You’ve seen them everywhere, with their vibrant colors, lightly crunchy shells, and creamy fillings. They line the bakery shelves of grocery stores and have even inspired their own gourmet shops. That’s right, macarons. First brought from Italy to France in 1547, the macaron was perfected in France, and lately these bite-sized treats have taken the world by storm.
Macarons contain just a few simple ingredients, usually some combination of almond flour, sugar, egg whites, and water. Despite this simple ingredient list, macarons are known for being difficult to bake. To achieve the picture-perfect, uncracked shell with the right glossy sheen takes exact measuring, mixing, baking, and drying. If you’re just getting started with macarons, though, don’t lose heart! With these six helpful tips, even a beginner can make gourmet macarons like a pro.
No-Fail Tips for Making Beautiful Macarons
1. Have a helper.
If possible, recruit a helping hand to assist you in the kitchen. Baking with a friend or family member not only helps you mix the ingredients smoothly and at the correct pace, but it also makes the process more fun. If you’re going it alone, use a stand mixer instead of a hand mixer so that you keep one free hand. Marie from Food Nouveau also recommends making sure that your stand mixer’s bowl and utensils are cold, which keeps ingredients from sticking.
2. Invest in a kitchen scale.
Though many recipes give cup and teaspoon measurements, Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction swears by her kitchen scale for delectable macarons. Scales are a much more accurate way to measure ingredients and will make your life much easier when making these difficult treats.
3. Watch out for humidity.
Humidity in the kitchen, particularly within the oven, makes it difficult for the macaron shells to dry properly. Do yourself a favor, and only make these cookies on a dry day. If you have a dehumidifier laying around, put it in the kitchen while you prepare, and leave the oven door slightly ajar to avoid trapping humidity inside. You’ll be impressed the difference that proper drying has on the shells’ texture and shine.
4. Make the macaron recipes ahead of time.
Prepare the macaron shells and their filling a day or two ahead of time. Put them in the fridge, or better yet, freeze them. Just remember to remove them about three hours before you plan to serve them. Making them ahead of time not only saves stress on the day of your party, but it also gives you some wiggle room in case the shells burn or the dough gets dropped.
5. Do what works for you.
There are many different beliefs about the proper way to make macarons, even among the French. The best advice is to do what works for you in your kitchen and with the amount of time you have. Even the baking pros like Audra the Baker Chick adjust macaron recipes to fit their needs. While traditional recipes call for aging of the eggs before mixing them into the dough, Audra skips this step altogether. If you don’t have time to make a homemade filling, just fill the shells with anything you’d like! The most traditional fillings are light ganaches and preserved fruit, but you can also add frosting, Nutella, peanut butter, or caramel.
6. Start simple, and have fun practicing.
Like anything worthwhile, making the perfect macarons requires a lot of practice. The first few batches may not turn out exactly like the pictures, but you’ll learn new tricks every time. Plus, even if the shell is cracked or the color is a little off, your macarons will taste delicious. Start simple before moving on to the fancier recipes, and remember that even the best chefs need time to master the macaron.
Eight Easy Macaroon Recipes
Now that you have these helpful tips in mind, start practicing your French baking skills with these eight easy and enticing macaron recipes. These recipes are simple enough for beginners to try but delicious enough for pros to make again and again.
Required ingredients: For the shells: powdered and fine sugar, ground almond, egg whites, salt; For the filling: unsalted butter, powdered sugar
Make these basic macarons in about 30 minutes. While the oven preheats, pour the powdered sugar and ground almonds through a sieve and into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until the mixture peaks, add sugar slowly until the mixture thickens, and add the sugar and almond mix from the other bowl. Using a piping bag, pipe this mixture on to a baking sheet, let them dry until shiny, and then bake for about 16 minutes.
While baking, beat the butter and sugar together to create the filling. After the shells have completely cooled, fill them with the butter and sugar mixture. Enjoy immediately, or refrigerate before serving.
Tip: Be sure that your mixing bowls are very clean before using. Add gel food coloring if you’d like a brighter pop of color.
Required ingredients: For the shells: powdered and fine sugar, ground almond, egg whites, salt, chocolate; For the meringue: egg whites, lemon juice, sugar; For the ganache: cream, chocolate
To make this chocolate macaron variety with ganache, follow the same instructions for the basic macaron shells. Once the egg white and sugar has peaked, mix in melted chocolate. Make a meringue by whisking together egg whites, lemon juice, and sugar syrup with a hand blender. Carefully mix the meringue into the chocolate shell dough mixture. Pipe the dough, and bake as directed.
For the ganache filling, boil the cream and chocolate together, and pipe into the baked and dried macaron shells. Serve, and enjoy!
Tip: Use this chocolate mixture as a cake base for a fun, oversized take on a macaron.
Required ingredients: For the shells: powdered and fine sugar, ground almond, egg whites, salt, rose water, pink gel food coloring; For the filling: raspberry jam
For these beautifully delicate pink macarons, follow the same basic shell-making steps, adding the rose water and food coloring right after the egg whites and sugar have come into peaks. Once baked and dried, fill the macaron shells with raspberry jam or marmalade for a fresh and sweet taste.
Tip: Let the egg whites come to room temperature before mixing them.
Required ingredients: For the shells: powdered and fine sugar, ground almond, egg whites, salt; For the filling: heavy cream, fine sugar, fleur de sel, butter
These macarons are a breeze! Just make the macaron shells following basic recipe. For the salted caramel filling, boil the cream and sugar separately and then mix together. Let the mixture cool slightly, and then fold in the butter and fleur de sel. Let it cool again, beat it until smooth, and fill the macaron shells to your delight!
Tip: Fleur de sel is a gourmet sea salt from France.
Required ingredients: For the shells: powdered and fine sugar, pumpkin seeds, egg whites, salt, malt powder, cocoa powder, vanilla bean; For the filling: vanilla buttercream, barley malt syrup
This macaron recipe is perfect for those who suffer from nut allergies, and they taste just as delicious as traditional macarons. To make the almond flour substitute, blend the pumpkin seeds, sugar, malt powder, and cocoa powder in a food processor. Then use this mixture to complete the basic macaron shell-making steps, including beating, piping, and drying. Use a mixer to beat the buttercream and barley malt syrup together, and then pipe the filling into the baked and dried cookies.
Tip: Add food coloring or other flavors to give a little zest to these nut-free macarons.
Required ingredients: For the shells: powdered and fine sugar, ground almond, egg whites, cocoa powder; For the filling: Nutella, heavy cream, bittersweet chocolate
These amazing macarons are sure to please the whole family with the familiar and delectable taste of Nutella. Make the macaron shells normally, adding the cocoa powder into the almond flour and sugar mixture before beating it with the egg whites. For the Nutella ganache, lightly heat the heavy cream, and add in the Nutella and bittersweet chocolate. Let the filling thicken and cool in the fridge, and then pipe it into the macaron shells.
Tip: If you’re in a hurry, just use plain Nutella as the filling. The texture won’t be as light and fluffy, but the taste will more than make up for it.
Required ingredients: For the shells: powdered and fine sugar, ground almond, egg whites, shredded coconut; For the filling: egg yolks, pineapple juice, sugar, cornstarch butter
These pina colada-inspired macarons have a traditional cookie shell with shredded coconut and a pineapple curd filling for a tropical taste. Make the macaron shell according to the basic recipe, adding the shredded coconut on top just before baking. To make the pineapple filling, mix all the ingredients together on the stove top, and let cool before filling the macarons.
Tip: Be sure to let your filling cook long enough so it is not too runny.
Required ingredients: For the shells: powdered and fine sugar, ground almond, egg whites, salt, red food coloring; For the filling: cream cheese, butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, vanilla extract
These red velvet macarons are a delicate twist on the classic dessert. Make the macaron shells as normal, adding in just a touch of red food coloring after the egg white, sugar, and flour mixture has attained glossy peaks. To make the traditional cream cheese filling, blend all the ingredients together in a stand mixer, and fill the baked and dried macaron shells.
Tip: Don’t add too much food coloring, or the peaks will weaken and lead to a crumbly, cracked shell.
Do you know what pairs well with macarons? Coffee! Check out these surprising health benefits of coffee that will make you feel good about having your coffee and dessert.
Featured photo credit: Lelivingandco via flickr.com