Know how to make macarons, whether it be with the French meringue or Italian meringue method, and discover the pleasure in creating these chic, dainty confections. This step-by-step tutorial will guide you through the steps of macaron making and what to recognize in each stage to help you succeed.
Macarons were introduced to France in the 1500’s, but its origins date back even earlier, as they were known to have been made as early as the 8th century in Venetian monasteries.
According to Margaret MacMillan in her book, “Paris 1919” (a fascinating account of the ending of World War I), the French served macarons with afternoon tea to the allied leaders in Paris negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. I like the idea of such powerful leaders as Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd-George and George Clemenceau nibbling on macarons while discussing the fate of Europe.
Ingredients for macarons are basically just almond flour (or almond meal as it is sometimes called, which is made from blanched ground almonds) powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, granulated sugar, egg whites and a drop or two of gel food coloring.
The process of making macarons is fun and even somewhat addictive. The goal is to obtain the “feet”, the ruffled edge of the macaron, which is characteristic of these luscious gems. So I’ll just get right to it and start with the step-by-step tutorial followed by some points I think are worth recapping. The proportions will be in the recipe box at the very bottom of this post.
How to Make Macarons
- Pre-sift the almond flour and powdered sugar separately. Measure them out into a bowl, whisk to combine with a pinch of salt added, and then sift them altogether. Whip the granulated sugar and egg whites until thick and glossy. Add 1 – 2 drops of gel food coloring and whip until meringue reaches stiff peak stage.
A hand mixer works just as well as a stand mixer when making basic or French meringue.
- Add the meringue to the almond flour mixture in three parts.
First addition: the mixture will have fluffy clumps and look crumbly. To mix properly, slide your spatula underneath the mixture scraping the bowl as you do so, then fold over. Each time you reach the top, drag your spatula applying pressure along the surface (macronage). This action of blending the meringue with the almond flour mixture smoothens the batter and also releases the oils in the almonds for smooth and shiny macarons.
- Second addition: the mixture starts to bind together as the second part of the meringue is blended.
Drag and press your spatula each time you fold over.
- Third addition: The mixture now starts to look like batter but is still very thick and does not flow. If you leave it alone, it will remain a blob and retain its shape.
Mixture starts out sticky and gradually starts to slacken.
- As you continue to fold and press your spatula against the batter, it will turn shiny and smooth. If you draw a line down the center with your spatula, the batter remains thick but will now slowly flow back. You can stop mixing when you reach this point. Divide the macaron batter among 3 – 4 large icing bags fitted with a round tip. I used tip #12.
- Slide a template of circles measuring anywhere between 1.25 – 1.5 inches in diameter underneath the parchment paper that lines your cookie sheet. Hold the piping bag at a right angle towards the cookie sheet, pipe and stop just before you reach the inner edge of the circle. Any point or mark left by the icing tip will dissipate in a few minutes as the batter flows towards the outer edge of the circle. This is one reason why it’s important to have the batter flow as described in the step above.
Drop the cookie sheet from a height of about five inches flat onto your work space to release any large air pockets. This step will also help smooth out any remaining bumps on the surface.
- Preheat your oven to 300°F. Let the piped batter stand for about 30 minutes or however long it takes for the surface to dry and form a skin. The purpose of this step is to form a crust during baking to prevent steam from escaping through the surface so that the only way out would be at the bottom, forming the feet. If your fingertip remains dry when you touch the edge, its’ ready for the oven.
Bake one cookie sheet at a time, 12 minutes for small macarons and 15 minutes for macarons 1.5 inches and larger. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through for even baking, after the feet have formed. Remove from the oven and let the macarons cool completely on the cookie sheet.
- Use a piping bag fitted with a round icing tip to fill the macarons. Keep chilled in an airtight container. Macarons also freeze well for long-term storage.
Here’s a recap of the steps for quick reference.
You can also make two different color macarons out of the same batch if you like.
To make two colors, sift to blend the almond flour, powdered sugar and salt together, then divide equally between two bowls. Divide the granulated sugar and whip with the egg whites in two separate bowls and proceed as normal.
While the piped batter is still wet, sprinkle optional decorations on all or just some.
Simple, yet elegant, macarons are always tres chic!
Recap and Points to Ponder
Method. This recipe uses basic or French meringue where granulated sugar is whipped directly into uncooked egg whites, as opposed to Italian meringue, where a hot sugar syrup is poured while whipping the egg whites. While French meringue is pretty simple and straightforward to make, it is not as stable as Italian meringue before it is baked. The chocolate macarons, pistachio macarons, raspberry, banana and blueberry macarons in prior posts were all made with Italian meringue.
Yield. This is a big batch French macaron recipe that works just as well if you want to make just half a recipe. I made two different size macarons out of one batch:
– 64 – 1.5-inch macaron shells
– 80 – 1.25-inch macaron shells
– 144 total macaron shells or 72 assembled macarons from one recipe
Here are templates for 1.5-inch circles and 1.25-inch circles formatted on letter size paper (8 ½” x 11”).
Mixer. I find a hand held mixer works fine when making basic or French meringue. For Italian meringue, a powerful stand mixer is a must.
Measuring. If at all possible measure the ingredients by weight. I do bake by volume, but baking macarons is one time when I have to measure by weight. The volume equivalents in the recipe box below were taken after sifting. If measuring by volume, sift the dry ingredients first and then measure them out after. There is a big difference between the volume of sifted and unsifted dry ingredients.
Sifting. Sift the dry ingredients separately, measure them into one bowl, whisk to combine and then sift again altogether. I save any large bits of almond flour that won’t pass through the sieve. I can use them if I decide to make a filling that uses almond flour as I did here.
Egg Whites. This recipe uses egg whites from Extra Large Grade-A eggs. There is a school of thought that recommends aging the egg whites a day or two before making macarons. Egg whites become thinner and runny as they age so a whip can cut through more easily thereby producing more froth than if the egg whites were fresh and thick. At least that’s the theory. I usually separate the egg whites a day or two before I intend to bake. Keep them in an air tight container in the fridge then bring them up to room temperature when you’re ready to bake. I find I don’t have to be too particular with the weight of the egg whites in this recipe, so I just go by the number of eggs. With Italian meringue macarons, I’ve had to weigh even the egg whites. It’s likely due to the added moisture of the water in the sugar syrup.
Meringue. Whip the egg whites and granulated sugar until thick and glossy. Add 1 – 2 drops of optional gel food coloring. Whip further until you have a thick, glossy meringue that holds stiff peaks. If you hold the bowl upside down, the meringue should stay in place and not spill or slide out.
Macaronage. The process of blending the meringue with the dry ingredients, macaronage is probably the most important step in making macarons. Add the meringue to the dry ingredients in 3 parts using a spatula. Scrape the bowl as you pass the spatula underneath, then fold over the top. Each time you fold over, drag your spatula while pressing on the surface. The action will smooth out lumps and bring out the oils in the almond flour ensuring macarons with a smooth, shiny surface.
– First addition. The mixture will look crumbly after adding the first part of the meringue.
– Second addition. The mixture will start to bind together, but still be sticky. If you leave it alone, it will hold its shape, like a blob, without any flow.
– Third addition. It will start to look more like macaron batter. As you continue folding and dragging your spatula on the surface, the batter becomes shiny and starts to flow—flow meaning if you draw a line down the middle of the bowl, the batter will flow back slowly. You can stop mixing when you’ve reached this stage.
Piping. Divide the batter among 3 or 4 large icing bags fitted with a round tip. Place a template of circles underneath the parchment paper that lines your cookie sheet. Hold the icing bag at a right angle and pipe just before your reach the inner edge of the circle. Sprinkle optional decorations at this point.
Drop the cookie sheet from a height of about five inches flat onto your work space to release any large air pockets. This step will also help smooth out any remaining bumps on the surface. Slide your template from underneath the parchment paper and transfer it to the next cookie sheet.
Drying Macarons. Once the cookie sheet is filled, leave it at room temperature to allow the macarons to dry and form a skin, about 30 – 45 minutes, sometimes longer. If you rush through this step and the surface is still moist, it will allow steam to escape through the outer surface during baking causing your macarons to crack. If your fingertip remains dry when you touch it gently, it’s ready for the oven.
Baking. Bake one cookie sheet at a time in an oven preheated to 300°F—12 minutes for small size macarons and 15 minutes for macarons 1.5 inches in diameter and larger. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and let the macarons cool completely on the sheet.
Filling. Practically any thick filling will work. I included chocolate ganache in the recipe box below as it’s simple, easy and delicious. Use an icing bag to fill the macarons.
Storage. Keep macarons chilled in an airtight container or freeze them for long-term storage.
Go for a filling that will hold firm and not drip down the macaron.
Making ganache is so simple it requires just pouring warm heavy cream over chocolate chips. Wait about 3 minutes then whisk until smooth. Leave it alone and go back to it every 10 minutes or so, giving it another whisk. As it gets thicker, switch to a spatula to mix.
You’ll have more macarons to share with this generous recipe. Again, it can easily be halved if you want fewer macarons.
If you freeze macarons, you’ll always have treats ready for a snack or even a last minute get together for tea or coffee.
Making macarons is just as enjoyable as eating them, if not more so. Just enjoy the process and have fun.
- 246 g almond flour (2 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons)
- 366 g powdered sugar (3 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar (90 g)
- 6 egg whites (from Extra Large Grade A eggs)
- 1 – 2 drops gel food coloring
- 1 ¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (225 g)
- 1 cup heavy cream (224 g)
- 2 tablespoons butter (28 g)
- Line four large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar separately, measure out, whisk in a bowl to combine, then sift together to completely blend.
- Whip the egg whites and granulated sugar to make a thick, glossy meringue that holds stiff peaks. Add 1 – 2 drops of gel food coloring, if you like.
- With a silicon spatula, fold the meringue into the almond flour mixture in three parts. Scrape the bowl as you pass the spatula underneath, then fold over the top. Each time you fold over drag your spatula while pressing on the surface. Mixture will start out crumbly at first. When you add the second part of the meringue the mixture starts to take shape, but will be thick and sticky. As you add the last part of the meringue, the batter will still be thick but will have some slack and start to flow. Stop mixing when the meringue is completely incorporated, and the batter is smooth but still on the thick side. If you cut across the batter with your spatula it should flow back slowly.
- Divided the batter among 2 - 4 large icing bags fitted with a medium round tip.
- Place a template of circles underneath the parchment paper of your cookie sheet. Pipe circles of batter holding the icing bag at a 90° angle towards the cookie sheet. Stop piping when you reach the inner part of the circle. The point or mark left by the icing tip will slowly dissipate in a few minutes so you should have a smooth surface. Note: this is one reason why the consistency of the batter in step 4 should flow.
- Drop the cookie sheet a few times from a height of 5 – 6 inches flat on your work surface to release any large air pockets. This step will also help smoothen surfaces where the bump or peak hasn’t completely dissipated. Sprinkle decorations if you like.
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Let sit at room temperature for 30 – 45 minutes, or however long it takes for the surface of the piped batter to dry and form a skin. It’s ready for the oven when you lightly touch the edge and your fingertip remains dry.
- Bake cookie sheets one at a time for 12 – 15 minutes, 12 minutes for small-size macarons and 15 minutes for macarons measuring 1.5 inches or more. Rotate the sheet halfway into baking after the feet have formed.
- Remove from the oven and let the macarons cool completely on the cookie sheet.
- Place the chocolate chips in a bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a sauce pan until it just starts to simmer with small bubbles forming around the edge.
- Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate chips. Let sit for about three minutes then whisk, starting at the center, until completely smooth. Let sit to thicken. Whisk it every 10 minutes or so. As it gets thicker switch to a spatula to mix.
How to Make Macarons – French Meringue Method