Before I start I must warn you, this is quite a longy. But I wanted it to be! This guide is designed to help you if you have never made macarons before, or if you have made them before but they have never turned out right. I’ve tried to make it as comprehensive as possible, but also straight forward. I would definitely recommend reading it all the way through before you start making your macarons. I’ve even included some GIF’s to try and demonstrate some of the process a bit better.
Before you start, get all of your ingredients and equipment out. It helps so much while making macarons if you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to measure things out, or get bowls out of the cupboard, or get your piping bags sorted.
You can jump around this post to the following sections:
A flat baking tray
A template for piping the macarons (optional)
Parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet (NOT wax paper!)
A round piping nozzle
A piping bag
Food processor (again optional but will create better results if used)
2 big non-plastic bowls (stainless steel or Pyrex/glass is ideal)
A freestanding mixer or an electric handheld whisk (you can use a manual hand whisk if you’re feeling brave!)
It is important to use the correct equipment when making macarons. They are temperamental little things. I have briefly explained the reason why each piece is important below.
Kitchen scales – It is important that each ingredient is measured accurately as the balance of ingredients is critical in macarons. If there is too much or too little almond meal or sugar, it can throw the meringue mixture off and ruin a batch before you’ve even started.
Flat baking tray – If the surface that you bake on is not totally flat, the macarons will rise at funny angles and may look like they are folded. A flat surface should help with even rising and the classic flat tops.
Parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet – These are the ideal surfaces for the macarons to bake on as they won’t stick. They also provide for easy removal at the end.
Piping nozzle – Ensures you get nice even circles when piping.
Template for piping the macarons – optional but will ensure your macarons are evenly sized if you’re a beginner. You can download and print one I made below:
Food processor – This is an optional step but it helps to get your icing sugar and almond meal as finely ground as possible to create the smoothest macaron tops you can.
Sieve – Absolutely essential for thoroughly sifting and mixing your almond and icing sugar mixture. You don’t want ANY big lumps left in there.
Spatula – For mixing the egg whites and the almond mixture together, a spatula is essential for folding correctly (the process is called “macaronage” – we’ll come onto that in a bit!).
2 big non-plastic bowls – You want to make sure your bowls are big enough for the egg whites to expand and to have enough room to thoroughly fold the mixture. The reason non-plastic is important is for the egg whites. In order to achieve a good meringue, the egg whites must not come into contact with any sort of fat or oil at all. Plastic has a tendency to absorb a slight residue from previous uses, and so doesn’t really work as a clean dry surface for this particular recipe. Stainless steel is the best, but glass or Pyrex are also fine.
A freestanding mixer or electric hand mixer – This is for whisking up the egg whites. The electric mixers have a lot more power than we can introduce by hand, so they are particularly good for beating air into the egg whites. That being said, of course you CAN do this with a hand whisk but it will take a lot longer and it is hard work!
The ingredients listed below are for making plain macaron shells. While a few macaron recipes have flavouring in the shells (such as chocolate macarons that use cocoa powder), plain shells are far more typical, as the flavour normally comes from the filling. This recipe can be used for any flavour macaron and coloured to your heart’s desire!
2 Egg whites
100g Ground almonds (almond meal)
110g Icing sugar (also called powdered sugar or confectioners sugar)
40g Caster sugar
Gel food colouring (optional, but not liquid colouring)
Egg whites – There are a lot of different methods and opinions about egg whites. Should they be aged? What does aged even mean? Cold? Room temperature? Weighed? So I am sure there are benefits to all of the above things, however, I also want to make things as simple as possible, so I do not age my egg whites and I’ve never had a problem with my macarons. I also don’t weigh them, I just use two medium to large eggs and separate the whites. I do let them come to room temperature so that everything in the mixture is the same temperature. The most important thing is ensuring that there is no trace of egg yolk in the white mixture at all.
Ground Almonds – You can buy bags of ground blanched almonds in almost any supermarket. Sometimes it is called almond meal, sometimes almond flour and sometimes just ground almonds.
Icing Sugar – Also called confectioners sugar or powdered sugar.
Caster Sugar – For adding to the egg whites to make the meringue shiny and lovely.
1. Get all of your ingredients measured and all of your equipment set up.
2. Put the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz on a high speed for one minute. Scrape the sides of the processor down and blitz for a further minute. It is important to put the ground almonds and icing sugar in the processor together, and not just the ground almonds on their own, as this would make almond butter. After they are processed, sieve thoroughly into one of your big bowls. Put aside.
3. Separate the eggs into another glass or stainless steel bowl, ensuring that you have only egg white in the bowl. Start whisking the egg whites either in a freestanding mixer or with an electric hand whisk on a medium to high speed. You really want to get the air into the mixture. When they are just frothy, add the first bit of caster sugar. You want to add it in roughly three equal parts, whisking in between to give it some time to combine thoroughly.
4. When you have soft peaks (see picture below) it’s time to add whatever colour you are using. For the sake of this example I have used a very pale colour, but you can use whatever colour you like. Bear in mind that once baked, the macarons will be 1 to 2 shades lighter than the colour of the batter when wet, so always add a little more colour so that the mixture looks a bit darker than the colour you want your final shell to be.
5. Once the colour is added, whisk again until you have stiff peaks (see picture below). This means that the mixture will completely hold its own weight. If you lift the whisk out of the mixture, you will be left with a “peak” that does not move or droop at all. The mixture will also “clump” in the whisk a bit. If you are brave enough to do the over the head test, hold the bowl upside down over your head. Nothing should fall out at all. If it does… well it wasn’t whisked enough and you should probably take a shower… sorry.
6. Add all of the egg white mixture to the almond mixture and begin folding. In order to not knock out too much air, I like to take the spatula all the way around the bowl, then cut through the middle and lift the bottom of the mixture up, then repeat. This whole process is called “macaronage”.
7. The batter will take a while to reach the correct consistency but it is important not to rush it. It will go through stages. Once the wet and dry ingredients are combined, the overall texture will be quite “fluffy” and a bit lumpy; this is not yet done. If you were to pipe it as it is you would have an undermixed batter which could cause the macarons to crack on top, and the mixture wouldn’t flatten causing uneven tops. The correct consistency is often described as like “flowing lava”. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t frequent volcano tops that often, so to me, it’s a bit of an ambiguous explanation… What you are looking for is batter that is still thick, but runs off the spatula when you lift it up in a ribbon like way, and when it lands on the batter in the bowl, it should re-absorb back into it within 10-20 seconds. When you are getting close to the consistency, check every couple of folds until you have something that looks like the below:
Once you have reached this, don’t mix anymore. It’s done!
8. Get your baking tray with the template underneath the parchment paper ready and on a nice flat surface.
Put your piping nozzle into the piping bag and stand it in something like a cup to give some support as you fill it. Once you have put the mixture in the piping bag, you can start piping your macarons. Hold the piping back with the nozzle above the centre of the template circle about 1cm away from the parchment paper. The nozzle and back should be 90 degrees to the baking tray so that when you pipe your circle, the mixture spreads evenly outwards. Apply gentle pressure until your mixture reaches the line on the template, then gently lift the bag away. You will be left with a small peak in the middle of the circle, but if the batter was mixed sufficiently these will sink back into the macaron.
9. Give the baking tray a tap on the work surface (I put a tea towel underneath the tray so I don’t break anything and annoy my landlord…), then turn the tray around and do the same again. This will help the little peaks fall into the circles and also bring any large air bubbles to the surface. You can then pop these air bubbles with either a cocktail stick or the tip of a sharp knife. Either way, you want to do this straight away, or the batter will start to dry. After you have tapped the tray, remove the template from underneath the parchment paper.
10. Now you need to let the macarons dry. This is essential. In order to get the macaron’s signature shiny tops and frilly “feet” along the bottom, we have to let them dry. If you put them straight in the oven, they will crack all on the top as they are effectively getting “feet” up there. You will need to leave them to dry for anywhere between 30 minutes – 2 hours. There is no way to give an exact drying time because they dry at different speeds depending on heat/humidity/environment. You will know when they are dry if you gently press your finger on the side of the macaron and there is a skin – meaning your finger comes off dry and does not stick at all. I like to check them every 30 minutes to judge how they are doing. They will also look a little duller on top than when they were first piped.
11. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius while the macarons are drying. Once they are dry, place the tray in the middle of the oven and bake for 14 – 16 minutes. When the macarons are done, you should be able to tap one of the shells on top and it will be hard and sound hollow. If the shells have gone brown on top it means the oven temperature was too high, so try lowering it a little next time. As each oven is different, it is difficult to tell exactly what temperature you should set the oven at, but 150 degrees Celsius is a good place to start and you will soon learn whether you need it to be warmer or cooler.
12. Take the baking tray out of the oven and put on a cooling rack for 10 minutes to cool down. After this the shells should easily peel away from the parchment paper in one piece. If you try and take them off while they are still too warm, they can stick to the bottom a bit and come apart.
13. The only thing left to do is fill the macarons with a filling of your choice! Pretty much anything goes as the shells are a neutral sweet almond flavour, so get creative! Chocolate ganache… jam… curds… buttercream… the world is your oyster!
Ideally, you should put your filled macarons in an airtight container and leave them in the fridge for 24 hours before eating. This is to allow the inside of the macaron shell to absorb some of the moisture from the filling, which creates the classic chewy inside. If you can resist them for 24 hours, it is worth the wait, I promise! After that the filled macarons will keep in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Simply take them out of the freezer a couple of hours before you want to eat them to allow them to come up to room temperature.
Happy baking! If you feel like having a go, here’s a great recipe for chocolate coffee macarons. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions :)