The French knew what they were doing when they invented the Macaron. And Amrita Rawat knows how you can succeed with macarooning at home.
By Amrita Rawat
Macarons are delicate and finicky French sandwich cookies made entirely of ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar. The possibilities for fillings are endless, but the most difficult feat is achieving the right consistency and presentation of the macaron shells. I had my first taste of one in Paris, at the original store that made them, Lauduree–they claim to sell 12,000 of them daily–and I was hooked.
It took me 7 attempts and countless hours of research before I was happy with my homemade macarons. They almost always tasted great, but the macaron is definitely 50% presentation (as many French desserts seem to be).
So what did I conclude from all those failed attempts? Firstly, macarons are not impossible and not every step has to be explicitly followed for them to turn out perfectly, despite some of the rules certain recipes may insist upon. Secondly, the success of a macaron depends almost entirely on the macronage–the process of folding the dry mixture into the egg whites–as well as the accuracy of the oven’s temperature.
There are many recipes for macarons online, with various methods and even various cooking times and temperatures. Ultimately, the only way to make these at home is by practicing. Everyone’s oven is different, and the climate also plays a part. Fortunately, macarons are well worth the effort. They are challenging and scrumptious and adorable to look at.
I can sometimes be impatient in the kitchen and am always experimenting and looking for shortcuts to make my macaron baking easier. I have made more than ten variations of macarons in the last year or so, hopefully my tips and tricks will make it easier for you to attempt these at home.
*Note: A kitchen scale is useful for macarons as proper measurement of the ingredients ensures the best results. They’re also relatively cheap and compact. That being said, I have made macarons with cup measurements and been successful on many occasions, so it is not an absolute necessity! But I would recommend buying a silicone baking mat, they’re amazingly useful, easy to clean, and last forever.
Here are my ten tips for making macarons at home:
1. Almond meal (finely ground almonds) will save you a lot of time, but you can also use regular almonds that you can grind yourself with a food processor. They do not have to be blanched! Other nuts also work… I’ve made successful macarons using pistachios or hazelnuts to replace almonds entirely.
2. You do not need to slowly add in granulated sugar to the egg white mixture when beating the egg whites. Many recipes insist you must add it in slowly, but I’ve always tossed it all in at once, which saves me the annoyance of having to turn off my hand mixer every minute to add a small amount in… it has never made a difference.
3. You don’t have to use aged egg whites (I’ve made macarons with egg whites at room temperature for about an hour or two and they’ve turned out just fine), but when the climate is humid or rainy, this tends to have an adverse effect on the macaron shells… I’m not sure why but I’ve learned my lesson and avoid baking them on a rainy day!
4. Buy a piping bag with a round tip. The bags are available in disposable and reusable versions; I find them handy not only for macarons but also decorating cakes and cupcakes, and there are a huge variety of tips to choose from. This allows better control when piping the circles onto the mat for baking!
5. Use gel food coloring instead of liquid. Liquids can alter the consistency of the macarons and ruin results.
6. I like to toss the gel food coloring into the egg white mixture while I’m beating it to properly distribute the color. This works better for me than folding it in, since the electric beater does a better job. I would not recommend trying this with liquid coloring as it would alter the egg whites consistency but with the gel or powdered colors, it does fine!
7. When you are beating the egg whites till glossy/stiff, beat them till they literally do not move when you turn your bowl this way and that. If you can hold the bowl above your head and nothing moves, (and you don’t have egg whites in your hair), it’s ready!
8. When folding the egg whites with the almonds and sugar, use a flexible spatula. Fold by repeatedly scraping around the bowl and moving towards the middle. Do it no more than 50 times so as not to overmix (Yes, I used to count them!). Many recipes say the consistency should be of molten lava (that comparison doesn’t help me) but if you make it to runny pancake batter, you’ve gone too far. When you lift it with the spatula, it should spread but not too much or too far.
9. After piping the macarons onto the baking mat, let the tray sit out for at least 15-25 minutes or until the tops of the macarons look dried out and are no longer spreading. Leave spaces between them when piping to allow them to spread!
10. Halfway through the baking time, rotate the pans in the oven in case you have an oven that heats one side more than the other.
The ideal macaron should be a perfect circle (achieved only with a piping bag with a round tip), and have solid smooth bases. They should have a ruffled “skirt” or “feet” along the edges where it has risen in the oven. They should comfortably slip off your baking mat, begging to be paired with a delicious filling and another shell. They should be very slightly chewy, yet crunchy and they certainly should not crumble easily.
I tried many online recipes for macarons before I found one that worked for me. When I first made them, I did not own a kitchen scale and used cup measurements. Thanks to David Lebovitz’s recipe, they turned out great. I’ve used that recipe as the basis for all my macarons so far. It can be found here.
I’ll be posting my own macaron recipes (and my slight but tasty variations on them) here soon enough, as well as more tips, so stay tuned.
Good luck and happy baking!Print
Amrita Rawat is the author of the blog Chai and Dumplings. Born in India and a lifelong resident of Atlanta, she recently moved to Saint Louis. Her love for food stems in part from its ability to bring cultures together and in part from how darn good it feels to eat a delicious meal. She loves traveling and has eaten her way through cities like Hong Kong, Paris, Budapest, Mumbai, and Shangri-la. Amrita is also a contributor to Sauce Magazine in St Louis.