Ever since I took a macaron class at Mix Cooking School, I have not been able to stop making them! I now make them at least once a week (conservative estimate) because I love that I now know how to make something that I previously was too intimidated to try, and I love practicing the skills that I learned. So I am going to share with you what I learned and what has worked well for me! Macarons can be finicky to make, so what works for one person might not always work for someone else (or for a different oven), but once I took the cooking class, I realized they are a lot more achievable than I had previously thought!
FUN FACT #1 – Macarons and macaroons are two different things! Macarons are sandwich cookies, macaroons are coconut cluster cookies.
FUN FACT #2 – Macarons are naturally gluten-free! They contain almond flour, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and egg whites. They can be dairy-free too, depending on what filling you use.
Now, there are many great tutorials online from people who have been making macarons for years, so I am not going to try to write a whole one myself.
For a thorough recipe, allow me to direct you to this post from Indulge with Mimi.
This is the general process for making macarons (the most important points are bolded):
- Whip egg whites (while gradually adding granulated sugar, and a pinch of cream of tartar) to stiff peaks, forming a meringue
- Sift almond flour and powdered sugar together, then fold the dry mixture into the meringue until the batter is still thick, but flows slowly like lava when you let it run off of the spatula
- Using a pastry bag, pipe the batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat
- Bake, let cool, then gently remove the cookies from the parchment paper
- Fill cookies with the filling of your choice (buttercream, jam, ganache, etc)
The recipe that I use is almost exactly the same as the one above. And she has awesome videos where you can see exactly what your batter should look like at different stages. Here is where I differ (note: everything that I do differently make the process easier :)):
- I do not “age” my egg whites. It is recommended that they be room temperature, which I do sometimes, but I have also used egg whites straight from the fridge and had fine results.
- I add all of the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture at once, after stiff peaks have formed, rather than in batches
- I do not “rest” the piped macarons before baking. After piping, they go straight into the oven!
- I bake at 310F (the cooking class recommended anywhere from 300-315, depending on your oven)
- I don’t use a dehumidifier (haha, it’s Arizona. But a heavily rainy day may not be the best day to try making these. They do better in a dry environment.)
And now, some photos of the process!
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Start whipping the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, gradually adding in the granulated sugar and pinch of cream of tartar, until stiff peaks form, like this! The peaks are considered stiff if they stand up on end, and don’t fall even if you tap the side of the whisk. (If you want to add some gel food coloring, you can do it towards to end of whisking the meringue.)It holds it shape even when turned sideways.Then the sifted almond flour and powdered sugar gets folded into the meringue. This is called the “macaronage” and this video from Indulge with Mimi does a great job of showing what the consistency should look like. Most people end up overmixing because they think it should be thinner, but the batter should slowly flow off of your spatula like lava, just enough that you can draw a figure 8 with the batter as it falls back into the bowl.
Here’s the beginning of the macaronage:And here is the perfect consistency! The batter slowly flows off the spatula like lava.
Before we move on to piping the batter, let’s discuss baking sheets! An airbake sheet is recommended (it has 2 layers of metal with a layer of air in the middle, providing insulation so the bottom of the macarons and are less likely to burn. It also doesn’t have sides, which helps the airflow). but if you don’t have an airbake sheet, you can turn a cookie sheet or half sheet pan upside down, thus eliminating the sides!
Next, you need parchment paper or a silpat, and a macaron template. Print a template (like this one!) and slide it under your parchment/mat to use as a guide for piping the batter. Just DON’T FORGET TO REMOVE THE TEMPLATE before baking. (If you make macarons a lot, they make silicon baking mats with macaron templates already printed on them! I just bought this set and it is awesome.)
Now that your baking sheet is set up, it’s time to pipe! Fill up a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip (size 10 or 12 works best) with the macaron batter, and then hold the bag straight up and down, directly above the center of one of the template’s circles. Keeping it steady, squeeze gently, letting the batter expand to fill the circle. No need to swirl, no need to lift the bag up as you squeeze – just keep it nice and steady so the batter can spread evenly.(If you’re wondering what’s going on with the colors – I did a two-tone batter, which I will discuss in a future post!)
You’ll notice the batter smooths out as it rests.Once you are done piping a tray, grab the edges and firmly tap it onto the counter several times. This pops the air bubbles in the batter. You can see the freshly popped bubbles that are still settling, in this picture:At this point, if your macarons have nipples (yes, that’s what it’s called) you can smooth them out with the side of a toothpick.Bake in a 310F oven (one tray at a time – for airflow), for 12-15 minutes. If I have a full tray, I set a timer for 12 minutes and then check. How do you know if they’re done? Tap the side of one of the macarons with your finger (being CAREFUL not to touch the pan). If it wiggles, it isn’t done yet. If it’s firm, it’s done! If I tap it and it wiggles, I set the timer for 2 more minutes and check again. Once it is firm, I give it one more minute, and then take it out of the oven.
If everything goes as it should, about halfway through baking, you’ll notice that your macarons have risen! These ruffly sides are called “feet.”Feet can look a lot of different ways…they can be straight up and down, they can be ruffly, they can be short, or tall. All are good – we just want there to be feet! Once you remove the macarons from the oven, allow them to cool completely before trying to remove them from the parchment/mat. Want to see what happens if you remove them too early?And we don’t want that.
To remove, lift up the cookie and the parchment/mat together, then gently peel the parchment/mat away from the cookie. If you are having trouble with the cookies sticking, pop the pan into the freezer for a few minutes, then try again. If they consistently stick, even after cooling, it means they were underbaked. So add another minute or 2 to your baking time next time.
Once you have removed all of the macaron shells, they are ready to fill! The filling possibilities are endless…buttercream, jam, ganache, caramel… My favorite filling right now is a swirl of buttercream with a dollop of jam in the middle.
To fill, match up the macaron shells in pairs of similar size, then pipe or spoon your filling onto the flat side of one shell, and press the remaining shell on top.
TIP: Don’t want to fill them right now? Put the shells in a ziplock and pop them in the freezer! They can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Filled macarons should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
Macarons are best when left to “mature” in the fridge for at least a day before serving. This allows the filling’s flavor to infuse into the cookie and soften it. Note, I said “best” and “serve” because of course you can eat them right away! But they get even better, so if you’re bringing them to a party or giving them as a gift, you should make them a day or two ahead (which I think makes things even easier).
Whew!! We made it! We are done!
To summarize the GENERAL TIPS I have learned:
- Whip the meringue to stiff peaks
- Fold the macaronage only until it flows slowly like lava
- Bake one pan at a time
- An airbake sheet is recommended, but if you do not have an airbake sheet, use an upside down half sheet pan or cookie sheet (thus getting rid of the sides)
- Let your macarons cool completely before trying to remove them from the parchment paper/silpat
- When removing, lift up the cookie and the parchment together, then gently peel the parchment away from the cookie. If you are having trouble with the cookies sticking, pop the pan into the freezer for a few minutes, then try again. If they consistently stick, even after cooling, it means they are underbaked
- You can freeze the shells (the unfilled cookie halves) in a ziplock bag and they keep for up to 3 months!
- Macarons are best when left to “mature” in the fridge for at least a day before serving
- Use a template as a guide for piping your macarons (1.5 inches is pretty standard, but you can find a variety of template sizes online). Print one out and put it under parchment paper or a silpat and then DON’T FORGET TO REMOVE IT before baking.
If you try making macarons – I’d love to see how they turn out!! And if you have any questions, please let me know!
Do you have any fun flavor ideas that you’d like to see me try? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best!