*Don’t worry pastry fiends! I plan to share all of my variations of macaron, so for now use this recipe post as the base method for shells. I’ve included a recipe for almond white chocolate ganache too so you aren’t stuck eating empty macs.
I’ll soapbox for just a hot minute and say that a macaroon (pronounced like you’d think: mack-ah-rune) is a product made from shredded coconut and egg whites. In France they call it a rocher. On the other hand, a macaron (approximately pronounced mack-uh-rhone if you aren’t a Frenchie) is the little hamburger looking cookie that we’re about to make. Spread the word. With that out of the way, I’ll remove my pretentious douchebag hat and get back to helping you figure out how to make them.
Whatever you call them, macaron are one of those pastries that most people think has a mystic code to unlock in order to make properly. I had a student once who honest-to-God wouldn’t make them during certain phases of the moon (I can’t remember if it was a waxing or waning moon, but that doesn’t matter as the idea is completely bat-sh*t crazy). The important thing to remember is that at the end of the day a macaron is really just a meringue dressed up as a cookie. If you can make and understand a meringue, which is super simple, you can make macaron.
This recipe (that I have shamelessly appropriated from Pierre Herme, grand poobah of macaron) uses an Italian meringue – hot sugar syrup poured over egg whites while whisking. Italian meringue is much stronger than French meringue (plain ‘ol sugar and egg whites whipped up together) and this means your macaron batter will be stronger and less prone to deflating. If you’ve ever tried making macs with the French meringue method and suffered for it, I think you’ll like this version a lot better.
Some macaron recipes call for “aged” egg whites. Aging your whites is done by keeping them out at a cool room temperature with a source of fresh air (like in a Tupperware with the lid cracked) for 24-48 hours. This allows some of the water in the whites to evaporate, which concentrates the egg white proteins and makes your meringue whip up faster and stronger. Not to worry about a lack of refrigeration, there’s an enzyme in the egg whites that feasts on the souls of harmful bacteria. If you’re ever using a French meringue recipe, I’d definitely age the egg whites. I’ve made the Italian meringue version with both fresh and aged and have never noticed a big difference between the two. You can even use carton egg whites if you want, though I do think fresh whites give you a better result overall.
Many people site humidity in the kitchen as an issue, but I’ve only noticed that to be a big factor in extreme conditions like the dead of summer or baking on the equator. Macaron shells do need to dry a bit before being baked, so on a humid day they may need to sit and rest a little longer to crust over than they would on a dry day, but the baking results shouldn’t suffer just because it’s a little wet out.
The biggest issue with macaron is your oven, whether at home or at work. Home ovens are notoriously uneven in temperature, have no air circulation and generally poor insulation. There’s not much you can do to combat these shortcomings. Start by using a probe thermometer to source out some of the hot and cold spots in the oven. If your oven runs hot or cold overall just adjust the bake temp accordingly. Don’t have a probe thermometer? For shame. Check out my list of the must have tools for every baker and then go get one.
Pro ovens are obviously much better than their home counterparts. They can still be uneven in temperature and have insulation problems, but they use convection heat (fan-forced) and that makes a big, big difference. The convection air circulation transfers heat quickly and aggressively which helps give the macaron a good initial pop that translates into a nice “foot” – the rough bottom of the macaron shell. For a home oven without a fan/convection setting, you can try and increase the temperature a bit, maybe 10-15 degrees, during pre-heat and then drop the temp. back to the original setting as soon as you put your shells in to bake. Too much heat will discolor and overbake the macaron shells, so don’t go overboard.
No matter what oven you’re using, what you definitely want to avoid is opening it during the baking process. Again, a macaron is really just a meringue-based confection, and many meringue batters can be temperamental. Think of it like an angel food cake – if you open the oven and drop the internal temperature and humidity quickly your product can fall, never to rise again. RIP.
The last note I’ll give you is on timing your Italian meringue. My method has you start to whip your egg whites as soon as your sugar syrup begins to boil, because with this relatively small recipe size, the syrup will quickly reach its finishing temp. and you need to give your egg whites enough time to fully froth. With larger batches of macaron (three or four times the recipe I’ve posted here) wait to start your egg whites when the syrup has reached 230F/110C, since a larger volume of syrup takes longer to reach its final temperature, and the egg whites will still whip up in about the same amount of time regardless of recipe size.
almond macaron shell
250g almond flour
250g powdered sugar
93g egg whites (a)
93g egg whites (b)
Combine the powdered sugar and almond flour and pulse in a food processor until the two are incorporated.
Add your first scaling of egg whites to a stand mixer mixing bowl fitted with a whip attachment. Place the second scaling of egg whites in a mixing bowl.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepot over high heat. As the syrup first starts to heat up give it a good whisk to fully dissolve the sugar, but stop messing with it once it starts to boil or you could end up with a brick of sugar. Bring the syrup to a boil, and cook it to 250F/121C.
While the sugar syrup is heating up, begin to mix your first scaling of egg whites in the stand mixer on medium speed.*
*An Italian meringue relies on timing your egg whites to whip up into a loose meringue at the same time that the sugar syrup hits its finishing boiling temp. With larger recipes, it is common to start whisking your whites when the syrup reaches 110C, but a small recipe size requires you to start both processes at the same time.
Once the syrup reaches 250F/121C, turn the egg whites in the stand mixer on high. There should be no clear albumen left in the egg whites at this point, and you should have a light, airy, soft foam. Carefully pour the syrup over the whipping egg whites in a steady stream (not over/onto the whip attachment or it will sling syrup onto the sides of the bowl and not into your egg whites!). This is where a saucepot with a lip is so useful, because you can rest the lip of the saucepot on the lip of the mixing bowl to ensure the syrup runs safely down the side of the bowl.
I usually count to three to add the first addition of syrup and then stop pouring to allow the egg whites to whip for 5 seconds or so. This let’s them temper a little and prevents the egg whites from cooking into a stringy mess.
After the first addition of syrup, add the remaining syrup in one steady stream. Let the mixture whip on high for 20 seconds to further temper and cool and then turn the speed down to medium. Leaving the mixer on high speed for too long will cause the meringue to over-inflate and fall.
Once the meringue has thickened but is still warm and at a soft peak stage, add it to your almond flour mixture in two additions. If the meringue feels too lose, continue to whip it until it has stiffened before you add it to your almond flour mixture. If the meringue is a little too stiff you’ll simply have to mix the final batter a little more than normal.
When all of the meringue is incorporated, mix the batter until it softens to the right consistency. What’s the right consistency, you say? Well, that’s when experience comes into play. Mixing the batter too much will cause it to spread too thin when piped and prevent good rise in the oven. Not mixing enough will make a shell that’s too thick and rounded and generally unattractive. Pastry is shallow, we like pretty stuff.
Some chefs watch how the batter falls off of their spatula to determine when it is ready but I always look and see how it settles in the bowl. The batter should almost completely settle and smooth out on its own within around 10-20 seconds after coming off the spatula. I finish the batter about 90% of the way, taking into account that transferring the batter to a piping bag and then pressing it through the tip will further break it down. Finishing at 90% means it will be just right as you pipe it.
Using a piping bag and an 11mm round piping tip, pipe the macaron batter onto a sheetpan lined with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat. It’s a good idea to pipe one row of shells and then wait for 30 seconds or so to see how they settle. That will give you a good idea of how large or small to pipe the rest of the shells. Otherwise you may pipe a tray only to discover they’re spreading too much and will end up forming into one giant, Godzilla-like macaron monster.
I pipe from the center of the sheet pan toward me, and then flip the pan around and repeat. I find it easier than reaching to the other side of the pan where I have less control of the piping bag. And like with all things baking, stagger the rows to allow even airflow during baking.
After you’ve pipe a full sheet of shells, give the sheet pan a tap from underneath to knock out any hidden air bubbles and flatten and smooth the macaron.
Let the piped macaron sit, uncovered, until they develop a skin, about 5-15min. The timing will vary depending on how humid your kitchen is. I’ve had mac shells that have taken almost 30 minutes to finally form a crust, so don’t freak out if you go past the 15min mark. You will know they are ready to bake when you can lightly touch the shell without the batter sticking to the tip of your finger.
Bake: convection; 157C/315F for 12-14min
A strong foot on the macaron is always nice to have cosmetically, but the real test of the shells being properly made is that they are solid throughout. Over-mixing the batter will cause the shells to be hollow, easily breaking when handled and not as pleasant to eat.
almond white chocolate ganache
125g heavy cream
40g almonds crushed or sliced
262g white chocolate
2g vanilla extract
22g butter unsalted
12g trimoline optional
*trimoline is an inverted sugar (so is corn syrup and honey) that helps emulsify the ganache.
Before you begin the recipe, prepare a sheet pan with a layer of plastic wrap. We’ll come back to it in a minute.
Roughly chop your almonds and toast them in the oven at 350F/176C for 6 to 8min or until light brown.
Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepot. Remove from the heat and add the almonds. Cover the saucepot in plastic wrap and let the heavy cream infuse for 20min.
After infusing the almonds into the heavy cream, bring it back to a simmer and pour it through a strainer over the white chocolate. Honestly, you could leave the almonds in and just blend them up into the ganache (only if you have a hand blender), but I like the clean look and smooth texture of the ganache without the almond bits in there. Chef’s choice.
I give the bowl a shake to let the hot cream fall into all of the cracks of the chocolate. Add the vanilla and place the pads of butter on the surface of the mixture. Let the whole thing sit for about three to five minutes.
Remember the sheet pan we prepped? Time to bring it back out. Pour your ganache onto the sheet pan and cover it with a second layer of plastic wrap. Let the ganache set at room temperature if your kitchen is cool, or in the refrigerator for around 10min.
Prep your piping bag by dropping your piping tip into the bag. I generally use a 9mm or 11mm round piping tip for a single filling like this one.
Gently score the piping bag around the piping tip with a pair of scissors.
Pull the end of the piping bag off of the tip. A perfect fit every time!
Pipe the ganache onto one half of each pair of macaron shells – don’t be stingy – and sandwich the shells together. A gentle twisting motion of the shells when sandwiching together helps to press the filling down evenly.
Just one last thing to do! Eating the freshly sandwiched macaron isn’t pretty. The shells are too hard and the filling is too soft. Before serving, temper the macaron in the refrigerator for approximately two days (the amount of time will vary depending on how humid your cooler is), until the shell has softened. In most refrigerators you will need to wrap the shells in plastic wrap during tempering or they will absorb too much moisture and become soggy. Again, that depends on your particular cooler. After tempering they’re ready to eat or freeze!
Yay, and yee shall bask in the glory of your work, and then eateth it.