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The most comprehensive guide to making perfect macaron shells every time. Includes tips and tricks, step-by-step method and FAQs about macarons.
Macarons – a word that causes dessert lovers to smile and bakers to run away in fear. These little treats, although incredibly delicious, can be difficult to master. That is, until you learn a few tips and tricks.
This step-by-step guide aims to teach you how to make perfect macarons every time. My tried and tested method is perfect for both beginners and more advanced bakers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are macarons?
Macarons are almond cookies made with a meringue base, that typically have a sweet filling. The confections are instantly recognisable through their smooth tops and ruffled circumference known as ‘feet’.
Macaron cookies are typically hard on the outside, and chewy in the inside. Fillings for macarons can range from ganache to fruit curd, buttercream or jams.
What's the difference between macaron and macaroon?
Macarons and macaroons are completely different types of cookies. Although they sound similar, the two are polar opposites in terms of origin and looks. Macarons [pronounced mah-ka-rohns] are French cookies made using almond flour and meringue. They are cookies with a smooth top, sandwiched with a sweet filling in the middle. By contrast, macaroons [pronounced mah-ka-roons] are American cookies made from desiccated coconut and egg whites. They are much more raggedy in aspect than macarons and are typically dipped in chocolate.
- French sandwich cookies
- Made with almond flour
- Contain egg whites and sugar
- Have a smooth, shiny top
- Have a sweet filling
- Are usually brightly coloured
- Require very exact quantities
- American round cookies
- Made with desiccated coconut
- Contain egg whites and sugar
- Have a raggedy, random aspect
- Don’t have any filling
- Have a natural beige colour
- Are not as exact in quantities
Are macarons hard to make?
Macarons are famous for being difficult to make, but I would argue against that statement. With patience, practice and a few tips and tricks you’ll be making perfect macarons in no time.
The little French biscuits are notorious for having a temper. Humidity, temperature and weather can have an impact on macaron shells.
Factors that influence how macarons turn out
- Temperature & humidity in your house
- Type of meringue used – French, Swiss or Italian
- Egg whites – warm, cold or aged
- Food colouring – liquid, gel or powder
- Type of oven or temperature (with or without fan)
What are macarons made of?
The ingredients used are very important for the final resulting macaron cookie. You must use good quality ingredients, as well as exact quantities in grams. Macarons are made of:
- Fine almond flour – made from blanched almonds, it is crucial you use high quality almond flour. The finer the flour, the smoother the macaron cookie will be. This is different from almond meal, which is typically much coarser. No other type of flour can be used for macarons.
- Icing or powdered sugar – It is essential the quantity of sugar in the macaron shells is not modified. The sugar to egg white ratio needs to be very precise. Ensure the powdered sugar is sieved before using.
- Egg whites – This recipe calls for the use of aged egg whites. Fresh egg whites can also be used, and both aged or fresh need to be at room temperature. Pro tip: separate the egg whites before weighing the desired quantity.
- Food colour – Although optional, food colouring does give macarons their cheerful look. Use gel or powder food colouring, never liquid. Using liquid food colouring will result in a very subdued colour or alter the wet to dry ratio.
- Water – Although this recipe calls for mineral (sparkling) water, plain water can also be used. Water is used to make the Italian meringue.
- Granulated sugar – As we are making an Italian meringue, granulated sugar is used to make a hot syrup with water.
Can I make macarons without almond flour?
Traditional macarons are made with only one type of flour – almond flour. Although in theory you can use a powder made from pumpkin seeds or rice flour, the texture and taste will not be the same. Plain flour or any other alternatives cannot be used.
Can I make macarons without icing sugar?
Completely removing icing sugar from the recipe will change the chemical composition of the macarons. Unfortunately sugar cannot be replaced, but it can be marginally reduced. This recipes calls for 200g of sugar in the macaron shells, and it can be reduced to 180g by adding 20g of rice flour.
However, I strongly encourage you to simply reduce the sweetness of the filling instead of altering the cookie.
Tips and tricks to make perfect macarons
As I mentioned earlier, making macarons is difficult unless you follow some nifty tips and tricks. These tips come from my own experience of making and failing at macarons on multiple occasions. Ever since I’ve started using them, my macarons have been perfect each time.
Macaron pro tip 1: weigh your ingredients
Although some recipes are forgiving, macarons aren’t as much. Use grams as a measurement for accuracy. Unfortunately, with macarons even a few grams deviation from the recipe can result in less than perfect macaron shells. Measure everything beforehand using a kitchen scale in grams.
Macaron pro tip 2: use quality ingredients
Ensure you use high quality ingredients, especially extra fine blanched almond flour. Coarse ground almonds will result in lumpy macarons and an uneven surface.
Even if you’re using fine almond flour, always process and sieve your ingredients. Simply pulse the almond flour with the icing sugar a few times until you obtain a fine powder. Make sure not to over-process the almond flour, as it can start releasing oil when heated. Also, it’s important to sieve the almond flour to remove any extra lumps.
Macaron pro tip 3: age the egg whites
So what does it mean to age egg whites?
Ageing egg whites means separating the whites from the egg yolk, then resting them in the fridge for a few days. This process makes the proteins in the egg whites can relax, making them more stable for whipping. By resting the egg whites in the fridge for a longer period, the moisture content also lowers. This means that there are less chances the macarons will have cracks on top.
Although aged egg whites are optional, I highly recommend this method. If you know you’re making macarons a few days in advance, it’s well worth preparing your eggs in advance.
To age eggs, simply separate the egg whites from the yolks – careful not to have any yolk into the egg white. Then place the whites into a clean, grease-free glass bowl and cover with some cling film. Pierce the cling film 3-4 times with a skewer, then let the bowl rest in the fridge.
How long should I age egg whites for?
The minimum resting time is 24 hours, but I recommend at least 3-4 days. According to Pierre Hermé, the optimal ‘ageing’ time for egg whites is 1 week.
Macaron pro tip 4: use Italian meringue
Traditionally, macarons are made with French meringue. This method results in flat top macarons, but is more temperamental due to the unstable meringue. Using an Italian meringue as the base for macarons results in a rounder shell. The meringue is more stable, allowing for an easier control during macaronage (mixing of the batter). With this method, the macaron ‘feet’ are also much more even, with less air gaps.
Macaron pro tip 5: take your time with macaronage
What is macaronage?
Macaronage is the process of preparing the macaron batter by mixing almond powder into the meringue. The process implies carefully folding the mixture as to not deflate too much air from the meringue. If done correctly, the final batter should be shiny and flowing in ribbons.
In order to macaronage, start by adding 1/3 of the meringue over the almond flour. Fold the two with a spatula in order to combine them. It’s crucial you do not mix too vigorously and take your time with this very important step. Once the first 1/3 of the meringue is combined, add the rest of the meringue and fold the mixture with a spatula. To do this, run your spatula around the edges of the bowl, then through the middle of the batter. In essence, we want to “lift” the batter from the base of the bowl to the top, not mixing randomly.
The perfect macaron batter consistency
A lot of people refer to the perfect consistency as ‘flowing lava’, but let’s be honest – who has actually seen lava?! Instead, I like to refer to the figure 8 method. The batter is ready when it flows in a continuous ribbon from the spatula. Try drawing a figure 8 with the batter, with the ribbon of batter not breaking off the spatula. The figure 8 should hold its shape for around 15-20 seconds before disappearing into the rest of the batter. If in doubt, it’s better to under-mix a little than go too far and have the batter turn too liquid.
If you’ve gone too far with your mixing, I’m afraid there’s not much that can be done to salvage the batter. The macarons will become very flat and unlikely to have feet if the batter is too liquid.
Alternatively, if you’ve under-mixed the batter, the macarons will be a bit more rough or lumpy in appearance. You might also end up getting a cracked shell, but the cookie will still taste great.
PRO TIP: once the batter is the right consistency, STOP mixing. Pay attention not to handle the batter too much when transferring it into a piping bag.
Macaron pro tip 6: Rest your macarons
What does resting macarons mean?
Resting macarons involves letting them dry out at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes. The resting time required can differ according to the temperature and humidity level in your house. It can also differ on the size of the macarons.
Macarons have rested enough when a thin film forms over the top of the shell. To test this, gently run your finger over the top of the macaron. If they no longer feel sticky, then your macarons are ready for baking.
Why should I rest macarons before baking?
Resting macarons is important for the integrity of the macaron. By resting the shell, the top of the macaron hardens, so air cannot escape through the top when baking. In return, the air will escape through the bottom, creating the famous macaron ‘feet’. Therefore, in addition to creating the famous feet, resting macarons also ensures there are no cracks in the shells.
How to make macarons
Step 1 - Prepare your dry ingredients
The first thing to do when making macarons is ensuring all the dry ingredients are ultra fine and lump free. To do this, pulse the almond flour and icing sugar in a food processor a few times until fine and combined. As I said previously, try not to over-pulse, as this will make the almonds oily.
Afterwards, I feel the need to say this three times: sieve, sieve, SIEVE your dry ingredients. After pulsing, the ingredients need to be sieved 2-3 times to ensure there are no unwanted lumps or large bits.
Step 2 - Prepare the Italian meringue
When making any meringue, it’s crucial to remember to use a squeaky clean bowl. Traces of dirt or grease will prevent the meringue from forming properly.
To prepare the Italian meringue, start by heating up the water and sugar to make a syrup. There’s no need to stir the syrup, as the water will prevent the sugar from crystallising. It is important to use a candy or infrared thermometer to measure the correct temperature for the syrup. Once the syrup reaches 110-115C, start whipping up the egg whites. By the time the syrup reaches 118C, the eggs should have formed soft peaks.
Slowly start adding the syrup over the meringue, dripping it on the side of the bowl whilst whipping continuously. Continue whipping until the bowl cools to room temperature and the meringue has reached stiff peaks.
Step 3 - Mix the egg whites into the dry ingredients
As you will notice in the recipe below, half of the egg whites are reserved apart from the meringue. These whites will help combine the almond flour and the meringue. This is also the stage where we can add the food colouring.
The best food colouring to use is either gel or powder. I would advise caution with using liquid food colouring as it can alter the wet to dry ratio if too much is used. Furthermore, gel and powder food colours will result in much more vibrant colours.
Step 4 - Start folding the meringue into the almond flour
This is where the process gets tricky and you need to have patience. Start by adding 1/3 of the meringue over the almond flour, then fold it until you get a thick paste. It doesn’t have to be fully incorporated, as we will be adding more meringue.
Add the remaining meringue over the paste, and start the macaronage. Fold the batter in over itself, starting from the sides of the bowl. Press the batter through the middle, dragging the spatula towards you. Please remember to be very gentle at this stage, as we do not want to deflate more air than necessary.
Stop when the ‘figure 8’ consistency has been achieved. For more details on the perfect consistency, check out Macaron pro tip #5 higher up in this post.
Step 5 - Pipe the macarons
Transfer the batter into a large piping bag fitted with a 1 cm (1/2 inch) round nozzle. Be careful when doing this so you don’t deflate more air from the batter.
On a baking sheet (or silicone mat), pipe dollops of batter around 4 cm in diameter (1.5 inches). Pro tip: to secure the baking paper to the tray, put a little bit of batter under each corner. When piping the macarons, ensure the piping bag is perpendicular to the baking paper. This will ensure a perfectly round size in the dollops of batter. Ensure you leave 1-inch (2 cm) space in between each macaron, as they will grow slightly when baked.
If you would rather not freehand the macarons, place a template underneath the baking paper. Download my A4 template below for 3 and 4 cm macarons (1.25 – 1.5 inch).
Step 6 - Gently tap the tray to remove air bubbles
This step is important to ensure your macarons have no air pockets that can cause the shells to crack. To remove the air bubbles, you can either:
- Tap the back of the tray on each side a few times
- Rap the tray onto your work surface a few times
Step 7 - Let the macarons rest
Resting your macarons is essential to create the famous ‘feet’. To do this, simply leave the macarons out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The time it will take for them to dry varies depending on temperature and humidity levels, but generally it should be between 30-60 minutes. Read more about the importance of resting your macarons under Macaron pro tip #6. Try not to leave the macarons drying for too long, as this can cause uneven feet to develop during baking.
Your macarons are ready to bake when they are no longer sticky to the touch and have a thin film over the top.
Step 8 - Baking the macarons
Now that the hard parts are over, we can bake the macarons. The ideal temperature for baking macarons is generally around 170-180C (340-360F). This can, however, vary according to your oven. For example, ovens with fans or ventilation generally have a higher temperature by 20C. If you have the fan on in your oven, adjust the temperature to 150-160C (300-320F).
In a normal household oven, it’s best you bake only one tray at a time to ensure even baking throughout. Generally, macarons will be ready within 12 minutes, but this can vary. Keep an eye on your macarons from the 10 minute mark.
Once the macarons are inside the oven, it’s essential you don’t open the oven until the feet have formed (typically halfway through). Afterwards, for the remaining 5-6 minutes, open the oven door very quickly twice to let some of the steam out.
After the macarons have baked, take the tray out and let it cool for at least 15-20 minutes before attempting to remove the shells. Removing the shells whilst still hot might make them stick to the bottom, ruining the perfectly smooth finish.
Step 9 - Fill macarons with your filling of choice
Macaron fillings can vary from ganache, to fruit curds, jams or buttercream. You can get creative and use any flavours you enjoy. A word of caution, however – the shells are already quite sweet, so I advise you make the filling less sweet.
Add your filling of choice by using a piping bag fitted with a round 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) nozzle. Pipe a dollop smaller than the size of the macaron in the middle of the shell, then sandwich with another macaron. Gently twist the top macaron over the bottom, slightly squeezing the filling until it’s even with the size of the shell.
Step 10 - Chill macarons before serving
When freshly baked, macarons will have a tough shell. To achieve the melt-in-the-mouth consistency macarons are so famous for, the little shells need time in the fridge. After filling the macarons with your filling of choice, Place them in an airtight tupperware or container. Let macarons chill at least 12 hours in the fridge.
Chilling the macarons will ensure that the shell softens slightly from the filling, giving it that famous chewy texture. The filling will also have time to ‘rest’ and maximise the flavour.
Remove the macarons from the fridge 1 hour before serving.
How to store macarons
Macarons can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days for maximum freshness. However, it’s important to store them in optimal conditions to ensure their taste and texture remain intact. If you need your macarons to stay fresh for longer than 3 days, you may want to consider freezing them – see below.
Firstly, macarons should always be placed in an airtight container (see below), to prevent them from absorbing any of the fridge smell. Secondly, macarons should be kept away from moisture, as it will soften the shell and make it gooey.
There are a few ways of storing your macarons in the fridge after filling them:
- Tupperware airtight container – To prevent macarons from breaking or getting a ‘soggy bottom’ I recommend placing them in one layer only. Stacking macarons can cause the shells to crack once they soften a little in the fridge.
- Macaron boxes – These nifty little boxes are ideal for storing macarons, as they were designed specifically for this purpose. They hold each macaron in individual slots, ensuring it cannot get squashed or damaged.
Regardless of what type of container you use, you need to remember that once filled, macarons need to be stored in the fridge. No matter what type of filling you’re using (ganache, curd or buttercream), for health & safety reasons macarons need to be placed in the fridge. Macarons will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days if stored accordingly.
Can I freeze macarons?
Yes, macarons can be frozen. Macarons can take some time to make, which is why you may want to prepare them in advance. If so, you can look at freezing the whole macaron (filled) or just the shells. Frozen macarons can be stored in the freezer for up to 3-4 months.
There are multiple ways of freezing macarons, here are some:
Freezing filled macarons
Not all types of fillings are suitable for freezing. The fillings that can be frozen are buttercream and chocolate ganache, as they behave well once thawed. Curds are not suitable for freezing, as the texture can be ruined and the curd can split once thawed. Jams and fruit jellies are not ideal for freezing because they release a lot of moisture when thawed. This, in turn, causes the macaron shells to become much too soft or gooey.
When freezing filled macarons, ensure they are placed in a single layer in a shallow airtight container. Best practice is to place the macarons on their side, so as to prevent freezer burn.
Freezing macaron shells
The process is similar to freezing filled macarons. Store macarons in an airtight container, placing them on their side. The shells will remain fresh for up to 3-4 months.
To unfreeze, simply place the unopened frozen container in the fridge for 2-3 hours to thaw the macarons.
Easy Macarons Recipe Step by Step Guide
- 100 g fine almond flour
- 100 g icing sugar
- 36 g egg whites (for mixing) aged*
- 100 g granulated sugar (for meringue)
- 25 g mineral water (for meringue)
- 36 g egg whites (for meringue) aged*
- In a food processor, pulse the ground almonds and icing sugar. Sieve to discard any large pieces, ensuring the final weighed quantity is after sieving.
- Mix the first part of egg whites with the food colouring and add over the ground almonds without mixing.
- Heat up the water and sugar up to 118C over medium heat. When the syrup reaches 115C start whipping your egg whites up to medium peaks. When the syrup reaches 118C, start adding it slowly into the meringue, mixing continuously until it reaches hard peaks. Let the mixture cool down to 50C before incorporating it into the almond mixture.
- Now we need to macaronage. Fold the mixture in over itself with a spatula, pushing it from the middle towards the edges of the bowl. Stop when the mixture resembles the texture of lava and can create a continuous ribbon that doesn’t break off the spatula.
- Place the mixture into a piping bag and pipe dollops of 3.5cm in diameter on a lined baking sheet, leaving a minimum of 2cm between each macaron.
- Gently tap the baking sheet onto your work surface to remove any air. Let the macarons air dry for a minimum of 30 minutes, or until the surface is not sticky anymore.
- Pre-heat the oven to 150-160C (with fan) or 170-180C without fan. Place the macarons in the middle of the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Throughout baking, open the oven door twice very quickly to let some of the steam out.
- Once baked, slide the shells with the baking paper off the tray (to stop cooking) and let them cool on the work surface.
- After filling the shells, let them rest in the fridge for 24 hours, then remove at room temperature 2 hours before serving.
- Aged egg whites are whites that have been separated from the yolks and placed in a bowl. The bowl is then covered with cling film and rested in the fridge for a few days (ideally 1 week).
- Please see post body for detailed step by step guide with photos, as well as macaron FAQs, tips & tricks.