The first time I tried a macaron was a life-changing experience. Prying open a box of these delicate, pastel-colored beauties, all perfectly lined up in a row, I thought, Dang, these are almost too pretty to eat. At the time, the dessert was somewhat foreign to me as I had made the all-too-common faux pas of mistaking the French sandwich cookies for the chewy American kind—there is a huge difference.
One bite and I was hooked. I became a macaron addict. Now, I simply can’t help but snag a few when I see them at the store and, to the pleasure of any passerby, I am quick to correct anyone who calls it a macaroon. How the tables have turned!
What Are French Macarons?
Macarons are meringue-based sandwich cookies. The filling changes depending on the recipe, but the most common types are buttercream, jam or ganache. In my opinion, macarons have a texture like none else. A perfect macaron has a smooth eggshell-like exterior that, when broken open, reveals a light, fluffy interior.
One of the signature qualities to look for in a macaron is the “foot” (or sometimes “crown”) of the cookie. This is the ruffled trim of tiny air pockets that forms around the bottom half of the cookie as it rises in the oven.
Are Macarons Hard to Make?
Maracons are notoriously tricky to make, but, as Grandma used to say, “Practice makes perfect.” If you’re armed with the right tools, proper technique and a few of our Test Kitchen’s expert tips, you can master our macaron recipe at home.
How to Make the Best French Macarons
Before you begin: Put away your measuring cups. We’ve found this recipe works best when you use a digital scale (like this one) as the measurements are more precise. Learn how to weigh baking ingredients correctly.
- 1-1/3 cups almond flour (125 grams)
- 2-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (225 grams), divided
- 3 extra large egg whites (100 grams), room temperature. Learn how to separate an egg.
- 2 tablespoons superfine sugar (25 grams)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened. Here’s how to soften butter super-quick.
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Step 1: Combine almond flour and sugar
Place the almond flour and 1-1/2 cups plus 3 Tbsp. (175 grams) confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. The goal is to have the almond flour reach a very fine consistency. To ensure this, pass the almond flour through a fine-mesh sieve. Toss any of the large pieces that won’t pass through.
Test Kitchen tip: Can’t find almond flour nearby? Try adding raw blanched almonds to your food processor instead. You’ll want to gradually add in the sugar as you pulse the mix to prevent the almonds from becoming almond butter. But if that happens, don’t stress. The worst-case scenario is that you end up making these cookies instead.
Step 2: Make a big, fluffy meringue
Double check to make sure your egg whites are at room temperature (yes, it’s important!), then, place them in a very clean bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the ingredients on medium-low speed until the whites look frothy. Slowly add superfine sugar and continue to whisk until dissolved. This will take about 1-2 minutes.
Next, gradually add the remaining confectioners’ sugar and increase the speed to high for 2-3 minutes. Here’s where the meringue magic kicks in; you’ll know it’s ready when the mix glossy and stiff peaks form. Check out our explainer guide for perfectly stiff-peaked meringue.
Test Kitchen tip: To make decorative colored cookies, add gel food coloring (not the liquid kind) to the whipped meringue until you reach the desired effect. I’m a big fan of pastels, but bright reds and greens add a festive touch for the holidays.
Step 3: Fold in the wet ingredients
When combining ingredients, treat your meringue as if it’s a prized possession. The goal here is to hold on to as much of that fluffy air you’ve built up as possible while ensuring that ingredients are evenly mixed. Sound impossible? Read our guide for how to fold ingredients for best-ever baking.
That being said, gently fold 1/3 of the almond flour mixture into the meringue, then fold in the remaining almond flour in two additions.
Once the ingredients start to come together, aim to eliminate any air bubbles from the mix. This will ensure the macarons look clean and smooth. Using the side of a spatula, smooth batter up sides of bowl several times to ensure there are no lumps.
Test Kitchen tip: You’ll know it’s ready when you can see ribbons of batter. Lift your spatula and drizzle a small amount of batter back into the bowl. The batter should make a ribbon-like line that’s visible for a moment, then disappears.
Step 4: Pipe the batter
Fit a #7 or #10 round pastry tip inside a pastry bag and gently pour batter inside. Remember to handle it with care! Pipe rounds that are a smidge under 1-1/2 inches onto parchment paper about 1 inch apart. These will form the two halves of your macaron.
Test Kitchen tip: You can keep the rounds uniform by tracing on circles onto the paper using a small round cookie cutter before you begin.
Step 5: Tap the tray and rest
Here’s a fun bit: Gently lift the tray and tap it against the counter a few times to remove excess air bubbles.
Now is a good time to get the oven ready. Position the rack to the upper third position and preheat to 300°. For an involved recipe like this, it’s good to check that your oven is properly calibrated. Double-check this list to make sure your oven is working its best.
Despite all this oven talk, refrain from popping your macarons into the oven straight away. Allow the macarons to rest for 30-60 minutes, until the surface is no longer sticky or wet. A thin skin will form on the top of the piped batter and you should be able to run your finger lightly overtop when they’re ready to bake.
Step 6: Bake and let ’em cool
At long last, it’s bake time! Bake the macarons, one tray at a time, for 14-16 minutes. Rotate the tray halfway through cooking. The cookies should rise about 1/8 inch to form “feet.”
When they’re ready, remove the tray and let the cookies cool completely. Once the macarons have completely cooled, remove them from the parchment paper. They should lift right off.
Step 8: Make the filling
To make a buttercream filling, cream butter by beating it in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Slowly add powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Next, add heavy cream, vanilla and salt. Mix until smooth.
Want a different filling? Try these variations:
- Add an extract like peppermint, vanilla or almond to the buttercream for an extra pop of flavor.
- To make ganache: Place 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons heavy in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth.
- Place 1/4 teaspoon of jam, jelly or even cranberry sauce in the center of a circle of frosting.
- Looking for a shortcut? Use marshmallow fluff instead.
Pour the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip and pipe buttercream onto half of the macarons. Top with remaining macaron shells.
Step 10: Enjoy
Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. The flavors develop over time so it’s best to wait 24 hours (if you can!) before digging in. This is by far the trickiest step in the recipe, so I won’t tell anyone if you snag one or two before the day is up.
Want to find more items to check off your baking bucket list? These recipes are perfect for bakers of any level.
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