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French macarons are perhaps the epitome of a fancy and fun sweet treat. While they may seem like an advanced baking project, you really just need to master a few easy techniques to make them. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to make macarons for beginners!
A French macaron is two cookie shells made with meringue and almond flour and usually dyed a bright color, filled with something yummy like buttercream, ganache, or jam. The flavor options are endless: raspberry macarons, chocolate macarons, salted caramel macarons, pistachio macarons, and so many more!
Perhaps the best thing about macarons is the contrasting texture: The perfect macaron bite will start with a slight crunch from the shell before giving way to the creamy, chewy interior. The shells themselves should have a smooth dome on top with a textured ring, called the foot, at the base.
If you’re confused about the difference between macaron vs. macaroon, macaroons are dense cookies made with meringue and shredded coconut with no filling.
Step 1: Prepare in Advance
While macarons really aren’t that hard to make, they aren’t a spur-of-the-moment baking project, either. For one, you may need to add some equipment to your arsenal, like a kitchen scale (exact measurements are especially important here) and a pastry bag.
You’ll also need to get almond flour (also known as almond meal or almond powder), which few chefs have lying around in their kitchen. These days, almond flour is readily available in grocery stores—usually in the baking or gluten-free sections—or can be bought online. You’ll also want gel food coloring if you want those vibrant macarons you see in patisserie cases.
Finally, prep your eggs a few days in advance by separating the yolks from the whites and storing the whites in the fridge. You want to do this ahead of time so that some of the water will evaporate from the egg whites, which produces stiffer egg whites and a smoother macaron shell. Just make sure to pull them out of the fridge about an hour before you start baking so they can come to room temperature.
Step 2: Make the Batter
French macaron batter is made of fine almond flour, sugar, and egg whites.
First, combine almond flour and powdered sugar together in a food processor, then sift them through a sieve. This helps remove any larger chunks of flour and sugar from your batter, resulting in smoother shells.
Then, make a meringue by combining egg whites and granulated sugar using an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks, meaning the whites keep their shape when you pull the whisk out of them. If you want to make colorful macarons, add food coloring at this point.
Finally, incorporate all of this together in a step called macaronage. This part of the process is done by hand, folding the dry ingredients into the meringue. At first, the batter will look curdled but don’t fret—it will come together as you continue to mix and is ready when it drips in a continuous ribbon from your spatula into the bowl.
Step 3: Pipe Out the Shells
This isn’t like typical cookie making, where you scoop the dough onto the pan. In order to make the perfect macarons, you have to pipe the batter onto a sheet pan prepared with parchment paper (so the delicate cookies don’t stick) and a macaron template (to help you achieve uniform size).
Piping is perhaps the most technically advanced step when learning how to make French macarons, so if you’ve never done it before, watch the video below to learn how!
Step 4: Bake and Cool the Shells
Bake your macarons on the middle rack of an oven set to 275°F (135°C)—this low temperature prevents the cookies from browning or from rising too fast and cracking. Being exact is important, so you may want to use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven doesn’t run too hot or too cold.
Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pan, then bake for another 5 minutes before checking for doneness. To do this, gently grab one of the shells and try to move it from side to side. If it still wobbles, leave it in for 2-3 more minutes.
Let the shells cool completely on the pan before removing and filling them, usually 45 minutes to an hour.
Step 5: Fill the Shells
If you’re making a filling—like buttercream or ganache—you can do this while the shells are cooling.
Once the shells are cool, remove them from the parchment paper. They are quite delicate, so do this gently! A small icing knife or thin spatula can help, or you can stick the whole pan in the freezer for 10 minutes to make them easier to remove.
Then, pair up shells of similar shape and size and place them upside down. Put filling on half of them—using a piping bag or carefully spreading it on—before topping with the other half and gently pressing down until the filling reaches the sides.
Step 6: Wait!
Once your macarons are filled, it’s not time to eat yet! You’ll want to let them rest in an airtight container in the fridge for 24 hours first. This waiting period is what allows some moisture from the filling to penetrate the shells, softening just enough to create that delicious contrast between the crispy crust and the creamy center.
Dive Deeper With a French Macaron Class!
How to Make French Macarons
Recipe adapted from Marie Asselin’s Skillshare class.
Makes 52 1.5-in macaron shells, or 26 assembled macarons
French Macaron Ingredients
- 3 large egg whites, separated a couple of days in advance, stored in the fridge (The egg whites must be room temperature, so take them out of the fridge at least 1 hour in advance)
- 210 g powdered sugar (also called icing sugar, or confectioners’ sugar)
- 125 g ground almonds (also called almond flour, almond meal, or almond powder)
- 30 g granulated sugar (regular refined sugar)
- Gel food coloring, if you want to color the shells
- Macaron filling of your choice (e.g., buttercream, ganache, jam, Nutella)
French Macaron Equipment
- A kitchen scale
- A stand or hand mixer
- A food processor
- A sieve
- A pastry bag with a ½ inch round piping tip
- Gel food coloring, if you want to color your macarons
- A silicone spatula
- Sheet pans
- Parchment paper
French Macaron Instructions
- Prepare two sheet pans: Lined two sheet pans with parchment paper cut out to fit exactly inside the sheet pan so it lays perfectly flat. Slide two macaron templates under the parchment paper, if you want to use them.
- Sift the ground almonds and powdered sugar together: Combine the powdered sugar and the ground almonds together in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 30 seconds to a minute, or until both ingredients are thoroughly mixed together. Set the sieve over a mixing bowl. Transfer half of the sugar and almond mixture to the sieve and use a spoon to sift through, throwing away any large chunks that remain at the end. Sieve the rest of the sugar and almond mixture, and set aside.
- Make the meringue: Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or in a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl, if you’re using a hand mixer), and whip on medium speed until they start to get foamy. When they do, slowly pour the granulated sugar into the bowl. Keep on whipping until the egg whites are opaque white, glossy, and form stiff peaks. If you wish to color the macaron shells, add some gel food coloring now.
- Incorporate the almond/sugar mixture into the meringue: Pour about half of the sugar and almond mixture over the whipped egg whites, and use a silicone spatula to fold it in. No need to be too delicate about it, you actually want to deflate the egg whites a little. When the first half of the sugar and almond mixture is incorporated, add the rest of it to the bowl and keep on folding until the batter is fully mixed and has become loose enough that it drips from the spatula in a continuous ribbon.
- Pipe the shells and let them rest: Prepare a pastry bag with a round pastry tip with a half inch opening. Fill the pastry bag with the prepared batter. Pipe small circles of batter onto the prepared sheet pans, doing your best to keep them uniform. Let the shells rest for at least 20 minutes.
- Bake the shells: While the shells are resting, set an oven rack to the middle position and turn the oven on to 275°F (135°C). When the oven is ready and the first batch of shells has rested for at least 20 minutes, put them in the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, rotate the pan and set the timer for another 5 minutes. To figure out if the shells are done, crack open the oven door and gently touch the top of a shell. If it wobbles on its feet, cook for 3 to 5 minutes more, or until firm. The top of the shell itself might not feel completely hard, but it’ll fully harden as the shells cool.
- Assemble the macarons: After the shells cool, use a small icing knife or other thin spatula to carefully scrape them off the parchment paper. If you are struggling with this, place the entire sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes then try again. Once the shells are removed, put your chosen filling on half the shells using a pastry bag with a round tip, or by gently spreading some filling on them. Top with the other half of the shells, matching size as best you can.
- Let macarons rest before eating: Store the macarons in an airtight container, separating each layer with a piece of parchment paper so they don’t stick together. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours so the moisture from the filling can slightly seep into the shells and create the perfect macaron texture. Bring macarons back to room temperature before eating.
Do you have to use almond flour for French macarons?
You cannot substitute regular, all-purpose flour for the almond flour in macarons—almond flour is what gives macarons their signature chewiness, whereas flour will develop gluten and create an entirely different texture. If you need to make a nut-free macaron, try replacing the almond meal with flour made with pumpkin seeds!
Can you make vegan macarons?
Vegan macarons are challenging given how much of the cookie’s structure relies on eggs, but some bakers have found success using aquafaba (the liquid leftover from cooked chickpeas) as an egg replacement.
How much should you whip the egg whites?
The goal is to whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, which means that they form a straight point when you pull your whisk out of the mixture and don’t wilt when you turn the whisk upside down. Too soft and the egg whites will still be liquidy and not hold shape; too stiff and they will start to break apart.
Why did my shells crack?
It’s likely that your oven is too hot, causing them to puff up quickly, burst, and collapse as they cool. Try lowering the temperature next time. If you have a convection oven, turn the fan off and, if you can’t do that, lower the temperature even further.
Learn More French Baking Techniques!
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