When it comes to baking, I can get a little obsessed. Exhibit A. So when I decided to make notoriously tempermental macarons, I had the sneaking suspicion that it wouldn’t be a one-and-done deal.
Still, I had NO IDEA what an art—and a science—it actually was. I dove in naively at first, using what I now know to be a laughably imprecise recipe that does beginning macaron makers NO favors. Thanks a lot, Martha.
Regardless, my first batch of lavender-lemon macarons came out half decent, considering I used totally inexact measurements, unsifted almond meal and under-mixed batter. More on that later.
Anyway, I chalk the fact that my macarons had any “feet” at all (that cute little bubbly ridge under the smoother, shiny top) to beginners luck. Tasty they were—pretty they were not. So I tried again. And this round that drove me over the edge.
They were flat as pancakes. Beyond flustered, I spent hours scouring the Internet for the best recipes, tips and troubleshooting information. Let me tell you: There are entire forum threads dedicated to the topic of this little French cookie; 3,000-word blog posts on botched attempts at perfecting it; and endless lists of things you’re most certainly doing ALL WRONG.
Do me a favor—if this is your first time baking macarons, MOUSE AWAY from the Google search bar. You’ll only be completely and utterly overwhelmed, as I was (Italian meringue or French? Parchment or silicone baking mats?? Oven door open or closed???). Lucky for you, I’m persistent, and I’ve culled all of the tips you’ll need. Start with these, and if something disastrous happens and you can’t figure out why, only then may you dive into the dark depths of online macaron horror stories.
- Start with a good recipe. I liked this one, which also happened to be where I got many of my tips. For filling, I went traditional. And here, Martha actually pulled through for me.
- Measurements count. The weight of an egg white can vary, so get a cheap baking scale and weigh your ingredients.
- Age your egg whites (it helps the meringue hold better) the fast way—stick them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
- Add “insurance” in the form of egg white powder (this is in the recipe above).
- Use almonds without the skin. Some people like the brown specs, but I found it impossible to get a smooth macaron with them.
- Sift your almonds very well (same reason as above).
- Add the dry ingredients to the meringue in thirds, and don’t be afraid to mix enough to get a smooth, shiny batter. Watch this video for a great visual. If you’re not sure if you mixed enough, see if the batter settles and smooths out when you plop a bit on a piece of parchment paper. If the peaks don’t settle with a slight tap, you haven’t mixed enough, or you have too much dry ingredient. The SECOND your batter starts to look smooth and glossy, stop folding.
- Wait as LONG as it takes for the macarons to set before baking them—it could be an hour or more depending on humidity.
- Use powdered food coloring for a really saturated look so you don’t throw off the liquid ratio of the batter
- Bake macarons until they come off the parchment paper easily
- Let your macarons (with the filling) “mature” for a day or two in the fridge. This lets the insides fill in and gives macarons their trademark crunchy-on-the-outside, gooey-and-chewy-on-the-inside taste.
Thanks to these tips, I finally got my beautiful, delicious macarons. I have a long way to go to perfect my technique, but at least I can stop obsessing.
Need some tools of the trade? Check them out here.