Our gorgeous holiday cookie story in the December issue features two macaron recipes – the popular meringue treat that originated in France. While pretty and delicious, many find them too intimidating to attempt at home. Fret no more, we’re here to help with our handy step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Line two large baking sheets with parchment. If you don’t have parchment, you can line them with a Silpat. If you don’t line your sheets, the macarons may stick or tear when you try to remove them.
Step 2: We used finely ground pistachios and almond flour (we like Bob’s Red Mill) in our recipes. To make your own pistachio and almond flour (an excellent, less expensive option), start by running ground nuts through a sieve. Then, whirl 1 cup shelled pistachios or blanched, slivered almonds with 1-1/2 cups icing sugar in your food processor. The addition of icing sugar will keep the nuts from whirling into nut butter. Whirl until nuts are very finely ground, then pass through a sieve into a bowl. Return any coarse nuts left in the sieve to the food processor with a few spoonfuls of ground nut-icing sugar mixture from the bowl. Repeat the sieving. Keep repeating these steps until you’re left with almost no more coarse nuts. Sifting is also important as it removes any clumps in your mixture.
Step 3: Beat 3 egg whites. For the macaron recipe, you need to use real egg whites. Pasteurized egg whites (from a carton) will not work. Make sure the egg whites are at room temperature. Be sure that not a drop of egg yolk or grease contaminates the whites or mixer as the whites will not whip properly. Beat egg whites on medium until frothy, about 30-seconds, then add 2 tbsp granulated sugar in a thin steady stream. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 1-min.
Step 4: Fold nut-icing sugar mixture into egg whites. Folding is a technique used to gently combine two or more ingredients together to keep as much air in the mixture as possible. Fold in the nut-icing sugar mixture in 2 batches until JUST combined (no more streaks appear). Watch our how-to video to learn the technique of folding.
Step 5: Pipe macarons into 1-inch rounds. Piping can be nerve-wracking, but you don’t need to worry. It’s like making pancakes – the first couple are ‘practice tries’. The most important thing is piping consistent sizes for the macarons so that you can sandwich them together. If you have carefully folded the ingredients together, the batter should be thick, resembling cake batter. Carefully pipe into 1-in. mounds, 1/2-in. apart to make room for spreading. If your mounds have peaks, simply drape a kitchen towel on your counter and smack the bottom of the sheets on the towel a few times until the tops are smooth.
Step 6: Let the macarons dry for 45 min to 1 hour. This may be one of the most important steps in macaron-making. The piped batter needs to be left alone to dry – at least 45 min to 1 hour – in order to create the smooth, flat tops. You’ll know the macarons are dry enough when you touch the top of the mounds and batter does not stick to your fingers. The surface should feel smooth and dry, but you can still press into it gently without the top breaking. If there is even a bit of moisture on the surface of the macarons, they will crack when baked. If macarons have not dried in 1 hour, let them dry for longer, and check them in 15-min intervals. Tip: Humidity will affect the drying of the macarons. This means rainy and stormy days are not ideal days to make macarons. (However, if you have to make them, I’ve had success drying the sheets in a bathroom with the fan on and door closed.)
Step 7: Bake in centre of oven for 16 to 18 min. Macarons bake at a low temperature to prevent them from over-cooking and over-browning. Bake the trays in the centre of your oven. If your oven rack only fits one tray, then bake each tray one at a time. Do not use the convection seeting. It only takes about 16 to 18-min to bake the macarons, so we recommend setting a timer for 16-min, then checking the macarons. When baked, the macarons should form ‘feet’, the bubbly-looking bottom of the macaron. When you touch the top of the macarons, it should not move around on its feet. If it does, then they are not yet done baking. Continue baking and checking at 2-min intervals, until macarons don’t move when touched.
Step 8: Let macarons cool. Transfer your macarons to a cooling rack to cool completely. If the macarons are still warm when you try to remove them, they may tear or stick to the parchment. Once they’re off the parchment, go ahead and sandwich them with filling. (I like to pipe the filling rather than spread them on so they look prettier).
Step 9: Serve or storage. Macarons are delicious right off the bat and can be stored up to 2 days in an airtight container. They will start to deteriorate after that. You can also make the sandwiches in advance, then freeze them in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, layering parchment or waxed paper between each layer. Simply remove from the freezer and let them come to room temperature overnight before serving.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Why are my macarons rising on one side, but not the other?
A: This could be a variety of reasons. One reason could be uneven heat distribution in the oven. The other reason could be over-folding. Macarons may warp if the batter has been overmixed, and too much air has deflated.
Q: Why are my macarons are sticking to the sheet even though I’ve lined it?
A: If your macarons are not completely cool, you run the risk of tearing them apart. Also, the macarons may be underbaked. While we give a recommended time of 16 to 18-min, all ovens are not alike. If your oven temperature runs a little lower, then you may need to bake it for a little bit longer (check at 2-min intervals, as directed above).
Q: Why is my batter so runny?
A: A runny batter is usually a result of egg whites not being whipped enough, or overfolding. Your batter should be thick but still slightly sink when piped.
Q: My piped macarons are not coming out in perfect circles – is that okay?
A: Yes! Practice makes perfect, so it may take a little time to get perfect rounds. The end results will still be delicious!