Macarons are divine to eat and worth the effort! Making macarons are also considered an advanced baking skill. It requires some special techniques and tricks to achieve that perfect light and crispy cookie with a creamy filling. I was thrilled when my neighbor Nancy and her daughter Alexandra offered to show me how. I jumped at the chance to learn from experienced bakers! Once you make them, you will see that they are not that hard.
Before we get to the recipe and techniques, let me explain a few things.
First, do not confuse "Macaron" with "Macaroon". They are two entirely different confections! A macaron is a meringue-based cookie sandwich that comes in a wide variety of flavors and colors. A macaroon is an coconut and egg white based cookie-ish treat that often includes chocolate. Shari's Berries has a great tutorial on the difference between the two confections if you want the full report. We are making macarons in this recipe! Shout out to Popsugar for the comparison picture.
Why is making macarons so hard? Getting the proper amount of lift (called "foot" in macaronland) and chewiness on the meringue cookie is tricky. Too much foot and the cookie is hollow and too crispy. No foot or too little foot the cookie is dense and too soft. It has to be JUST RIGHT! Equally important is making them a consistent size for assembling perfect little finger sandwiches. Some other factors that go into making meringue cookies is the amount of humidity in your kitchen and the age of your egg whites. The cookies need to dry out on a baking sheet before baking. On humid days you might even need to use a fan to get them to dry to the perfect touch. And those egg whites! I read so much debate on blogs about how to age egg whites, how long and if they even need to be aged at all to achieve a perfect meringue, my head was spinning. We just aged ours for 2 hours on the counter - the maximum time the FDA suggests for leaving food out. Craftybaking.com had the best explanation on this matter.
What is the difference between Italian macarons and French macarons? The key difference is the method used to make the meringue. The French method folds the stiff egg whites into the batter to deflate them. The Italian method make a simple syrup and beats that into egg whites with semi-soft peaks to achieve the right amount of fluffiness. They say the Italian version is more stable and will almost always produce the desired foot, but it is more burdensome to make. The French method is easier for beginners but trickier because it is easy to over mix and tends to have more "foot" failures.
So why bother at all to make Homemade Macarons? Because they are divine to eat!!! Once you make them, and get over learning all the tricks, they are a lot of fun, and can be addicting to eat. We made Coffee, Lemon, Raspberry, and Chocolate. The Lemon were delicious but did lack the feet we were looking for. I think I over mixed that batch. The Coffee Macarons dusted with espresso powder with Dark Chocolate Ganache filling were my favorite. My sister Marisa joined us and we had a blast making them. This is one of those recipes that is better with friends, family and a glass of wine.
This recipe is based on the French-method to make macarons, and was adapted from one we found on FoodNetwork.com. I can't wait to make a batch of new and fun flavor combinations. Next time I will try the Italian meringue method. Maybe pistachio with a cannoli filling.
Here is a quick step-by-step guide.
Macarones are Divine to Eat and a Snap to Make!
- 1 ¾ cups confectioners' sugar the kind without cornstarch
- 1 cup almond flour blanched almonds is best, but natural almond flour works too
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature, aged for two hours
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup superfine sugar for example, Domino Quick Dissolve Superfine Sugar.
- 2 to 3 drops gel food coloring color to coordinate with your flavor cookie
- ½ teaspoon vanilla almond, or lemon extract
- Assorted fillings see below
- Chocolate Ganache Filling See below
- 3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder for chocolate cookies see below
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper cut to fit inside the tray. Trace 24 1 ¼ inch circles on each parchment sheet. Suggest using a spice jar cap as a guide. It is a good size. Turn over the parchment paper on the baking sheet so the batter does not touch the tracings. You can still see the tracings for a guide.
- Measure the confectioners' sugar and almond flour by spooning them into measuring cups and leveling with a knife. Transfer to a bowl; whisk to combine.
- Sift the sugar-almond flour mixture in a sifter or through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing with a rubber spatula to pass through as much as possible. Up to 2 tablespoons of coarse almond flour may be left; just toss it.
- Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt with a mixer on medium speed until frothy. Increase the speed to medium high; gradually add the superfine sugar and beat until stiff and shiny, about 5 more minutes.
- Transfer the beaten egg whites to the bowl with the almond flour mixture. Draw a rubber spatula halfway through the mixture and fold until incorporated, giving the bowl a quarter turn with each fold.
- Add the food coloring and extract. Continue folding and turning, scraping down the bowl, until the batter is smooth and falls off the spatula in a thin flat ribbon, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch round tip (Wilton 2A with disposable decorating bags is best).
- Secure the parchment paper to the baking sheet with a dab of batter in each corner.
- Holding the bag vertically and close to the baking sheet and pipe 1 ¼-inch circles (24 per sheet). The cookie should smooth out into shape and not show piping lines after 15 seconds or so
- Firmly tap the baking sheets twice against the counter to release any air bubbles.
- Let the cookies sit at room temperature until the tops are no longer sticky to the touch, 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the humidity.
- Bake the first batch until the cookies are shiny and rise ⅛ inch to form a "foot," about 20 minutes. Slide the parchment paper with the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Repeat until all batter is used.
- Peel the cookies off the parchment and assemble a sandwich with a thin layer of filling (see below).
- Cookies are best stored in air-tight containers
Flavors, Colors, & Fillings
- Raspberry: Add 3 drops red gel food color, and vanilla extract to the batter. Use a jar of store-bought raspberry jam for the filling.
- Lemon: Add 3 drops yellow gel food color, and lemon extract to the batter. Use a jar of store-bought Lemon Curd for the filling.
- Coffee: Add vanilla extract to the batter. Dust espresso powder on half of the cookie before baking. Use a jar of Nutella, Dark Chocolate Spread, or homemade Chocolate Ganache for the filling.
- Chocolate: Add vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of natural unsweetened cocoa powder to the batter. Use homemade Chocolate Ganache for the filling.
To make Chocolate Ganache:
- Melt 4 ounces of 65% bittersweet chocolate in a 2-cup pyrex glass measuring cup in the microwave. Melt for 1 minute on high. Stir and return for 30 more seconds or until melted. Add 3 tablespoons of heavy cream. Mix until smooth and thick, and can be easily spread on the cookie but will not drip. Add a drop or two more of cream if needed.