I have spent the last 4 years on a quest to perfect macarons and I can tell you that these sweet little treats can be worth the time and patience to get right. I have spent countless hours reading, watching videos and making mistakes. I have even been to live cooking demonstrations, ordered macarons from some of the top pastry chefs and turned my friends and family into my personal macaron guinea pigs.
If you are interested in learning how to make macarons, I can tell you that the effort is worth it once you master them. They are the most finicky thing I have ever made. Instead of focusing on time, you need to focus on “what” for each step., ex: “What should it look like”, “What should it feel like”. You will be able to make a perfect batch time and time again.
Below I will list out all of the tools you will need, describe the lessons I have learned and the common mistakes I have made along the way. I can say with confidence that your first try will likely be a fail, but you will learn from it. I have helped many friends almost perfect macarons even on the first try using these instructions. I would say, these are not something you should try for the first time and plan to bring anywhere (trust me, I have been there!).
Top 5 Things Every Macaron Beginner Must Know
- Equipment: The equipment listed here is not optional, if you do not have the proper equipment, these will be impossible to make. I know because I have tried to substitute and have failed. I am giving you my favorites, again through trial and error, but you can pick any brands you like as long as they do the same thing.
- Ingredients: Macarons are actually only made of 4 basic ingredients: Almond Flour, Powdered Sugar, Egg Whites and Granulated Sugar. I suggest specific brands of Almond Flour and Granulated Sugar, but again – you can experiment. I have experimented with other brands to get here, the ones I suggest are the ones that have allowed me to get consistent results over and over.
- Oven Temperature: This is one thing that in the first 2 years I never paid much attention to. Every blog I read suggested multiple in oven thermometers – looking for hot and cold spots, I honestly did not feel it was necessary. But, eventually I broke down and bought 1 oven thermometer. I did find that my oven was both even and accurate. However, I found that when I opened the door I lost at least 10° and therefore I now wait between batches. I recommend you test your ovens temperature so you know how to adjust.
- Cleaning: This is a small tip that can yield big results. One thing I do in preparation for making these cookies is wipe down everything that will be touching it with a paper towel dampened with white vinegar. Sounds a little extra, I know, but these are so finicky it is worth the little time it takes. The goal here is to remove excess oils and fats that may be on your equipment, even if they were properly washed.
- Time: a few notes on time. 1. These are time intensive to make, but the more you do it the quicker you get. In fact, I can now whip up a batch of macarons as quickly as some other cookies, I swear it gets easier. 2. These are best made the day before and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight. Sure, you can taste test them as soon as they are finished, but they really come together the next day. If you are just beginning give yourself ample time to be thorough and learn as you go. Rushing these will not help.
Every Piece of Equipment Beginners Need to Make Macarons
Chances are you have most of what I am about to describe, if not, take the time to acquire the proper equipment so you have the best chance possible to get these right.
- Stand Mixer & Whisk Attachment: I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Sure, you could use a hand mixer, but the proper meringue can take up to 15 minutes to whip. Again, we are not focused on the time but rather the proper consistency. Many factors may change the length of time it takes for your egg whites and sugar to whip into the perfect stiff meringue.
- Scale: Unfortunately for those of us in the US, a kitchen scale is an absolute must. All ingredients must be weighed for the proper portions. There are many scales out there, I personally have 2 that I use. I have a small countertop scale that I have been using forever. The most important part is that your scale measures in grams. I also recently was gifted the Kitchen Aid Sift and Scale attachment. This thing is amazing! The worst part of the entire macaron process in my opinion is sifting the almond flour – this took all the pain away. You absolutely do not need this as a beginner, and technically do not need it at all – but, should you ever want it, I highly recommend it!
- Do I really need a scale, can’t you convert the recipe to cups?
- Unfortunately, due to the eggs you need a scale. I find that often I need 3.5 eggs for the proper amount of egg whites (what a pain!). If you have too much, or too little, you will have problems. Not only that, the grams often are short of typical measurements that would make it work.
- Do I really need a scale, can’t you convert the recipe to cups?
- Sifter: This is hands down my least favorite part of making macarons. I find sifting Almond Flour to be painful. It takes forever and often I have to give my arm a break. Even though you may use super fine Almond Flour, you will need to sift it into a fine dust. I have tried 3 types of sifters: a traditional handle sifter with the sifting basket, a hand crank sifter and a handle squeeze sifter that is similar to the crank but instead of cranking you squeeze the handle. I typically use the squeeze handle sifter as I find it to be the least painful option.
- Stiff Spatula: Seriously, you need a stiff spatula with a solid handle. I have actually broken multiple spatulas making the macronage. Just make sure your spatula is not all silicone with a rubbery head the wiggles too much, it will make it so much more difficult for you to get the right consistency. I use this one from OXO Good Grips.
- Silicone Mats: There are people who can get perfect macarons with parchment paper. I have not had that experience and once I found the silicone mats were giving me consistent results, I never went back. I began my journey with the Amazon Basics silicone mats. I still use them to this day. They are affordable and effective. I also now use the Silpat Perfect Macaron brand as well. Mainly because you can only use these for so long and I constantly saw people recommending them. I have had perfect macarons on both and as a beginner who needs all these supplies I recommend starting with the Amazon Basics. They both have guides on size for macarons, but you will see later that I have my own method to getting the perfect and consistent shape.
- Baking Pans: Ok, this one really matters. I have unfortunately gone round and round with baking pans and now have 2 that have given me consistent results. Honestly, I am not sure why other than some are thicker than others and some seem to hold and distribute heat better. My go to’s are: These Jelly Roll pans and the Nordic Ware cookie pans. I will tell you that I have had more consistent results with the Jelly Roll pans. I had to cut my Amazon Basic mats to fit them, which was fine. The Nordic Ware pans made me adjust my baking temperature by 5°. Picky right? You will just need to try what you have and through a process of trial and error determine if your pans are a problem.
- Piping Bags: I do lots of cake and cookie decorating, so for me this one was easy. I already had a stockpile of piping bags and knew what my favorites were. I use the WeeTiee silicone bags and every few years throw them out and start over due to food coloring stains. The piping bags are absolutely one thing you will want to make sure is cleaned with vinegar before starting. I think this is also personal preference. I like a medium sized bag and I actually fill it twice while making the macarons. I do not like to hold a huge bag, that is when I run into issues. For piping filling I am actually obsessed with these silicone bulbs from Prep Works. I use these for most decorating as they are secure and easy to hold. If you have a good kitchen supply store near you, you may be able to find one-off’s of these. I highly recommend them if you do any royal icing decorating or cake decorating. They are also super kid friendly and make holding the icing much easier.
- Piping Tip: You will need at least a Wilton #2A for piping macarons. When I count out my macarons when piping I use a #2A. If you use a different size you may need to adjust how long you count for to get the size you would like. Bottom line, you are looking for a rice round tip that is on the larger side. You may need to experiment here to find the one that works for you.
- Double Boiler or Pan + Bowl: A method that I use requires you to heat up your sugar and eggs over boiling water. I use a small sauce pan and the stainless steel bowl from my mixer to do this.You can use a double boiler if you would prefer, but I like to move quickly right to the mixer.
Preparing to Make Macarons
I strongly believe that if you take the proper time to prepare the macaron process can be mastered. Most of the time you spend will be in preparing the tools and workspace to switfly execute. I have detailed every step that I have learned along the way, again these cookies are finicky, but if you prepare right your chances of getting them correct are much higher. Follow these steps to make the whole process easier!
- Make sure your workspace is clear of clutter, you need room to make macarons.
- Begin by collecting your tools, as listed above.
- Wipe down each tool that will touch the macarons with white vinegar and allow to dry. That includes your spatula, baking mats, scale and all mixing bowls. Don’t worry its quick and easy.
- Once everything is wiped down preheat your oven to 320° F. I have tried both Bake and Convection Bake. I do not use convection because I have noticed that sometimes the fans have made my cookies uneven. This is all a part of the learning process. Start with Bake, but if you find that your oven has hot/cool spots you may want to try convection and may need to adjust the temperature. This is where the oven thermometer comes into play. The temperature needs to be precise, if you are unsure of your oven you should verify the temperature before even beginning this process. Or, like me, you can roll the dice for a while.
- Measure Almond Flour & Powdered Sugar: I begin with the almond flour as it is the most time intensive part. Using a sifter, sift the almond flour into a clean bowl on the kitchen scale. Make sure your scale is zeroed out. I can’t tell you how many times I had to start over for that mistake. In another bowl on the scale sift and measure your powdered sugar. Powdered sugar is much quicker! Then lightly stir together the almond flour and powdered sugar.
- Measure Eggs and Granulated Sugar: I use Domino Superfine Sugar as it should melt quicker than standard granulated sugar. If you don’t have that on hand, granulated sugar does just fine, but you may need to whisk over the double boiler for a longer period of time. Measuring egg whites is tricky. First, make sure your eggs are room temperature. Also, I find for some reason older eggs are more consistent. To know if your eggs are new or older you can test them in a few inches of cold water. Newer eggs will lay flat on the bottom, older eggs will stand on their end. Neither should float – if your eggs float, they have gone bad. If you forgot to bring your eggs to room temp, you can put them in lukewarm water for several minutes. Seperate each egg in a small dish and measure the egg whites on the scale. I add one at a time. I know that it takes me aprx. 3.5 eggs for most of my recipes. With that in mind I do the first 3 and then slowly spoon the last into the bowl on the scale until I reach the correct volume.
- Next make sure all of your pans are ready with the mats that have been wiped down.
- Fit your piping bag with the correct tip and place in a pint glass so that the bag is open and you can easily pour the mixture into it.
Now you are ready to start!
In this, I am not including measurements, rather best practices. Measurements need to be determined by the recipe you are following and they can vary depending on the flavor of the macaron. Focus on the steps and perfecting those steps. Once you have that down making a variety of flavors and colors becomes a possibility! I highly reccomend not adding in colors until you have mastered them without color. The addition of color can change your consistency. If you are set on adding color I recommend using AmeriColor Gel colors. They are rich and vibrant and do not require you to add lots. The coloring you get from the grocery store tends to be more liquidy and further alters your consistency.
- Place a double boiler, or a small sauce pan with at least 1 inch of water on the stove over medium heat. When water is slightly bubbling add the mixing bowl. I prefer to use my stainless steel stand mixer bowl.
- Place the egg whites and granulated sugar in the bowl. Set a timer for aprx. 2 minutes. With a metal whisk, whisk the mixture non-stop until the sugar begins to melt and it becomes foamy. Using your fingers confirm that you can not feel the granulated sugar, it should melt into the egg whites. It may take less than 2 minutes.
- Immediately move the bowl to your stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Turn your mixer to level 2 and whisk for 2 minutes.
- Then, turn it up to level 4 for another 2 minutes. they should begin to look thicker.
- Turn your mixer up to level 6 for the remainder of the time. This is when time does not matter as much as how things look. You are looking for the whisk to begin leaving marks and the meringue to become thick, glossy and the volume to increase. I stop my mixer occassionaly to test the meringue. To test the meringue I remove the whisk and scrape towards the bottom of the bowl. Then, turn the whisk upside down and see if you have a stiff peak or, if the top bends. If the top bends the meringue is not ready. Below are some helpful photos.
Ok, this next step is somewhat controversial. Technically you are now going to add your dry ingredients (almond flour and powdered sugar) to the meringue. This is call macronage. It is the most critical step after getting the right meringue consistency. These 2 steps are what need to be mastered for consistent results.
I have done this 2 ways. The way I prefer is to use the stand mixer to help kick start the process. When you are making macronage you are slightly deflating the volume of the meringue. Doing this by hand takes time and energy. I have read recommendations from the number of times you need to fold, to the specific time. At the end of the day, you are looking for the consistency (we will get into that in a moment).
To use your mixer do the following. Add all of your dry ingredients to the bowl and make sure the mixer head is locked in place. QUICKLY – Very Quickly – flip the mixer to speed 6 and count OUT LOUD to 7. Then immediately turn it off.
I then leave my bowl fitted on the stand and clean the whisk off into the bowl to make sure everything is there. Begin to fold, making figure eights. You should not be stirring the batter. You are looking for the batter to begin to flow as you move through it. I would use the hot lava example here, but I have never seen hot lava, and likely neither of you. Instead focus on if the batter is starting to run back together as you move your spatula through it. I have tried counting the folds and it is somewhere between 30 -50. It is never consistent.
Every five folds however, I lift my spatula to see how the batter runs off. If it doesn’t run off you have a ways to go. If it comes off in clumps you are getting closer. Begin checking every 3 folds. You are looking for a “steady” stream. Steady is relative in that if it is too steady it may be over mixed. I do the figure 8 test. I try to draw at least 1 figure 8 with the batter without it stopping. Most people suggest 3, but when I can get to one, I begin to test with every fold.
Really, what we are looking for is the batter to melt back in to itself. If you have ever made royal icing, it is a similar goal in that it should sink in to itself. This really takes patience and practice.
Next, put half of the batter into your piping bag. It is far better to undermix than overmix. The heat from your hands, the process of piping will help to further mix if you undermix your macronage.
The piping technique is also critical. You are looking to hold your piping bag straight up and down. Place your tip in the center of where you want to place your macaron and with even pressure begin to squeeze out the batter. I count to 3 outloud for every shell. I focus on my count and the pressure, not the circles. I found when I focused on the circles they would be too big, uneven and I rarely had perfect matches. This is what works for me.
Once I have one tray done I immediately begin to bang it on my countertop. I do it 25 times and then rotate the pan for another 25. (It drives my husband crazy!) In doing this, you are attempting to bring out any air pockets. I then look them over and pop any air pockets with a toothpick. If it leaves a hole, don’t worry it will fill itself in.
Now, drying. I find drying to be extremely tricky. I have never, ever, had the same dry time twice. I live in the Northeast and it can be extremely humid or extremely dry outside. I consider the drying of the macarons to all be in the touch. After they have sat for 5 minutes, I begin to check them every minute to see if they are dry. You are looking for them to not leave any batter on your finger when you touch it and for the batter to bounce back slightly. If you over dry them they will be flat and hollow. If you under dry them they will also be flat but gooey.
This is a tough one. You have to use your best judgement and don’t get sidetracked. You will know when they are dry based on how they behave.
Once ready place them in the oven and turn your light on! I bake mine, no matter the recipe for 10 minutes on my middle rack. One tray at a time. this is why I pipe one tray and then bang the air out before piping my next tray. I do not want one to over dry.
As they bake you can keep an eye on them. I have literally sat on the floor in front of my oven just hoping they will puff up! You will know if you did it right in the first 5 minutes.
5 minutes through I open the over door and very quickly spin the tray. I do this to keep the baking as even as possible. I have never had any issues doing this.
Once your 10 minutes is up, allow them to stay and cool on the pan completely.
Once removed, the bottoms should be flat and not stuck.
Thats it! I would love to hear your questions and any struggles you are having perfecting macarons! We are here to help! Comment below if this guide helped you perfect your macarons. Feel like I missed something? Let me know! I can always add more!