The elusive French macaron – they might just be the most notorious things to make.
Four simple ingredients, but such a challenge they can be!
Over the past few months, I’ve made a whole lotta batches in my pursuit of perfecting these notorious french cookies.
Honestly, I just love the challenge, but even more, I love how accomplished you feel after a great batch! When they work out they are just about the most heavenly, and delicious cookies.
If you’ve never had a macaron before, they’re a french cookie sandwich, made with almond flour, egg whites and sugar. They’re slightly crisp on the outside, but when you bite into them, they’re just a bit chewy, and take on the flavour of the filling.
Over the past little while, in my many iterations of making these temperamental cookies, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve picked up lots of macaron tips and tricks that have helped me make troubleshoot these finicky cookies.
And now I want to share those lessons and I’m sharing my macarons tips so you don’t have to start from scratch.
15 Macaron Tips to make your best batch yet:
1) Invest in an oven thermometer
It’s almost guaranteed that the oven in your home is not the temperature it’s showing. The best way to be sure is to get an oven thermometer!
Macarons are finicky and knowing the temperature, will at the very least let you know what did or did not work for your batch of macarons.
2) Get a kitchen scale
Measuring the ingredients accurately is super important! I cannot stress this enough.
Once you make enough batches, you will have a preference in the ratio of almond flour to icing sugar in your recipe.
The only way to reproduce the results is to start with accurate measurements.
3) Oil is the enemy of the meringue
When I first started making macarons, I would often have issues with the meringue itself.
I experimented with carton egg whites, fresh egg white, a combination, and there would inevitably be issues.
Now, every time before I start mixing the meringue, I wipe down the bowl with either vinegar or lemon juice.
Another tip I’d add at this step is to add a pinch of cream of tartar to the meringue, which helps create a more stable meringue.
4) Sift, Sift, Sift for a smooth macaron
Never skip this step!
Whether you’re using store-bought almond flour or making your own from blanched almonds, make sure to sift the almond flour with the icing sugar.
I typically this at least three times.
Sometimes even four times if it’s a particularly humid day!
My favorite almond flour lately has been the Kirkland brand, which I order off Amazon usually.
5) Beat your meringue to almost stiff peaks
Yes I know you’re thinking that this macaron tip makes no sense; it’s easier said than done.
I use a stand mixer, and I know that it’s at almost stiff peaks when I lift my whisk and that first meringue is stiff, but I know there’s some meringue under there that is not as stiff.
While mixing the meringue, even with the stand mixer, I stop the mixer three or four times to mix the meringue with a spatula, as the meringue on the bottom of the bowl is often neglected.
6) Don’t over mix the batter, and don’t under mix
After all the failed batches, I can tell whether or not it’s going to be a good batch of macarons or not, before they go into the oven.
The macronage step (aka folding the meringue into the almond flour and icing sugar mixture) is one of the most important steps in each batch.
It typically doesn’t take very long to mix in the batter, especially if you meringue is not at super stiff peaks (see above).
Indulge with Mimi has a great video on this, I use the figure 8 test to see if the batter is ready.
I find that it is better to err of the side of under mixing if I’m unsure, because when transferring the batter to a piping bag, and then piping the batter, the batter will be worked a bit more.
7) Rest, rest, rest
Some bakers swear this makes no difference, but for me, this step always yields a better batch. I rest the shells until there is a film on them, and the batter is not as tacky on the top.
Unfortunately, there is no magic time limit on the resting. Some days my shells are ready to bake in fifteen minutes, but on rainy days I may have to wait even an hour.
8) Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
There is no such thing as a foolproof recipe. I used to think that I just hadn’t found the right recipe. But there are so many factors that will affect your cookies.
I’ve had success with many recipes and ratios, and failed batches even with the same successful recipes.
9) Take copious notes
As I’ve said before, there are so many variables when trying to nail macarons.
This may be a little obsessive, but I have a detailed spreadsheet where I record everything about a batch:
- Oven temperature
- Photo of the meringue or at least a description
- Fresh or carton egg whites
- Recipe used (ratio of almond flour to icing sugar)
- Rest time
- Photo of the finished macaron
- Notes on the look finished macaron
- Anything else I want to remember about the batch
10) Try different methods
The two most popular methods of making macarons are the french method, where the egg whites and sugar are not cooked. For the Italian method, the egg whites and sugar are heated before making a meringue.
I use the French meringue method. I have heard that the Italian methods produces much more stable macaron, and that might increase your chances of success.
However, I’m too lazy for the extra steps and dishes that I need for heating the sugar syrup.
Some recipes to start off with:
French method: Indulge with Mimi has a great recipe!
She is also a wealth of knowledge and has some indepth guide on baking macarons.
Italian method: I’ve used this recipe from the ScranLine successfully
Try them both, and see which ones work better for you in your kitchen!
11) Start with the basics
I never flavor my macaron shells.
Rather, I rely on whatever filling is requested for the flavor for macarons.
I’ve found that trying to make chocolate shells or matcha shells, just led me to be overwhelmed, and got me to be discouraged with the results.
It also meant that I had a hard time troubleshooting what was wrong with the macarons.
12) Use only gel or powdered food colors
Food coloring from the grocery store is too liquid, and it changes the consistency of the batter. Stick with gel colors.
Powdered food coloring is also an option, though I’ve never tried.
13) Don’t add too much color / sprinkles before baking
I often use sprinkles or cookie crumbs to give an extra oomph to the shells.
You need a VERY small amount to get the look, too much will weigh down the cookies.
Same with the color. Use only gel color, and a very small amount, one to two drops at most if possible.
There’s many ways to decorate these cookies, which makes them so versatile. Need some inspiration? Check out my post on decorating french macarons.
14) Let them mature
Macarons taste the best when they’ve had the change to age a little bit.
How do you age them?
Once the shells are baked and cooled, fill them with your favorite filling, and pop them in the fridge in an airtight container for at least a day.
I find that this step not only makes the macarons taste better, but I’ve also managed to salvaged any overbaked or not so perfect cookie shells.
15) Don’t be discouraged
To be honest, there’s no real bad batch. The macarons will likely be tasty no matter what went wrong.
If you really can’t salvage them, use the baked shells as an ice cream topping, and move onto the next batch!