Who doesn’t love a good macaron? For a long time, I was afraid to try and conquer the French macaron. Turns out I’d rather face my fears than pay 3 bucks for a little cookie made of eggs, sugar, and flour. Plus, I’m French so baking these little delights should basically run in my genes, right?
Learning the process was an amazing adventure, that will be ongoing for quite some time. For now, I can update you on what has worked to produce my most successful batches and how to avoid common mistakes. I definitely urge you to check out other people’s macaron techniques as well – you may find that something else works better for you.
Remember, the way a macaron looks doesn’t really impact its taste. At the end of the day, even a cracked macaron with a hollow shell tastes like the sugary goodness that it is. When I end up with lots of cracked shells, I bring them in to work or hand them out to friends and no one cares that there’s a little crack (free treats!)
This is a recipe for macaron shells – fillings coming soon!
Kitchen Gadgets I Use
- Baking Sheets (I use this one because it fits everything on one sheet)
- Flour Sifter (you can also use a mesh strainer or a food processor)
- Kitchen Scale
- KitchenAid Stand Mixer (or any electric mixer)
- Printed Macaron Templates (1.5 inch)
- Mixing Bowls
- Piping Bag + Tip (large round tip)
- Silicone Spatula
- Silicone Mat (or parchment paper)
- Any Smaller Bowls for Weighing
- 4 oz super fine almond flour
- 8 oz powdered sugar (also called confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar)
- 5 oz egg whites, warmed to room temperature
- 2 1/2 oz white sugar
- scraping of 1 vanilla bean or 1/4 tsp vanilla powder (be careful with liquid vanilla extract but use 1.5 tsp if you use it)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 1-3 drops gel food coloring (baking resistant brands)
Understanding the Ingredients
- Almond Flour: I recommend using Bob’s Red Mill Super-Fine Almond Flour. You want the almond flour to be as fine as possible to preserve the macaron’s texture. If your almond flour is not fine enough, give it a good whirl in a food processor. I generally have to do this if I am using homemade almond flour.
- Egg Whites: I like to age my egg whites in the fridge for about 2 days before using them. However, there is no overall consensus on this – and many reputable bakers consider it to be a myth. If you don’t have time to age your egg whites, don’t worry – Just make sure that your egg whites are at room temperature before using them. You can keep egg whites in the fridge up to 4 days, or freeze them up to 12 months.
- Powdered Sugar and White Sugar: It doesn’t matter which kinds you use. I use the generic Safeway brands for both and have never had a problem.
- Salt: Use the finest ground salt you have.
- Cream of Tartar: I have gotten into the habit of adding 2-3 pinches of cream of tartar. This likely became a habit of mine since I added a few pinches to my first perfect batch. I did find a compelling explanation about the role of cream of tartar that scientifically makes sense. Cream of tartar (and salt) help stabilize the meringue.
- Vanilla: I opt for the inside scrapings of a vanilla bean or vanilla powder if I don’t have any beans. Be careful when using vanilla extract because the additional moisture can alter the consistency of your meringue.
- Start by setting up your baking sheets. I use a 16.5 inch silicone mat on top of a 15 x 21 inch aluminum sheet pan. You can also use an aluminum sheet with parchment paper. See below for my results using different baking sheets. Place your printed macaron templates under the parchment paper/silicone.
- Measure out the almond flour, egg whites, powdered sugar, white sugar, vanilla powder, salt, and cream of tartar using your kitchen scale. I place each ingredient in a different bowl.
- In a medium bowl, Sift the powdered sugar and almond flour (together) using a sifter. Then repeat. This is an important step to ensuring smooth macaron shells. If you do not have a sifter, shaking a mesh strainer will work (but will take longer). You can also use a food processor. Sifting at least 2 times will allow any larger pieces to be discarded which will help with your macaron texture. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the white sugar, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla powder (no liquid flavoring yet).
- Add the egg whites to your standing mixer bowl. Then dump the entire white sugar mixture in at once.
- Take out your timer. The best way to perfect this part of the process is to time yourself – get out your phone and set your timer. Do it. 3 minutes on low/medium (kitchen aid level 4), 3 minutes on medium/high (kitchen aid level 6), 3 minutes on high (kitchen aid level 8)* adapted from BraveTart.
- Then, add 1-3 drops of your gel coloring (the less the better) and mix on the highest setting (kitchenaid level 10) for 30 seconds. If your meringue mixture is done, you should see stiff peaks – more specifically, the mixture is done if most of it stays in the whisk when you lift it. Tap it onto the bowl and the meringue will fall out.
- Macaronage: This step is the most intimidating and crucial for the finished product. Don’t worry – if you know how to count up to 45 it’ll turn out fine. Ready? Drop in the ENTIRE almond flour/powdered sugar mixture into your meringue bowl at once. Then, use your rubber spatula to “fold” the almond flour/sugar mixture into your meringue. (psssttt: never folded before? Here’s How!) I count the exact amount of times that I fold my mixture. The sweet spot for me is between 40-45 folds. Make sure to scrape all parts of the bowl while you fold so that the entire batter can be combined. You want to fold until your mixture flows like lava. If you bang the bowl onto the counter, the mixture should entirely flatten. This is the hardest and most crucial step to ensuring perfect macarons – it will take practice so be patient.
- Put your rubber spatula aside – you do not want to use the same spatula to add the mixture to a piping bag. When I used the same spatula, I ended up introducing under-folded parts of the mixture (the parts that clump up on the top of the spatula). See “Don’t scrape the batter off your spoon and bowl” below for why this will ruin your macarons. This is one of the only times it’s important not to scrape the bowl!
- Set up your piping bag. If you do not have one, cut off the corner of a Ziploc bag. Use a clean spoon/ladle to fill your bag with macaron batter. Again, don’t scrape the bowl – only use the batter that has a perfect lava like texture. Introducing anything else will cause cracks.
- Position your baking sheets & start piping – hold the piping bag about half an inch in the air with the tip pointed at the center of your template circles. Don’t move around your piping bag while you squeeze – the batter should be able to spread out by itself. There may be a little mountain peak in the center of the macaron when you are done piping. Don’t worry, we will fix this later.
- Continue piping the sheet of macarons. Give them enough space to expand. There may be some little mountains at the center of your piped macarons, continue to remain calm, this should be fixed in the next step!
- Hold your baking sheet firmly on both sides, lift the sheet about 5 inches, and (angrily!) smack the sheet back down onto a hard surface. I normally do this about 10 times with as much strength as I have. You will notice that air bubbles will start to rise and pop. This will also help flatten out any little mountains that remain from the piping. Use a toothpick to pop any remaining bubbles.
- If you have more batter, move onto the next baking sheet and repeat steps 11-13.
- Set the baking sheets aside and let the macarons rest for about 1 hour or until you can touch the top of the macarons without leaving a dent. If I have time, I like to wait 1.5 hours to let the top of my macarons form a strong shell. This helps during baking by causing the macarons to grow upwards (and grow feet) rather than spreading out. Some bakers forgo this step, but I find my macarons end up better when I don’t skip it.
- Preheat the oven to 295 ºF. You will have to play around with this number based on your oven and the baking sheet you use.
- After your macarons have formed an outer shell, set them in the oven. Make sure that they are all on the top rack, even if this means baking multiple batches.
- Bake them for 17 minutes at 295 ºF. I found that anything above 300 ºF makes my macarons just a littttleee too brown so I have upped the time and turned down the temperature. Your oven may be different, so play around with it.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely before attempting to separate them from the baking sheet. If they are sufficiently cooked, they should easily come off the sheet once cooled. If part of the macaron sticks to the sheet, you need to cook them for longer next time.
- Refrigerate if you will be enjoying them soon, or freeze them for up to 3 months. Macarons are one of the few pastries that actually taste better a few days after they have been baked.
First Timer Tips – What I Learned
- Halve the recipe: While I was learning, I liked to work with half batches. I felt less badly when they didn’t turn out and also ended up with 2 times as many chances to learn the technique. When I eventually moved up to full batches, the process and ingredients remained the same…I just had 2x as many shells!
- Don’t add coloring or flavoring: Food coloring or any liquid flavors alter the texture of the whipped egg whites and sugar. Even just a little bit may add too much moisture to your mixture. While you are learning, forgo this step so you can master the rest of the process first.
- If you add coloring, make sure it is gel: I couldn’t find gel food coloring at my local supermarket, so I bought the generic liquid colors. I noticed that my subsequent batches would turn out with cracked shells but my batches without coloring were perfectly fine. I ordered some gel color online (make sure the gels are for baking, not just icing) and the problem was solved.
- Practice makes perfect: It took about 10 batches before I became confident in my technique. I still have off-batches from time to time, so don’t fret.
- Change your variables: There are a lot of things that can go wrong. Follow the scientific method and only change one variable at a time. For instance, start by changing the heat on your oven or mixing less/more during macaronage.
- Experiment with oven temperature and baking time: Every oven is different. My sweet spot ended up being 295ºF for 17 minutes. Some other recipes call for 325ºF for 12 minutes, or 300ºF for 18 minutes. I started with 300ºF at 18 minutes and found that my macarons browned and were hard by the time I removed them (brown means the temperature is too hot). I slowly brought the time down and found that 300ºF for 15 minutes works fine too! I still thought that my macarons were a little bit too brown so I turned the temperature down another notch and upped my time. Tada!
- When in doubt, over bake: Macarons taste best after they’ve been out for a few days! If you accidentally over-bake your macarons and they come end up too hard, leave them out for a while. They will absorb moisture from the air and soften up. If you accidentally under-bake, your shells are likely to collapse and theres no going back in the oven.
- Measure & time every step: Some professionals advise against this but if we want to be super scientific, this will be the only way to adjust the variables. Plus, if you are an amateur baker like me, you won’t be able to ensure that everything “looks right” with just a glance.
- Measure out your ingredients with a kitchen scale
- Time yourself while whipping your eggs and sugar
- Count the the amount of folds that you make during macaronage
- Time how long you leave your macarons out to rest
- Time the baking (obviously)
- Opt for a kitchen scale: This is so important that it gets a second bullet. There is too much potential variance in the ingredients and the batter is too finicky to rely on estimating your measurements. Buy the cheapest scale on Amazon and call it a day.
- Wait until the macarons cool before touching them: If you pull the shells off too quickly, you are more likely to break the delicate cookie and leave a layer of the shell on your sheet. Wait for the shells to cool and they should fall right off your baking sheet.
- Don’t scrape the batter off your spoon and bowl: When we bake cupcakes or brownies, we often try to scrape up the extra batter to avoid any waste. I learned the hard way that with macarons, the opposite is true – when I started scraping the batter off the spoon and bowl before placing it in my piping bag, my macarons were a disaster. It took me too long to realize that this came from my attempt to get every last piece of batter into my piping bag. Some parts of the bowl are not folded as much – Generally there are parts of the spoon (near the top) and parts of the bowl (also near the top) that are under-mixed and therefore light and fluffy instead of lava like. Introducing this to your piping bag will cause your macarons to crack. It may feel wrong to keep a lot of the batter behind, but when I began just piping the homogenous lava-like substance in the middle of the bowl, my cracked macarons decreased.
- Don’t feel the need to buy fancy gadgets: The only things you really need that you may not already have are an electric mixer, a kitchen scale, some parchment paper, and baking sheets. You can create a piping bag by snipping off the corner of a Ziploc bag. You can also use macaron templates for perfect circles. I actually fell for this trap and bought a nice fancy silicon macaron sheet. Turns out those have always been my worst batches (scroll down for a comparison of baking sheets).
- Do let your piped macarons rest for at least 1 hour: I have read and tried both sides of this story and I urge you to try out both as well. When I do not let my batter rest, my macarons still get feet (yay!), but for some reason they end up with more cracks. My theory is that allowing the unbaked macarons to rest allows them to develop a protective shell and makes them less likely to crack as they rise.
- Do pop all the air bubbles: After you have piped your macarons, hold your baking sheet firmly on both sides, lift the sheet about 5 inches, and (angrily!) smack the sheet back down onto a hard surface. I normally do this about 10 times with as much strength as I have. You will notice that air bubbles will start to rise and pop. This will also help flatten out your macarons if any peaks remain from piping.
- The spoon you use for folding will matter: I was shocked when my batches with wooden spoons failed while my success rate with a rubber spatula was much higher. I have NO idea why this happens but it may be related to the flexibility of the spatula
- The freezer is your friend: I rarely eat my macarons immediately- I like to always have an ongoing supply in my freezer so I can pull them out with short notice. Turns out, most famous bakeries freeze their macarons and rarely serve them the day they are made. Macarons stay fresh for up to 3 months in the freezer, just give them at lest 20 minutes to thaw.
How do I know if my macaronage is done?
- This is the hardest part of the process. Once I get to 40 folds, I start evaluating my batter fold by fold. You want your batter to dribble down when you lift up the spoon and you want it to spread like molten lava.
- Some signs of not enough macaronage (mixing) include little peaks when piping that do not flatten out.
- Some signs of too much macaronage (mixing) include spreading out too far, or a watery batter once you pipe.
How do I know if my eggs and sugar are mixed?
- The rule of thumb to follow is “stiff peaks.” I never know what that means so I time this part of the process – when the timer is done, I find that the mixture resembles fluffy shaving cream, and most of it is scrunched up in the whisks when I lift them up.
How long do Macarons stay fresh?
- Once my macarons cool, I always pop them right into the freezer. Macarons taste better after they have aged at least a few days and can stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.
How do I know when my macarons are done baking?
- The perfect time for baking a macaron will depend on the oven you use. I bake them for 17 minutes at 295 ºF. I found that 300 ºF makes my macarons just a littttleee too brown so I have upped the time and turned down the temperature. Your oven may be different so feel free to try 295 +/- 10 ºF.
- Some things to watch out for:
- Browning macaron shell means the heat is too high and the macaron is overcooked.
- Collapsed macaron shell means that the shell did not cook long enough and collapsed on itself as it cooled.
- Sticking to the sheet means that the shell has not cooked long enough. Once the macarons cool, they should cleanly come off the sheet without leaving any residue.
What kind of baking sheet should I use?
- I experimented with 3 different types of baking sheets: The silicone mat with pre-made circles (right), the slipat silicone baking sheet on an aluminum baking sheet (left), parchment paper on a regular cookie sheet (middle). As you can see, the last two options work the best. I felt a bit scammed when I used the special macaron silicone mat. My macarons often oozed out of the molds and cracked while baking. The slipat is the most foolproof and is less likely to burn the bottom of the macaron. The parchment paper on an aluminum baking sheet is almost as good of an option – just be wary that it cooks a bit faster.
- Remember: if you are using any type silicone mat, you need to make sure to also use a hard baking sheet underneath – the silicone mat merely replaces parchment paper but the floppiness will cause your macarons to crack if you don’t also use the harder aluminum baking sheets underneath. I put this aluminum sheet pan under all my batches – it holds a half batch perfectly.
How do I prevent adding too much moisture?
- Too much moisture will doom your macarons – you can prevent this in a few ways:
- Do not add liquid vanilla extract, opt for the scrapings of a vanilla bean or vanilla powder instead.
- Do not add liquid food coloring, opt for bake resistant gel coloring and only use 1-3 small drops.
- Make sure you are whipping out the moisture enough when you mix the egg whites and sugar. This process helps remove extra moisture by fluffing up the batter.
- Let your egg whites rest in the fridge in a loosely covered bowl for a few days to release moisture. Some pastry chefs consider this a myth but I do it anyway as a precaution.
What other shell flavors can I make?
- You can make whatever flavor you want! To do this, replace the 1/4 tsp vanilla powder with another dry ingredient! Some ideas:
- 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 tsp cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp apple pie spice
- 1/4 tsp lemon zest
- 1/4 tsp crushed lavender buds
My Macarons cracked!
- This is the most common and hardest to trouble shoot since it has so many potential causes. Potential causes:
- Not letting the macarons rest long enough before baking
- Over mixing during macaronage
- Undermixing during macaronage (not removing enough air)
- Cooking too fast (too high temp)
- Shell collapse from undercooking
- Too much moisture from liquid flavorings
- …..this list goes on and on…….
My Macarons are hollow!
- As common as cracked shells and difficult to trouble shoot. Potential Causes:
- Your shells did not cook for long enough and therefore had not set when you removed them from the oven – as a result gravity brought the gooey substance down. One way to fix this is to cook for longer, OR to flip the macarons upside down when you take them out so the unset insides fall to the top of the shell instead of the bottom.
- Under mixed macaronage which leaves too much air in the batter.
- Over whipping the egg whites and sugar may incorporate too much extra air. Time this process to ensure perfection.
My Macarons spread out too far!
- Your batter is too watery from over-mixing during the macaronage.
- Your batter is too watery from adding too much liquid flavoring.
My Macarons stick to the parchment paper!
- This means that your macarons did not bake for long enough. The macarons are done when they can be cleanly removed from the parchment paper (after cooling).
My Macarons collapse on themselves!
- Your macarons are undercooked and therefore the shells cannot support themselves
My Macarons turned brown!
- This means you have cooked your macarons for too long and at too high of a temperature. You may also need to move the sheet to a lower tray in the oven away from the direct source of heat.
My Macarons don’t have feet!
- Some claim that resting the piped macarons is not necessary for them to develop those cute “feet.” I find the resting them actually does make a difference, so I always rest my piped macarons for at least 1 hour to ensure those cute little feet. The rationale behind doing this is that resting allows the macaron to develop a thing outer shell to cook upwards rather than outwards.
- Temperature may be too low: you want them to cook fast enough to shoot up but not too fast that they turn brown.
My Macarons aren’t smooth!
- This likely happened because you did not sufficiently remove all the air bubbles from the piped macarons. To avoid this, you need to hit your piped macarons against a hard surface immediately after you have piped them. This will help smoothen them out and all the air bubbles will rise to the top and pop. If there are any big air bubbles left behind, you can pop them with a toothpick.
- Another culprit could be clumps of flour and sugar. The sifting process is important for removing these clumps to ensure smooth and shiny macarons. You can use a food processor, sifter, or a mesh strainer to fix this.
My Macarons don’t pipe well!
- If the batter is coming out too quickly, then you over-mixed during macaronage.
- If the batter is struggling to come out then you under-mixed during macaronage.
- You shouldn’t have to move around your piping bag while piping the macarons – with a 1-2 second squeeze right at the center of the printed macaron template, the batter should be able to spread out just enough to fill the circle.
My Macarons look like thin pancakes!
- If the macarons are extremely thin like crackers, this means you are over-mixing during macaronage. Over mixing causes too much air to be released from the batter and therefore the macarons will look flat.
My Macarons have nipples!
- This happens if you under-mix during macaronage – the batter will be too firm and won’t settle down when you pipe it. Fold a few more times (next time) until your batter flows like lava. You can also help decrease the “nipples” when you tap the baking sheet to remove air bubbles.
Only half of my batch turned out!
- If you are finding that half of your macarons look fine, but then the other half seem to all be riddled with the same error (notably cracks) there is probably something up with the piping. If you have a little bit of under-mixed batter (from scraping the bowl) it will end up impacting more than one of the macarons. All the macarons that get a bit of that under-mixed batter will crack.
Parting Words & Pep Talk
You can never be sure that your batch will turn out perfect. Even if you do everything perfectly, sometimes these finicky shells have a mind of their own. You can only mitigate the chances by working on your technique. Nowadays, I still end up with an “ugly” batch every 5-6 tries. Luckily, macarons taste good even with hollows or cracks, so you will always find someone who is willing to bear their “grotesque ugliness”.
Place these templates under your parchment paper for perfectly round macarons. Keep your pipping bag vertical, and close to the sheet. Pipe by aiming for the center of the circles, rather than using a circle motion.
Live your life and enjoy!-L
*Ingredients adapted from Stella’s Recipe (BraveTart). Her recipes are amazing and her macaron tips were a lifesaver for learning the technique.