All sandwich cookies are delightful, but macarons are quite possibly the most appealing kind of all: crisp yet chewy meringue shells, held together by a creamy filling. They’re the darlings of many a fancy bakery and the subject of entire French cooking classes.
Making your own macarons requires a little bit more kitchen prowess than other mix-and-bake cookies, but n’aie pas peur! (That’s French for “never fear.”) While there is definitely an art — and some technical skill — involved in making macarons, it’s really not as hard as you might think.
We tapped Jayce Baudry, executive pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s Épicerie Boulud, for his top tips on macaron making. Here’s what we learned, as well as his recipe for the classic dessert.
1. Weigh your ingredients
It may seem fussy, but it really is the best way to get consistent results, especially when baking — and it’s kind of fun! Plus, digital scales these days are super affordable.
That said, if you refuse to acquire another piece of kitchen equipment, check out our French chocolate macarons with chocolate ganache recipe, which uses standard cup and spoon measurements. While you’re at it, work in some of your newly acquired expert techniques from the video above.
2. Grind your almond flour and powdered sugar
You might think you can skip this step, but it’s important to get all your dry ingredients as fine as possible, so the macaron shells have the proper smooth texture.
If you want to be extra sure your dry ingredients are free of even the tiniest lumps, after grinding them in the food processor, sift them through a fine-mesh strainer into your bowl.
3. Separate your eggs in advance
Your egg whites will whip up more effectively if you separate them from the yolks 2 days in advance of baking; just store them in a bowl in the fridge until then. (You won’t need the yolks for this recipe, but you don’t have to toss them out — use them for something like aioli or blender hollandaise.
4. Go with gel food coloring
If you want to make brightly colored shells (like the vibrant arrays you see in patisserie windows), stick with thicker gel food coloring. Too much liquid can make the batter too thin and compromise your cookies’ structure.
Oh, and pro tip: Use more gel coloring than you think you need, because the bright hue will fade once you add the meringue — and fade again in the oven. You can also try powdered food coloring, though it may be harder to find.
5. Make a template for uniform macarons
To help you pipe uniform macarons, grab a small round cookie cutter (about 1 1/4 inches) and a black marker. Trace circles (1 inch apart) on a piece of paper cut to fit your baking sheets. Then place that template underneath the parchment onto which you pipe your macarons, using the circles as a guide.
Slide the template out from underneath and use it again for the next batch.
6. Practice the art of macaronage
Macaronage is the technique for mixing macaron batter. (Yep, macarons are such an A-list dessert that they even have their own mixing technique.)
Here’s how it works: Use your spatula to lift the batter up from the bottom of the bowl and mix it until it’s smoother, shinier, and starts to relax and flow back down into the bowl.
Usually, when you’re dealing with whipped egg whites, you want to treat them far more gently so as not to deflate them, but for macarons, a little deflation is actually a good thing. It helps the shells achieve the proper smooth, even shape. (That said, you still don’t want to work all the air out of the mix.)
7. Bang your pan
To make sure the tops of the macaron shells are flat and even (and the “foot” of frilly-looking batter forms at their base), give your pan a firm whack or two on the countertop after piping the shells.
Just be sure to hold the parchment paper down with your thumbs so you don’t lose any shells in the process!
8. Let your shells dry out
“Dry” is usually a dirty word when it comes to baked goods, but again, macarons flip the script. Giving your piped shells time to dry out a little is essential to getting that patisserie-perfect shape.
Let the pans sit on the counter for about an hour before you bake (or as long as overnight). If you don’t, steam will erupt as they bake, cracking the tops of your shells.
Once they’ve formed a bit of a skin op top, the steam will escape from the sides instead, forming that classic fluted “foot” on your macarons. You can check for a skin by gently touching a shell. If nothing sticks to your finger, it’s time to bake.
Because humidity can interfere with drying time, some people don’t make macarons on rainy days.
9. Get creative
When it comes to flavor combinations (and colors), don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild! Ganache is the traditional filling — and don’t get us wrong, it’s fantastic — but you can use pretty much anything you like to sandwich your shells together, from lemon curd to Nutella to jam or jelly.
For the shells themselves, try sprinkling in different flavors like lemon zest, lavender buds, or minced fresh herbs.
Just remember not to add too much liquid to the batter. About 2 teaspoons of vanilla or other extract is probably the maximum, depending on your recipe size (and that’s probably way more than you’ll need anyway since many flavorings are potent). Try orange flower water or rose water for a floral twist.
And remember: Even if your macarons don’t come out parfait the first time, they’ll still be delicious! With time and practice, you’ll master the smooth shell, flouncy foot, and creamy filling that make these cookie sandwiches so iconic.
This recipe will make about 200 shells (so 100 macarons total) but with a scale, it’s easy to cut the recipe in half or otherwise reduce the ingredient amounts to a more manageable size.
Note: The ingredients list shows two different amounts of egg whites because they’re added at different points in the process.
Makes about 200 macarons
- 372 grams (about 3 cups) of powdered sugar
- 372 grams (about 3 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) of almond flour
- 159 grams (about 3/4 cup) fresh egg whites
- 372 grams (about 1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
- 99 grams (about 6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) of water
- 126 grams (about 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) fresh egg whites
- Filling of your choice (ganache is traditional)
- In a food processor, grind the almond flour and powdered sugar into a very fine powder.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the powder with 159 grams (about 3/4 cup) of egg whites until you have a paste. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to be sure the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.
- In a heavy-bottomed, deep saucepan, use a spatula to stir sugar and water together over medium-high heat. Stir just until sugar melts, but be sure not to stir again once the mixture boils or it may crystallize (if it does, start over again). Allow sugar and water to boil until the mixture reaches 244°F (118°C) on a digital candy thermometer. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 126 grams (about 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) of egg whites until they become voluminous and hold soft peaks.
- With the mixer still running, slowly pour the cooked sugar mixture into the bowl, sticking close to the side of the bowl, rather than near the center, until it’s all incorporated. Continue to mix until the outside of the bowl is no longer hot, but just feels warm to the touch. When you lift the whisk, the meringue should hold soft peaks.
- With a spatula, fold half the meringue into the wet ingredients until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then fold in the other half of the meringue until incorporated. (Check out the video above for a demonstration of the macaronage technique.) Your mixture should be shiny, smooth, and start to relax a bit in the bowl.
- Use a piping bag fitted with a 10-millimeter tip to pipe circles of batter onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. (Expert piping technique is also demonstrated in the video).
- Leave the sheets out on the counter for at least 1 hour to allow the shells time to dry. (This downtime is also a good time to make your ganache if that’s what you’re using to fill the shells since it will need to be completely cool and thicken up before you pipe it!)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and arrange a rack in the middle. Bake 1 sheet of macarons at a time for 14 minutes each, rotating the pan halfway through each baking session. You’ll know the macarons are done when they don’t move about on the parchment when you give them a nudge.
- Allow shells to cool completely before piping the filling of your choice onto half of the shells and sandwiching them together. Et voilà!