Demystifying Macarons – Tips & Tricks

French MacaronsLearning how to make French macarons was like conquering my Everest. Many a night I’d wake Andrew up in tears after yet another batch of macarons came out of the oven – without feet, brown on top, or undercooked. As the “Martha Stewart of the group” (my friends’ words, not mine), I couldn’t let this little French cookie get the best of me. With the help of Mai of design.bake.run, I finally started to turn the tide after hitting an all-time low of Macarons 6 – Sabrina 0.

 My tips and tricks:

  1. I started using a different recipe. My typical go-to place for recipes is America’s Test Kitchen, but this time they failed me. The recipe was too dry making the batter too heavy. You can see my previous failed attempts here. I now use Not So Humble Pie’s macaron recipe. Mai uses David Lebovitz’s recipe.

  2. Swap out the powerful KitchenAid mixer for a handheld mixer. If you’ve spent all that money on the best stand mixer in the world, it’s hard to justify why you need a dinky $40 handheld mixer, but if you use the KitchenAid mixer to try to beat up 2-3 egg whites, it’ll take forever. That bowl is just too big for a job this small.

  3. Use a scale. When is an egg white not an egg white? When it comes in small, medium, large, and extra large and you’re trying to get the right proportions for a finicky cookie. Use a scale because 100 g of egg whites is always 100 g of egg whites.

  4. Ever wonder how to make batches of macarons that are different colors with just one pastry bag? I used to wash the pastry bag between batches, wait for it to dry, and start all over. There’s an easier way – after whipping up the egg whites, separate them into batches using the scale to make sure they are all the same size, add different coloring to each batch, divide and add the almond meal mixture, wrap the batter in saran wrap and put the saran wrapped batter into the pastry bag to pipe. Here’s the how-to from Our Best Bites.

  5. To make uniform-size macarons, use a piping template. Download Mai’s templates for regular and large macarons, print them out, and place them under the parchment paper when piping. Don’t forget to remove the template before baking. [Download template for regular macarons | large macarons]

  6. Overbake, don’t underbake. Spread buttercream inside the overbaked shells and let it mature in the fridge for a few days. They’ll soften up in that time and hopefully save your cookies. If you underbake, there’s no way to save them.

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Equipment needed:

  • Handheld mixer

  • Parchment paper

  • Heavy duty cookie sheets

  • Wire cooling rack

  • Pastry bag

  • #12 Pastry tip (I tried using a #7 and it was too much effort.)

  • Food coloring – Wilton is well-known and works well, but this time I used India Tree from Whole Foods because it is vegetable-based without the crazy dyes (sometimes I’m hippie like that). The India Tree colors are not as vibrant and pretty as Wilton, but it’s natural. Decide for yourself what matters more to you. Next time I might try to make my own by dehydrating fruit.

French macarons French macarons

Recipe adapted from Not So Humble Pie

Not So Humble Macarons 

yields approximately 50 cookies
5g dehydrated egg white powder (available here but try to find it in your local store; the price at Amazon is ker-azy)
28g granulated sugar
225g confectioners (powdered) sugar
125g almond meal
100g aged egg whites

  1. To age egg whites, I separate them out from the yolks, put the egg whites in a mason jar, cover with a paper towel and leave them in the refrigerator overnight. The original recipe says to age them 5-6 days but my macarons turned out fine after aging for 24 hours.
  2. Prep two half sheet pans with parchment and place the printed macaron piping template below the parchment paper.
  3. Weigh out the granulated sugar and egg white powder into a small bowl. Mix with a fork until uniform and set aside.
  4. Sift together the almond meal and powdered sugar.
  5. Weigh out the egg whites and begin beating them on low speed until foamy. Begin slowly sprinkling in the powdered egg white and sugar mixture as you beat. Then increase the speed to medium and beat until a firm meringue forms. Beat until the meringue has firm, glossy peaks and stop before they reach stiff peaks.
  6. Beat in food coloring now and then add 1/3rd of the almond mixture, folding it in gently. Once combined, add another third of the almond mixture, and so on.
  7. Add batter to a piping bag with a round tip and pipe rows of macarons. Use the saran wrap trick from Tip #4 above.
  8. Pick up the pan with both hands, and holding it level, tap it firmly onto the counter several times. This will bring up any air bubbles in the cookies. Pop the bubbles with a toothpick if they don’t break while tapping.
  9. These cookies NEED to rest on the counter. Between 30-60 minutes depending on the humidity.
  10. About 15-30 minutes before the cookies should go into the oven, pre-heat your oven to somewhere between 290-300°F.
  11. Bake the cookies for roughly 15 minutes. One sheet at a time.
  12. Once the cookies lift easily from the parchment, they’re probably done. To be sure, pop a cookie off with an offset spatula and break it open. The insides should be set and not overly moist (wet uncooked meringue is no good). If it is too moist the cookies will collapse when they cool. Transfer to a wire rack. To avoid hollows, aim for slightly overcooking the cookies, rather than under cooking them. Yes, this means your cookies might cool a little crisper than you like your macarons, but will soften up during the maturation process.

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Vanilla Buttercream (from America’s Test Kitchen)

2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch table salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened, each stick cut into quarters

  1. Combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until thin and foamy and registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer.
  2. Beat egg mixture on medium-high speed with whisk attachment until light, airy, and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter, one piece at a time. (After adding half the butter, buttercream may look curdled; it will smooth with additional butter.) Once all butter is added, increase speed to high and beat 1 minute until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined.

The buttercream can be covered and refrigerated up to 5 days, but I will usually pipe the buttercream onto the macaron shells now. Using the pastry bag, pipe the buttercream onto the center of a macaron shell. Then place another shell on top to form a sandwich. Store the macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-5 days. The buttercream will soak into the macaron shell as it matures and soften it up.

When ready to eat, let the macarons sit out until they reach room temperature. Be careful that it doesn’t get too warm or the buttercream will melt, creating a big gooey mess (this has happened to me before!).

If you want to decorate the macarons like I’ve done, place a few drops of the food coloring in a small bowl. Dip a pastry or basting brush lightly into the food coloring. Then brush onto the top of the macarons, back and forth until you get the desired look.

French macarons

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3 thoughts

  1. The India Tree food coloring is not very vibrant, so when I used the Red food coloring from it, it came out naturally pink. If I recall correctly I used several drops to get it to be that bright a pink shade.

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