April 12, 2010

The Elusive Macaron

Ahhh, the elusive macaron.  Frustrating, temperamental, inconsistent, and oh so delicious.
Macarons seem to be the latest 'in' sweet after cupcakes, and have caused me much grief.  These French egg white based biscuits are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, with a shiny shell and 'foot' below it.  They are traditionally sandwiched together with a filling such as jam, buttercream or ganache.

I've made macarons what seems like a hundred times and have had many fails - but the scrumptious, sugar enhanced glow of success that comes with the perfect batches makes up for it all.

Now, after many a test and trial, I think I've got it right.
But now, the recipe.  Follow it to the letter and you have a much better chance of success.

Recipe Source: David Lebovitz
Macaron Batter
1 cup powdered (icing) sugar
1/2 cup powdered almonds or hazelnuts (almond/hazelnut meal)
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tbsp white sugar

1. Using a food processor, process the icing sugar and almonds/hazelnuts until combined and well pulverised.  For this batch, I'm using almond meal.

Before pulverisation
2. Separate the eggs.  It's important to bring the eggs to room temperature before using, it makes them easier to separate and apparently it's better for the baked good.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape (soft peaks).  Add the white sugar 1 or 2 tbsp at a time and beat in well.  Be careful not to overbeat your eggs!

3. Fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula.  (If you don't know what folding is, click here to view a helpful video).  You don't need to be too gentle (but don't be too rough!) - in fact, there is a technique called 'macaronnage' that calls for the mixture to be smeared across the side of the bowl with the spatula.  I do it, and it doesn't seem to harm the macarons.

If you are adding food colouring, do so now and combine well.  For this batch, a bit of orange colouring was added.

4. When the mixture is smooth and there are no streaks of egg whites, scrape the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a small circular piping tip.

5. Pipe small rounds of mixture onto a baking tray covered with baking paper.  Make sure you leave quite a bit of room in between them because they spread.

If there is a blob of un-combined nut mixture stuck in your piping tip, remove it with a toothpick.  Do not just squeeze harder.  If you're using a piping bag that isn't super strength, the bag will be in danger of bursting.  Bursting is messy and a severe blow to your baking ego, trust me.

6. Leave them out so their surface begins to harden up.  This will help the macarons form their shiny shell and 'foot'.  Rest them for as long as it takes to heat up the oven to 180 degrees C.  You can leave it on fan forced as it heats, but when you put the macarons in turn it off fan.

After the oven is heated, place the macarons into the oven.  If your non fan forced oven element is at the bottom, don't put the macarons in the bottom rack as it is too hot and they crack.

7. Bake the macarons for 10 - 15 minutes.  Remove them from the oven then let them cool completely before peeling them gently off the baking paper.  (When they are warm, they stick).
Here's where you get that glow of success I was talking about.

8. Sandwich the macarons together with ganache, jam, buttercream or whatever you've got sitting around.  For these macarons, Mum and I put orange flavoured buttercream in them.

The alternative is leaving them separate, then smearing filling onto an individual macaron and eating it straight away.  This works well too.

We made some hazelnut meal macarons too.  These have a stronger nutty taste than the almond ones.  They turned out to be very crunchy and cracked, without a foot; we suspect because the oven was too hot.  However, when sandwiched with coffee buttercream, they still taste fantastic.

Tips and Suggestions
 - Bring the eggs to room temperature before using
 - When transferring the batter to the piping bag, attach some sort of clip just above the piping tip to make sure the batter doesn't drip out the end.  Then stand the bag in a measuring jug or water glass so it stands up, and off you go scraping!
 - When using hazelnut meal, turn oven heat down to 165 - 170 degrees C
 - Heat oven on fan then turn to normal.  (Quicker this way)
 - Don't use the oven rack right next to your heating element
 - If you want to make many macarons, just do one batch at a time.  It works better, believe me.
Edit: I have found that the best base for baking the macarons is a silicon mat with baking paper on top.


  1. ........how do you do it?
    You have such skill!!!!!!!!!!
    These look amaaaaaaaaaaazing!!!
    What is a 'foot'? What does that refer to?
    Sooooooooo want to try one!

  2. This was a great post, and I think I will use it this week to try macarons for the first time!

  3. What's in buttercream?

  4. @ edara: Thanks! The foot is the bit on the sides of the macaron just below the shiny shell.
    As for buttercream: the French complex version has a whole pile of stuff in it, but it's mostly butter. Very unhealthy.

    @ Valen: Thank you! Good luck with your macarons.

  5. I am always trying macarons from whatever bakery I visit whenever I am in France and I can always tell ahead of time if they will be good if the cookie has smoothy and shiny exterior. Yours look fantastic. I have never made macarons although I am an avid baker and I will definitely try your recipe. Thank you for sharing! BTW, I have read that using 2 baking sheets on top of another helps, have you ever tried or heard about this?

  6. @ SB Bargers: Thank you very much, that means a lot from someone who has been to France (that isn't my Grandfather)!
    I will have to try the 2 baking sheets next time. Thanks for the tip!