Lemon macarons are my absolute favorite! If you're new to crafting this delicate French pastry, first check out how NOT to make macarons here. Once you're an ace at meringue and macaronage, give these lemon babies a whirl. This method and recipe call for punching up the lemon flavor at every step, and explains how to do so without compromising the beauty of your macarons.
First came the cupcake craze, then French macarons and remember the lines for cronuts?? Bonkers. Especially when you consider the sugar-high the price tags. Cha-ching!
And that's when it hit me - almost three dollars for one silly little macaron? You can bake them yourself for a fraction of the average $3 price tag.
Yes, even this lemon macaron recipe.
If you're new to baking French macarons, it's best to start here, my step-by-step guide for how to make French macarons.
My Lemon Macaron Secret
If you see a recipe for lemon macarons that doesn't call for lemon zest in the meringue mixture, run the other way! (Just kidding).
But really, you can add zest to buttercream or lemon curd all you like.
But the road leading to the ultimate lemon macaron (the Husband's fav) includes miles of bright, sour, beautifully tart grated lemon peel.
The only way to achieve French macarons with lemon flavor at all ends is to infuse both the filling AND the shells with lemon.
You can certainly do this artificially with expensive lemon extract, but I prefer the Real McCoy.
My favorite technique - that blasts your macarons with big lemon flavor and keeps the shells ultra-smooth - is adding a bit of lemon zest to the dry ingredients.
Without a food processor
If a food processor isn't part of your kitchen arsenal, simply whisk the grated lemon peel with your dry ingredients for a minute or two, then sift.
With a Food Processor
If you do own a food processor get ready for some serious zing AND beautifully smooth macarons.
Simply grind your dry ingredients in a food processor with the grated lemon peel for ten to twenty seconds. Then sift the dry ingredients before folding them into your beaten egg whites.
The oils from the peel - the literal lemon essence - will transfer to the almond flour and sugar.
Sifting the lemon peel out will prevent the oil from messing with those frilly feet and smooth domes.
Yes, like all those crazy macarons you see on Instagram.
I seriously wonder when those people sleep.
The Best Acid
Don't forget the lemon juice! If you are new to whipping meringue or baking macarons at home, you'll notice almost all recipes suggest adding cream of tartar to the egg whites.
Cream of tartar AKA tartaric acid can help stabilize the whipped whites. But guess what (insert drum roll), lemon juice acts the same way.
And I like it better. Too much cream of tartar can create too sturdy a meringue, and you can end up with hollow shells if your batter doesn't settle enough on the pan.
When whipping egg whites, add the lemon juice after a few minutes of beating to stabilize your meringue.
If you're worried your whites need extra insurance, you can still pinch a little cream of tartar, too. I personally forget half the time, and my macarons work out swell.
Resting Macarons Before Baking
Do you need to let your macarons sit on the counter before baking?
It depends. If you're a beginner, a 10 to 20 minute rest can help the tops dry out so the shells form piede (the frilly bottoms) in the oven.
It's more like an insurance policy than a guarantee, for any minor missteps in your meringue or folding.
I do recommend you rest macarons about 20 minutes if adding any citrus zest or gel food coloring. Since the lemon zest adds a teeny tiny bit of moisture to the batter, I find a little drying out is in order.
But if your meringue and macaronage are complete train wrecks, nothing can reverse the damage.
So ultimately, best to focus on the techniques. And not how long you are or aren't letting them sit before baking.
Can you rest macarons too long?
Yes! If the tops of the piped shells become too dry, they will bake lopsided, splotchy, and might explode volcano-style in the oven.
And this is exactly why I don't really rest piped macarons unless I added extracts or flavorings like citrus zest.
Truly, if you live in a drier climate, the first shells you pipe will be drying out by the time you pipe the last.
For a basic recipe, 10 minutes of resting is all you need. If you live in a
swamp humid climate like Florida, you might want to let them sit for a half-hour.
Clean the kitchen, then put the pans in the oven.
Lemon Macaron Fillings
For an easy lemon filling, add a couple of lemon's worth of grated rind to an easy American buttercream, and perhaps a splash of lemon liqueur, like Limoncello.
Or to fill the macarons with a luscious lemon curd, whip one up (recipe below) and after it cools... add a little Limoncello.
Notice the trend here?
If you enjoy an aperitif, a Limoncello macaron filling is the ticket.
If you prefer to leave the booze out, loads of lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice into curd or buttercream is just as lovely.
Your macarons, your rules.
In general, one or two shots of liqueur for any filling recipe should do it.
It may blow the DIY budget, but this is one time I'd say macaron money well spent.
Yours in macs,
- 180 grams confectioner's sugar
- 120 grams almond flour or blanched almonds
- 90 grams fresh egg whites (absolutely no yolk)
- 45 grams granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- zest of one large lemon
- yellow food coloring, plant-based recommended
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- zest of one lemon (at least a tablespoon)
- 6 egg yolks (about 3 ounces)
- 1-2 tablespoons Limoncello
Cook + cool lemon curd
- Combine half of the butter, half of the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Combine egg yolks with remaining half of sugar in a heat-proof bowl.
- When the lemon juice mixture boils, slowly drizzle it into the egg yolks while whisking continuously (this is called tempering).
- Return mixture to pot, and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until it boils.
- Once large bubbles break the surface, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in remaining butter.
- Strain the curd into a clean bowl through a mesh sieve to remove any curdled egg yolks. Add Limoncello now, if using.
- Press plastic wrap on top, and chill.
- Keep curd refrigerated, but serve room temperature.
Bake macaron shells
Without Food Processor
- In a large bowl, whisk lemon zest with almond flour and powdered sugar for a minute or so to release lemon flavor. Sift to remove large pieces of almond and lemon zest. Proceed to Step 2 below.
With Food Processor
- If using whole/slivered almonds, grind with powdered sugar until the mixture resembles sand. Stop to scrape the bottom of the bowl at least once. Add lemon zest, and pulse four or five times. Sift dry ingredients after grinding to remove lemon zest.
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Combine the egg whites and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (hand mixer or just a whisk work, too). Whip on high speed to a stiff meringue (resembles shaving cream, smooth and glossy with stiff peaks that only slightly curve over).
- Add the lemon juice, and whip on high speed 30 seconds more to incorporate (add food coloring here, too).
- Add the dry ingredients and stir vigorously for a moment to combine. Then fold the batter by scraping around the sides of the bowl and up from the bottom and over the top. Fold until it ribbons off the spatula, and becomes smooth, shiny, and flowing.
- Transfer to a piping bag (or large plastic bag) fitted with a small round pastry tip.
- Pipe batter into 1.5 to 2-inch circles onto baking mats or parchment paper. If your piped shells could use a little settling out, very lightly tap the pans on the counter. Tapping hard will cause air bubbles to pop through the surface, and all your hard work will deflate in an instant.
- Let the piped batter rest on the counter for 20-30 minutes. The shell will turn from shiny and sticky to smooth and dull. You should be able to gently brush your finger over the top of the shells without causing an indentation.
- Bake @ 300° F for 15-17 minutes, until tops are hard and do not pull away from bottoms when very gently lifted. Rotate pans halfway through baking, after 8 or 10 minutes.
- Cool completely before removing from baking mat or parchment.
Once the curd is cool, pipe or spoon a small amount in the middle of half the macaron shells, then top with another gently. Store in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving for a more intense flavor. Time spent together allows the lemony goodness of both elements bloom!
If you'd like to fill your lemon macarons with buttercream instead of curd - or even both! - use the vanilla buttercream recipe found here, whisking in two lemon's worth of zest and a couple tablespoons of Limoncello if you dare!
Keywords: lemon macaron recipe, macaron troubleshooting, limoncello, lemon dessert recipes, french macarons, french pastries, french desserts
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