Once you get the hang of making basic macarons made the Italian meringue method, or the French meringue method, the sky’s the limit as far as what you can do with these sweet little gems. You can turn them into American flag macarons, flavor the macaron shells or leave them plain as these basic ones are. Filling them with raspberry or any fruit curd puts to good use those egg yolks that don’t play a role in the making of macaron shells.
I made a few batches each time tweaking proportions and temperatures to achieve the ideal macaron. Or it could be that experimenting was just my excuse to make macarons, for the process itself, like anything in baking, can be quite addictive.
The following is what I found to be the best combination of factors in this basic macaron-making frenzy. If you are looking for flavored macaron shells, check out these earlier posts for chocolate macarons flavored with cocoa powder, raspberry, banana, blueberry macarons flavored with freeze-dried fruit or pistachio macarons made with ground pistachios mixed in, all made with Italian meringue.
On the other hand, basic macarons made with French meringue is another option that involves whipping sugar with egg whites straight away instead of making a sugar syrup. As to which method produces a better macaron, Italian meringue method or French meringue method, they have their own advantages. The French meringue method may be simpler and easier while Italian meringue does involve an extra step. However, Italian meringue produces macarons that tend to be crisper than those made with French meringue, so it really is just a matter of preference.
Coloring macarons. Although these basic macarons are not dyed, food coloring can be added in any one of three places: 1) when mixing the almond paste, 2) towards the end of whipping the meringue or 3) towards the end of mixing the batter, just a few strokes before the batter is ready. I use gel-based food coloring when I do color macarons as the powder form is hard to come by where I live.
Even if the steps are similar to those in past posts it’s always convenient to quickly reference demo photos in the current post, so let me just get right to it with this tutorial on how to make basic macarons with Italian meringue.
Make the almond paste.
- It’s better to measure by weight when it comes to macarons, but if you prefer to go with volume, sift the almond flour and powdered sugar first before measuring them out, whisk to combine and then sift together. I usually do this step when I have some free time and just keep it covered at room temperature until I’m ready to bake days later. As an aside, and this is not a paid advertisement but I thought I would share this great tip, I just discovered Trader Joe’s has the most wonderful almond flour that’s super fine and sifts like a breeze hardly leaving any large bits in the sifter. Not only is the quality better than the almond flour I used to use, you pay less for more, so if you live near a Trader Joe’s, you’re in luck.
- Add the egg whites to the almond flour mixture and work it in with your spatula. At first it may seem there’s not enough moisture, but just keep on mixing. This is the first of three places when you can mix in optional food coloring.
- Notes on aging egg whites. There is a notion that aging egg whites for a few days will make them whip better. I’ve tried aging egg whites for one day and for two days and compared them with those that were not aged. I find the results generally the same for as long as the egg whites are at room temperature. But I do age the egg whites anyway for at least one day since there’s nothing to lose by doing so plus it saves me a step the next day.
- Once combined, you should have a smooth paste. Cover and set it aside.
Make the Italian meringue. As with any type of meringue, your bowl and wire whip should be squeaky clean, devoid of any residue and your egg whites free of any trace of egg yolk to ensure the egg whites whip to full volume. I’ve heard lately these precautions are not that critical to a successful meringue, but I’m not taking any chances. Stick with super clean implements and yolk-free egg whites.
- Sugar syrup. To prevent sugar crystals from forming, pour the sugar into the center of a sauce pot, avoiding the sides of the pot as much as possible. Then pour the water all around to dampen the sides of the pot, ending towards the center. I find that I don’t even have to stir the mixture. Once it starts boiling, all the sugar will be dissolved. Turn the heat on to medium high and heat until it reaches 244°F.
- Notes on temperature. I’ve heated sugar syrups to temperatures ranging between 235°F – 240°F all within the soft ball stage and found they all work. Then I let it heat just a tad longer to the early firm ball stage and it worked even better so I’m set at 244°F. It’s best to use a candy thermometer so there’s no second guessing. Without one, you’ll have to test the syrup by dropping a small amount in a glass of ice water. Soft ball is when the syrup forms a soft ball in the water and will flatten in your hand when you remove the ball from the water. Firm ball stage is when the syrup forms a firm ball in cold water. If you remove the ball from the water, it won’t flatten in your hand but will flatten when you squeeze it.
- Once the sugar syrup reaches around 235°F start whipping the egg whites on low. When it reaches 240°F, increase the speed to medium. As the temperature climbs between 242° – 243°F increase the speed to high so that by the time the syrup reaches 244°F, the meringue will have turned thick and white already.
- Adding the sugar syrup. With the mixer speed on high, add the sugar syrup in a slow and steady stream to the egg whites. Aim directly between the wire whip and the bowl, directly into the egg whites.
- When all the syrup has been poured in, lower the temperature to medium and let the meringue whip until it is thick and glossy and holds a peak. This is the second of two places when you can add food coloring. It’s ok if the meringue is still slightly warm once you’ve reached this stage.
Fold the meringue with the almond paste. I fold the meringue into the almond paste in three portions. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as you mix it in. Drag your spatula across the surface each time you fold over. At this stage, the batter is very stiff and your spatula will leave a sharp trail that doesn’t move or flow.
Fold in half of the remaining meringue. The mixture increases in volume and is starting to get fluffy. Keep dragging the spatula all over the surface when you fold over. At this stage, the trail is still stiff but not as defined as it was earlier.
Fold in the rest of the meringue. At this stage, be a little gentle when you fold. The batter is thick, fluffy and the spatula still leaves a trail. Keep folding and dragging. This is the third of three places when you can add food coloring.
The batter is almost ready on the left. It starts to flow back but is still on the thick side. Give it a few more strokes to get to the stage on the right photo. The batter should flow back and the spatula shouldn’t leave a trail.
Pipe the batter.
- Transfer the batter into 3 – 4 large icing bags fitted with round tips. I used tip # 12. Pipe the batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. One recipe usually takes me four cookie sheets. Just for the fun of it, I piped varying shapes and sizes using homemade templates: 1.25 inches, hearts and rectangles. Maintain a uniform size within the same sheet so they all bake at the same time. Not included is the template for the rectangles. The batter wants to be circular so rectangles aren’t really ideal for macarons and a bit of a challenge to form.
- Lift the cookie sheet a few inches above your work surface and then drop it to break any air pockets and smoothen out the surface. Although if your batter was mixed properly, any bump left by the icing tip would have smoothened on its own by now.
- You can decorate the macarons with sprinkles while they are still wet. I used a cornet, a handmade cone made out of waxed paper, to funnel red and blue sugar to make the American flag for Memorial Day or Independence Day. Do note that no matter how small you snip the hole of the cornet the sugar tends to come out in a spray.
- Let the piped batter sit so that the surface turns matte and forms a skin. It’s ready when you lightly touch the side and your finger remains dry.
Bake the macarons. Once the macarons have formed a skin, bake them one sheet at a time in an oven pre-heated to 320°F for 10 – 12 minutes rotating the sheet halfway through after the feet have formed. Remove the sheet from the oven and let the macarons cool completely.
- Notes on oven temperature and bake time. I baked macarons in temperatures varying from 275°F to 300°F and they all work. However, for this batch, I wanted a tinge of brown and I achieved that when I raised the temperature to 320°F. If you want your macarons to come out very light in color, lower the temperature but add about one to two more minutes to the bake time.
Here’s a recap of the steps so you have it all in one reference card.
Once the macarons are completely cool, fill them with any type of filling. I prefer a filling that will hold its shape in the macaron. Here I’ve used a raspberry curd using the egg yolks separated earlier.
This raspberry curd was made expressly with macarons in mind. It will finish thick once cooked and thicken even more after it’s chilled; thick enough that it will be firm in a macaron. It’s flavored with the juice of fresh raspberries plus freeze-dried raspberries processed into a find powder. The addition of the raspberry powder enhances the flavor plus gives it a beautiful deep red color. Now if you want a raspberry curd that you can use as a sauce to drizzle on ice cream or yogurt, just increase the raspberry juice and decrease the powder. Play around with those ratios so that you get a pourable sauce.
One recipe of this raspberry curd macaron filling will make about 2¾ – 3 cups. more than enough to fill one recipe of macarons.
And there it is, one big batch of basic macarons made the Italian meringue method and raspberry curd filling. Decorate it with the American flag, with sprinkles or just leave them plain.
Whatever you decide to fill them with, macarons will taste fabulous. Here are macarons sliced with a cookie cutter to expose their cross sections. That luscious raspberry curd mingling with the soft chewy interior of the macaron shell plus the crisp outer surface make for a burst of texture and flavor in each bite.
Make American flag macarons for Memorial Day, Independence Day, Valentine’s Day or just because. Share them much to the delight of your friends.
- 260 g blanched almond meal/flour (3 cups + 2 tablespoons)
- 260 g powdered sugar (2 ½ cups)
- 100 g egg whites at room temperature (1/3 cup / 3 egg whites / 100 milliliters)
- 260 g granulated sugar (1 ¼ cups)
- 80 g water (1/3 cup or 75 mil)
- 100 g egg whites at room temperature (1/3 cup / 3 egg whites / 100 milliliters)
- 6 egg yolks
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (156 g)
- ½ cup raspberry juice (pressed from fresh raspberries) (115 g)
- ½ cup raspberry powder (finely processed from freeze-dried raspberries) (38 g)
- 1 cup / 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cubed (226 g)
- Line 3 – 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- If measuring by volume, separately sift the almond meal/flour and powdered sugar. Measure them out, whisk to combine and then sift together.
- With a spatula, mix first set of egg whites with sifted dry ingredients until it forms a smooth paste. Note: if you want to color your macarons, this is the first of three places when you can mix in the food coloring. Set aside.
- Place the second set of egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer with a wire whip attachment.
- Pour granulated sugar in the center of a small sauce pan, as much as possible avoiding the sides of the pan. Pour the water going around to dampen the sides of the pan finishing towards the center to dampen the sugar. You don’t have to stir. Turn on heat to medium high. Use a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature of the syrup.
- When the sugar syrup reaches 235°F, start whipping the egg whites on low. When the sugar syrup reaches 240° increase the mixer speed to medium. As the sugar syrup temperature climbs to between 242 – 243°F, increase mixer speed to high.
- Finally, when the sugar syrup reaches 244°F, remove the sauce pan from the heat. With mixer speed on high pour the sugar syrup in a thin, slow and steady stream aiming for the egg whites directly between the bowl and the wire whip. Once you’ve poured in all the syrup, decrease speed to medium and whip until the meringue is thick and glossy. Note: this is the second of three chances when you can mix in food coloring.
- The meringue is ready to be mixed in with the almond paste even if it is slightly warm. For as long as it is thick, glossy and holds a peak, it will be good to go.
- Take a third of the meringue and fold it into the almond paste using a silicon spatula. With each fold, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. As you fold over, drag and press your spatula across the surface of the paste.
- Add half of the remaining meringue folding in to blend while dragging the spatula across the surface. Repeat with the rest of the meringue. Note: when the batter is almost blended this is the last of three chances when you can mix in food coloring.
- Each time you drag and press your spatula across the surface, the track left by the spatula becomes less pronounced. The batter is ready when the batter flows back and covers the track.
- Preheat oven to 320°F at this point. Divide the batter among 4 icing bags fitted with a medium round tip.
- Place your circle template underneath the parchment paper on the cookie sheet. Pipe the macaron batter just until you reach the inner part of the circle. Any mark left by the icing tip should slowly dissipate and smoothen out by itself in a few minutes. Pull your template from underneath the parchment paper and transfer it onto the next cookie sheet.
- Lift the cookie sheet a few inches and drop onto your work surface to release any air pockets. This will also even out and smoothen the surface of the macarons should any marks from the icing tip remain. Top with optional sprinkles while the macarons are still wet. To decorate with the flag, use two cornets to funnel blue and red sugar onto the macarons.
- Repeat piping the rest of the batter onto the rest of the cookie sheets. Remember to pull the template out of the last cookie sheet.
- Let sit at room temperature for 20 – 30 minutes, or however long it takes for the surface of the piped batter to form a skin. The piped batter is ready for the oven when your finger remains dry when you lightly touch it.
- Bake each cookie sheet one at a time for 10 – 12 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway into baking after the macaron feet have formed.
- Remove from the oven and let the macarons cool completely on the cookie sheet.
- Press fresh raspberries in a sieve to extract the juice.
- Process the freeze-dried raspberries in a food processor to get a fine powder. Sift the powder to remove any large bits remaining.
- In a medium sauce pot, heat turned off, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar until smooth and creamy.
- Whisk in the raspberry juice until smooth. Add the raspberry powder and whisk further until well blended.
- Turn on the heat to medium. Whisk the raspberry mixture briskly and continuously until it thickens, about 8 – 10 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Whisk in the butter a few chunks at a time adding more as the butter melts. When all the butter has been added, whisk for about a minute to make sure the raspberry curd is smooth and well blended.
- Transfer the raspberry curd to an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface. Chill until needed.
- Transfer the filling into a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip # 12. Pipe the filling onto one macaron shell and top with another.
Macarons freeze well either filled or unfilled in an airtight container.
Basic Macarons Italian Meringue Method with Raspberry Curd Filling