Everything You Need To Know About Making Perfect Macarons

This is a bit of a follow up to one of my previous posts on how to make meringues.

If you haven’t already checked that one out, I would recommend having a look at it before getting on to this one, as I go into a lot more detail there about one of the key steps for making macarons.

However if you are already all set with your meringues and ready to crack on with macarons, LET’S DO THIS!

Introduction To Macarons

I’ll spare you a long winded introduction as to why I love macarons or why they are so popular – the pictures kind of speak for themselves!

The perfect macaron is an elegant treat, ‘dainty’ if you will, that has a light crisp outer shell that melts into a smooth soft filling with just enough of a bite for it to satisfy any cravings!

Despite being so associated with France, the name  ‘macaron’ actually originates from the Italian word ‘maccherone’ which translates as ‘fine dough’.

There’s a little tidbit for you.

Now on with the baking!

What Perfect Macarons Should Look Like

Being 100% honest, my macarons rarely turn out ‘perfect’. They’re a precise, technical treat that require practice and patience. 

Unfortunately precision and patience are not my strong suit. On the bright side, it is almost impossible to make macarons taste bad, regardless of what you do them!

But what should a perfect macaron look like? There’s differing opinions, but this is what I’ve always been told to look for in creating perfection…

  • A thin shell with a slight shine & a light crunch
  • Soft and slightly chewy on the inside
  • The ‘skin’ which is the outer most layer that forms as the piped macaron mix bakes in the oven
  • The ‘foot’ which forms around the base of the shell as moisture in the mixture turns to steam & starts to rise

chocolate-macaron-and-chocolate-ganache-filling

The Key Ingredients For Making Macarons

There are four key ingredients that go into all macaron shell recipes. Depending who you ask or where on this planet you are, the exact portions and ratios will differ but these four things will pretty much always be in there….

Almond Flour (Or Ground Almonds)

Almond flour, or almond meal is basically natural blanched almonds ground into a very fine powder.  It should be completely fine, dry and smooth to touch. 

If it is sticking together, there is a bit of trapped moisture and you can dry it out a bit by spreading it on a baking tray and putting it in the oven at low temperature for a few minutes.

Egg Whites

To give macarons their light and airy texture, recipes only call for egg whites, and ideally aged egg whites. 

If you separate your egg whites, you can use the yolks for other recipes. To ‘age’ the egg whites, store them in the fridge loosely covered for 2 or 3 days then bring to room temperature when you need them.

Granulated Or Caster Sugar

This is the white sugar used to build the macaron’s meringue-like structure when combined with the egg whites. Some professionals use superfine granulated sugar believing this gives a smoother texture, but personally I haven’t seen any difference.

Icing Sugar (Or Powdered Sugar)

This is the very fine white powder that flies off in every different direction at the slightest movement. 

It can be frustrating to work with, but because of its fine, powdery texture it combines extremely easily with the almond flour. 

Some brands have cornstarch to prevent clumping, so try to get one with as low a percent of cornstarch as possible, and ideally zero!

Other Useful Ingredients

There is no one single definitive recipe for macarons and different bakers and chefs will have their own different ratios and ‘secret’ ingredients. Here are some of the most common ones.

Powdered Egg Whites

This is primarily used to help toughen up the structure of the macaron when you’re trying to create them in a humid atmosphere and the moisture in the air makes your macaron structure unstable. 

This is available easily online or in most supermarkets – note that it is slightly different to meringue powder though.

If you’re unable to find powdered egg whites anywhere, we’ve got you covered:

Cream Of Tartar

Cream of tartar a form of acid, usually in powder form, known as tartaric acid. 

Without getting too scientific, it reacts with your egg whites to give them more stability and helps prevent over-whipping. 

Especially if you’re using non-aged egg whites, this is a great way to create glossy non-grainy macaron shells.

Salt

A little bit more science for you but for some reason with nuts especially, salt acts as an excellent flavour enhancer. 

You can stir sea salt into your mixture to improve the flavour profile without affecting texture. 

Or if you want to go a bit more gourmet, you can use finishing salts such as ‘fleur de sel’ to sprinkle over your creations instead.

Colours

One of the main appeals of macarons for many is their bright, vivid colours. 

Usually these can’t be achieved by natural colouring, so artificial colours are added. 

These are available in powder, gel or liquid form but the liquid ones have this nasty habit of messing up your macaron’s final texture so stick with either gel or powder.

how-to-bake-macarons

Before You Start Baking

Before you get stuck in and start baking your first batch of macarons, there are a few little nuances you should be aware of in the technique that could make or break how they turn out. 

Measuring

It kind of goes without saying that you need to stick to a recipe to get your macarons to turn out right, so measure out your ingredients – don’t eyeball it. 

Also a lot of recipes quote measurements in ‘cups’ rather than actual weight. 

The problem with that is course that there is no set weight for ‘cups’, and that’s where things are likely to start going wrong.

Dryness

Humidity and moisture play a huge part in how your macarons turn out so when you’re measuring your ingredients and preparing your bake, make sure all the tools and equipment you use are completely dry. 

The last thing you want is a little bit of extra water strolling in and messing up your mixture with you being unaware!

Parchment Paper Or Silicone Mats

If you have access to non-stick silicone baking mats, I would strongly recommend using them instead of parchment paper.

The lightness of parchment means it can flap around in the oven and risk messing up your macarons’ texture. You can stick it down with a bit of extra egg white to stop that though

Macaronner

This is the process of folding the dry ingredients into your egg white mixture. It has a huge impact on the final structure of your bakes.

While traditional folding with cake batter or mousse for the most part requires you to simply fold until the ingredients are all incorporated, with macarons you have to go one step further.

By the time you’re done folding, the batter should be loose enough to drip off your spoon or spatula with a consistency that can only be described as similar to lava.

This step is called macaronner – or from French, ‘to make fine dough’. If you remember my tidbit from earlier of course, the word macaron comes from the word for fine dough!

shutterstock_128459210

What Kind Of Meringue For Macarons?

This is the bit where reading my other post on the topic of meringues could come in handy so you have a firm understanding of this part of the macron making process before diving into the next one.

But just in case, we’ll cover this off in a bit more detail again here.

The fundamental macaron shell recipe is along similar lines to meringues – just with almonds

added in of course.

So with that train of thought, there are three different types of meringue recipe you could follow: French, Italian or Swiss.

French Meringue

This is the most common and most straightforward. All you do is whisk your sugar directly into your egg whites.

Italian Meringue

This is much more technical and involves melting down your sugar, and using a candy thermometer to get the right temperature before adding to your egg whites

Swiss Meringue

This involves whisking your egg whites and sugar over boiling water before folding in your dry ingredients. The result is a firmer, stiffer mixture that works extremely well for meringues specifically, but less so for macarons 

Making Macarons With French Meringue

The French method is by far the simplest, but it takes a bit more time to reach the right meringue-like consistency that you need for perfect macarons.

This is an example of how you would put together macaron shells using the French method:

Ingredients: (Makes 18 to 20 sandwiched macarons)

  • 165g almond flour
  • 165g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 pinch of fine sea salt
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 5g powdered egg white (to help texture)
  • 4 aged egg whites
  • 3g cream of tartar

The French method leads to a softer mixture, with a bit less stability so adding cream of tartar and/or powdered egg whites can really help make sure the final product hits a professional standard.

Method: 

1. Pulse the almond flour, confectioner’s sugar and sea salt in a food processor, before sifting it out onto parchment paper through a fine mesh strainer. Putting it through a food processor helps give the skin a smoother look once baked.

2. Whisk together the egg whites, cream of tartar, powdered egg whites and granulated sugar.

If you’re using an electric whisk, it should take about 10 to 12 minutes to reach the desired level of glossiness and stiffness. If it’s stiff enough, the mixture will not start to slip out if you turn your bowl upside down

3, Time to macaronner. With a spatula, fold the sifted dry ingredients into the egg mixture a bit at a time.

If you’re adding food colour or flavouring, add it in when the dry mix is about 90% incorporated and then carry on folding. Once fully incorporated, it is ready to pipe and bake.

4. You will need to bake at 95OC for 15 minutes to dry out the shells and then increase the temperature to 175°C and bake for another 9 or 10 minutes until the shells, skin and feet all feel firm.

Allow to cool before adding your filling and assembling your sandwiches.

Making Macarons With Italian Meringue

The Italian method is the most technical and most precise method of creating macarons but

it arguably also gives the best texture – stiffer than the French style so easier to work with but

not quite as stiff as the Swiss style, so easier to pipe.

This is an example of how you would put together macaron shells using the Italian method:

Ingredients: (Makes 18 to 20 sandwiched macarons)

  • 165g almond flour
  • 165g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 pinch of fine sea salt
  • 4 aged egg whites
  • 3g cream of tartar
  • 150g granulated sugar

With the Italian method you melt your granulated sugar to a syrup, which continues to cook

even when removed from the heat and this in turn starts to cook the egg whites, which

starts to stiffen the mixture. 

Hence a stronger structure than the French method, although when piping they don’t spread quite as much. Also because the sugar is fully melted, they give off a great shine.

Method

1. Whisk together your egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks start to form.

2. At the same time, heat your granulated sugar along with around 1/4 cup (57g by weight) of water over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar.

You will need a candy thermometer and will need to cook until the sugar reaches 113°C

3. Once it’s reached the right temperature, quickly pour the syrup down the side of your mixing bowl into the egg mixture, with your mixer continuing to run at medium speed.

Continue to whisk until stiff glossy peaks form. Again, you can test this by turning your bowl upside down.

4. Put your sifted dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl, but push them towards the side  to form a dip in the middle and spoon the egg white mixture into the centre.

Gradually stir the egg mixture from the inside to the outside to combine with the dry ingredients and then proceed to fold it 6 to 8 times. This should give you a thoroughly mixed meringue mixture.

5. Pipe and bake for 15 minutes at 95°c, and then an additional 9 or 10 minutes at 175°C. Allow to cool before filling. 

Making Macarons With Swiss Meringue

The Swiss meringue method creates a stiffer batter than both the French & Italian meringue recipes and is a little bit too stiff to pipe properly to create macarons, but is excellent for meringue recipes in general.

Swiss meringue involves whisking your egg whites and sugar over boiling water, which thanks to science makes the egg proteins stronger – and that is why the batter stiffens so much.

This is an example of how you would put together macaron shells using the Italian method:

Ingredients: (Makes 18 to 20 sandwiched macarons)

  • 165g almond flour
  • 165g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 pinch of fine sea salt
  • 4 aged egg whites
  • 3g cream of tartar
  • 150g granulated sugar

Method

1. Fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly.

2. Put your egg whites, granulated sugar and cream of tartar into a bowl and whisk by hand over the saucepan. The mixing bowl should hover over the water without touching it.

3. Continue to whisk until the mixture reaches 55°C then remove from the heat and whisk until you get stiff glossy peaks. 

4. Pour in your sifted dry ingredients and mix at low speed with a spatula until the ingredients are all fully incorporated.

5. Pipe into circles on your baking tray and bake – same as before – at 95°C for 15 minutes then 175°C for 9 minutes.

Because Swiss meringue is much stiffer, it is more likely to give a ‘tail’ to your macarons when you’re piping them, so just keep an eye out if you choose to use this method.

[easy-social-share buttons=”facebook,twitter,pinterest,whatsapp” counters=0 style=”button” fullwidth=”yes”]

Troubleshooting Common Macaron Problems

Most of the common baking problems with macarons (assuming your ingredients were measured right!) come from something to do with heat, mixing or moisture.

I will try to walk you through the most common problems that create less than perfect macarons and help you find the right solution so it doesn’t happen again.

macarons-messed-up

Cracks In The Shell

Only bake one sheet of macarons in the oven at a time. If you try to bake more than one the humidity of each of them will affect the bake of the other one.

Also don’t try to pack too many shells onto one baking tray as it will create too much humidity in the oven. Keep them an inch apart. An 18” x 13” pan should hold 20 shells.

If your kitchen is humid, add a bit of extra powdered egg white or cream of tartar in to your mixture (carefully so you don’t let the air out)

If using aged egg whites make sure you let them get to room temperature before you use them as this will help remove some moisture as well. 

Rest your piped macaron shells for around 10 to 15 minutes before baking them

Lumpy Shells

This is a simple case of making sure you pulse, blend and sift your dry ingredients together as finely as possible and that the almond meal is dry and not oily.

Stained Or Dull Shells

This can often happen if or when the batter is mixed too much. It’s actually easier to work with when under-mixed than over-mixed. 

If it’s under-mixed, your batter might result in some peaks forming when you pipe it but you can easily get rid of these by tapping the bottom of your baking tin.

Over-mixed batter can’t be remedied though.

Sticky Feet

Let the shells cool completely before removing them from your baking tray.

If they still stick, they might be a little bit underbaked.

No Feet

Let your piped batter rest on the baking try for 10 to 15 minutes before baking so the base can ‘settle’ a bit and start to form the shell‘s feet.

“Sloped” Shells

Your shells aren’t getting an even heat distribution so are baking at different rates & you could have shells that are part over-baked and part under-baked. 

Wrinkled Shells Or Mixture Spreading Too Much

This is usually caused by low heat in the oven wreaking havoc with the moisture content and humidity levels. 

Conversely, heat being too high will give you shells that are small, stiff, dry and maybe burnt.

macarons-came-out-wrong

Flavouring Your Shells

The beauty of macarons is that you can try any combination of colours, shell flavours and fillings that you want. Here are some of my favourites.

Classic Flavours

  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Five Spice
  • Licorice
  • Pistachio
  • Vanilla

Floral & Herby Flavours

  • Lavender
  • Marigold
  • Mint
  • Rose

Fruity

  • Blackcurrant
  • Blueberry
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry

Coffee Shop

  • Espresso
  • Green Tea
  • Mocha

Savoury

  • Chilli
  • Parsley
  • Pink Peppercorn
  • Saffron
  • Sesame
  • Wasabi

chocolate-macaron-recipe

Filling Your Shells

Yes, the shells are amazing on their own but they are filled for a reason! And that reason is  because they taste delicious.

There are 4 types of filling that I’m going to cover. I’ve included the basic recipe for a ganache, a basic buttercream, caramel and a fruit filling. and below are the ways you can adapt each of these into a delicious recipe.

macaron-fillings-recipe

Ganache Filling For Macarons

Ganache is the beautiful, glossy result of correctly melting and mixing chocolate with cream.

It may also have some butter for extra richness or sugar syrup for more stability.

Simple Chocolate Ganache:

Ingredients: (Filling for about 20-25 cookies)

  • 120g plain or dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of double cream (about 150ml)
  • 2 level tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

Method: 

1. Warm the cream in a small saucepan at medium heat until it starts to boil and then combine it with the chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl and stir without creating bubbles until smooth.

2. Stir in the butter gradually and allow to set and chill in the fridge. Then get piping!

Other ganache filling ideas:

  • Chilli Chocolate
  • Chocolate Cinnamon
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Crunchy Cacao
  • White Chocolate Chai
  • White Choc Strawberry

Buttercream Filling For Macarons

This is a versatile, straightforward buttercream recipe that is light and fluffy and can go with virtually any flavour of shell. 

Sample Vanilla Buttercream Recipe:

Ingredients: (Filling for about 20-25 cookies)

  • 80g granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup (roughly 100ml) whole milk
  • 250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature
  • Vanilla beans/seeds from a pod

Method: 

1. Whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until the mixture is combined and reaches an off-white colour then add the milk and whisk to combine.

2. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan, and whisk over a low heat until the mixture is thick and has a custard-like texture.

3. Return the egg mixture to a bowl, and whisk until it reaches room temperature, then whisk in the butter a bit at a time. Add the vanilla and stir until combined and smooth.

Your buttercream is now ready to be piped onto your shells.

Other buttercream filling ideas:

  • Basil
  • Cherry Almond
  • Ginger
  • Lemon Curd
  • Maple
  • Sesame
  • Vanilla

Caramel Filling For Macarons

Caramel filling goes will the chocolate, vanilla or coffee shells, nutty ones and some fruit ones.

Simple Salted Caramel Recipe:

Ingredients: (Filling for about 20-25 cookies)

  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 50g double cream
  • 70g unsalted butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature
  • Sprinkling of salt crystals (Sea salt, rock salt, fleur de sel – whatever takes your fancy)

Method: 

1. Heat the cream until it just starts to boil and set aside.

2. Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan at medium-high heat and allow to dissolve without stirring until it reaches a caramel colour. When it reaches this stage, remove the pan from the heat and stir in your heated cream.  Put back onto the heat and stir constantly for about 1 minute.

3. Remove from the heat, add the butter and salt and stir until smooth and fully combined. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool in the fridge until you’re ready to pipe onto your shells.

Other caramel filling ideas:

  • Bannoffee
  • Blood Orange
  • Dark Choc Caramel
  • Fleur De Sel
  • Raspberry White Choc
  • Simple Salted Caramel

Fruit Filling For Macarons

If you’re going to use a common fruit filling – strawberry, raspberry, orange marmalade, apricot then there’s nothing wrong with the popular natural, good quality store-bought brands.

If you want to try something more exotic, like strawberry balsamic jam, then it’s useful to know how to put that together!

Strawberry Balsamic Jam Recipe

Ingredients: (Filling for about 20-25 cookies)

  • 200g fresh, chopped strawberries, washed
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Method: 

1. Crush the strawberry, lemon juice and sugar together in a saucepan and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Then bring the mixture to the boil over medium heat while stirring continuously.

2. Continue to cook and stir at medium heat until it reaches a jelly-like consistency.

3. Remove from heat and stir in balsamic vinegar. and allow the mixture to reach room temperature.

Making jams is honestly just fruit + sugar + lemon juice + flavouring = delicious jams.

Other fruit filling ideas:

  • Apple Cinnamon
  • Apricot Vanilla Jam
  • Blackbery Jelly
  • Ginger & Honey
  • Marmalade
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Strawberry Jam

Shopping List

We have gone through a lot of stuff in this article – and I hope it helped you understand the process of making macarons much more clearly and gave you a bit more inspiration to try them out yourself.

There was a lot of information, so if you don’t remember all the stuff you need, we’ve got your handy list below:

For My Fellow UK Readers

Our macaron baking kits have been extremely popular and have really helped master the craft of making macarons. We provide all the dry ingredients you need to master 3 delicious flavour combinations:

  • Strawberries & Cream: Strawberry macarons with real strawberry powder, and a vanilla ‘cream’ white chocolate ganache filling
  • Matcha Green Tea & Dark Chocolate: Matcha green tea macarons with a cinnamon spiced dark chocolate ganache
  • Lavender & Vanilla: Lavender macarons with a vanilla buttercream filling

You also get a ‘Mastering the Macaron’ booklet, a step by step recipe card for each of your bakes and a tidy little presentation box to share your masterpieces with your friends and family.

Macaron-Before-After-Small

learn-to-make-macarons-uk

order-now-button-3

Now Get Baking

You now have all the technical knowledge to be able to get started baking professional-level delicious macarons. All that’s left is to get started!

And we really look forward to seeing what you can come up with!

If you want to share it, we’re on Twitter and Instagram, both @homebakebox.

Happy Baking!

Abhi

One Last Thing

As with some of the other articles I write, a HUGE amount of time and effort has gone into making this post happen. 

If you wouldn’t mind smacking down on one of these beautiful share buttons below, that would be absolutely awesome. The more people reading these articles, the more I know it is being enjoyed and the more I will write for you!

[easy-social-share buttons=”facebook,twitter,pinterest,whatsapp” counters=0 style=”button” fullwidth=”yes”]