I know I was pretty excited about my last batch of macarons, but these tips from pastry chef Hilary Freeman of The Sugar Studio really helped me take my macarons from passable to perfection.
Crack-free shells? Check! Lovely little feet on every one? Check! Sprinkles and gold dust? Check! (I know that last one’s not really a requirement, but it certainly makes them pretty!)
15 Easy Tips for Perfect Macarons
- Use almond flour, NOT almond meal (that stuff you can get at Trader Joe’s). This is a game changer and is absolutely necessary to make smooth, delicate shells. It’s not quite as easy to find, but it’s 100% worth the extra bit of effort.
- Use baker’s sugar(you can find it at Safeway). If you use normal white sugar, granules may not melt and can cause cracks by drawing heat to themselves.
- Grind almond flour and powdered sugar together, then sift through a fine mesh sieve to make sure there aren’t any lumps. If you grind the almond flour alone, it will turn into almond butter.
- Add powdered egg whites (not meringue powder). It helps make a sturdier batter that will hold up better.
- Make sure your mixing bowl is clean. Any residual fat can sabotage your meringue. You can wash the bowl with vinegar to be extra sure there’s no residue from those delish cookies you made the other day.
- Measure everything, including the egg whites, using a kitchen scale.
- Color matters. Red and purple add moisture, which can make your macarons sticky, so you may want to avoid them while you’re learning. If you want to go white, add a bit of titanium dioxide (otherwise they’ll brown in the oven). Whatever color you choose, add it after you’ve whipped your meringue to ensure the color stays true.
- Perfect your folding. Under-folding the macaronage (aka macaron batter) will result in too-puffy macarons, while over-folding can create hard, flat ones. To perfect your folding, use a wide bowl and a rubber (or silicone) spatula. Start with the bowl at 12 o’clock and flip the spatula over while turning the bowl, at an angle, to 6 o’clock. Make sure you don’t have any unincorporated flour or meringue on your bowl or spatula.
- Use a template and pipe at a 90° angle, squeezing until ending with a quick walk-around to release. This will ensure your macarons are even.
- Tap from the bottom. Hold the baking sheet with one hand and tap the bottom of the pan firmly in a few places with the other, making sure to tap below each section of macarons. Then do one final tap on the counter. Tapping removes bubbles, and tapping from the bottom helps ensure you don’t miss any.
- Use an oven thermometer. The one built into your oven isn’t always totally accurate. If it’s too hot, your shells will crack. If it’s too cool, they may not develop a foot.
- Make sure they don’t wiggle. After your macaron shells have been in the oven for 7 minutes, check them often by gently placing your finger on top and wiggling it back and forth. If the top of the macaron moves while the foot stays in place, they’re not done yet.
- Test a sacrificial macaron (or two or three) to make sure it’s not sticky on the bottom.
- Don’t remove the shells until they’re completely cool. You can pop them in the freezer to speed up the cooling process or help remove shells that stick at room temperature.
- Refrigerate your macarons for 2-3 days before serving. I know it’s hard to wait, and I won’t tell if you want to sneak one or two as soon as you assemble them, but this is vital for getting that infused flavor and slightly-chewy-on-the-inside texture you’ll find in pastry shop macarons (they never sell them fresh out of the oven!). Just make sure to store them in a tupperware or a pastry box wrapped in seran wrap so they don’t taste like fridge (I hate when that happens!).
Bonus: 5 Decorating Tips
- Paint with edible gold dust mixed with a drop of vodka.
- Top with sprinkles. You can use piping gel to make them stick, either to the entire top or just a stripe, dot, heart, or monogram,
- Make a design in the shells before baking by making a second color of macaronage and piping it on top of your unbaked shells in whatever shape or pattern you like, using a small decorating tip.
- Brush on some pearl glaze to give them that sheen you see in the pastry shops.
- Make a mini macaron cake, like this one.
PS: Do you have any other macaron-making tips? Please share them in the comments section below!