I hope my notes here about making French macarons for the first time help you out. I’d love to hear how it turns out.
I’ve had a hankering to make macarons for some time. I love basic recipes for simple foods that are all about getting the technique right. Plus macarons are such estimable little desserts, and they freeze so well, that they are great to make in advance for a party or for friends who will appreciate them.
I found the process of making macarons to be every bit as delicate as I expected, but doable. It is a thrill to get a batch come out of the oven with a pretty dome and that perfect foot, it feels like sinking a perfect putt or hitting a perfect shot. So even though I went to bed exhausted, I woke up thinking of little alterations I could make next time to get the perfect batch.
And once you have macarons down, you will be a whiz at turning out a beautiful souffle. It uses all the same tricks (get a favorite chocolate souffle recipe of mine and tutorial here).
After my day of experimenting with different batches, here are some lessons learned. Martha has two recipes online, and I went with her recipe from the June 2008 issue of Living, written by NYC cooking instructor Gail Monaghan
makes about 35 macaron shells
Before you begin:
Choose a nice, cool, dry day to make these. Humidity is not your friend. Because whipped whites are mostly air, if the air is too moist it can flatten your macarons. A hot kitchen can also deflate whites.
Separate your eggs in advance. Eggs are easier to separate when they’re cold, so separate them at least an hour and up to a day before, then cover with plastic wrap so it touches the surface of the egg, and just leave the whites on the counter.
Mis en place. Have everything you need in place so you don’t have anything to slow you down once your eggs are whipped.
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 4.5 oz
3/4 cup almond flour, 2.5 oz. (
2 large egg whites, room temperature (no farm fresh eggs! older eggs hold air better, and take them from the fridge the day before or the morning of and let them sit there happily on the counter and warm to room temp)
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar, 1.5 oz. (also called baker’s sugar, I’ve read you can make your own by processing granulated sugar, but have never tried it)
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, for filling
See MACAROON VARIATIONS and SUGGESTED FILLINGS on Martha’s website, including chocolate, coconut, peanut, pistachio, raspberry, and vanilla bean. UPDATE: Or see the comments below! Some of you have come up with amazing flavor ideas.
1. Pulse confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times. (I found sifting with my usual flour sifter near impossible. The almond flour caked under the sifting hand and balled up over it. Instead I sifted with a simple bowl-shaped sieve.)
2. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form (the recipe suggests 8 minutes, for me it took only 3 to 4 minutes, take care not to over-whip). If you’re going to add color, I added food coloring towards the end of whipping my whites. I found I could use standard, water-based food coloring. Several of the recipes I saw recommended paste food coloring, but I didn’t have any at the time, so I went out on a limb! The water-based colors worked just fine.
3. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny. I found the amount of folding to be crucial. Fold too little, and your macaron shells will have peaks instead of nice rounded caps. Fold too much, and your meringue will drip into a mess of wafer-thin blobs. Tartlette recommends about 50 folds, until your batter has a magma-like flow. For me about 65 folds was just right. I find the batter has a little of a soft-toffee like sheen when it is ready. (UPDATE 02.10: stop by here to read about a macaron class Tartlette taught). You can test a daub on a plate, and if a small beak remains, turn the batter a couple times more. If the batter forms a round cap but doesn’t run, it is just right. When I spooned my batter into the pastry bag, the perfect batter started to just ooze out of the tip once the bag was full. If it stayed stiff inside the bag it was too stiff, if it dripped out too fast the batter was too runny. I found that doubling the recipe made this step very difficult for me, I found I would over fold to incorporate the flour mixture and I would end up with a runny batter.
4. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip.
5. Pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. I put the tip right in the middle of where I wanted each macaron and let the batter billow up around it, then I drug the tip to the side of the round. (You can pipe 1-inch to 2-inch rounds, but you will need to add cooking time). Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. (Different recipes recommend anywhere from no rest time to 2 hours rest time. I was most happy with 30 to 45 minutes rest time, once the caps looked more dull and had formed a slight skin, so that during baking the macaron could puff up beneith that skin and form that pretty “foot” at the bottom.) While they’re resting, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
6. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees. Every oven is different, so you may need to play with your oven temperature. The tops of the macaron shells should not brown.
7. Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons (if this doesn’t work, see below, under “troubleshooting”).
8. Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon jam. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months. It takes only 30 minutes out of the freezer for macarons to be ready to serve.
TROUBLESHOOTING: If you’re wringing your hands in frustration because you can’t get these little desserts to come out right, either they are hollow inside or have no feet or they crack, you are in good company. Me included. Here are a few things you can try to get that first perfect batch that will get you addicted to making macarons.
1. Use an oven thermometer: Chances are, your oven is different than mine, which is different from many other friends and bloggers who have attempted macarons. Pay a couple dollars for a decent oven thermometer and you can know for certain that your oven temp is right. Undercooked macarons will end up hollow or deflate after cooking.
2. Use a good baking sheet: If your baking sheet is too thin, the macarons won’t bake evenly or correctly. You can even try doubling up two thin baking sheets if that’s all you have.
3. Use old eggs: I know this may sound wrong, just wrong, but it makes a difference. Use eggs that are not too fresh and leave them on the counter at room temp for a day or two.
4. Make sure you have prime egg-whipping conditions. Trust me, a humid day or one streak of grease in your bowl can make what could have been a beautiful batch of macarons into a disappointment.
5. If your macarons have no feet, make sure they had their time on the counter (after piping and before baking) to create a skin. I love what Evelyn said below: “NO skin No feet… ” When your macarons form a skin before you bake them, the skin traps the air under the dome so that the air’s only way to escape is through the bottom, creating feet as it goes.
6. Don’t over or under fold your batter. I know, I know, we’ve been through this. But if you let your macarons sit on the counter for 45 minutes to form a skin and you’re still asking yourself, “why don’t my macarons have feet?” the answer is probably that you underfolded so the batter is too stiff or overfolded so it is too loose. And if you come up with a different reason, I’d love to hear.
7. Increase cooking time for bigger macarons: I’ve undercooked my macarons before and had them come out hollow. Pretty still but very disappointing in texture. Make sure that if your macarons are bigger circles, you bake longer.
8. Keep an eye on your macarons to avoid browning them or letting them crack: I love these notes note from Beth and Zach (thanks you two!!): “I bake mine with the light on in the oven so I can monitor what’s going on in there. If it seems a little hot, crack the door and stick a wooden spoon in to hold it slightly ajar. I believe the cracking happens when the oven it too hot.” “The steam produced is escaping too fast to exit out only the bottom; thus the top (even with that “skin”) has no option but to break and crack the top. If this happens consistently, turn down the heat a few degrees (no more than 10 degrees 5 preferable). “
9. If your macarons won’t unstick, try water (and cook longer next time). Here’s a great tip from a reader whose macaron shells stuck to the paper. (Thank you, Jennifer!!) “The steam did not work for me, I think because my paper is fairly thick. So I rested the paper (with the Macarons stuck to it) on a thin layer of water. I counted to 15 which is just enough to soften the paper without getting the Macarons wet. They pulled off flawlessly! You may have to adjust how long you let it sit depending on the type of paper you use, so as not to wet your Macarons!” And it’s also likely, if your macarons stick, that you didn’t cook quite long enough.
10. What about a confection oven? Thanks to Zach for this note!: A convection oven should work just fine. But you should reduce cooking time because of the moving air, which will help prevent the cracking. If your convection oven is too hot or the air flow setting is on “high” (if applicable), then then extra drying might make cracking more possible.