Macarons, the finest dessert of finest desserts. Who wouldn’t love them? (Well, I actually know a few people who are not really fond of macarons, but that’s mostly because they never tried a really good macaron with a really good filling inside, but about that later.)
The very first time I made macarons was a completely random process at 7 o’clock in the morning after a night I could’t sleep properly. I found a recipe and I had all the ingredients needed but what I didn’t have was a kitchen scale. I decided to risk it. I just guessed the amounts. And you know what happened? The macarons turned out PERFECT. Like seriously, AMAZING. I filled them with chocolate ganache with raspberries and they were a success.
This gave me a feeling that macarons are actually not difficult to make. Come on, I made them just guessing, so where are the difficulties everybody is talking about? Well, next time I tried it didn’t work the same way. The macarons barely had feet. And next few tries I was having troubles with the consistency of the batter. And so on.
I decided to dig into the macaron problematics, I failed many times and at some point I swore I would never try it again. But I did try and things started to turn better. I cannot say I am a master or an expert in baking macarons, I was just thinking that the information I collected on my journey could be useful for others who want to try.
French or Italian
As you might know, macarons are made of almonds (or potentially other nuts) , sugar and egg whites. That’s it, it sounds pretty simple, right? 🙂 There are several ways how to prepare macarons and you might want to try both to see what works for you. The name of the method comes from the way the meringue is whipped. In the French method, you whip the meringue raw with sugar until it forms soft peaks and after that you slowly fold in almonds and sugar. In the Italian method there is one step more and that’s sugar syrup. Whipping the syrup into the egg whites creates meringue which is a bit more stable and I think that’s why I like this method more. I tried both in the past and both succesfully but now I only use the Italian method because it gives me less stress 😀 So the recipe I have for you is the Italian one.
The main ingredient is almond flour. It depends on its quality a lot. Almonds contain oil and sometimes the flour is too oily. If this is the case, it can help to dry the flour beforehand. But unfortunately this is something which is quite difficult to recognize at the beginning. Sometimes you can feel it with you hands but sometimes the almonds release the oil later in the process 😦
You can also try to replace part of almond flour with some other nuts, like pistachios or hazelnuts, or even poppy seeds to give the macarons a bit of different flavour. I have to admit I haven’t tried this yet, so you can do it and let me know how it worked for you 🙂
I read in many recipes that it’s absolutely necessary to leave the egg whites standing at room temperature. I kind of agree with that – because room temperature egg white is easier to manipulate, measure and whip. But once I accidentally destroyed my meringue before mixing it with the almonds so I had to throw it away and make a new one with a fresh egg. I keep my eggs at room temperature, so that was the same, but the egg white didn’t spend a night standing in the air. It worked no problem.
There are a lot of different baking mats out there and it seems like everybody has their favourite one 🙂 There are regular silicone mats or silicone mats for macarons, some of them have circles with little edges.
That’s useful because the edges normally keep the batter in place, so your macarons will be the same size. The disadvantage is that it’s just one size and if you need them a bit bigger or a different shape, you cannot use it. It is also a bit annoying to clean the mat if you don’t have a dishwasher 🙂
What I use for macarons now is teflon baking sheet. It looks almost like a paper parchment, but it is reusable and very easy to clean. I just put any template I need under it when piping the macarons and that’s it 🙂
If you are making macarons for the first time or you don’t bake very often and you don’t want to buy any baking mat, you can use baking paper. In that case I recommend to cut it exactly so it fits on your baking tray and it doesn’t affect the shape of your macarons. Also be careful because the paper tends to wrinkle with the moisture and heat. I also noticed that on the paper the macarons spread a bit more so count with a little bit more space between them.
Other useful equipment
What was mindblowing for me – and later I couldn’t believe it never occured to me before – was using MAGNETS to prevent the baking mat from moving when removing the bubbles from the macarons. Just don’t forget to remove them before putting the tray in the oven 🙂
THERMOMETERS – one for the oven, because sometimes the oven doesn’t show the right temperature. The other one: food thermometer to measure the temperature of sugar syrup and also of the meringue. Before I got the thermometer I improvised and just guessed the right moment, but it’s always better to measure it 😀
Do I need a stand mixer? No. It’s useful, as it allows you to have your hands free to do other things, but if you only have a hand electric mixer, it’s good enough. I don’t have the stand mixer either. What you do need is a food processor to blend almond flour with sugar.
Recipe (Italian method)
- 150 g almond flour
- 150 g icing sugar
- 55 g + 55 g egg whites
- 150 g granulated sugar
- 40 ml water
- food coloring (optional)
- Be as precise as you can. I mean, if you put 56 g of egg whites, nothing would happen, but if it’s 60 g, that could already affect the consistence.
- As I said before, the egg whites should be at room temperature.
Amazing macaron process
1. Almond paste
- First prepare baking trays. This amount of batter is for 3 – 4 trays, it depends on the size of the trays and the amount of macarons you pipe on one tray. If you don’t have a macaron mat, it’s great to have a template you sneak under your baking mat to help you pipe the right size of macarons. After piping them, you take the template out 🙂 A great thing is to fix the mats to the trays with magnets.
- In a bowl, whisk together almond flour and icing sugar. Then place it in a food processor (you might have to split it in two or three parts) and mix it shortly together. Really shortly, you can just pulse it few times. If you leave it mixing for too long, the almonds would start releasing the oil and we don’t want that 🙂
- Place the processed mixture in a bowl and add 55 g of egg whites. Using a spatula, mix all of it into a smooth paste. Don’t rush it, be patient, mix it really well. The final paste is compact, sticky but smooth. If you want to colour your macarons, now it’s the time. Stir food colouring into the paste, but remember that the final colour will be much lighter after you add the meringue.
- Now when you have the almond paste, set it aside.
2. Italian meringue
The result of this process is a beautiful, silky, stable meringue. To achieve that, you have to combine egg whites and sugar syrup. The syrup is just a mixture of sugar and a bit of water brought to a temperature of 118°C. That’s why the thermometer is necessary.
- Pour the water into a small saucepan and add granulated sugar.
- Place it over a medium heat. Don’t stir it and have the thermometer ready (you can put it since the beginning or later when it starts bubbling).
- At the same time, get a bowl with the other 55 g of egg whites ready.
When the sugar syrup gets to 118°C, you have to pour it into the egg whites. At this moment the egg whites have to be at a certain point of being whipped. (This might sound complicated, but it’s much easier than it seems, I promise. You just have to try to synchronize both actions.)
- Simultaneously with the syrup getting warmer, start whipping your egg whites – the time depends on the strenght of your mixer. I normally start whipping when the syrup starts bubbling. Use a low speed to avoid too many bubbles in the meringue.
- When the meringue starts creating soft peaks and the sugar syrup reaches 118°C, that’s the moment to combine both.
- Continue whipping and slowly pour the hot syrup into the meringue. Be careful not to pour the syrup into the whisk! The idea is to get the syrup into the meringue and whip it together. Try not to pour it on the sides of the bowl either – the best is between the sides and the whisk.
- Continue whipping until the meringue has 40°C. It should be firm enough and stable, but not forming completely stiff peaks.
So now we have a beautiful, silky meringue and almond paste and we need to combine them together and create the final macaron batter.
- Using a spatula, move part of the meringue to the paste and start folding it in. Continue until combined and then add the rest of the meringue.
- Keep folding until you have desired consistency of the batter: it should be smooth and a bit runny but not too much.
There are several tips how to recognize if the batter is ok: some people say that when you let the batter fall from the spatula, it should fold like a ribbon, or you should be able to draw an 8 with the batter. I learned another simple trick: when you run the spatula through the batter (which divides the batter in 2 halves), the batter slowly closes the line. Whenever it’s ready, stop folding the batter.
4. Piping macarons
- Place the batter into a piping bag with a round tip.
- Hold the piping bag vertically. Pipe the macarons on the prepared trays. This might require a bit of practice 🙂
- Now the reason why I use the magnets: removing bubbles from the macarons. You can either take the tray and hit the table/desk few times or you can hold the tray with one hand and hit the bottom of the tray with the other hand. It helps to remove the bubbles and also it helps to remove potential tips after piping (or as I like to say, nipples 😀 ). The magnets keep the baking mat in place.
- Macarons should rest before baking. They have to dry until they create a “skin” – when you touch a macaron and it doesn’t stick to your finger, it’s ready to go to the oven.
I was struggling a lot with drying the macarons in the air humidity we have here, especially in summer when we don’t use any heating. Then I started to dry them in the oven – I just set the oven to 40°C, put a tray in and leave it for few minutes (keeping the oven door open). This was a gamechanger for me! 😀
5. Baking macarons
- Baking temperature should be around 140°C. Here you will have to respect your oven. Depending on your experience you can raise or lower the temperature. It should take 15-20 minutes, but before taking them out it’s better to check if they are done: try to lift the corner of the baking mat to see if the bottom of the macaron sticks to the mat. Don’t lift the macaron itself.
- After taking the macarons out let them cool down on the tray. When they are warm, they are very fragile. After they cool down, it should be very easy to remove them from the mat.
It all might seem really complicated, but it is actually quite a simple process. It’s just important to be precise and respect your previous experience. There are a lot of things which might affect the result – quality of almonds, meringue, air humidity, baking mat, temperature in the oven… and if you fail, sometimes it’s difficult to say what went wrong.
From my experience, I have to say that:
- If you have your favourite brand of almond flour which works for you, stick with it 🙂
- Don’t overwhip your meringue.
- As I haven’t tried too many baking mats which are on the market, I’ll be happy to hear which one is your favourite! 🙂
- I have a fan oven. I heard it’s better because of the air circulation during baking, but you can bake macarons even without a fan. You might have to lower the temperature a bit or place the tray lower or higher in the oven.
- Most of home ovens bake irregularly, for example I know that mine bakes more in one corner at the back, and sometimes one or two macarons baked in that spot come out cracked. Still haven’t found a solution 🙂
- The baking temperature is very individual. I know some people they even put 160°C at the beginning and after few minutes they lower the temperature to 140°C. I never use more than 150°C but that’s between me and my oven 😀
- In some cases, Italian macarons don’t need to dry before going to the oven. I don’t have good experience with that, so if you have a tip how to do it, I’m all ears!
I didn’t share any recipe for a filling because I have a feeling that this article is long enough 🙂 The taste of macarons depends on the filling a lot though. You can have a perfect cookie but if you put a tasteless cream, you kill the result. I know people who say they don’t like macarons, because once they tried one and they didn’t like it. You can flavour the shell if you want, but the options are a bit limited because certain things can affect the structure and behaviour of the batter. So it’s very important for the filling to carry most of the flavour. I like swiss meringue buttercream with fruity flavours, as it’s soft enough and it doesn’t melt easily. I like to combine it with curds (lemon curd, blueberry, etc.) and what works beautifully is any kind of chocolate ganache. But the options are much wider! Maybe next time I’ll write a post about that 🙂
As I said before, I am not a macaron master. I’ll be happy for any kind of advice or a tip regarding macarons, as well as for answering any kind of question you might have. Just leave me comment or write me on instagram 🙂