Hi! We are Rachael from pizzarossa and Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and we are very excited to bring you the French Macaron! The Daring Bakers tackled the macaron back in October 2009, however with so many new members we thought it would be a good challenge to re-visit. Macarons are a quintessentially French pastry – beautiful, delicate, and a bit finicky – but with a few tips and the right technique, they are completely achievable for the home baker.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to macaron shells, which are made from a batter of ground almonds and powdered (confectioner’s) sugar folded into meringue. The first is to use a French meringue (a basic meringue where sugar is gradually beaten into egg whites) and the second is to use an Italian meringue (where a hot sugar syrup is drizzled into whipping egg whites). Rachael is a fan of the Italian meringue method, and Korena of the French meringue method, so we are presenting both techniques in the hope that you will find the one that works best for you.
Korena says: I first started making macarons following the recipe by Helène of the blog Tartelette, who I consider to be the Macaron Queen of the Internet. The recipe followed the French meringue method and as it brought me good success on the first try, that’s the technique I stuck to. However, I recently branched out to try a different recipe (still with the French meringue method) that gave me near perfect results, so that’s my new “go-to” recipe and the one I’m sharing here. I would say that making a French meringue is probably easier than making an Italian one because you don’t have to deal with boiling sugar syrup or a candy thermometer, but it is less stable before baking (ie, more prone to over-whipping or deflating), so the pros and cons even out. It might come down to what equipment you have available to you.
I’ve also provided a recipe for Swiss meringue buttercream, which is my favourite macaron filling. It uses yet another method for making meringue, aka Swiss meringue, where you gently heat egg whites and sugar over a bain marie to dissolve the sugar before whipping it into a meringue. Little by little, you then mix room temperature butter into the meringue, stirring until it emulsifies into a creamy, soft buttercream – emphasis on the butter. Its creamy richness is a really good pairing with the crunchy-chewy texture of the macaron shell, and you can vary its flavour to include pretty much anything you want.
And lastly, I’m giving a recipe for a chocolate ganache, which makes a deliciously truffle-like filling. It can also be flavoured any way you like, with liqueur, extracts, coffee granules, etc…
Rachael says: For my part of this challenge, I’m going to present to you the Italian meringue (hot sugar syrup) method of macaron making. I tried and tried making macarons using the French meringue method, experimenting with different recipes, aged versus fresh egg whites, parchment versus silicone… failed. About 10 times. But being a stubborn old chook, I couldn’t admit defeat so I enrolled in a macaron class. To my surprise, the French pastry chef teaching the class presented us with a recipe using the Italian meringue method. Well, long story short, it worked and that’s the way I’ve made them ever since.
The first filling recipe I’m giving you is for a chocolate ermine frosting. I’d describe it as a cousin to buttercream frosting, but it’s based on a cooked milk and flour mixture, which is smooth and creamy and has a firmness to it that complements the shell nicely. The cocoa can be replaced with endless variations, depending on the flavour profile of your macarons.
The second filling recipe I’m providing is for a strawberry curd, easily adapted for any other fruit that takes your fancy. It is not the free-flowing stuff you would spread on toast – it is a thickened curd for piping. Not too sweet, I like the balance with the sweet shells.
Recipe Source: Rachael’s Italian meringue method recipe is adapted from the handout given at the macaron class she took. Korena’s French meringue method recipe is adapted from Food52.
You can find the challenge PDF here
The original recipes for both macaron methods are in grams. Because macarons rely on specific ratios of almonds to powdered sugar to meringue, we recommend using weight rather than volume measurements, which are much less accurate. (Korena says: About those oddly specific amounts in the French meringue recipe – I tried rounding them to more regular numbers, and the macarons failed. An extra gram or two does make a difference!) As it is traditional on the Daring Kitchen to give a variety of measurement types, we have provided some links in the additional info section to recipes online that use volume measurements, so that might be your best bet if you don’t have a scale.
Many sources recommend aging your egg whites when making macarons, but neither of us have ever found it necessary for either method. The only stipulation is that the egg whites should be at room temperature (this helps them whip to maximum volume).
Regarding almonds – you can use ground almonds with or without the skins on, but we both prefer using clear ground almonds (no skins) for the look. If you can’t buy ground almonds locally, you can grind them yourself. Just don’t use an almond flour which is very fine and powdery – ground almonds are gritty when rubbed between your fingers. You will grind them further with the powdered sugar. Almonds can be substituted for other nuts or seeds, however their oil content can change the way the batter behaves, so it’s probably best to use almonds on your first try, and then play around once you’re confident in your macaron skills.
Some thoughts on food colouring… Whether you use it or not is entirely up to you, but if you do use it, what you use will determine how much you use and the method you use will determine when you add it. You should only use gel or powder – avoid liquid food colouring, as it can add too much moisture to the mix. With the Italian meringue method, Rachael prefers to add colouring or flavouring at the almond paste stage. This is mostly because it is easier to see the difference in colour when folding in the meringue. You can add it to the meringue, though, as you prefer. For the French meringue method, gel colour can be added to the meringue OR when folding in the almond mixture, whereas powdered colour can be added to the ground almond mixture. Both recipes include instructions on when to add colour. Remember, though, that after you add colouring to one part, you will dilute the colour when combining the two parts. Flavourings such as vanilla bean seeds can also be added at these same stages.
Baking the macaron shells: we both prefer lining the baking sheets with parchment paper, but many people prefer or have better results using a silicon mat. Try both and see what works best for you. And speaking of baking sheets, some bakers use a double or triple stack of baking sheets to help insulate the macaron shells as they bake. This might be a useful technique if your oven runs hot or heats unevenly.
According to a “perfect macaron” article that Rachael read, the ideal ratio of shell to filling is 2:1. That is, the filling should be about the same thickness as one shell. That’s pretty much the ratio we go with, and the easiest way to achieve that is to go by how much is in the piping bag. Fill the bag twice for piping the shells, so fill it once for piping the filling.
We have provided links to a bunch of videos and recipes for macarons using the both methods in the “Additional Info” section at the end. These include a vegan recipe for both methods and several recipes that replace the almonds, either with other nuts or other things for nut-free versions.
There’s also links to the printable macaron piping guides that Rachael and Korena use, and a link to an exhaustive “macaron trouble shooting tutorial” for anything and everything that could possibly be causing issues with your macarons.
Rachael says: I would like to clear up the misconception floating around the interwebbies that macarons made with the Italian meringue method aren’t “real French macarons” (yes, I have been told this on social media). In fact, neither method is more “French” than the other, they are just variations on a theme. Just like Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, I use this method because I find that it gives more consistent and reliable results. So go ahead and use whichever method suits you best!
Korena says: Egg whites and meringues can be temperamental – if there is even a trace of oil, fat, or egg yolk in the bowl or on the beater, it can prevent the egg whites from whipping to a stiff peaks. For this reason, when separating your eggs, be very careful not to get any yolks in with the whites. One trick I always use to ensure meringue success is to wipe my already-clean bowl and beater or whisk with a vinegar-moistened paper towel: this eliminates any grease, and the little bit of acid helps the egg whites turn into a meringue more readily.
Note that we are talking about the almond-based French macaron here, not the macaroon made with shredded coconut… although you could definitely make a macaron using finely ground coconut instead of almonds!
Shells: 15 minutes to mix, 20-60 minutes to rest, 12-20 minutes to bake, at least 30 minutes to cool
Filling: varies with recipe
Stand mixer or electric hand mixer and bowl
Piping bag with large round tip (#10 – #12) or plain coupler
2 large baking sheets
Small heavy-based saucepan (for Italian meringue method)
Candy thermometer (for Italian meringue method)
Recipe 1: Macaron shells using the French meringue method
Servings: 25-30 x 3.5cm / 1 1/3” filled macarons
112g / 4 oz ground almonds
204g / 7 oz powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
102g / 3.5 oz egg whites (from approx. 3 eggs)
51g / 1.75 oz granulated (white) sugar
Replace 20g / .7 oz of the powdered sugar with unsweetened cocoa powder
The seeds of 1 vanilla bean
A few drops of non-oil-based essence
A few drops of gel food colouring or a pinch of powder food colouring
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper on top of the piping guide, and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground almonds and powdered sugar, and pulse until completely combined and homogeneous. If you are using powdered food colouring, combine it with the almond mixture.
Sift the mixture onto a bowl, then return any large bits left in the sifter to the food processor and pulse again until very fine. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in a scrupulously clean (free of any oil or egg yolks) large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk on medium speed until frothy, then very gradually add in the granulated sugar. Once all the sugar is added, increase the sped to medium-high and continue beating the egg whites until they form a stiff-peaked meringue (the peaks should not flop over). Don’t over mix or allow the meringue to become dry or chunky. Before the meringue reaches stiff peaks, you can mix in a few drops of paste food colouring or some vanilla bean seeds.
Add half the almond mixture to the meringue and fold vigorously with a spatula, using about 15 strokes to combine and break down the meringue so it is not so puffy (you can also add paste food colouring here if you haven’t already added it to the meringue. At this stage, I added the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean). Make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as you fold so that the dry ingredients are all incorporated.
Add half the remaining almond mixture and fold again with about 10-15 strokes, until just combined. Add the remaining almond mixture and fold again, 10-15 strokes, until just combined. The mixture should fall from the spatula in long, thick ribbons, like slow-flowing lava, and the surface of the mixture should smooth out within 30 seconds.
Scoop the mixture into a large piping bag (only use half the mixture at a time) fitted with a large round tip or plain coupler, and pipe into the prepared baking sheets, using the piping template as a guide. Pipe straight down so that mixture comes out in a round blob – it will smooth and spread out on its own. I usually get one full pan of 28 circles and a second with about 20.
Lift the baking sheet up about 5cm / 2 inches and keeping it perfectly level, firmly bang it down on your work surface to dislodge any large air bubbles. Set the piped shells aside to dry for 30-60 minutes, until a skin has formed on the surface and they are no longer sticky to the touch.
Preheat the oven to 275˚F / 135°C / Gas Mark 1. Bake the shells, one baking sheet at a time, in the top third of the oven for 12-16 minutes, during which time they should sprout feet (if you used cocoa in the shells, they may need an additional 2 minutes of baking time). To test the shells, gently tug on the top – if they jiggle at all, bake for another 1-2 minutes. Once baked, they should peel cleanly off the parchment paper. I get best results when I bake them for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheet and bake for another 2-6 minutes, checking for doneness every 2 minutes. I also find that my first batch always takes a few minutes longer than the second, for whatever reason!
Allow the shells to cool completely on the parchment paper, then peel off and store in an airtight container, layered between wax paper, at room temperature or in the freezer (NOT the fridge) until you are ready to fill them. Once filled, they should still be kept in an airtight container and can be refrigerated or kept somewhere cool. It’s best to let the filled macarons mature for at least 1 day before eating.
Recipe 2: Macaron shells using the Italian meringue method
Servings: 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” filled macarons
(original recipe in grams)
140g / 4.9 oz ground almonds, room temperature
140g / 4.9 oz powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g / 3.5 oz egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g / 3.5 oz granulated (white) sugar
40g / 1.4 oz (weight) water
Replace 20g / .7 oz of the powdered sugar with unsweetened cocoa powder or powdered freeze dried fruit
The seeds of 1 vanilla bean
A few drops of non-oil-based essence
A few drops of gel food colouring or a pinch of powder food colouring
Prepare 2 parchment (not wax paper) lined baking sheets. They need to be big enough to hold 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” diameter shells each. (I have my piping guide under the baking paper here.)
Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar (and cocoa powder, if using) together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.
Sift into a large bowl (I use a mesh strainer and push the mixture through with a spatula), putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.
Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. At this point, you can add food colouring or flavouring such as vanilla seeds, citrus zest, essense, if desired. (I added 1/2 tsp vanilla paste and 1/2 tsp red powder food colouring to this batch.) Set aside.
In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.
Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.
While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.
Sorry, no photo here – the sugar syrup is hot and I didn’t want to risk burning myself or dropping my camera!
Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. About 1 minute before the end, you can add food colouring, if not done at the almond paste stage. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and it should be thick and marshmallowy when you lift the whisk.
Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula. You do actually want to get a lot of the air out of the mixture – you do this by folding and squashing the mixture against the side of the bowl, rotating the bowl a quarter turn with each fold. Be sure to firmly scrape the bottom of the bowl with the spatula, so you don’t leave a layer of almond paste there.
Mix until you have a homogenous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon. The sequence of 10 images below was taken over a period of 5 seconds.
Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 – #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm / 1 1/2” in diameter, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.
Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. If you have any tips sticking up, press them gently down with a damp fingertip.
Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. If you touch it, it should be only just tacky.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2.
Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 18 minutes (20 minutes if using cocoa in the shells), one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.
Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling racks for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.
If not filling straight away, store in an airtight container at room temperature, separating layers with parchment. Otherwise, fill and store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.
Recipe 3: Swiss meringue buttercream frosting
Servings: about 2 cups of buttercream (approx. twice the amount needed to fill 30 macarons, but the excess can be frozen)
1/2 cup / 100g / 3.5 oz granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 sticks / 3/4 cup / 180 g / 6 oz unsalted butter
Jam (1/4 – ½ cup)
Melted and cooled chocolate (1 – 2 oz / 28 – 56g)
Flavour essences such as vanilla, almond, peppermint…
Citrus juice and/or zest
Cut the butter into 1/2 inch / 1 1/2cm cubes and set out to soften to room temperature.
Put the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a large, scrupulously clean heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture constantly (this is to prevent it from turning into scrambled eggs, not to beat it into a meringue) and heat it until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved completely (about 130˚F / 54°C).
With an electric mixer, beat the egg white mixture on medium-high speed until it turns into a thick, fluffy, stiff-peaked meringue (mine never quite reaches stiff peaks and still turns out fine). Test the temperature of the meringue with your finger – it should be completely cooled to room temperature and not warm AT ALL. If it is still warm, keep stirring on low speed until the mixture is completely cool to the touch. (This is very important because the next step is to add butter, and if the meringue is warm it will just melt rather than emulsify into a buttercream.)
While the meringue cools, check on your softening butter cubes: you should be able to squish the butter with your finger. You want it soft enough to spread but not at all melted. The key to successful Swiss meringue buttercream is to have the meringue at room temperature and the butter just soft enough to mix in.
Once the meringue is cool and the butter soft, turn the mixer to medium-low speed and begin adding the butter to the meringue one cube at a time, waiting until each cube is incorporated before adding the next. Your meringue may collapse and look kind of curdled and shiny: this is normal. Just keep slowly adding the butter, one cube at a time, and continue mixing. It will start looking thicker and chunky, and then suddenly it will be buttercream. Once all the butter is added, increase the speed to medium and mix until it is smooth, thick, and fluffy.
IF IT DOESN’T TURN INTO BUTTERCREAM:
1) When in doubt, just keep mixing on medium-low speed. Have faith and patience, and check it after 5-10 minutes of mixing – sometimes it just takes a while to emulsify.
2) If the butter is still in chunks, it may have been too cold when you added it. You can continue mixing at room temperature until the butter gradually softens, or you can wrap a towel dampened with warm water around the bowl to help it soften faster. Do this conservatively – you don’t want to melt the butter, just to soften it. Mix until it thickens into a buttercream.
3) If the mixture is very soupy, the meringue may have been too warm and melted the butter. Put the bowl in the fridge and stir it with a whisk every few minutes until it starts to thicken up a bit, then continue mixing with the electric mixer until it thickens into a buttercream.
Beat in any desired food colouring or flavourings to the frosting (I added about ½ cup peach jam and a few dabs of orange and pink food colouring for a peach buttercream). Pipe or spoon a generous amount of frosting onto the flat side of half the macaron shells, then sandwich with a second shell of similar size.
Recipe 4: Chocolate ganache
Servings: Sufficient for 30 filled macarons.
Preparation time: about 10 minutes
Cooling time: about 30 minutes
4 oz / 113g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup / 120ml heavy (whipping) cream
small pinch salt
2 Tbsp / 28g / 1 oz unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp liqueur
instant coffee granules
Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream and salt until just simmering, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Cover the bowl and let sit for 2-3 minutes to melt the chocolate.
Stir with a whisk until smooth, then stir in the butter and any additional flavourings until completely incorporated and smooth.
Let the ganache cool in the fridge, whisking every few minutes, until thick enough to pipe (about 30 minutes). Pipe or spoon the ganache onto the flat side of half the macaron shells, then sandwich with a second shell of similar size.
Recipe 5: Chocolate ermine frosting
Servings: Sufficient for 30 filled macarons.
Preparation time: about 15 minutes
Cooling time: 1 – 2 hours
120ml / 1/2 cup whole milk
15g / 2 scant Tbsp all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder, more or less to taste
small pinch salt
115g / 1/2 cup / 1 stick unsalted butter, slightly softened
100g / 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Note: omit cocoa and increase vanilla to 1 tsp for vanilla frosting, or replace it with other flavourings.
Whisk flour and cocoa into milk and place over medium heat in a small saucepan. Heat until thickened, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. It should have the consistency of béchamel.
Whisk in salt and pour mixture into a small bowl, then cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface to avoid a skin forming. Set aside to cool completely. This part can be made a day ahead and chilled until needed.
In a mixing bowl or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and mix in well.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the cooled milk mixture one tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated and you have a thick and fluffy frosting.
Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells (matching up shells of the same size) and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.
Recipe 6: Strawberry curd
Servings: Sufficient for 30 filled macarons.
Preparation time: about 30 minutes
Chilling time: about 2 hours
500g / about 1 lb strawberries
1 Tbsp lemon juice
100g / 1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 tsp fine salt
3 large egg yolks
28g / 2 Tbsp / 1 oz unsalted butter, softened
Wash, hull and roughly chop the strawberries and place them in a small, heavy-based saucepan along with the lemon juice.
Heat on medium-low, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or so, until the fruit has broken down and is easily squashed.
Remove from heat and purée with a stick blender, blender or food processor. Set aside to cool a bit.
In the top pan of a double boiler or in a nonreactive saucepan, whisk together the strawberry puree, sugar, cornstarch, flour, salt and egg yolks until smooth.
Set the top pan over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan, or place the saucepan on very low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture is warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Begin adding softened butter a little at a time, stirring each addition until blended before adding more.
Continue cooking, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until a finger drawn across the back of the spatula leaves a path, about 5 to 8 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat.
Press the curd through a fine-mesh strainer set over a stainless steel, ceramic or glass bowl.
Cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed to the surface and refrigerate until chilled.
Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Note that due to the high water content of fruit curd, it will soften the shells very quickly.
Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
Macaron shells should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. While best eaten the day after making, filled macarons will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, depending on the filling. They may be frozen for several months, depending on the filling. Defrost for about 30 minutes.
Swiss meringue buttercream can be kept in the fridge for a week, or placed in a Ziplock bag and frozen for 6-8 weeks. In either case, bring to room temperature (it should be soft enough to spread) and re-whip before using.
Chocolate ganache can be kept for up to a week in the fridge. Freezing is not recommended.
Ermine frosting keeps for week in the fridge, or can be frozen for 3 months.
Fruit curd will keep about 3 days in the fridge, or can frozen for up to a year in a sealed container. Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours before using.
Resources for the French meringue method:
Video of Korena making macarons with the French meringue method
Desmystifying Macarons by Helene of Tartelette
Macaron trouble shooting guide
Videos using the Italian meringue method:
Video of Rachael making macarons with the Italian meringue method
Ladurée (in French)
Pierre Hermé (English subtitles available by clicking the “CC” button)
Recipes using the French meringue method:
Vegan shells using chickpea water (aquafaba)
Carrot cake shells
Grapefruit shells (could work with any citrus zest)
Peanut shells and chocolate-peanut shells
Recipes using volume measurements:
French meringue method macaron shells from Martha Stewart
Italian meringue method chocolate macaron shells (recipe by weight but with volume measurements given as well)
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