Bumps show that the almond wasn’t ground finely enough or wasn’t sifted to take out the chunks. A chunky macaron might taste okay, but a finer one tastes better.
- The crust of the cookie should be thin and only provide the most useless protection against the soft cookie layer underneath. Biting through the crust should be effortless. A dry, semi-hard crust that shatters into the soft center of the cookie is not fun.
- The cookie’s texture beneath the crust should be light, just a little chewy, and soft, but not so soft that it’s mushy. It’s okay if the cookie looks “uncooked.”
- As much as I love sugar, sweetness shouldn’t take over in a macaron. They come in a wide variety of flavors for a reason—so you can taste the flavor. Cloying sweetness that forms a lump in the back of your throat is a no-no.