Say it with me: meringue. Ok now say it again: meringue. Now say it a few more times for good measure: meringue, meringue, meringue. No I’m not being intentionally annoying, if you want to make this little babies, you need to start getting reallyyyyy comfortable with meringue. The good news is, it’s not as hard as some might thing, it just takes a lot of practice. Even better news for you? I’ve just spent the last several weeks of my life making macarons during every spare minute I could find. I scoured the internet, read every guide, every tip, and tried numerous versions of both the Italian and French methods. It was excruciatingly frustrating at times but I hope this guide can help you avoid all that and make your own delicious macarons!
Now a big disclaimer here! You have to PRACTICE to get these right. It took about two or three times to get the feel right during the most important stage: macaronage (aka mixing). So you might not succeed on the first or second try but, if you follow these instructions, by the third you should be well on your way to becoming a macaron pro. My second disclaimer…you need a kitchen scale. I’m sorry, I know it’s yet another piece of equipment to keep in your kitchen, but it’s invaluable when it comes to macarons and a lot of other more advanced baking recipes. I got mine for $12 on Amazon, so I promise this is not a huge investment.
Below is an in-depth guide to each step of the French macaron process with all my tips to get the perfect mac. If you’re just looking for the recipe, scroll to the bottom!
So let’s get started shall we?
Prep work is very important when it comes to anything involving meringue. Everything that touches the egg whites should be wiped down with a small amount of white vinegar on a paper towel. I say a small amount because we don’t want any of the bowls or utensils to be wet. This prep work removes any residue or grease, which would keep your meringue from whipping up properly. The other enemy of meringue? egg yolks. So when you’re separating your eggs be VERY careful not to get any yolk in the whites.
At this point I would also prep your piping bag and baking sheet. Now, you don’t have to go out and buy special piping equipment but it does help a lot. If you have a piping bag and round tip set that up and place in a tall glass with a wide mouth, I’ve found it is so much easier to fill the piping bag this way. If you don’t, then you can use a large zip-top bag with the tip cut off. As for the baking trays, use large ones! I have silicon mats stamped with circle templates to make piping easier but you can use parchment paper or regular silicon mats. If you want a template then draw circles on parchment and place it under either another piece of parchment or silicon to guide your piping.
This is when you can measure and weigh all your ingredients. I start with the egg whites in their own (vinegar wiped down) bowl, then set aside so they can come to room temperature. Next, weigh the powdered sugar and flour into a large bowl. Take this mixture and pulse it 8-10 times in a food processor to get it really fine, then sift that mixture back into the large bowl. Seems like overkill doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not…you want this to be extremely fine to get a nice smooth shiny top on those macs. That said, if you don’t have a food processor, just sift the mixture twice. Cover this bowl and set it aside. The last thing you need to measure into a small bowl is the granulated or caster sugar. I also like to clean this bowl with vinegar just to be safe. Now it’s time to…
WHIP IT, WHIP IT GOOD
We’re now in the meringue stage people! Your mixing bowl should be cleaned with vinegar and free of residue, as should your whisk attachment. Pour the egg whites into the mixing bowl and start whipping on medium-high speed until the whites get foamy and “soft peaks” start to form. At this point, add in the cream of tartar (this acts as a stabilizer) and the salt. Whip this for another minute. Now slowly add the granulated sugar while whipping on medium-high speed. Once the sugar is incorporated you can add the vanilla and any GEL food coloring you’d like. You need to use gel food coloring as liquid will thin out and kill the meringue. Whip the mixture until stiff peaks just begin to form. That’s right, STIFF peaks. This means that when you hold the whisk upright the meringue stands tall, with maybe a small flop over at the tip. All together this process should take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on humidity.
Here we go – it’s showtime – the part of macaron making that takes the most practice is here! But worry not, I believe in you, I know you can do it. Just read this section a couple times before you try! Take 1/3 of your dry mixture and fold it into the meringue using a figure 8 motion, be sure to scrap up the bottom as dry mixture can get stuck. Fold until just incorporated then do it two more times with the rest of the dry mixture. Continue to fold in a figure 8 pattern, cutting through the meringue and scrapping up from the bottom. The goal here is to knock air out of the mixture so we can get it to lava-like consistency. The trick here is to constantly check the batter for proper consistency. You do this by scooping up some batter and letting it drip off the spatula – you know you have the perfect consistency when the batter flows off your spatula in a solid stream and you can make a figure 8 without it breaking. BUT here’s what I learned, it’s easy to overmix if this is your only point of reference. So what I like to do is test the batter using the figure 8 method but also check how long it takes for the batter to melt back into itself. About 15 seconds should be perfect, a little less is also fine, but anything under 10 and your batter is too thin.
This brings me to the bad news: if macaronage is done improperly…there’s no saving it. You have to start from scratch so take your time and do this carefully!
Is your batter ready? Great! That means the hard part is over. Fill your piping bag and start piping. Be sure to hold your bag perfectly vertical and close to the baking sheet. You want your piping to be as even as possible otherwise your macs could turn out lopsided. I squeeze the bag with even pressure, lift up gently, and quickly flick the bag to cut off the trail of batter. Remember that these will spread out so pipe them smaller than you want the final macaron to be.
After piping is complete whack the tray on a hard surface and I mean WHACK it. Straight up and down. This helps pop remaining air bubbles in the macs and will ensure you don’t get hollow tops. I like to go back with a toothpick and pop the remaining bubbles just to be safe.
Now it’s time to let the macs rest. This is another SUPER important step because it helps form a skin on top of the cookie so that air is forced out the bottom during baking, this is what creates that famous foot. You want the macs to sit out long enough to get dry enough that you can gently move your finger over top without any stickiness. The tops will also get a matte sheen to them. This can take as little as 30 minutes and as long as 2 hours depending on humidity. That said, if they’re taking that long, there could be something wrong with the macaronage but you’ll only find out by completing the next step…
Temperature and such can be found in the recipe below but every oven is different so even this takes a little fiddling. For example, most recipes say 300 degrees F but I’ve found my oven runs hot so I do 290 degrees F. You can find out your true oven temp with an oven thermometer or by trial and error with macarons. I recommend the oven thermometer but truthfully, 300 F degrees should be fine for you. Another thing to remember: DO NOT open the oven door. I know it’s tempting but don’t do it. Opening the door early could lead to a lack of feet, cracked tops, or underbaked bottoms and it’s just not worth it.
Once the timer goes off, take out the macs and carefully slide the baking sheet off the tray and set it on a cooling wrack. Don’t try and take the cookies off, they will break. Let them cool completely, at which point you should be able to pop them right off.
And there you have it! My aggressively long tips and tricks to macarons blog. And hey, I’m still experimenting so watch this space as there will be updates. Find my go to recipe below and have fun! I’d love to hear if this helps you or if you have any questions so be sure to use the comments section!
- 50 grams egg whites at room temp
- 70 grams almond meal
- 50 grams granulated sugar
- 65 grams powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- Pulse almond meal and powdered sugar in a food processor 8 times then sift into a large bowl or sift twice.
- Wipe down everything that will touch the egg whites with white vinegar on a paper towel until dry.
- Add egg whites to a separate bowl and use a whisk attachment if using a stand mixer or the beaters if using an electric hand mixer and whip to soft peaks. Add the salt and cream of tartar.
- Continue whisking on high speed while very slowly adding the sugar while the mixer is on high. Once all the sugar is in there, add the vanilla extract and continue whisking until the meringue becomes thick and glossy. All up, you’ll whisk for about 5 minutes. If you want to make different colors or add any liquid flavoring, extracts or essences you can add them in with the vanilla.
- The next part is the macaronage – please see my labeled paragraph above for instructions!
- Pipe macarons onto lined cookie sheets and whack using the process I also outlined above.
- Let macs dry – again refer to the notes above.
- Bake at 300 degrees F for 12 minutes then allow to cool completely before taking off the sheets.