Batch #9 after piping (a little on the undermixed side — you can still see nipples after I had finished piping the whole tray)
Batch #9 Tray 1

Batch #9: I intentionally undermixed by 2-3 strokes on the macaronnage part thinking I could get puffier macarons.  I also added back the vanilla extract and chefmaster gel paste color that I had left out of Batch #8 (the successful one).  I dried them for just over an hour but not enough to leave a “dent” like the successful batch.  So I had 3 variables (silly me ) with Batch #8.  Tray #1 was baked with the convection oven. I preheated to 325 then dropped to 300 when I put in the tray.  The rack was positioned just beneath the fan.

Batch #9 Tray #2
As you can see there are some good ones on this tray

So what were the potential problems with Batch #9:
Flavoring/Color: possible but then I wouldn’t have had any good ones at all and I did
Poor macaronnage: probably.  I needed to stick to proper procedure and not try to cheat
Too little drying time: possibly.  The second tray was dried until I could dent it with my finger and I got a few good ones with that tray as opposed to the first tray
Temperature/Convection fan:Maybe.  But I needed to perfect the macaronnage and the drying time first to exclude those as potential confounders ( sorry, I have a master’s degree in public health).

Batch #10

For this batch I used ground unblanched almonds — they worked fine.  I still used vanilla and coloring.  I believe I achieved perfect macaronnage — the peaks fell back within 10 seconds. This site really helped me. I dried both trays until I could glide my finger over all the surfaces without getting batter on my fingers and I could create a dent on the rims.  So now since those factors were controlled for with both trays it was time to experiment with temperature and convection. I was also pretty certain by now that my oven had hot spots.

Batch #10 Tray #1: No convection fan. Baked at 285F.  Most looked nice on the outside but all were hollow — undercooked.  So 285F was too low.
Batch #10 Tray #2: Perfection! Baked with convection fan on at 300F for 14 minutes.  Perfect on the inside too! They’re discolored compared to Tray #1 but who cares! I’ll just have to buy a heat safe food color.
Batch # 10 Tray #2: all with nice domes, all with nice feet
Successful colored (sort of) and flavored batch. Filled with Nutella Swiss Meringue Buttercream

REVELATIONS LEARNED: CONVECTION FAN IS IMPORTANT AND YOU CAN GO TOO LOW WITH OVEN TEMP.  300F SEEMS TO YIELD THE MOST CONSISTENT RESULTS

So, what are the most important factors for my macarons:
1) Proper macaronnage
2) Enough drying time
3) Temperature/Convection fan.

I’m going to sleep.  This has kept me up for weeks!

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