(2017/09/04 Note: this post does not have my latest thinking on making the best French macarons possible. I encourage you to, instead, follow the instructions in this post where I compare, head-to-head, the macaron recipes of the world’s top pastry chefs.)
This is a tutorial for French macarons (also known as macarons), not for macaroons. Macarons are delicate French pastries that come in hundreds of flavours and colours while macaroons are made from dessicated coconut and come in regular and chocolate, and that’s about it. Macaron is pronounced [MAC-a-ron] while macaroon is pronounced [mac-a-RUNE]. Roll your Rs (and speak with a French accent) for the former. If you want some macaron recipes, please check out my recipe index! Macarons are great for eating by themselves or, if you want to be fancy, make a great decoration for entremets. So, let’s get started!
There are thousands of recipes online for macarons, all slightly different. The problem is a lot of them aren’t very clear. Since macarons are very delicate, it’s important to have excellent technique. That’s hard to do though when recipes tell you to do things like fold the batter until it looks like “magma”. Seriously? Magma? Underground lava? That’s helpful.
I combined tips and tricks from dozens of sources to write this guide. I’ve tested so many different macaron recipes but this is the only one that gives me consistent results. It’s based mainly off of Stella’s (from BraveTart) recipe, but does have some changes from other sources that I find work better for me.
The first step is to make 4oz (115g) of ground, blanched almonds (or any nut, really). You can either buy ground almonds, blanched almonds, or plain almonds. If you choose to buy plain almonds, you need to blanch them. Do this by pouring boiling water over the almonds and letting them sit for a minute. Then, pour cold water over the almonds. You should be able to then peel the skins off with your fingers.
At this point, whether you use ground almonds or blanched almonds, you need to grind them in a food processor or “chopper” with 8oz (230g) of powdered/icing sugar. Even if your almonds are already ground/powdered, this will ensure the almonds are evenly dispersed in the powdered sugar. To get the best results possible, I suggest layering the powdered sugar and almonds before grinding.
Then, grind, grind, grind! Grind for about a minute (if you’re using pre-ground almonds) to three or four minutes (if you’re using blanched almonds). After that, dump everything out.
The next step is to sift everything. Macarons are very delicate so when there are clumps of almonds and powdered sugar in them they have a weird texture. Also, when you have clumps, it promotes cracking in the shells.
After you sift everything, they’ll be some larger pieces left. Grind those for about a minute and then sift them in. You’ll still have about two tablespoons left of larger pieces. Throw them out. Don’t risk the shells cracking by putting them in.
The next step is to combine 5oz (144g) of egg whites, 2 1/2oz (72g) of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon (2g) of salt, and the seeds of one vanilla bean. First off, it doesn’t matter what temperature or how old the egg whites are. I just grab the eggs out of the fridge and use them. Seriously. It doesn’t matter. Also, you may find it strange that you’re adding in all the sugar at once, but also, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, you can use vanilla extract (2 teaspoons). If you choose to use vanilla extract, don’t add it in just yet.
You’ll want to beat this mixture until the egg whites are frothy, about three minutes on speed four on a Kitchenaid stand mixer.
Then, turn up the speed to seven and whip for another three minutes. This will get you to soft peaks.
Turn up the speed to eight and beat for another three minutes. This will get you to stiff, dry peaks. This is different from a lot of recipes but it works. It really works. In fact, the results are more consistent if you do this. So do it. Trust me.
At this point add in any colouring and flavouring. If you’re using vanilla extract, add it in now. For food colouring, I highly suggest using powdered food colouring. If you don’t have any, then use some good gel food colouring. Avoid using liquid food colouring as it will ruin the texture of your macarons. The colour that you use will fade in the oven (especially Wilton gels). I didn’t add a lot of colour to mine because I prefer pastel-shades, but by all means add more colour if you so desire. Beat on the highest speed (ten) for one minute to incorporate all the colouring and flavouring. Here, I added some red gel food colouring and 1 1/2 teaspoons of rose water to make rose-flavoured macarons.
When you take your whisk-head-attachment-thing out there should be a big clump of egg whites stuck inside. If there isn’t, keep on beating until there is.
At this point, hit the whisk against the side of the bowl so that the egg whites fall out. Take all your almond mixture and put in. All of it. At once. Don’t add a little bit at a time. It’s so much more effort and doesn’t do anything. At this point we’re starting “macaronage” which is a French word meaning the process of incorporating the dry ingredients with the egg whites to make macarons.
Alright, here’s where it gets tricky. You need to deflate the egg whites to a certain point. Using both a folding motion to incorporate the dry ingredients, and a pressing motion against the side of the bowl, you’re trying to get the batter to the right consistency. But what is the right consistency? Some recommend getting the batter to look like magma, but that doesn’t really help me. You should keep on folding and deflating until the point when you can take a teaspoon of the batter and drop it on a plate and the peak that was formed flattens in ten seconds. I find that doing that test gives me the most accurate results. Be careful not to over mix. Test your batter every few strokes. Be sure to use a spatula for this process – a whisk will not work.
After a few strokes it should look hopeless. Like so:
And then, after a few strokes, it should look a bit better.
Almost there! Keep on folding!
Finally, you’re done.
Take a piping bag fitted with really any single-opening tip and fill it up halfway. On a baking pan lined with parchment paper (which I find works better than a Silpat baking mat) pipe the macarons by holding your bag at a 45-degree angle to the paper. Press down on the bag for about 2-5 seconds (depending on the size of your tip and how hard you press) until a circle forms. Pick up the bag, and keep on going.
Once you finish piping, pick up the baking sheet and hit it against the table a few times to dislodge any trapped air bubbles.
The piped macarons need to dry out until the tops of shells aren’t sticky. This might take as long as 1 1/2 hours. When you touch the top of the shell, no batter should stick to your finger. In the picture below, you can see some macarons that failed the “drying-test”.
I know some recipes say not to dry out the shells but it really helps. Successfully baked macarons have “feet”. Feet are a layer of bubble-like things at the bottom of a macaron shell. They form when the air that is in the batter is forced down. If the shell is not dry, the air will leave through the top and cracks will form. If the shell is dry, the air will have trouble escaping from the top and push down, creating feet. While the shells are drying, preheat your oven to 300°F. I recommend using the convection bake setting if you have it. I highly recommend stacking your baking sheets. Once the shells finish drying, bake for about ten-twenty minutes or until the shells come off the parchment paper without their centres sticking.
Let the shells cool on the pan and then remove them. Pipe buttercream, ganache, jam, or whatever you’d like (as long as it’s not too liquidy like honey) on half the shells and then sandwich the shells together. For these, I used coconut rum buttercream that I made by adding coconut rum, which I boiled down, to Swiss meringue buttercream. Let the macarons age in the fridge for twenty-four hours before eating. Let the “cookies” come to room temperature before digging in.
If you’re not in the mood for rose macarons with coconut rum filling, click here to discover other macaron flavours!
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
P.S. Thanks again Stella for all the help!
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