March 17, 2013

March of Macarons: French Macaron Tutorial

Complete Illustrated French Macaron Tutorial | Tried & Twisted

Hungry for macarons after reading my first March of Macaron post? This month, I welcome all adventurous at-home bakers, curious novices, and macaron addicts looking for insight into the Parisian macaron. Here you will find solace that you are not alone with your confectionery obsession.

The French macaron can be a difficult dessert to perfect since it involves many steps and several techniques. I've been baking macarons for almost a year, but some batches still don't turn out perfectly. Have no fear! Every failure is a learning opportunity, and even if the screw-ups may not look perfect, they still taste delicious. All it takes to master baking macarons in your own home is patience, time, and a little practice.

When starting out making macarons, you'll find a lot of contradictory advice on how to achieve perfection. Not wanting to blindly lead you into the fray, I've done a lot of research into the theories and explanations for each method. Hopefully knowing why the rules and rumors started will help you to decide what method you will chose for yourself. Some guidelines can be ignored, while others cannot, like exact measuring of ingredients and technique for meringue or macaronage.

First, I'll share the basics of a standard macaron recipe before jumping deep into the debates and science of meringues. Finally, I'll share some details of the perfect macaron and some other resources.

Complete French Macaron Tutorial | Tried & Twisted

I'm not an expert or professional, but I will gladly share the tips I have learned in the last year of baking macarons in the hopes of giving you a head start with your first batch. I hope this will encourage many home bakers to give it a try. A world with more macaron bakers would be a happy world indeed!

As I continue baking my favorite obsession, I'll gladly share updates or any new insights into the tips and tricks of macarons.

The Basics

French macarons can be made following two primary techniques: the French method and the Italian method. The difference comes in how each method makes a meringue. The French method only relies on beating, while the Italian method heats the egg white. Some say the French method is easier, while others say the Italian method yields better results. Today, I'm focusing on the French method since that has been my weapon of choice.
Remember to give yourself plenty of time, since the process of making macarons can generally take 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Macarons are most easily made when you have the right tools at hand. It is possible to take shortcuts if your kitchen is missing these tools, but I'll get into that more in-depth in my next post, the Beginner's Shortcut.

Supplies for Macarons | Tried & Twisted
  • Food scale (measure in grams)
  • Food processor
  • Sifter
  • Stand or hand mixer
  • Metal baking sheets
  • Silicone mat (Silpat) or parchment paper
  • Round large piping tip, about 1/2 - 3/4 inches (like a Wilton #2A)
  • Piping bag, about 12 - 18 inches
  • Rubber mixing spatula

French Macaron Recipe
The exact measurements of each macaron recipe tend to vary, and most versions are not "wrong". Each variation might change the sweetness or the consistency of the batter. Currently, my preferred ratio is based on a fellow macaron-enthusiast's advice using Clemence Gossett of The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica, with a few alterations. The below recipe is for mint buttercream macarons.

240 g confectioner's sugar
180 g almond flour
80 g granulated sugar
140 g egg whites (room temperature)
pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
1/8 tsp mint extract
4 drops of green gel food coloring

1. Preparation: Age egg whites the night before. Sift almond flour and confectioner's sugar together in a food processor to combine ingredients and check for large pieces of almonds. Set flour/sugar mixture aside. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Meringue: Whip egg whites at medium speed in stand mixer with whip attachment until foamy and wires of beater leave trails (1 - 2 minutes). Add a pinch of tartar (optional). Continue to whip and add 1 Tbsp of granulated sugar every 30 - 45 seconds until all 80 grams have been added. Continue whipping until meringue turns glossy and stiff in about 4 - 8 minutes.
3. Macaronage: Combine half of the almond flour/sugar mixture with the meringue and mix it gently with a rubber spatula. Add the second half of the almond flour/sugar mixture, food coloring, if desired, and mint extract, and gently mix to combine batter.
4. Piping: Pipe batter into small circles onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mats. Tap baking sheets against the table to release air bubbles.
5. Waiting: Let the batter rest for 30 minutes until shell is dried and no longer tacky.
6. Baking: Bake at 300°F for 15 - 20 minutes until macaron is baked solid. Let cool on racks before filling each macaron sandwich.
7. Filling:  Macarons can be filled with many kinds of filling, but for this example, we'll use mint buttercream. Follow buttercream recipe below to make buttercream and pipe onto one macaron cookie and top with another macaron cookie of equal size.
8. Maturation: Set batch of macarons in the fridge for four hours or overnight for best enjoyment.

Buttercream Recipe
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp mint extract

1. Whisk sugar and egg whites together until combined in a glass bowl over a sauce pan of boiling water at medium high heat. Whisk occasionally while simmering until mixture is hot to touch (4 - 6 minutes).
2. Remove from heat and transfer to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk.
3. Whip at medium speed until mix becomes light white and cool to touch (4 - 6 minutes).
4. Reduce speed to low and add butter in small slices. Mix at medium speed until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and mint extract and blend.

The Technique

Age of Egg Whites
Planning is a crucial part of making macarons because several of the ingredients need to be prepared in advance. Perhaps, the most important preparation is the egg whites. The egg whites are the essential platform on which the macaron is built, and yet instructions have an alarming disparity as to how to prepare the whites: fresh or aged, room-temperature or cold, in-shell or out-of-shell?

Short Answer: Many macaron experts, such as Pierre Hermé, recommend using aged egg whites for macarons. Some say week-old egg whites, and others say day-old egg whites. I prefer to crack mine into measured amounts for each batch in a sealed container and let sit for a day in the fridge, and then let it come to room temperature on baking day.

Measuring Egg Whites for Macarons | Tried & Twisted

Blind Me With Science: From my research, I've learned that the age of the egg white matters because it affects the protein structure within. Protein structures break down in the whites as the eggs age, become more alkaline, and some of the water evaporates. The balls of protein become looser and are more pliable and willing to be restructured into one mass of meringue foam when whipped. The downside is that these proteins are not as stable as fresh egg proteins and may not hold their shape.
Temperature also affects the protein structures. Cold causes the protein to be more rigid and hold its structure, while heat causes the protein to relax (just like whipped cream on a warm day). Because of this, some bakers suggest microwaving the egg whites if you forgot to age them (10 - 20 seconds on medium high heat), because the heat will also help to relax the proteins.

To make a long story short (too late), fresh eggs will require more work to whip into shape, but they might hold their shape better. Aged egg whites will be easier to whip into larger fluffier foams, but they may fall flat if you don't work fast enough. If you move through this stage to piping in good time, then you won't have to worry about the foam falling flat.

Final Verdict: While the experts suggest aged, room-temperature eggs, you can experiment and find your own preferred state of egg white. Whichever form you prefer, I suggest consistency, so you'll know how fast to work, how many stirs during macaronage, and how your batter will behave.

The next step that can be done in preparation of making macarons is sifting the almond flour and confectionery sugar together prior to mixing with the meringue.

Almond and Pistachio Flour for Macarons | Tried & Twisted

Prepare the Almond Flour: The importance of this step lies in the sifting. Almond flour (also called almond meal or almond powder) can be store bought or ground at home, but should ideally be finely ground and sifted to remove larger pieces to avoid any surprising crunches in your macaron shells.

The macaron cookie shell surface will look much smoother with finely ground almond, which makes a prettier final product. Also, larger almond pieces can weigh down the meringue and can create hollow shells. The macaron shells retain their form more easily and do not crack as often with well ground almond flour.

Almond flour is never as fine as wheat flour, but should be an even consistency like corn meal. The almond flour can be sifted and ground with either a food processor or a grinder before sifting/mixing together with the sugar to ensure the almonds are ground extra fine.

Mixing Almond Flour and Sugar for Macarons | Tried & Twisted

Sifting and Mixing: Even with store-bought or finely ground almond flour, it is best to grind and sift it one more time when blending with sugar. Send the almond flour through a food processor with the confectionery sugar and then use a sifter or sieve to catch any remaining large pieces. Send the large chunks through the food processor again until the mixture is fine. The finer the flour, the smoother the shells.

Drying Almond Flour: If your almond flour is too moist and clumping together, try spreading out a thin layer of the flour on a cookie sheet and drying at low heat (about 200°for 30 minutes). Let the flour cool before using in batter. This step is not necessary unless clumps of almonds cause problems during macaronage for you.

Go Nuts: Adventurous bakers will sometimes incorporate other nuts into the flour to unlock a whole new world of flavors. Pistachio nut flour is shown above, which adds a bright green color to the macaron and a whole new flavor. Other nut flours are usually ground and prepared the same way as almond flour and are used in conjunction with almond flour.

Whip it. Whip it Good!
Egg whites are whipped into a foam in a stand mixer for approximately 1 - 2 minutes, until the trail of the tines of the beaters can be seen in the foam. When the beaters are stopped the mixture will still be white and frothy, but lacking in volume (see photo below).

Whipping Egg Whites for Macarons 1 | Tried & Twisted

Blind Me With Science: As I explained under the Age of Egg Whites step above, the whipping action restructures the proteins of the egg white into a looser form wrapped around the air bubbles. Whipping time may vary depending on the state of egg white.

Cream of tartar is an option when whipping. How does that work?  The long answer is that acidity helps to prevent the protein from overstretching and the meringue from falling. There's nothing more frustrating than seeing the perfect meringue fall flat because you beat it just a minute too long. The extra acidity helps to buy a little leeway so the meringue isn't quite so picky. Cream of tartar, lemon juice, vinegar, or mixing in cooper bowls (binds with protein) all are methods that cooks swear by to keep the meringue more pliable and are especially useful if you tend to overbeat your meringue.

Short Answer: Personally, I've only tested cream of tartar and this does help prevent flat meringues. If you want to give one of the other methods a try, just don't try two methods simultaneously.

Whipping Egg Whites for Macarons 2 | Tried & Twisted

Next, you'll add sugar and mix for about 4 - 8 minutes (see photo above). The sugar adds structural support for the egg whites to build onto and you can see how the volume doubles the longer it is whipped.

The trick to whipping up a meringue is to mix long enough so the meringue is smooth and voluminous, but not too long so the meringue falls flat or gets chunky. Carefully watch the meringue develop to spot when it is ready.

Whipped Meringue Ready Test | Tried & Twisted

The Test: One easy method to ensure the meringue is ready is to check for a stiff peak, by stirring the beaters through the meringue and holding the beater upside down. First, if the meringue does not cling to the beater, it's very undermixed. If the meringue forms a peak that flops over, then it is probably not firm enough yet. If the meringue forms a strong peak that holds its form, then it is ready (see photo above).

Hey Macaronage! Ay!
The next stage, called "macaronage"is the process of combining the meringue with the almond flour and sugar mixture. The number of turns or folds of the spatula mixing the batter is essential. The flour/sugar mixture needs to be evenly mixed to remove all lumps, but at the same time the meringue cannot be stirred too much or it may lose too much volume.

Folding the batter will take some of the volume out of the meringue.  It's better not to turn more than 40 times. When the batter is properly mixed, it will flow like thick ribbons of lava (see photo below). If the batter is undermixed, it may be too clumpy. If it is overmixed, then it may fall flat like pancake batter.

Macaronage for Macarons | Tried & Twisted

The Test: Watching how the batter flows off of the spatula is one easy way to spot when the batter is ready. Another test is to place a dollop of batter on a flat surface and watch it for 10 seconds. If the batter is undermixed, it will stay solid like cookie dough or have lumps across the surface. Ideally, the dollop should spread slightly into a smooth round shape. If the batter is overmixed, then the dollop will spread like pancake batter and fall too flat. There's no easy fix if you overmix your batter, so stir slowly by hand and be gentle not to whip the air out.

While plain almond-flavored macarons are delicious in their own right, flavored macarons are quite common. The easiest way to add a little pop of flavor is to add a few drops of liquid extract flavors, such as vanilla, peppermint, or strawberry. Dehydrated fruit powder is another way to supplement flavor to the macaron shells themselves.

Flavors and Dyes for Macarons | Tried & Twisted 

Dramatic color is one of the macaron's most memorable features as macarons can be dyed nearly any color your heart desires. Liquid food dye, commonly found at the grocery store, adds a nice pastel hue to macarons, but is not concentrated enough for bold colors. Gel or paste food dyes are preferred for really bold and outstanding colors. I used a few drops of gel food coloring for the macarons pictured here. Be careful not to add too many drops or too much powder or it may affect the consistency of the final batter.

Timing is Everything: Flavor and color are typically added just before the final stages of mixing, either during the final stages of whipping the meringue or during the final turns of macaronage. In my experience, which stage you choose to add the flavor or color does not matter as much as your timing within that stage.  Be certain to add the flavor or dye before mixing is finished, so you do not have to overmix in order to spread the color or flavor. Remember you do not want to overmix or you'll have a flat, feetless mac! Also, remember to add dry to dry or wet to wet (i.e. gel dye would be added to the meringue or powder dye would be added to the flour/sugar mixture).

Pipe It Like It's Hot
When the batter is ready, fill the batter into a piping bag prepared with a round tip and pipe the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat.

Piping Macarons | Tried & Twisted

Piping Technique: For those who have never piped batter before, remember to hold the piping bag perpendicularly to form round even circles. Twist the open end of the bag shut and squeeze from the top down to ensure an even flow of the batter onto the pan. Try to pipe evenly-sized macarons, and remember to leave space between the macarons so there is room for the macaron to spread as it settles.

If a peak appears from piping, it may fall flat as the batter settles (see photo above). If it does not settle on it's own, you can wet your finger and tap the peak flat.

Piping Bags: Disposable plastic or reusable parchment piping bags are both good options. Neither method seems to affect the macaron, so this choice comes down to how much you hate washing piping bags or how much you would rather save a few bucks and be environmentally friendly. I prefer reusable parchment piping bags.

Parchment or Silicone: Many aficionados swear that silicone is not as good to bake on as parchment paper. In my experience, the silicone texture does not cause the macaron shells to stick. Parchment paper may brown and cook the base of the macaron slightly faster than the silicone because it is thinner and provides less insulation. The difference is not significant enough to change the taste or texture of the mac, so I use both from time to time.

Tapping Air Bubbles for Macarons | Tried & Twisted

Finally, after piping the macarons, tap the pan against a hard flat surface to knock all of the air bubbles out. Air bubbles may cause cracks in the shell when baking. If tapping doesn't work, gently poking the air bubbles with a toothpick will usually do the trick.

Wait for It
Before baking, standard directions recommend letting the macarons rest on the baking sheet for 30 minutes. The exposure to the air helps to form the dry shell that tops the macaron. Wait until the cookies are dry or no longer tacky to the touch.

Waiting for Macarons | Tried & Twisted
See the shiny tacky surface? Ignore the bumps -- I didn't double-sift that batch.

However, the wait period is also debated. Some bakers have wonderful success popping the macaron into the oven immediately after piping and some bakers wait 15 minutes or a whole hour. So what is the right way?

Why Wait: Resting Macarons | Tried & Twisted

In my experience, waiting is the safer bet if you want good ruffles or feet to develop on the bottom of your cookies. While waiting, the macaron may continue to spread outward as it settles, especially if it was overmixed. If it is baked immediately, the cookie may try to spread outward in the oven, while baking upward, which causes a crackled finish. In the photo above, the purple macarons did not rest, while the red macarons did. As you can see, most of the red macarons turned out fine, while all of the purple macarons spread and crackled.

Humidity: Some theorize that humidity will slow the wait time, since the air will not dry the shell as quickly. I've yet to notice a direct effect, even in humid Pennsylvania, so don't skip macarons just because it's a rainy humid day.

Baker, Baker
Macarons are baked at 300°F for 10 - 15 minutes. The exact temperature and length of time may vary depending on your oven. If your oven is too hot, the macaron may discolor or burn.

Process: The theory goes that the waiting period dries the exposed area causing the shell cap to form. When baked, the batter rises slightly, pushing the shell cap upward and creating the ruffled feet. 

While some may recommend double-stacking baking pans, this is not necessary to bake a good macaron.

Perfect Feet on Macarons | Tried & Twisted

Just Right: Underbaking or overbaking can lead to very different problems for macarons. If the macaron is underbaked, the inside may remain gooey and sink once out of the oven, creating the dreaded hollow shells. Underbaking can also cause the shell to separate from the bottom entirely. Baking at too high a temperature can cause browning or cracks in the shells. Better to bake it low and slow. Generally, overbaking is safer than underbaking. If the macaron bakes too hard, the filling will add moisture to the cookie and help the center return to a soft chewy texture.

Usually, when the macaron cookie can be removed from baking sheet entirely without splitting or sticking to the sheet, then it is fully baked. If you aren't sure, try slicing one cookie in half to test if it's baked or gooey inside.

The Icing on the Cake
Macaron's flavors are nearly limitless considering all the filling options available. The standard fillings are buttercream, jam, chocolate ganache, and lemon curd. However, experimental bakers are pushing the boundaries further every day with creative frostings, fruits, dipped chocolate, and even ice cream.

Most fillings should be piped onto the inside of your macaron cookies, rather than spread on with a knife. Thicker fillings especially should not be spread with a knife, since the weight may smash the delicate macaron cookie.

Piping Jam onto Macarons | Tried & Twisted

While any type of filling can be used, it should be remembered that there is a limit to how the cookie will behave. If the filling is too moist, like ice cream or pudding, the inside of the macaron will quickly become mushy and fall apart. The ideal consistency of the filling is that it is firm enough to hold the cookies together without slipping out from in between them.

Wait again? While you can certainly eat macarons fresh from the oven, the texture is so much better after waiting in the refrigerator for four hours to a day for the macaron to mature.

I had underestimated the value of maturation and often made a batch a macarons on the day of the party, and it was only after every friend who took home left-overs insisted they were better the next day that I finally became a believer. The inside becomes perfectly soft, chewy, and delectable while the outside shell remains nice and crispy.

The Perfection

What to look for in a good macaron? The good news is that even if you mess up a macaron, they still taste delightfully delicious! But if you're a perfectionist, then there are a few details you'll want to try to get right.
  • Ruffled feet
  • Solid shells: not hollow shells or detached tops
  • Flat crisp outer shell with smooth, non-gritty almond flour
  • Soft gooey inside after maturation 
  • Balanced stuffing: not overstuffed or understuffed
Perfect Macaron | Tried & Twisted

The ultimate perfectionist might argue about shape of the ruffled feet, the shininess of the shell, and other aesthetic details. But many of these problems come down to appearance only and have little effect on the taste.
Hollow Macaron Shell | Tried & Twisted
Tragedy! The dreaded hollow macaron shell!

One of the few exceptions is the dreaded hollow shell, which is often too fragile to use with filling of any kind. Detached feet or separated shells are also very fragile, although sometimes the filling can be used as the glue to hold the pieces together.

Paris Patisseries lists in-depth the kinds of "Crimes & Misdemeanors" found in even the most esteemed Parisian macarons. If even the masters of macarons make mistakes on a daily occurrence, then you can certainly be far more forgiving if one of your batches is not "perfect". Most people will not criticize the final appearance, especially when offered such a tasty treat.

Further Reading:
If you'd like to dive in further into the world of macarons, here are some great additional sources.
With so much support from fellow bakers online, there really is no limit to your ability to bring French macarons into your own home. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below or share your success stories and tips.

Once you master the basic French macaron, their sweet and nutty flavor can be reinvented into any flavor, design, shape, or variety. Remember to be patient and give yourself a little grace while learning the basics. Good luck baking your macs!

Linking at:
Submarine Sunday Link Party
Say G'Day Saturday with Natasha in Oz
Chic on a Shoestring Decorating
One More Time
Life at Lakeshore Drive
Or So She Says
Crafty Soiree
Mouthwatering Monday with Southern Fairytale 
Melt in your Mouth Monday 
Made by You Monday on Skip to My Lou 
I Gotta Try That Monday
Home Stories A to Z 


  1. Newest follower here! I found your blog through the blog hop, you have a wonderful blog :) You can find me at


    1. Hi Melanie! Thank you so much for stopping by and for following. Your tumblr has such beautiful photos! Do you use a point-and-shoot or DSLR? Love your photos!

  2. I have to pin this. I tried meringue cookies once, and let me tell you, patience is not my virtue! Still, I just might try it if I have the time. Such detailed instructions. Great job!
    Anjana @

  3. These are fabulous!! Thanks for the awesome tutorial, too! Thank you so much for sharing at A Bouquet of Talent this week. So thrilled to have you share with us! New follower, too!

    1. My pleasure! I'm so glad you enjoyed and are following!

  4. Yummy! Thanks for sharing your tutorial @ Submarine Sunday!

    Navy Wifey Peters

  5. Hi! I found your site after reading about 50 other detailed posts. :) I just tried making macarons again for the 5th time and my cookies had no feet. I will have to try again!

    A question for you: after you pipe the macarons, what do you do with the remaining batter while waiting for the piped macarons to dry out? while doing this, my egg whites deflated since they were just left on the counter (covered) and I only have 1 baking sheet. Thank you in advance for your help!

    1. Hi Esther! Thanks for stopping by!
      Only having one baking sheet would definitely make things trickier. Yes, the meringue will deflate while waiting, regardless of whether it is in a piping bag or in a bowl, so I always pipe all of my batter immediately onto two trays. Maybe you could half the recipe so you only have enough batter for one pan at a time.

      As for the feet, that's always the hardest part! I have the bad habit of overmixing sometimes during macaronage, so that is usually what kills the feet for me. Make sure your almond flour and powdered sugar are fine and sifted, so you won't need to mix as long. Hopefully that will help!

      The other possibility is that your meringue might not have been strong enough, so make sure peaks are really whipped stiff.

      Hope you have better luck on your next batch!

  6. Hello, if I may say, your macarons were cracked because you mixed them too much. It is very tricky to "macaroner" with the French meringue recipe and you have to be careful. I gravitated toward the Italian meringue method as the macarons aren't as brittle :)

    1. Thank you for the feedback, Caroline! I have noticed that I have the tendency to over-mix, so I'm being more mindful about that. I've been curious about the Italian method, so I want to give that a try sometime once I've mastered the French method. If the Italian macs are less brittle, so much the better! Thanks!

  7. I've always wanted to make but have never given them a shot. I just saw them made on that the baking show on CBS and thought I need to try.

    Great tips thanks! I'm your newest follower :)

    1. Alexis, I just saw macarons on the America Baking Competition too. Thanks for following!

  8. I love macarons and have been battling with making successful batches. This is a great post! Thanks for all the great tips. Will be referring back to it often.

    1. Glad to hear it's helpful for you, Zainab! Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Hello! I found this blog VERY helpful! I bake macarons for a bakery and they always come out great! Yesterday (VERY RAINY DAY) I whipped up a batch using the same recipe I always use. I put them out to dry, after three hours they were still sticky. What are your thoughts?

  10. Thank you so much, Dr. Missus Cupcake! I'm glad it was helpful. We have trouble with humidity here in Pennsylvania too, which will leave the surface of the shell tacky to the touch for much longer. Air conditioning helps me avoid this. Or you could try running a fan?

    But in the end, I find that sticky shells don't cause too much trouble. The feet are just a little smaller and less defined unfortunately.

  11. i have an oven with a top element only. i've tried a pizza stone and tried baking the macarons on a shelf just above the stone and with the tray actually on the stone. i've also baked them with tin foil gentle spread over the top of the macarons. i am cooking them at 130 degrees, restricting myself to the front middle of the oven as its a different temperature in other parts of the oven despite being fan assisted. whatever i do they get browned on top and remain sticky inside, often collapsing and leaving hollow shells. is there anything else i can do? can i cook them slower and would that help? thanks!

  12. help I can't get the deep colors your showing here...I've used gel and powder and no matter how much I add it turns more of a pastel?? What's your secret?

    1. Hello Lori. I use Ateco brand soft gel paste coloring. The color fades when it is baked, so make sure the color in the mixing bowl is just a shade brighter than the final finish you're hoping for. Hope that helps!

    2. Also, some of the colors just naturally show up a bit pastel. Pink is notorious for that, so I often add a little red to make it more vibrant. I picked up a variety pack of food coloring so I could really play with the shades.


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