beginners-guide-french-macarons

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Beginner’s Guide to French Macarons

May 14, 2019

Delicate almond cookies with soft and chewy centers and filled with a swirl of sweet buttercream. These dainty french classics are […]

Delicate almond cookies with soft and chewy centers and filled with a swirl of sweet buttercream. These dainty french classics are easy to make with this beginner’s guide to French macarons.

beginners-guide-french-macarons

French macarons may be the prettiest edible goodies ever, but they also have quite the reputation for being one temperamental cookie. Macarons are ever so popular for their delicate almond shells with slightly chewy centers that crinkle just so upon the first bite…giving way to fluffy buttercream or sweet fillings bursting with flavor. They are the ultimate fancy-pants sandwich cookie and if you’ve been following along for a bit, you know I’m all about a sandwich cookie. And while the words “easy” and “macaron” aren’t often used in the same sentence, take it from me that there is no need to be afraid of this classic little confection. I still consider myself a total beginner, but if I can make a macaron, anyone can!  I was absolutely determined to conquer my love-hate relationship with these tricky treats. Truth be told, I used to be completely mortified by the notion of making macarons, but I promise you they aren’t as scary as they seem.

beginners-guide-french-macarons

If you are brand new to making French macarons, there are a few tips and tricks I found to be very helpful the first few times I tackled these notoriously finicky cookies. I am not a classically trained baker in any way, shape, or form, but you should know that even professionally trained experts can have a bad day in the kitchen when making macarons. There are just so many variables that can take a batch from bad to worse and some of them {like the weather outside!} can be entirely out of your control. Don’t despair. Making French macarons was once just an item on my baker’s bucket list, and now I ADORE making these cute-as-can-be cookies. With a little practice, you’ll get the hang of it too and before you know it you’ll be a macaron master.

You’ve got this!! {insert high five emoji here}

beginners-guide-french-macarons

LET’S START WITH THE BASICS

Macarons are generally made one of two ways. There is the Italian method and the French method. I’ve tried both techniques and after many failed attempts and lots of botched macarons in the trash, I can vouch for the Italian method being the more stable and predictable of the two. The end result is virtually the same, so what really matters is which style you are able to master as a baker. The French method involves making a meringue by whipping uncooked egg whites and sugar. It’s certainly a good arm workout and some bakers swear by it for making the best macarons.

Then there is the Italian method which begins with heating the sugar with water and making it into a syrup that is then poured into the uncooked egg whites while beating it into stiff peaks. It does require a stand mixer and is a tad trickier but my experience has been that the meringue is more stable and easier to work with during the “macronage” stage when the wet and dry ingredients are combined. That is a critical stage in the process so you want all the help you can get! For the purposes of this post, we are going to work with the Italian meringue method.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Before you make your first batch of French macarons,  I highly recommend you stock up on a few simple tools that will make your journey to mastering macs sooooo much easier! First, a kitchen scale is a must when making macarons because your measurements for each of the ingredients need to be very precise. I use this scale from OXO and love it. It’s super user friendly and doesn’t take up much space. Next, buy yourself two silpat silicone baking mats as seen here. These are perfect for serving as guidelines when you are piping the macaron batter into discs. Trust me, you don’t want to free hand this the first time around and ain’t no one got time to go drawing perfectly stenciled circles on parchment paper. I use these silpat mats for baking all of my cookies and they make clean up a breeze! Other than that, you’ll just need your stand mixer, a fine mesh strainer, disposable pastry bags and piping tips and you are ready for business!

beginners-guide-french-macarons

TIPS & TRICKS FOR THE BEST MACARONS

This handy-dandy list of do’s and dont’s will help guide you through the macaron making process from start to finish. Many of these tips I have learned first hand from bloggers that I consider expert macaron makers…@stylesweetdaily, @thejamlab, and @cloudykitchen to name a few. Read it through a couple of times before you jump to the recipe. Some of the steps involve simple trial and error and you may not master these fussy little pastries the very first time, but don’t you give up. You’ll be delighted when you do make that perfect batch and I you’ll break out into full happy dance when you do!

WEIGH YOUR INGREDIENTS: I cannot stress this tip enough. Don’t skip this step as you’ll end up with wonky macs that will be fast tracked to the trash can. Use a kitchen scale to weigh the almond flour, powdered sugar, granulated sugar and water. The only exception I make is that I always use 4 egg whites from 4 large eggs. I do not weigh the egg whites.

USE FINELY GROUND ALMOND FLOUR: There’s nothing worse than finally making a batch of macarons with actual feet on them only to see that the tops are bumpy and lumpy, and well, just not that pretty. Buy finely ground almond flour and you’ll also save yourself the step of having to grind it further in a food processor. I use Finely Ground Almond Flour from Bob’s Red Mill and it works like a charm. {not sponsored, just love it}.

SIFT, SIFT, AND SIFT SOME MORE: You’ll be tempted to skip this step to save time, but don’t. It’s important to be sure your dry ingredients are fine and powdery and to achieve this texture you’ll need to sift them together several times with a fine mesh sieve. I always sift my flour and confectioner’s sugar together four times for good measure.

WHIP YOUR MERINGUE UNTIL STIFF PEAKS FORM: As a general rule, whip the eggs whites with the hot sugar and water mixture for 8 minutes until stiff peaks form. If in doubt, whip it one minute longer. When you turn the whisk attachment upside down, the meringue should all hang on to the whisk and when you flip it back over, the tip of the meringue should stick straight up and not tip over. The bowl of the stand mixer should also feel room temperature to the touch at this point, not warm. Note: If using food coloring, add it to the meringue at minute 7 of mixing. Be sure to use GEL food coloring. It’s the only type I have found that doesn’t change the texture of the batter.

BE DELIBERATE WHEN FOLDING IN THE MERINGUE: When folding the meringue into the dry ingredients, you’ll want to do this in 3 batches. Use a large silicone spatula and be sure to use big, sweeping motions as you fold the ingredients together. You don’t want to “whip” the wet and dry ingredients together. The motion should be deliberate. Do not vigorously mix the ingredients together as over-mixing is the number one reason for excessive spreading and deflated macarons. As you mix, be sure the spatula is reaching the bottom of the bowl and also turn the bowl as you fold. Occasionally run the spatula up against the sides of the bowl, pushing the mixture up against it to press out air bubbles and smooth the batter out. You are aiming for a lava type texture that folds back into itself within 5 seconds. I repeat….do not over mix!

PIPING THE BATTER: If you are a first time macaron maker, you’ll love the ease of using a silpat silicone macaron template to pipe your batter. It takes all the guesswork out of piping perfectly symmetrical circles and all of your macarons will come out of the oven looking almost identical. As you pipe, hold the tip perpendicular to the silpat mat and stop when the batter reaches the desired circle outline. Give the tip a quick little whip around to release the batter and move instantly to the next circle. This takes a little practice but in no time you’ll get swing of it. Always tap the cookie sheets on the counter three times to release air bubbles and let them rest for 30 minutes at room temperature before baking. The batter should feel dry to the touch. Note: if your batter immediately spreads beyond the area you piped, you have over mixed the batter.

KEEP THE OVEN CLOSED AS YOU BAKE: If you’ve followed all the correct steps and the baking gods are on your side, you’ll hopefully see little “feet” appear on your macarons midway through the baking cycle. Cue the happy dance!!! Be sure to keep the oven door closed until the baking time is up. The macarons are done when the tops barely jiggle but stay attached to the feet below. Remove from the oven and cool on the silpat mat for 5-8 minutes before carefully pealing each macaron off the mat. Once they have cooled, fill with buttercream, chocolate ganache, lemon curd…the skies the limit!!

beginners-guide-french-macarons

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a cookie! Not joking. Grab the recipe below which is from Tessa at Style Sweet CA {and Natalie Eng before her}. Tessa is a macaron queen {do give her a follow!} and this is a trust-worthy recipe that has worked like a charm for me every time. Feel free to comment below with any questions or frustrations you have with macarons and I’d be happy to help you trouble shoot. I’ll plan to add to this post now and then as I pick up more helpful tips to share. I promise once you have this technique mastered, you’ll be looking for any excuse to make these fancy-pants pastries over and over again.

If you make these macarons, be sure to tag @brownedbutterblondie on Instagram. I want to know all about your adventures in macaron making and I always love to see what you are baking up to in your kitchens.

Happy baking!

 

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beginners-guide-french-macarons

A Beginner’s Guide to French Macarons

  • Author: Browned Butter Blondie
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Category: Cookies

Description

Delicate almond cookies with soft and chewy centers and filled with a swirl of sweet buttercream. These dainty french classics are easy to make with this beginner’s guide to French macarons.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 200 grams finely ground almond flour
  • 200 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • egg whites from 4 large eggs
  • 200 grams granulated sugar
  • 50 grams water
  • 23 drops gel food coloring (if desired)
  • Strawberry Pink Buttercream
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves, seedless
  • 2 TBSP heavy cream or whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick silicon mats with macaron templates
  3. Sift together almond flour and confectioner’s sugar together into a large bowl, repeating 4 times.
  4. Set aside.
  5. In a small saucepan, heat granulated sugar and water together over high heat. Bring to a boil until mixture reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and let rest just 30 seconds.
  6. When sugar and water mixture reaches about 200 degrees, begin whisking together egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until medium-soft peaks form. Do not over mix the egg whites, they should hold their form but not be dry and chunky.
  7. Once sugar mixture has cooled 30 seconds, keep mixer on high speed and slowly stream the hot sugar into the stand mixer being careful not to splatter.
  8. Once all of the sugar has been added, continue to mix on high speed for 8 minutes or until stiff peaks for and the bowl of the stand mixer returns to room temperature.
  9. If adding optional food coloring, do so at minute 7 of mixing.
  10. Once meringue is ready, add it to the almond flour and sugar mixture in three batches. Folding deliberately with large silicon spatula, turn the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl up to the top. Turn the bowl as you fold the batter with large, sweeping motions. Occasionally press the batter against the sides of the bowl with the spatula to press out air bubbles and smooth the batter.
  11. Fold and smooth out the batter with large motions until the batter falls of the spatula like lava.
  12. Do not over mix.
  13. Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip and pipe the batter onto the silicon baking mat with templates. Circles should measure about 1-1 1/4 inches.
  14. Tap cookie sheet onto counter top firmly three times to release air bubbles.
  15. Let rest for 30 minutes until batter is dry to the touch.
  16. Bake for 9-11 minutes
  17. Macarons are done when tops still jiggle slightly but remain attached to the feet.
  18. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 5-8 minutes before gently peeling off of silicone mats.
  19. To assemble macarons, pipe buttercream or other filling onto the flat side of one macaron and top with the flat side of another macaron to sandwich together.
  20. For best results, store assembled macarons in the refrigerator.

For Strawberry Pink Buttercream

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together for 2 minutes on low speed until butter is soft and smooth.
  2. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, one cup at a time, keeping the mixer on low speed until all of the sugar is incorporated.
  3. Increase speed to medium high and beat for 1 minutes.
  4. Reduce mixer to low speed and add strawberry preserves. Mix until fully combined.
  5. Add heavy cream and vanilla, mixing on low speed until incorporated.
  6. Bring mixer back up to medium high speed and beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  7. Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe buttercream onto cooled macarons.

Notes

Recipe by Style Sweet CA

If you love this Beginner’s Guide to French Macarons, you will also like:

Chocolate Ganache Sandwich Cookies

Peanut Butter Mousse Sandwich Cookies

Mexican Hot Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies & Five Tips for Perfect Cookies Every Time

  • Reply
    Silvia
    May 16, 2020 at 12:44 am

    I’m interested in making these but do I put the oven on convection bake?

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      May 16, 2020 at 9:50 pm

      No need for convection bake setting. Just set your oven to standard bake.

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      May 19, 2020 at 11:13 pm

      No convection bake necessary. Just use your standard bake setting when making macarons. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    SueqF
    April 10, 2020 at 5:12 am

    Lava is a difficult visual-many consistencies . Any other suggestions? I’ve tried French meringue macs once. I think l mixed too long. Batter spread. Batter settling into itself in 5 seconds seems too runny. The recipe I used said 15-30 seconds. Thanks. I want to conquer.

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      April 10, 2020 at 11:22 pm

      The meringue should hold together while long enough to “draw” a figure 8 with the mixture running off the spatula without breaking. I hesitate to give you a time limit as there are so many variables that can affect this stage.

  • Reply
    Becca
    March 20, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    While I’m stuck at home, I’ve been tackling several of my bucket list baked goods. You know macarons are right at the top! This post was so, so helpful. I read through it twice and referred back to it every step of the way, but my macs turned out so cute! Perfectly baked, perfect lil feet! Thanks for the guidance!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      March 22, 2020 at 6:52 am

      YAY!!! I’m so happy to hear it! Hope you did a little happy dance in your kitchen when they turned out perfectly!

  • Reply
    Kelly Kardos
    May 14, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    These cookies are the Bain of my baking existence!! I’ve failed miserably countless times. I’ve watched & read everything I can and I understand the process but I can’t figure out where I go wrong. I get the feet but my macs are hollow(cue the crying emoji!) I’ve always tried the French way but I think m going to try the Italian way. I literally made a commitment to try once a month-I failed three times in March! It’s been muggy and rainy here and I know weather is a factor so I’m going to wait for the so cal heat kinda weather! Thanks for all the great tips!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      May 15, 2019 at 5:05 am

      Hi Kelly!
      I too had problems with this recipe when it was chilly and rainy outside. I hope you find these tips helpful. Now that I have the process down I really do have so much fun in the kitchen making macarons! Let me know how it goes!

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