This French macaron troubleshooting guide contains everything you need to master the classic French treat: basic advice, countless expert tips, photos, recipes, and even access to a helpful video class!
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Years after publication, my ‘How To Make Macarons’ post is still one of the most popular posts on my blog. After answering hundreds (thousands?) of macaron-related questions over the years, I thought writing a macaron troubleshooting guide was in order.
The information presented on this page comes from years of macaron-making experience and from teaching how to make macarons to thousands of students, both online and in real life. I believe this continuously updated post will answer most (if not all!) questions you might encounter while making macarons, whether it’s your first time making the French delicacy, or you’ve made them several times but just encountered a new-to-you macaron issue. Macarons know how to play tricks on you, even when you think you’ve mastered them!
If you still have questions after reading this macaron troubleshooting guide, please send me a line or write a comment below.
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 French Macaron Video 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 lessons that 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 myself learned how to make macaron by watching a friend making them for me repeatedly, and I believe a live (or video!) demonstration is the best way to learn how to make macarons because you can see exactly the techniques, textures, and results you should aim for.
Over 5,000 students have taken my Skillshare class so far and the class gets overwhelmingly positive reviews. I’m confident that this video class will enable you to create perfect macarons. Enroll Now!
This macaron troubleshooting guide covers the French method for making macarons, as opposed to the Italian method. The French method is widely considered to be the “simpler” method to make macarons because it doesn’t require cooking the meringue, which is an extra step required by the Italian method. The French method can be a bit more temperamental though: to master it, you need to know exactly how far to beat egg whites, and exactly what the macaron batter should look like before piping. You can see both these pressure points explained and demonstrated in my French Macaron Video Class. If you’re having issues making macarons, please read through my macaron troubleshooting guide below, for help.
Here’s what a classic French macaron looks like:
Of course, few macarons adhere to all of these standards at once, except bakery macarons. Although it might be tempting to compare homemade macarons to the ones you see in bakeries, you should know that most bakery macarons are made with the help of a machine, which explains why they’re always exactly the same size. It’s hard to replicate the exact same standards at home, but it doesn’t mean your homemade macarons can’t be every bit as delicious as the ones you’ll find at renowned pastry shops. Your macarons sure won’t always look perfect, but they’re made by you, which is what makes them extra special. With practice, you’ll get better and better at folding the batter just so, piping the shells, and coming up with creative flavors.
My recipes (and most macaron recipes, in general) use large egg whites.
30 to 33 g per egg white.
I have tried pre-separated egg whites with very inconsistent results. I know other bakers who tried to use them as well without success. Maybe it’ll work for you, but it’s more likely that it won’t. Separate your own eggs, it’s easy.
There are many things you can do with leftover egg yolks. Fresh pasta is one of my favorites, but you can also make homemade mayo or aïoli, hollandaise sauce, creamy desserts such as crème brûlée or zabaglione, and many other recipes. Here’s a very useful resource that lists recipes according to the number of egg yolks you need to make them: Recipes to Use Up Extra Egg Yolks.
Gel food colorings and powdered food colorings are best to use in macaron recipes. Liquid food colorings have less coloring power, so you need to add more to reach the right color and risk adding too much moisture to the batter. You also need to make sure the food coloring you use is appropriate for baking. Some food colorings are made to be used in icings and won’t withstand the heat, changing the texture of your macaron shells, or browning them too quickly.
Cream of tartar is added to egg whites to help stabilize them and give them volume and strength. I personally never use cream of tartar (it’s not essential to the macaron recipe), but if you have trouble getting volume when you beat the egg whites, or if you feel like you never get the right batter consistency, try adding cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon for each white) once the whites are foamy, before adding sugar.
Yes, powdered sugar is necessary, you can’t substitute it for any other kind of sugar. You can’t omit powdered sugar from macaron recipes. Sugar is needed to create the meringue and reach the balance needed to get the best macaron texture. This article explains the mystical union of sugar and egg whites.
All brands of powdered sugar contain cornstarch. Low-cost dollar brands usually contain a higher ratio of cornstarch to keep the cost down, so it’s not recommended to use those brands to make macarons. Use a popular brand, but not one without cornstarch as a little of it is good to help balance moisture and ensure sturdy shells.
Yes it is. Almond meal and almond flour are simply almonds that have been ground very finely. Leftover almond meal should be kept in an airtight bag or container in the fridge so it doesn’t turn rancid.
Yes you can, but you should dry it first or it could cause you trouble making perfect macarons. Here’s a simple method to “dry” almond flour (excerpted from the book Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home): “If you store your flour in the refrigerator or freezer, drying it before using – to remove any moisture from storage – will improve the structure and shape of your macarons and reduce the risk of cracks. To dry your almond flour, preheat the oven to 200°F [95°C]. Spread the almond flour on a baking sheet and bake it for 30 minutes. Remove the flour from the oven and let it cool completely before proceeding with the recipe.”
Yes you can, but, says Hélène Dujardin of Tartelette, who regularly teaches macaron classes, “Try to keep a 50% ratio of almonds to other nuts. Almonds are the least oily of all nuts and they will keep the batter to the right consistency.” Try hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, or even peanuts for different and tasty results. You should always use unsalted nuts. For the best flavor, make sure to toast the nuts (and let them cool completely to room temperature) before using them in macarons.
Of course you can, if you don’t mind the extra work. Blanched almonds are best for macarons, but raw almonds work too, although their brown skin will alter the color of your shells. To grind the almonds/nuts, weigh them whole, then add them to a food processor along with the powdered sugar (which will prevent your nuts turning into butter). Process until very smooth, then sift as the recipe requires.
Yes, you can. There are many nut-free macaron recipes out there–here are (untested) resources to get you started.
Author Jill Colonna has also included a quinoa-based macaron recipe in her book, Mad About Macarons.
Silicon mats have long been used in professional kitchens, and you can now easily buy them for the home kitchen, too. Parchment paper has become ubiquitous in the kitchens of those who love to bake. Both products are popular among macaron bakers. Personally, I tend to find that the delicate macaron shells make them harder to peel off silicon mats, especially if the mats are not squeaky clean, so I prefer using parchment paper. I like that I get consistent results: my shells never get stuck to parchment paper. If you’re concerned about waste, you should know that you can reuse the same parchment paper sheets many times before throwing them away. Any brand of parchment paper works, but I favor using parchment paper sheets because they lay perfectly flat in standard half-sheet baking pans, which guarantees macaron shells won’t warp because of curled sheets.
No. Because of the delicate nature of macaron shells, you’ll need to be able to gently lift off them the parchment paper (or silicon mat). Plus, using butter would affect the flavor of the shells (which contain no fat).
No. Wax paper is not oven-proof, and macaron shells would stick to aluminum foil. As stated above, I recommend using a surface that allows you to peel the macaron shells right off without having to grease it.
I favor using disposable pastry bags because they are flexible thus easier to handle. Plus, they’re cheap and convenient: no cleanup required, although you can give disposable pastry bags a good rinse and reuse them a few times before throwing them away.
If you don’t like the idea of throwing away plastic bags, you can also go for reusable pastry bags. Make sure to use a bigger size (14” to 18”), which allows you to hold all of the macaron batter at once. Also, make sure to use reusable pastry bags that are lined with plastic so they don’t get stained by the food coloring. They’re also much easier to clean.
Stainless steel is easier to clean, and a squeaky clean bowl guarantees a stiff meringue. Says Stephanie Jaworski of Joy of Baking: “Stainless steel (…) does a good job of whipping and stabilizing the egg whites. Don’t use an aluminum bowl as it gives the beaten egg whites a grayish tinge as some of the aluminum does come off during beating. Plastic and glass are not good surfaces either as the whites tend to slip down the sides of the bowl and plastic attracts grease because of its porous surface.” If your bowl is just slightly greasy (which isn’t always noticeable to the eye or touch), it will prevent your egg whites from rising properly.
A classic stainless steel cul-de-poule is super versatile in the kitchen and will last you a lifetime. You don’t need a whole set, just one large bowl will be fine to handle most kitchen tasks.
Stainless steel is a very resistant surface. Although it’s true that, with use, it will show a slight patina, it won’t scratch per se, meaning nothing can penetrate stainless steel deeply. That’s why it’s the favorite working surface in professional kitchens.
You do not need expensive, nonstick baking sheets to make macarons. First, you’ll always line the baking sheets with either parchment paper or silicone mats, so the finish of the baking sheet isn’t important. Also, nonstick baking sheets are dark in color, and dark baking sheets attract more heat, browning what’s on them more quickly. Macarons bake at a low temperature, and what you don’t want at any cost, is browning. Therefore, basic aluminum half sheet pans (13 x 18 inch / 33 x 45 cm) are the best choice for making macarons. Aluminum half sheet pans are often sold in two-packs for less than $20. Look for them at professional kitchen equipment stores for the best deal.
Quality isn’t as important as quantity. Because you’ll always cover the baking sheets with parchment paper, you don’t need top-notch nonstick surfaces. Your good old battered sheets will do, but if you’re going to make macarons often, make sure you have at least 4 baking sheets (all of the same size), as each sheet much be doubled. One batter recipe will fill at least two sheets, so having two sets of sheets ready to use will allow you to pipe all your shells at once. If you need to buy baking sheets, here’s a good example of a basic and inexpensive, but good quality, baking sheet.
Some say doubling the baking sheets prevent the bottom of the shells to bake too quickly, which would make it too hard by “macaron standards”. It can also favor the formation of the infamous feet (or crown), which is another macaron standard that can be frustratingly hard to get. I personally don’t believe doubling baking sheets is necessary, but it’s one thing you can try if you have trouble getting feet.
Macarons aren’t exactly diet-friendly. After a quick research online, I’d estimate that one average 1¼-inch macarons contains about 200 calories. The powdered sugar is necessary to the macaron’s texture – and considering most macarons are assembled with buttercreams or fruit jams, it’s a treat you should indulge in with moderation, but savor with a slow appreciation of its texture and flavors. Indeed, you’ll never see Parisians scarfing down macarons! Don’t try to make macarons lighter; eat just one and enjoy it.
Aging egg whites mean separating the whites from the yolks, and storing the whites in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 to 2 days before using them to make macarons. Why do you need to age egg whites? “The reason behind it is to reduce the moisture content as much as possible while keeping the protein bonds from the egg whites the same,” says Hélène Dujardin. Macaron master Pierre Hermé also says that the aging process increases the whites’ elasticity. If you skip this step, you might end up with a runny or watery batter, which will not yield great results. So please age your egg whites, and take them out of the fridge a few hours before making macarons to bring them to room temperature before beating.
Hélène Dujardin has one: “When I get an urgent craving or an order for macarons and I do not have egg whites, I just microwave the fresh egg whites for 10-20 seconds on medium-high speed. It mimics the ageing process close enough to save the day.” I’ve never tried this tip, but if she says it works, I believe it does.
Drying or resting the macarons shells means to leave them uncovered, piped on the baking sheets, for 20 to 40 minutes, in a cool, dry place. This step will allow the batter to form a thin skin. The batter will look duller and it shouldn’t stick to your finger if you carefully touch it. Skipping this step could yield inconsistent results and cause all sorts of problems (no feet, warped shell, etc.). See also ‘Can I skip the resting period to make my macarons more quickly?’.
Humidity usually makes macaron making trickier because it prevents the shells to dry during the resting period. Many succeed in making macarons in these conditions anyway – but let’s just say the heart of summer isn’t the best time to make macarons, even if it’s just to avoid heating the oven.
Macaron powerhouses like Ladurée sell two sizes: small (diameter about 1.5” [3.75 cm]) or large (diameter about 3” [7.5 cm]). What’s important, however, isn’t the size, but uniformity. Choose a size and stick to it. Templates help making uniformly sized macarons; I provide links to printable templates in my All About Macarons page.
The best way to make uniformly sized macarons is to use a template. I provide links to printable templates in my All About Macarons page.
Here’s a scoop: the macaron shells themselves don’t have much taste, the reason being that the meringue/dry ingredient ratio must be respected and adding flavorings can offset the recipe and cause you to turn out macaron failure. According to French baking authority, Dorie Greenspan, who had the chance to work alongside Pierre Hermé, “Even though macarons come in a Candyland palette, they all taste pretty much the same because they’re all made from the same ingredients: egg whites, granulated sugar, powdered sugar and ground almonds. To get the full measure of a macaron, you have to make sure that each bite includes cookies and filling. You get texture from the cookies, but you get flavor from the filling.”
Pierre Hermé has indeed confirmed this in his Macaron book, where he says he spent years studying the intricacies of macarons, to finally figure out that the filling was key. Once he started concentrating on the fillings, he realized that he could extend the macarons’ range almost to infinity.
Macaron making is divided into four steps:
It’s best to prepare your filling in advance to make sure it’s set and cooled when you’re ready to fill the macarons. Doing so also divides the work and makes it seem less daunting. All in all, if your filling was made in advance, you should be finished within 2 hours. With experience you’ll get much faster to the point where you’re able to whip up a batch in no time. Practice, practice, practice!
The egg whites are beaten enough when they form a stiff peak when you lift your beaters out. The tip of the beak should not curl down (if it does, keep on beating). Properly beaten egg whites should defy gravity and remain in the bowl if you turn it upside down. If you tilt your bowl to the side and they are sliding out, keep on beating.
Be careful not to overbeat! They should not separate in chunks or appear dry. If they do, you’ve gone too far. For a visual cue, see my How-To video (at 2:08). Once the eggs are ready, fold in the dry ingredients right away as egg whites can deflate or separate quickly.
Here’s a tip from Stephanie Jaworski of Joy of Baking: “If you accidentally over-beat the egg whites, add one unbeaten white and whip again until stiff peaks form.” Remove 1/4 cup of egg white to come back to the original quantity needed in the recipe.
If you still can’t get a firm meringue, try adding cream of tartar (see ‘Is cream of tartar necessary?’)
Fold the batter with confidence. Some methods will tell you to fold an exact number of times, but I believe it’s all about the end result. To fold the almond mixture into the meringue, use a spatula to scrape to the bottom of the bowl, then bring the bottom to the top. Do this repeatedly until everything is well incorporated and no pockets of dry ingredients remain. See the folding motion in my How-To video (at 2:25). However, you definitely want to avoid beating the batter, because overbeating will make your batter too runny and cause all sorts of problems (batter spreading too much, no feet, etc.). See also ‘What is the right batter consistency?’ below.
You should add food coloring or flavorings (such as lemon peel, pistachio extract or matcha powder) to the egg whites before incorporating the almond/sugar mixture. As soon as your egg whites are stiff and ready, add the coloring or flavoring, fold the egg whites a few times, then start adding the almond/sugar mixture. As you incorporate the almond/sugar mixture, the color/flavor will spread evenly into the batter.
According to Hélene Dujardin, “It should form a thick ribbon that seems to flatten a bit when spooned but with a sturdy consistency.” Many compare the right batter consistency to molten lava. Remember that it’s always better to underbeat than the contrary: as you transfer the batter to the piping bag, and then pipe the shells onto the baking sheets, the batter will continue to thin. If you overbeat from the getgo, you’ll end up with cracked or feetless macarons.
You may have forgotten to age your egg whites, or perhaps you underbeat them, or you let the beaten egg whites rest for too long before incorporating the almond/sugar mixture (beaten egg whites deflate quickly).
It’s a well-known fact that ovens are not all calibrated the same way. Some overheat, others underheat: some ovens can even off 50°F [10°C]. We usually all get to know our own oven to deal with the discrepancy and, to be honest, many dishes that can withstand temperature variations. Not so with macarons.
Macarons are particularly sensitive to heat, so it’s crucial that you adjust cooking times according to your oven’s power. This may mean that your first batches will be overcooked or take lots longer to bake, but in the end, you’ll figure out your magic number, which should be between 285 and 315°F [140 to 160°C]. It’s best to bake macarons for a longer period of time so that the shells rise slowly but consistently. Some ovens have poor air circulation, making the temperature rise excessively, so it may help to keep the oven door slightly open (with the help of a wooden spoon) throughout the cooking process.
Your batter was too thin at piping time. Possible causes:
Some people have told me they skip the resting period and manage to get good looking macarons anyway, with feet and all. Maybe this is luck and I certainly wouldn’t recommend doing it: just like it’s necessary to rest a pie dough to get a good, flaky crust, the resting period is essential to produce a good, consistent macaron. Says Hélène Dujardin, “The rest period creates a slight air dried crust on the shells that traps in the heat at the base and pushes the edges upward, creating those little feet.” So yes, resting the shells before baking is necessary. Unless you have access to a commercial size oven, you’ll have to cook your shells in batches, so most of your macarons will get the chance to rest anyway. Use the first 20-minute wait to clean up your kitchen or have a cup of tea.
Probably because you underbeat the batter and it remained too stiff. If it is, no worries – as I said before, it’s better to underbeat than overbeat. If your shells remain pointy, just use a small pastry spatula to carefully smooth them out (see this technique in my How-To video, at 4:20).
Overmixing. It’s no catastrophe! Chances are the taste will still be perfect.
Never take the macarons out of the oven before the end of the cooking time. You can open the door and rotate the sheets, but never take them out. It’ll deflate the shells and no amount of additional cooking can fix this.
Properly baked macaron shells always feel a little too dry at first. The magic happens when macarons are filled, assembled and then left to mature for 24 hours. Says the master of macarons, Pierre Hermé, “As soon as macarons are made, they are not ready to eat, but they’re at their best after 24 or even 48 hours. An osmosis takes place between the garnish and the biscuit. When freshly baked, the shell is hard and crisp, but it absorbs some humidity from the filling and its insides become tender while the crust on the surface remains intact.” Just be patient, store your assembled macarons in an airtight container in the fridge for 24 hours, and you’ll see, your macarons will be fine (don’t forget to take them out early so that they come back to room temperature before you eat them).
Keep on cooking. It’s best to bake at a lower temperature (285 to 315°F [140 to 160°C], depending on your oven) for a longer period of time to ensure the shells cook through.
Don’t take them out of the oven and don’t raise the oven temperature. Just bake them longer! It’s best to bake at a lower temperature for a longer period of time so that the shells rise slowly but consistently.
Freshly made macarons are ready to be enjoyed after 24h of resting time (see explanation under ‘Shells seem too dry or crunchy’), and they should be eaten within 4 to 5 days. They should always be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge 15-20 minutes before eating so they come back to room temperature; that way, their flavor will be at its best.
If you plan on giving macarons as a gift, don’t forget to write a “best before” date on the packaging to make sure they will be enjoyed at their prime.
A little known fact is that macarons withstand freezing very well. Store assembled macarons in an airtight container, then freeze for up to one month. This is great because one batch makes many macarons. Once the macarons are frozen, you can take out the exact quantity you need and keep the other at their freshest. Simply let the macarons rest at room temperature for an hour and they’ll be ready to eat. Note that freezing works better with creamy fillings such as buttercreams and ganaches. Fillings that are more humid, such as jams, can excessively moisten the shells, making them lose their crunch completely. If you plan on filling your macarons with jam, you’re better off freezing the shells alone, then deforst and assemble them on the day you plan to serve them.
Here’s a list of the macaron recipes you’ll find on this blog:
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