If you’ve ever attempted to make macarons at home, chances are you started with the French method. It’s the simpler of the two methods, mostly because the meringue does not have to be cooked. However, the one frustration I have found with this method is that there is no standard recipe. I think this comes from the fact that because it is so temperamental, most people have to adjust their recipe to fit their own oven. Each recipe that I tried had its own specific problems, so I decided to come up with my own. I won’t claim that my macaron recipe is the best or foolproof, but it does work consistently in my crappy conventional oven in which the temperatures fluctuate drastically, so I hope that it works equally well for you. Here’s how I came up with it (if you just want the recipe scroll to the end of the post. Also, please do not judge my OCD).
Macarons consist of four basic ingredients: egg whites, almond flour, powdered sugar, and granulated sugar. In order to come up with a recipe that worked for me, I decided to figure out what each ingredient did. This is what I found.
Egg whites are necessary in order to create a meringue, into which the almond flour and powdered sugar are folded into to create the batter. The lower the egg white content, the less moisture in the macaron batter. Macarons with a very low egg white content can sometimes turn out dry and crumbly, while macarons with a high egg white content can be too soft and soggy. Macarons with a high egg white content also take much longer to dry and can lead to cracked shells when baking. The way that the egg whites are whipped also has an effect on the finished product, but I’ll talk more about that later.
Almond flour is what gives macarons their unique texture and flavor. The amount of almond flour in recipes that use the French method also varies quite a bit, and affects the amount of moisture in the batter. I found that the ratio of egg whites to almond flour in macaron recipes was anywhere from 1:0.8 all the way up to 1:1.5.
There are two types of sugar in macarons, and each one has a different effect on the macaron. The majority of macarons had a ratio of egg whites to sugar that was anywhere between 1:2 and 1:2.5. While the total amount of sugar seemed to be pretty standard, the ratio of granulated to powdered sugar varied quite a bit. Before testing the effects of the different sugars, I decided to take out the variables and settled on a ratio of egg whites:almond flour:sugar that was 1:1.25:2.3. These ratios are close to the middle range of many recipes I tried. Then, I started varying the amounts of powdered sugar:granulated sugar within that 2.3 range.
Because the granulated sugar is added to the meringue, I found that higher amounts of this in a recipe made the meringue more stable. It was harder to overbeat the meringue, and made the macaronage process a little bit easier. In the finished product, the recipes with more granulated sugar tended to have smaller feet than those with more powdered sugar. They also had a chewier texture, kind of like macarons made with the Italian method, but the finished product was a little too hard for my taste. Macarons made with more powdered sugar had larger feet that sometimes splayed out (possibly due to my over mixing), a more delicate texture, and seemed to be less prone to air pockets. Here is an example of each.
In the end I settled on a recipe of egg whites:almond flour: granulated sugar:powdered sugar of 1:1.25:0.8:1.5. This recipe seems to have just the right amount of chewiness while still being delicate and also produces good feet every time.
But wait, there’s more to making macarons than just the recipe!
Making the meringue is a really important step in the macaron making process. Some recipes call for soft peaks while others want stiff peaks. My recipe calls for stiff peaks. However, when I make the meringue, I never turn my stand mixer up past 6. One thing that I learned while working at the bakery is that when you make macarons, you want the meringue to have smaller, more stable air bubbles. I achieve this by starting the mixer on 4 and mixing for about 3 minutes. After the liquid in the egg whites has disappeared, I add the sugar and turn the mixer up to 6 and leave it running until stiff peaks form. This can take a while, but I find that it is much harder to over beat the egg whites. The smaller air bubbles also help to prevent hollow shells. (I tend to get more air pockets when I turn the mixer up to 8). I also add a pinch of cream of tartar along with the sugar, which helps with stability. However, it is not a necessity so you can leave it out if you don’t have it.
You can see that the meringue holds its shape, but since I didn’t turn the mixer up past 6, the meringue doesn’t clump up in the whisk.
Many recipes call for aging the egg whites so that some of the water can evaporate, reducing the moisture in the batter. I’ve made macarons with egg whites right out of the fridge and egg whites that were aged for a week, and haven’t noticed a huge difference. If I think about it in advance, I age the egg whites. If not, I don’t worry about it.
The Macaronage or process of mixing the macarons is where things can go wrong. Undermixed macarons can cause lumpy shells that don’t develop feet. Overmixed macarons won’t hold their shape. Once the batter gets to this point where it’s too runny, it’s impossible to fix. Most recipes that use the french method call for the dry ingredients to be incorporated into the meringue. If you are new to making macarons, I would recommend doing it this way. Indulge with Mimi has a good video on how to do this. I have actually had more success mixing the opposite way, by incorporating the meringue into the dry ingredients. It’s a little bit trickier and more prone to getting over mixed, but I never get hollows when I do it this way.
Purple shell: mixing the traditional way
Turquoise and orange shell: @ test batches made by mixing the meringue into the dry ingredients
I start by taking a 3rd of the meringue and mixing it into the dry ingredients. I’m not too careful about preserving air bubbles at this stage. Once it starts to look homogenous, I’ll add a bit more of the meringue to make sure that there are no more stray dry ingredients. It should end up looking like a paste. Then add another third of the meringue and start folding it into the mixture. I take my spatula and cut down the middle, then fold around the outside like I am writing the letter “J”. Every time I do this, I turn the bowl a little so I fold the meringue in evenly. Make sure you are getting the bits at the bottom of the bowl as well. After that become homogenous, I add the last 3rd of the meringue and do the same until the batter reaches the right consistency.
So how do you know when it’s ready? Many recipes will tell you that it should look like molten lava, but I never really found that helpful. You can tell when the batter is getting close because it will start to look a little bit glossy. I test the batter by lifting the spatula out of the batter and seeing how it flows. It should come off the spatula in slow, thick ribbons. If it doesn’t fall off the spatula at all, keep mixing. If it does, wait 20 seconds and see if the ribbons start to incorporate back into the batter. If so, you’re done! This process takes a bit of practice, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t get this part right the first (or second, or tenth) time.
After I pipe my macarons, I always dry them in front of a fan until the tops become tacky. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes (maybe a little longer if it’s humid). Some people don’t dry their macarons and they turn out ok, but if you don’t have a convection oven I recommend drying them first to prevent the tops from cracking. There are also recipes that recommend drying your macarons in the oven at around 200 degrees fahrenheit for 5 minutes and then turning up the temperature to bake them. I used to try this shortcut but my oven is too unpredictable so this didn’t work for me.
Speaking of ovens, biggest obstacle for me in macaron making has been oven temperature. If you don’t have an oven thermometer, I highly recommend getting one, since oven temperatures can fluctuate drastically. I’ve had the best luck baking these macarons at 325 degrees fahrenheit. However, I have realized that when I preheat my oven to 325, it sometimes dips below 300 and the shells don’t set up properly or the interiors collapse. I now preheat my oven to 350 and then turn it down 325 once I put the pan in the oven. This hot oven preheat helps the shells set up properly even if the oven temperature fluctuates. Baking one tray at a time also helps keep the oven temperature consistent. If you are still having trouble with hollows or the interiors of the shells collapsing, err on the side of over baking your macarons. Once you fill them, put them in the fridge for at least 24 hours to mature and they will soften up.
Once your macaron shells are baked, stick them in the freezer. They come off the silicone mats more easily, and they are much easier to fill without the shells getting crushed. My favorite fillings are ganache and Swiss or Italian buttercream. Bravetart’s faux French buttercream is a great way to use leftover egg yolks.
Ok folks, here is the finished product! Full macarons shells with good feet and just the right amount of chew. I hope you like the recipe.
- 60 grams (about 2 large) egg whites
- 75 grams almond flour
- 90 grams confectioner's sugar
- 50 grams granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
- Gel food coloring or flavor extracts (optional)
- Line a half sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Fit a piping bag with an round piping tip.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add 60 grams of egg whites (if you think your bowl may have any grease residue, wipe down the bowl and whisk with vinegar before you begin so the oil doesn't prevent the meringue from whipping up).
- In a separate bowl, sift together the almond flour and confectioner's sugar.
- Turn your mixer on to 4 and whip the egg whites until they start to form soft peaks (3-4 minutes).
- Add the cream of tartar and the sugar 1/3 at a time while continuing to whip the egg whites.
- Turn the mixer up to 6 and continue to whisk until stiff peaks are formed.
- If you want to add food coloring or flavor extracts, add them within the last minute of whisking.
- Using a spatula, take 1/3 of the meringue and place it in the bowl of dry ingredients and gently mix them together until they are combined.
- If there are still bits of dry ingredients remaining, add it a bit more meringue until the mixture is homogenous.
- Add another third of the meringue and fold it into the mixture, I do this by cutting down the middle of the bowl with my spatula and then continuing in a clockwise motion along the outside of the bowl.
- Continue doing this and turn the bowl each time until the meringue has been incorporated.
- Add the last third of the meringue to the bowl and do the same thing, being gentle so the batter doesn't get too runny.
- When the mixture starts to look glossy, test the batter by lifting the spatula up over the bowl. The batter should come off the spatula in slow ribbons and incorporate back into the batter in about 20 seconds. If it comes off in clumps and doesn't incorporate back into the batter, you will need to keep mixing. You can evaluate the batter consistency one stroke at a time. Keep in mind that the batter will continue to thin as you pipe it.
- Once the batter is at the right consistency, transfer it into a piping bag fitted with a round tip (I like Ateco 804). You can make this process easier by folding the bag over a tall glass and then scooping the batter in.
- Pipe the batter onto silicone mats (I use a silpat with a macaron stencil built in). When piping, hold the piping tip at a 90 degree angle about 1/4 of an inch above the mat and squeeze gently until the batter almost fills the circle (it will spread out a bit as it settles). Pull the piping tip off without pulling up, or you will get a tail on your macarons.
- Bang the tray against the kitchen counter or the floor several times to knock out any air bubbles. If you still have visible air bubbles, you can pop them with a toothpick.
- Leave them to dry (preferably in front of a fan) until they for a skin. The batter should not come off on your finger tips when you touch them. This will take about 15-20 minutes, but I have left them to dry for up to an hour on humid days.
- While your macarons are drying, preheat your oven. If you have a convection oven, preheat to 325 degrees fahrenheit. If you have a conventional oven, preheat to 350. When your pan is ready to be placed in the oven, turn the oven down to 325.
- Bake the macarons on the middle rack for 12-14 minutes. You can test to see if they are done by wiggling the top of the shell. If it doesn't move, it's done baking.
- You can let the shells cool at room temperature or stick the whole sheet in the freezer to cool. Don't peel the macarons off the mat until they are completely cool.
- Pair macaron shells of similar sizes and fill with your favorite buttercream, jam, or ganache.
- Let the macarons mature in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
- Pull them out of the fridge and enjoy at room temperature.
-Yield and baking times are based on macarons using the template on this macaron silpat. If you are making smaller macarons, you may need to adjust your baking time.
-Check for doneness after 10 minutes. Baking times will vary based on your oven.
-You will need a kitchen scale and oven thermometer for this recipe.
-Macarons can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for several months.