This post is all about a professional but approachable French macaron recipe, the technique, and plenty of troubleshooting! I learned how to make macarons from a chef at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, and the rest is history. Read on for only what you need to know, and nothing you don't. A good portion of the most popular so-called advice can actually hinder your success. And If French macarons should be anything, it's delicious. Not complicated.
Macarons are delightfully delicate almond meringue sandwiches hugging silky, sweet buttercreams, fruit curds, or rich ganache. Lightly crisp on the outside, and chewy on the inside, the pastries melt like butter in your mouth. Leave it to the French to perfect such a treat.
And I'm here to tell you baking French macarons doesn't need to be any more difficult than homemade chocolate chip cookies. All of the fuss about how scary, temperamental and touchy macarons are is a bit silly. I believe the problem is excessive over-thinking (myself included, in the beginning). You simply need the proper know-how.
On a basic level, four ingredients are what create French macarons:
- fresh egg whites
- granulated sugar
- almond flour
- confectioner's (powdered) sugar
A pinch of salt is never a bad idea in any sweet recipe. Cream of tartar is not necessary, but many bakers swear by it. If you properly whip your egg whites and the granulated sugar to a firm meringue, you don't need it. Adding too much cream of tartar can actually create too much air in the batter. Then the shells will bake up hollow, which isn't a catastrophe, but not the textbook texture.
On Flavoring the Shells
Macaron shells are fickle friends and don't take well to large amounts of flavorings. Adding liquid-based ingredients can weaken the egg white protein bonds in the meringue. Choosing gel food color is the best choice because it won't add too much additional liquid. A small amount of instant espresso, cocoa powder, citrus zest, or freeze-dried fruit powder can be added successfully. But I highly recommend refining your techniques before experimenting.
This is truly where the flavor's at in a French macaron. And the opportunities are endless. Macaron fillings don't need to be homemade. Especially if you're a beginner. But to recreate the scrumptious macarons of French pâtisserie fame, whip up fresh fruit curds, jams, custards, ganache, and classic buttercreams from scratch.
- Lemon Curd
- Fresh Raspberry Jam
- Orange-Scented Mascarpone Buttercream
- Coffee (Bailey's Irish Cream) Buttercream
- Chocolate Ganache
Friendly newsflash: All French macaron recipes are inherently the same. Most macaron recipe publishers and bloggers don't share this information. Either because they don't know or don't understand the ratios themselves. Or they're afraid they'll give away the goods, so to speak.
I truly can't emphasize how important the ratio of ingredients is when baking macarons. As with all baking, it's a science. And you can't deviate too far in any one direction when measuring the four main ingredients.
Even more important than the ratio are the two techniques. As with the American favorite of chocolate chip cookies, attention to detail in the process can make a tasty difference.
Meringue - beating fresh egg whites with granulated sugar - is the base for macaron shells. Whipping up a stable meringue that makes firm peaks off the ends of the beater paddles is the most important step. Several techniques exist for making meringue, but a French, or common, meringue is the most approachable.
Macaronage is a word you will see thrown around in macaron articles. Don't be intimidated by the French lingo. It means mixing macaron batter. Full stop.
The key is to stop mixing and folding when the batter reaches a specific consistency. Ribboning off the spatula, a steady flow during a figure 8 of the spatula, and flowing like lava are popular phrases. Aim for a shiny batter. And one that settles back into itself within a long moment when you drizzle a healthy portion off of the spatula.
Beautiful macarons can be made with simple kitchen tools and supplies. Old-school, decorated French chefs whip meringue with nothing more than a bowl and a whisk. My arm muscles cramp just thinking about it. The good news is that you can buy an electric hand mixer for less than $20. You don't need a digital scale, but if you plan to bake macarons more than once, it makes the measuring quicker, easier, and more precise.
- Sifter or fine-mesh sieve
- Large mixing bowl (if using a hand mixer)
- Electric mixer, either a hand mixer or stand mixer with the whisk attachment
- Flexible or rubber spatula
- Parchment paper or silicone baking mats (wax paper won't work)
- Baking pans or cookie sheets
- Large piping bag or plastic baggie
- Quarter or half-inch round pastry tip
- Tall drinking glass or cup (for propping up the piping bag)
I like to use a heavy high ball glass to help me pour the batter into the piping bag. It's a lot easier than holding the bag in one hand and trying to slop batter from the bowl into the bag.
After many failures early in my culinary career, I respectfully demanded my pastry instructor at the CIA (Culinary Institute, not Central Intelligence) convey the finer art. With his advice, and that of a chef at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, I found success. And I feel absolutely confident the five steps below are all you need to do for great macaronage the first time out. Chef's promise.
Before you flip on the mixer, first separate your eggs, saving the yolks for say, custard ice cream. Be very careful not to contaminate the whites with any specs from the yolk. The fat in the yolk can prevent the meringue from whipping as expected. Then line your pans with the parchment paper, and ready your pastry bag.
You can certainly buy specialty silicon baking mats printed with uniform circles. But I say save your money and print off a free macaron piping template, instead. Place printable templates under the parchment paper. You can also use a dixie cup or similar item with a one-to-two-inch diameter to trace circles on your parchment paper. Place the marked side down, lest you end up with inky macs!
Doing all of the above is a chef's mise en place. Get everything in place first, and you will be poised to succeed. Measure out your ingredients, preheat the oven, and prepare your tools.
1. Firm Meringue
Give the egg whites and granulated sugar a piece of your mind on high speed for around five minutes. The meringue answers to you, not the other way around. You can rain in the sugar with the mixer running after the whites are foamy, but it's not a deal-breaker. I often throw everybody in the pool and flip the switch on my stand mixer.
Meringue is done when it looks like shaving cream. For a firm meringue, the peaks curve off the tip of the beater like a bird's beak. If your egg whites look lumpy, separated, and are leaking liquid, you took it too far. It's actually pretty hard to do this when whipping egg whites with sugar. But sadly, you will need to begin again.
Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar directly into the bowl with the firm meringue. Then fold gently but firmly. I like to mix the ingredients a bit rough at first to bring them together. If you are adding gel food color, this is a great time to place a little on the end of your spatula.
Then I fold gently, scraping around the sides of the bowl and up over the top of the batter. You want a macaron batter that is smooth, shiny, and ribbons off the spatula.
Any batter drizzled off the spatula should settle back into the collective mass in a long moment (five or ten seconds). Testing a small drop of batter on a plate is a great way to see where you're at. Better to be slightly under-mixed than over-mixed.
3. Pipe & Tap
Immediately transfer your batter to the pastry bag. Twist the top of the bag and hold it tight with your dominant hand. Steady the bottom with your non-dominant hand. To pipe macaron batter, hold the bag vertical and about a quarter of an inch above the pan. Squeeze until you just about reach your desired size or the inside edge of the guides. Immediately stop squeezing and flick away the pastry tip in a circular motion. Plan for the batter to end up all over your sheet tray the first several times. Seriously.
And please don't bang your pan of freshly-piped macaron batter on the counter. Or worse yet, drop it five feet to the floor like I saw on a reality show once. If the tops of your piped rounds don't settle flat, gently tap the bottom of the pan. But by all means, don't take out the day's stress on your poor macaron batter.
In full disclosure when I first published this guide circa 2011, I described in detail how resting macarons is overrated. I still think it is to a degree. But I've learned from experience it's also great insurance. Drying out the tops of the shells a little can help them rise evenly when they hit the oven. And maintain a smoother dome shape.
However, I often toss a full pan of macarons straight into the oven and succeed. It's a matter of degrees, pun intended. Please don't believe any baker who pretends they don't get an ugly mac with almost every batch. You'll always get one (or a few) that don't turn out picture perfect. And these my macaron-loving friends are for quality control.
I tend to pipe three or four macarons on a smaller baking pan for a test batch. This helps you gauge your technique and your oven without sacrificing the whole batch. If the test batch doesn't bake with le pied (the frilly bottoms) or the macarons crack in the oven, rest the remaining batter for 10 or 15 more minutes.
If your macarons form huge feet that spread during the latter half of baking, try baking them on two stacked pans. This will temper the heat flow. And a slow rise is what you want.
Bake the macarons until the tops are dull and the batter is set. An easy way to check is to gently nudge the top of a couple of macarons with your finger. If the tops don't shift away from the bottoms, they are done. You can also try to lift a corner of the parchment or baking mat and check the bottoms. If you can't peel one of the end shells away without it sticking, bake a few minutes longer.
Remove the baked macarons from the oven, and cool for a few minutes on the pan. As soon as you can handle the shells, gently peel them off by pressing up from underneath the parchment or baking mat.
Chef's Tips & Troubleshooting
First, don't take your oven at its word. As a chef instructor for Cozymeal, I teach culinary classes inside my client's homes. And I've never met an oven whose temperature readout matched what was going on inside. Most are off by ten to fifteen degrees. Some are fifty degrees above or below the set temperature.
The easiest and cheapest way to solve this problem is to buy an inexpensive oven thermometer. Then you can adjust your baking temperature accordingly. As an example, I have to set my home oven to 290° F in order to get it right at 300° F. So give your oven a healthy dose of veritaserum and improve your odds of success from the start.
Second, for the love of sanity bake your macarons at one temperature. Again, 300° F is the professional standard. Martha Stewart's mantra of preheating to 375° F, then turning down to 325° F when the macarons hit the heat, then repeating for each batch can induce a panic attack. Pierre Hermé recommends opening and closing the oven door at key times during baking.
No, to both. Most home ovens would go into shock. Get your oven to 300° F, and rotate the pans halfway through baking, if they seem to bake unevenly. The rest of the time let it be. Seriously.
I once poked at tiny air pockets in my piped batter with a toothpick before baking. And you will find plenty of bad advice out there to do the same. It's neurotic. Skip it, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble.
Take a few batches to refine your mixing and piping skills. And save your toothpicks for devils on horseback. The only time toothpicks are an appropriate accessory to the macaron process is when you begin creating different shapes. When you get to that point be sure to bookmark my free printable macaron template collection. It's occasionally expanded for your entertainment.
Many overexposed macaron authorities claim you must rest your piped batter prior to baking. This is absolutely not true. Just ask my former pastry instructor at Culinary Institute of America, Rudy Speiss. He's Swiss, so he stays pretty neutral. Not once in his kind, careful instruction did he ever bring up the practice.
I advise thinking of this step as insurance against anything that could be slightly off in your process. Whether your oven is feisty, or your macaronage is a little rough. Or you live in a rainforest, as high humidity can affect your meringue. Although anecdotally, I've baked multiple batches of beautiful shells on a rainy day. But if your meringue is weak and you butcher the folding process, no amount of resting time will save your macarons.
Quite simply, add less sugar! While many recipes call for a 2:1 ratio of granulated sugar to egg whites for the meringue, you don't need that much. The bare minimum for success is half the weight of the egg whites in sugar. For two egg whites, this is about 30 grams of sugar. Which is about two tablespoons. All of my recipes err on the side of less granulated sugar. And lightening up on the sweet lets the almond flavor shine through a bit more.
Yes! Since macarons require skill for repeated success, this cost of labor is built into the price tag. Most of the ingredients for macarons are inexpensive, outside the almond flour and any premium filling ingredients. If you already have a decent collection set of baking tools, whipping up macarons at home is less expensive than buying.
If your macaron shells don't rise in the oven, a few issues could be at hand. An under-beaten meringue won't contain the structure and air bubbles that give macarons their signature pied (frilly feet). Also, if your oven isn't hot enough, a lack of steam escaping from the batter will prevent rise.
You also could've overmixed the batter, knocking out too much of the air in the meringue. While you need to mix enough to create a smooth, shiny batter, too many strokes of the spatula will lead to a deflated one. And macaron shells that wrinkle and fall flat when baking.
French macarons crack during baking because the batter was undermixed. Or the oven temperature is too high. Check the honesty of your oven dial or readout by buying an oven thermometer. And aim for a batter that is shiny and flows slowly. Ribbons of batter should settle back into the mass within a few moments.
In the spirit of full disclosure, even when you follow all five steps below exactly, your collective batch of macarons might not emerge from the oven as you hoped. There are so many factors that affect macarons. Undetected air bubbles. Or a hidden clump of almond flour. An oven that hemorrhages heat at even a slight crack of the door.
What not to do is to get upset about it, and throw ugly but perfectly edible macarons in the trash (do as I say, not as I do). Do you really think all those Instagrammers would post photos of not-so-perfect but still delicious macarons? Non. They won't.
So if you decide to try your hand at Parisian macarons, harness patience, and perspective. Buy an oven thermometer, a cheap digital scale, and a small, round pastry tip. Whatever you do, don't be discouraged if your first batches don't bake up perfectly. Because regardless of appearance, they will all taste wonderfully light and deliciously sweet. Seriously.
How to make macarons like a professional! Skip all the ridiculous myths and tricks and bake delicious French macarons with ease and confidence.
Before you begin, separate your eggs and bring the whites to room temperature. I like to separate eggs by cracking the egg and gently cupping the yolk in one hand over a bowl. Then the white falls through your fingertips into the bowl. Or you can move the yolk back and forth between the two cracked halves of the shell. The goal is to keep any bit of the yolk from contaminating the whites.
Next, measure all the ingredients, preheat your oven, gather your tools, and line your pans with parchment paper and printable piping templates. For beginners, I recommend starting with a 1.5" circle template.
If you are making your own almond flour, measure the almonds by weight, and grind them with the powdered sugar in a food processor. Stop grinding to redistribute the mixture a couple of times. Aim for a texture like fine sand.
For Macaron Shells
- 180 grams (1¼ cups + 2 tablespoons) of powdered sugar
- 108 grams (1 scant* cup) of finely-ground almond flour (or blanched almonds)
- 3 fresh egg whites (about 90 to 100 grams)
- 60 grams (¼ cup) of granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Gel good coloring, no more than about a quarter of a teaspoon
*slightly less than one cup
For a beginner, filling macarons with a store-bought jam or buttercream can speed up and simplify the process. But here are a few recipes for scratch-made macaron fillings:
To make a quick chocolate ganache, measure equal amounts by weight of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate and heavy cream. Bring the cream just to a boil in a small pot. Then immediately pour it over the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Let it sit for five minutes, then whisk until smooth. Cool ganache to room temperature before piping don't macaron shells.
Mise en place. Everything in Place.
- Preheat your oven to 300° F.
- Line two baking pans with parchment or silicone baking mats with printable macaron templates placed underneath. Secure the parchment for piping later with magnets or a heavy glass.
- Prepare your piping bag with a small, round pastry tip. Snip a small bit of the corner off of the bag and slide the metal tip in with the smallest opening first. Push a little bit of the bag inside the large end of the tip. This will keep your batter from leaking through when you pour in the batter.
- Firm Meringue: Give the egg whites and granulated sugar a piece of your mind on high speed for around five minutes. The meringue answers to you, not the other way around. You can rain in the sugar with the mixer running after the whites are foamy, but it's not a deal-breaker. I often throw everybody in the pool and flip the switch on my stand mixer. Meringue is done when it looks like shaving cream. For a firm meringue, the peaks curve off the tip of the beater like a bird's beak. If your egg whites look lumpy, separated, and are leaking liquid, you took it too far. It's actually pretty hard to do this when whipping egg whites with sugar. But sadly, you will need to begin again.
- Macaronage: Sift the almond flour, salt, and powdered sugar directly into the bowl with the firm meringue. Discard any large pieces remaining in the sifter or sieve. I like to mix the ingredients a bit rough at first to bring them together. Then fold gently, scraping around the sides of the bowl and up over the top of the batter. You want a macaron batter that is smooth, shiny, and ribbons off the spatula. Any batter drizzled off the spatula should settle back into the collective mass in ten or twenty seconds (a long moment). Testing a small drop of batter on a plate is a great way to see where you're at. Better to be slightly under-mixed than over-mixed.
- Pipe & Tap: Immediately transfer your batter to the pastry bag. Twist the top of the bag and hold it tight with your dominant hand. Steady the bottom with your non-dominant hand. To pipe macaron batter, hold the bag vertical and about a quarter of an inch above the pan. Squeeze until you just about reach your desired size or the inside edge of the guides. Immediately stop squeezing and flick away the pastry tip in a circular motion. If the tops of your piped rounds don't settle flat, gently tap the bottom of the pan. But by all means, don't take out the day's stress on your pan of piped batter and bang it on the counter.
- Rest: In full disclosure when I first published this guide circa 2011, I described in detail how resting macarons is overrated. I still think it is to a degree. But I've learned from experience it's also great insurance. Drying out the tops of the shells a little can help them rise evenly when they hit the oven. And maintain a smoother dome shape. However, I often toss a full pan of macarons straight into the oven and succeed. You'll always get a few that don't turn out, those are for quality control.
- Bake: Bake the macarons until the tops are dull and the batter is set. An easy way to check is to gently nudge the top of a couple of macarons with your finger. If the tops don't shift away from the bottoms, they are done. You can also lift a corner of the parchment or baking mat and check the bottoms. If the shell sticks, bake a few minutes longer. Remove the baked macarons from the oven, and cool for a few minutes on the pan. As soon as you can handle the shells, gently peel them off by pressing up from underneath the parchment or baking mat.
Fill & Serve
- Match your baked shells into like-sized pairs. Any odd macarons are for the baker.
- To pipe your filling, transfer it to a piping pag or plastic baggie and snip a tiny hole at the corner. Leave space between the edge of the shell and the filling. This is the classical, professional standard. Macaron fillings should not be right up to the edge of the shells. And the mound of filling should not be as high as the shells. Otherwise, the fillings will ooze out when you take a bite.
- Store finished macarons in the refrigerator. But always serve at room temperature. Unfilled shells can be packed carefully and frozen.
On food coloring... On principle, macarons are literally the only treat I use artificial food coloring in. And in recent years I've come to use much less. Artificial colors like Red 40 are not très bien. I've experimented with food-based colors for macarons and they either lose tint in the oven, or require an amount that over-liquifies the batter. Outside sourcing a commercial plant-based (and spendy) coloring, I recommend small amounts of artificial gel coloring or leaving your macs au natural.
On meringue... This recipe calls for the French meringue method - simply whipping the egg whites with granulated sugar. Many macaron recipes call for the Italian meringue method. But I find the French method much simpler and even more reliable. Italian meringue requires drizzling boiling simple syrup into the egg whites while whipping. Essentially more steps, more dirty dishes, and more to master. Italian meringue can be useful in certain situations, but I've never noticed any mind-blowing difference. Chef's promise.
On getting batter in the pastry bag... I like to use a heavy high ball glass to help me pour the batter into the piping bag. It's a lot easier than holding the bag in one hand and trying to slop batter from the bowl into the bag with the other hand.
On baking... I tend to pipe three or four macarons on a smaller baking pan for a test batch. This helps you gauge your technique and your oven without sacrificing the whole batch. If the test batch doesn't bake with le pied (the frilly bottoms) or they crack in the oven, rest the remaining batter for 10 or 20 more minutes. If your macarons form huge feet that spread during the latter half of baking, turn down your oven temperature. You can also try backing on two stacked pans. This will help create that necessary slow rise.
On size... depending on what size template your choose, this recipe will give you more or less finished macarons. Also, larger shells will take a few minutes longer to bake than 1.5-inch rounds.
Keywords: French macarons, macaron troubleshooting, how to make macarons, easy macaron recipe
Macaron Flavor Ideas
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Sadie Mae's Musings
A sentimental tribute to our first child. She was an Instadogs before Instagram existed. Photobombing my best shots to the best of her ability. Eventually the novelty of the baking madness wore her out. May God rest her sweet soul.