Why Are French Macarons So Expensive?
The short answer: Blame the high-end ingredients and necessary baking expertise. We asked Test Kitchen pro Josh Rink to explain.
You can find macarons everywhere, from an upscale bakery to the freezer aisle at Trader Joe’s. There may be no other treat that comes in as many flavors, from vanilla and raspberry to orange blossom and mojito. Don’t confuse them with Macaroons, as they are two different bakery items. These Oreo-sized treats cost three times as much as anything else at the bakery.
Why are macarons so expensive? Here’s what you’re getting for your money.
Macaron Ingredients Are Expensive
Unlike most bakery treats, macarons are not made with all-purpose wheat flour, which even a home cook can pick up at the supermarket for less than 50 cents a pound. Instead, they’re made with almond flour, which costs more than nine times as much—and that’s at Costco.
“They’re prized for their combination of textures: lightly crunchy exterior, chewy center and creamy filling,” Josh adds. Trying to make them with a less-expensive ingredient like all-purpose flour would change the texture. The result would not be a true macaron. We’ve found the best Trader Joe’s macarons for you.
Here’s the difference between macaroons vs. macarons.
Making Macarons Takes Time and Patience
You could make 10 other types of cookies in the time it takes to make macarons. OK, maybe we’re exaggerating a bit. But here’s the deal.
“Macarons are certainly more ‘hands-on’ than traditional chocolate chip cookies and have a number of steps—like sifting, whipping, folding and piping,” Josh says.
After making the batter, the baker transfers it into a piping bag. If you’ve ever piped frosting, you know using a piping bag takes a while to get the hang of everything from filling it without air bubbles to squeezing it with just the right amount of pressure.
The process takes a lot more skill than using a cookie dough scoop. You have to hold the piping bag above the parchment paper at the correct height, squeeze out the right amount of batter, stop squeezing the bag, then twist and lift it to make each macaron shell the right thickness.
After tapping out or popping any air bubbles, the macaron shells have to sit at room temperature until they form a skin. Then they get baked and completely cooled. After baking, the shells have to be paired to match each other in size as closely as possible.
Even after all the components are made, they still have to be filled and assembled!
Half of each pair then gets flipped upside down to be filled—which requires another round of piping. You need just the right amount of filling, the thickness of one shell. Too much and it will ooze out the sides.
Finally, the macarons go into the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours to mature and allow the filling to soften the shells.
“I’d never suggest making macarons when you’re feeling impatient,” Josh says.