French Macarons are a delicacy I am completely crazy about. Since I can’t always be in Paris close to my favorite pastry-chef, Pierre Hermé, I have decided to make my own. It’s not an easy task, and it needs a lot of patience. I learned how to make them in Paris, but when I came back I searched around the internet for some recipes providing the perfect ratios. I learned the hard way that French macarons are capricious little wonders: add a bit of this or that, and your delicate balance tips over; I’ve seen my share of overbaked, flat, cracked or overinflated numbers coming out of my oven. No recipe is universal, and the most important thing is to go slow. Try cautiously with your own instruments, ingredients and oven. You will need to make more than once before achieving perfection. If they were so easy to do, wouldn’t everyone make them?
When I was looking around for recipes, I found plenty but few had illustrated steps to guide you through what’s okay or not in terms of texture, color, and result. Since you can’t always have an experienced teacher showing you the first time, I figured I would allow you to benefit from my apprentissage and help you get to a happy result more quickly.
No single source can be given as a base for my recipe. I have gathered dozens left and right, tested and tasted and ended with my own proportions. Now I (almost) always make them successfully, so this is a good base to start with. I will guide you through the rest.
Are You Having Trouble Making Macarons?
Since first publishing this post, struggling macaron-makers have asked me every question under the sun. After over two years (and hundred of comments!), I’ve decided to close the comments on my macaron posts, but I’m not leaving you an excellent resource: I’ve gathered the most frequently asked questions I’ve been asked about French macarons in one single post: A Macaron Troubleshooting Guide: Useful Tips and Advice to Master the French Delicacy. If you’re having any trouble making French macarons, chances are you’ll find answers in that post. You can also read through the comments left below, I did my best to reply to all of them and many (if not all!) macaron issues are covered in there as well.
If I missed something, send me a note and I promise I will keep on editing the troubleshooting post once in a while!
Learn How to Make French Macarons on Video
If you want to SEE someone make macarons before you take on the project of making your own, my Skillshare video class is for you:
I designed my Skillshare class both for novice bakers who want to learn new skills, and for experienced bakers who are seeking to master a new and impressive dessert. The class is divided into 15 short videos that will show you the essential equipment you need, the important steps to follow, the techniques to master, and the potential pitfalls to avoid. You can watch the videos on your own time, start practicing, share with other budding macaron makers, and ask me questions if you encounter difficulties along the way.
I’m confident that this video class will enable you to create perfect French macarons. Enroll Now and get unlimited access for 3 months for only $0.99!
See also my “All About Macarons” page for more resources and links.
Full disclosure: This post contains referral links. When you buy tools, ingredients and books through my links, I am earning a small referral fee that helps me keep on producing quality content for Food Nouveau. Thanks for your contribution!
French Macarons: The Basic Recipe
These ingredients will make the shells. This is the base and what’s hardest to master. You should try to successfully bake a couple recipes of basic French macarons before trying to mix in other flavors.
Makes about 60 small (1.35-inch [35 mm] diameter) cookies, or 30 assembled macarons.
3 egg whites (from large eggs), separated at least 24 hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator
210 g powdered sugar
125 g almond meal
30 g regular granulated sugar
What you need – equipment:
It’s best to gather all the equipment you need before starting. Yes, I did have to buy some of these tools before making my first French macarons. The good thing is that none of the following tools are specific to making macarons so your new gadgets will help you make many other great desserts. Please, do take this excuse and go shopping. :)
- Kitchen scale (yes, you do need to measure in grams, it’s more precise and in fact, crucial to macaron success)
- Food processor (really nice to have but not mandatory)
- Hand mixer or stand mixer
- Fine mesh strainer
- Big stainless steel bowl (cul-de-poule)
- A second big mixing bowl
- Silicon spatula
- Pastry bags (I prefer using disposable bags)
- Round pastry tips (1/2 to 3/4 inch opening)
- Large baking sheets, preferably 2 to 4 of them
- Parchment paper
- Gel food coloring, if desired
A couple of days before you plan to make macarons: Prepare the eggs: Separate them, putting the whites in a clean airtight container and reserving the yolks for another use. Now, the egg whites must “age”: they need to spend at least 24h (up to 5 days) in the refrigerator before you use them.
The morning of the day you plan to make macarons: Take the egg whites out of the refrigerator and leave them to temper at room temperature for several hours.
Making the cookies:
Measure the powdered sugar and almond meal and put them in the bowl of your food processor. Finely grind the two together for a minute or two. Stop the processor, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and process again for a minute.
Yes, you need to do this even though both ingredients are already powdered. This step blends the sugar and nuts perfectly together and gets rid of bigger bits that often remain in packaged almond meal.
You can grind your own almonds, just make sure they are peeled. Also, make sure you very finely grind them (add the powdered sugar to the almonds when they are coarsely ground to make sure you don’t end up with a paste).
If you don’t have a food processor, you can still make macarons, but make sure to really thoroughly blend the almonds and sugar together. The consequence is that the texture of your macarons won’t be as soft and smooth.
After processing the powdered sugar and almond meal, you have to sieve the mixture. This is really important (especially if you don’t have a food processor) as it will get rid of the remaining bigger bits and ensure a smooth batter. You will see some of the almond refuses to pass though your sieve (see picture below). Don’t try to force it through; it’s ok to throw it away. The quantity shouldn’t be significant enough to unbalance your recipe.
Set this bowl aside and take the bigger stainless steel bowl out. This kind of bowl is called a cul-de-poule in French and they are so useful in a kitchen that, if you don’t have one already, you simply really should invest in a couple of them (different sizes). Stainless steel bowls helps egg whites get fluffy and firm.
Make sure your bowl is cold. Stainless steel usually remains cold by itself, but if it’s not, rinse it under cold water (or stick it in the freezer for a couple of minutes) and dry it before continuing. A cold bowl also makes egg whites happy.
Make sure the granulated sugar is measured and close to your working area. Put the egg whites in the bowl. Start beating them at medium/high speed with your mixer. Once they start to get bubbly and white and you see the whisk is lightly leaving marks, add a tablespoon of the granulated sugar.
Continue beating and add the remaining sugar slowly over the next minute or two. The eggs will now be white and fluff but not stiff enough. Continue beating at high speed until peaks form and remain up when you take out the whisk (stop the mixer before trying this!). When the egg whites are ready, you’ll notice that they seem dense and creamy and not as bubbly anymore. Here’s what they look like:
Now is the time to put your electric appliances aside. Your egg whites are delicate and you must treat them gently. If you wish to add color, now is the time to do so. If using, gently fold in the color using a spatula: slide your spatula on the side of the bowl under the egg whites and bring the bottom up to the top. Repeat this until the color is evenly blended. DO NOT whisk at any cost as it will deflate your egg whites and your batter will be ruined. At this point, the color of your batter (if you added food coloring) should be at least as intense as you want the final macaron to be. It will fade a bit when you add the almonds/sugar mixture.
The batter is now matte, light and fluffy:
Continuing the folding motion, start mixing in the dry ingredients a little at a time (you should add the whole thing in 4 or 5 additions). Carefully blend everything together, always sliding the spatula to the bottom of the bowl and back up to make sure no pockets of dry ingredients remain.
When the batter is evenly blended, it will look shiny and creamy:
Prepare the baking sheets. Double the baking sheets (helps macarons rise and cook more evenly) then cover each with a well-measured sheet of parchment paper. I have tried silicon mats before and I like them to make macarons. Their rubbery texture seems to cling to the delicate and somewhat sticky cookies so that you more often than not end up with empty shells (the tender insides remaining stuck to the silicon).
Now is the time to fit the pastry bag with its tip. I like to use disposable pastry bags that I wash 3-4 times before getting rid of them. I find that plastic pastry bags are more flexible and easier to work with than textile bags. They are also really easy to clean just by letting hot water run through them and they don’t stain.
To make the transfer from bowl to pastry bag easy, I stand the pastry bag in a measuring cup, folding or twisting the tip to make sure the batter doesn’t come out too quickly. If the pastry bag you are using is long, fold down the top part of the bag (like a cuff) to make it easier to push the batter to the bottom of the bag.
Take the pastry bag out of the cup, keeping the tip folded or twisted so that the batter doesn’t come out. Unfold the larger end of the bag and twist it shut close to the batter to push it down. As you pipe the macarons on the lined cooking sheets, you will continue this motion (twisting the larger end of the bag with one hand) to put constant pressure on the batter and ease its way out on the sheet.
Now is the time to learn a neat little trick: you need to hold the tip of the pastry bag with one hand to guide it, and hold the larger end with your other hand to push the batter down. Place the tip very close to the parchment paper, holding the bag upright, and twist the end of the bag so as to push the batter down and out to form 1 to 1.5” disks. You can set your macarons pretty close together as they won’t expand while cooking. When enough batter is out, stop twisting the end of the bag and swiftly lift the tip up to stop the batter from coming out. This is tricky: you will need practice. Mastering this technique will ensure your macarons are uniform in size and round.
Now, don’t panic. Your macarons may have a pointy tip that makes them look like lazy Hershey’s Kisses. Not to worry: as they rest before cooking, they will smooth out. You can also help the process: firmly bang each baking sheet on the countertop a few of times. This will even out the caps and take the air bubbles out of them.
If you’re a perfectionist like I am, you can even edit your macarons to make sure they will be perfectly round. I use a small silicon spatula to round uneven caps or smooth down tips that won’t come down. This step is absolutely not mandatory; imperfection can be very charming.
The next step will once again test your patience: you need to let the piped, unbaked macarons rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes (some say a couple hours is best but I’m not that patient). You just have to. This step will “dry” the caps and help them rise later when they cook.
Halfway through the wait, preheat the oven between 275° and 300°F (135-150°C). Every oven behaves differently. I have a gas oven and 300°F (150°C) is generally good for me. In some ovens, this temperature can be too hot, especially for light-colored macarons (you don’t want them to brown). I prefer to play it safe, cook them at a lower temperature and leave them longer in the oven. To find out which temperature works best in your own oven, you will need to do a few tests and watch the macarons closely as they bake.
I baked these vanilla bean macarons at 300°F (150°C) for 14 minutes. The average cooking time is between 13 and 18 minutes. From 12 minutes on, watch closely, and avoid opening the oven door before that. The macarons are ready when they look dry and matte and seem firm on their crown when you lightly tap on them. Overcooking the macarons will make them too crunchy and feel like meringue. Undercooking them will make them separate when you try to lift them off the sheets. I know, it’s tricky! After a while, you will know your oven and get better at figuring when your macarons are done. In any case, please play it safe when setting your oven temperature. Excessive heat is the macaron’s worst enemy: they will cook too quickly, cracking like meringue and browning, losing their beautiful color.
When they are done, take the sheets out of the oven and let them cool on a rack. If you need to reuse your baking sheets for the next batch, let them cool 5-10 minutes in the baking sheet and then lift the parchment paper out of the sheet to set it directly on the cooling rack (this is why it’s good to have more than 2 sheets).
Once cooled to room temperature, the macarons are ready to be assembled.
When they are perfectly cooked, they should lift easily from the parchment paper, have a flat bottom and a beautiful puffy crown. If they stick a bit, help them up with a thin stainless steel spatula so that they don’t separate or break. If they’re a bit overcooked, they will be hollow under the cap. You can still use them, you’ll just have to put more cream to assemble them (yum!).
Match the cap sizes that fit best together. For the filling, the possibilities are as great as your imagination is. For vanilla macarons, you can fill them up with a vanilla buttercream as I did, or twist things up and use a fruit-flavored filling. If you made pink cookies, fill them up with good-quality raspberry preserves or, if you feel decadent, with a mixture of mascarpone cheese and preserves. The only thing that’s important is to make sure the filling is firm enough to not drip out from the macarons. A well-executed French macaron should not lose its filling if you stand it on its side.
Using an icing spatula (or just a regular butter knife) spread some filling on one cookie. Place the second cookie on the icing and press gently to stick them together.
Once all of the macarons are assembled, you should put them in an airtight container, store them in the refrigerator, and let them rest for another 24 hours. Yes, you need patience once again. They won’t be bad if you eat them right away. But letting French macarons rest with their icing in is what reveals their appealing texture. The humidity of the icing gets into the crispy caps and that’s what makes them crisp on the outside and so tender on the inside. Try to be patient, trust me, it’s really worth the wait. The good thing is that it’s a great dessert to make in advance and it will for sure impress your guests. They will be at their best if you eat them within the next 2 to 3 days.
Yes, these French cookies are a really fancy delicacy. No, they’re not easy to make. Yes, they require time, patience, and practice to master. But it’s really worth it, and making them at home is way less expensive than a plane ticket to Paris.