I did it, guys! My holy grail, my unicorn of baking, has been captured. I finally managed to make a near-perfect macaron (over 20 of them actually)! After five attempts (divided over about as many years) that ended in differing degrees of failure, I can finally say that I have baked a successful macaron – and could probably do so again, meaning it wasn’t a fluke. Who knew I had it in me? I certainly thought it was a lost cause.
Longtime followers of this blog might know that I have a love/hate relationship with macarons: I love them and try to make them and then I cry over the fact that I’m terrible at it and don’t try again for over a year. I’ve written three posts about macarons over the years (one, two, three) detailing my failures (or relative successes if you want to be glass half full about it). Here’s some proof of my previous botched attempts:
Yep, they’re not looking great. I was pretty bummed about it each time (except for the first attempt – I was still young and optimistic back then), but I consoled myself with the fact that these little buggers are really finicky and hard to make. I was determined to one day bake a proper macaron, though, because in my head I wasn’t a successful baker until I’d managed to make these.
I know, that’s a bit harsh; welcome to my brain.
So, let’s turn to last Saturday, the day when it all went right. I was actually a little nervous about it, but also ready to rock (although, honestly, I’m not sure what I would have done if this attempt didn’t work out – probably abandon hope forever). I had everything I needed and I had CupcakeJemma to guide me through the process. It was her extremely detailed and helpful video that made my macarons a success.
I think I must have watched this video about twenty times now. I don’t think it’s necessary to watch it that often, but I would recommend watching it at least twice if you want to give these a go. Jemma and Dane explain perfectly what to do, but unfortunately, they don’t provide a written recipe (apart from the ingredients). So, for my own convenience, but also for yours, I’m going to write down exactly what I did to make these macarons. I don’t have any pictures to help you along, though, and you really need to see what’s happening and how things should look when you make this. So, again, I urge you to watch the video first if you want to give this recipe a try.
(You can find more pictures of my beautiful macarons below the recipe!)
You’ll need… (for a whole bunch of macarons)
- 205g icing sugar
- 190g ground almonds
- 144g egg whites (at room temperature!)
- 190g caster sugar
- 60ml water
- optional: food colouring paste/gel
- a filling (I used lemon curd from the supermarket, Jemma uses a nice white chocolate ganache – check the video for more inspiration)
- food processor
- candy/food thermometer
- stand mixer with whisk attachment (maybe you could use a handheld mixer too but I’ve never tried and I think it’d be even more stressful)
- additional big metal bowl
- rubber spatula
- piping bag with 1 cm round nozzle
- baking sheet
- parchment paper
- optional: macaron template, I used this one (print out multiple copies so you have enough for your baking trays)
- optional but very useful: freestanding thermometer (this is to make sure your oven is actually at the temperature it claims to be)
- and an oven, of course! These macarons need to be baked at 165 °C (don’t forget to preheat your oven!)
So, let’s get baking!
Tip: before you start, carefully read through the entire recipe. You don’t want to do something only to find out you did it wrong in the next step.
1. First things first: preparations Before you start throwing ingredients together, it’s a good idea to prepare all of your equipment and measure out all of the ingredients you need.
- First of all, take a paper towel and moisten it with a little bit of vinegar or lemon juice. Use this to wipe all of the equipment that’s going to come into contact with the egg whites. You’re degreasing these things so that you’ll be able to whip up the egg whites perfectly. This is an essential step so don’t skip it.
- Prepare your baking sheet (or sheets, if you have multiple). Line them with parchment paper and the macaron template underneath that, if you’re using one.
- Next, measure your ingredients. Separate the eggs, making sure you’re left with 144 g of egg whites. Transfer half of this, so 72 g of egg whites, to the bowl of your stand mixer and put the other 72 g aside – you’re going to use those soon. Also, measure out the rest of the ingredients and put them at the ready on your kitchen counter. This way, you won’t have to hurry later on when you need the ingredient in question. That’s tip #1: make things as easy as possible for yourself!
2. Process icing sugar and ground almonds Put the icing sugar and ground almonds into your food processor and grind them up. You do this to make sure the ground almonds are as fine as possible. In the video, they warn not to over-process it because then the almonds might release some of their oils and that’s not what you want.
3. Sieve mixture above bowl Take your big metal bowl and sieve the ground almonds and icing sugar mixture into it. There will probably be some bigger pieces of ground almonds left in your sieve. Don’t push them through – throw them away.
4. Add egg whites Once you’re done sieving, you add the 72 g of egg whites you put aside during step 1 (so not the ones you’ve put in the bowl of your mixer) to the bowl with the ground almonds and icing sugar. Use a rubber spatula to mix the egg whites through and create a paste. Don’t be too careful; you can be quite vigorous (don’t overmix it, though, or you’ll have the problem with the almonds releasing oils again). If you want to add food colouring to your mixture, this is the moment. Add the food colouring gel a little while before the paste is completely mixed, to avoid overworking. Add more food colouring than you think it needs: the colour of the paste needs to be quite intense, because you’re going to add a big batch of white meringue later that will dilute the colour a lot (if unclear, watch the video to see what I’m talking about!).
Tip: are you a first time macaron maker? I’d recommend not adding any food colouring the first time around. Try to master the basic recipe before adding any extras. Also, if you are using food colouring: always use gel or powder, never liquid colouring as this is likely to affect the consistency of the batter too much.
5. Put the paste aside Cover the bowl with cling film (so the paste doesn’t dry out) and then put it aside for later. Onto the next step: the meringue!
6. Make the sugar syrup We’re going to do a couple things at once for this step, so be ready for it! First, put the 190g of caster sugar and 60 ml of water into a saucepan and heat this mixture on the stove. Use your candy/food thermometer to keep track of the temperature. The mixture needs to be heated up to 118 °C. Remember those egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer? Turn on your mixer (medium to high speed) to whisk the egg whites once the sugar syrup reaches about 90 °C. The egg whites will whip up to a frothy consistency. Once the syrup reaches 118 °C, take it off the heat immediately (don’t let it get above 118 °C – so pay close attention!). While the mixer is still mixing, carefully pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl and into the egg whites. Make sure you don’t pour it onto the whisk.
7. Whip meringue to room temperature When you’ve added the sugar syrup to the egg whites, leave it whipping on a medium to high speed until the mixture is at room temperature. It will whip up into a nice, glossy Italian meringue. This will take about 5 or 6 minutes. The meringue shouldn’t be too stiff; it should flop over nicely when you get some on your whisk attachment and hold it up (if unclear, watch the video to see what I mean).
8. Loosen up paste with meringue Get out your almond and icing sugar paste and add one generous dollop of the meringue to it. Mix this into the paste to loosen it up a little. There’s no need to be too careful at this point; you can be quite vigorous.
9. Fold through rest of meringue Now, this is where the truly tricky part comes in. It’s time to fold the meringue into the paste. Add all of the meringue to the bowl with the paste and start to carefully fold it in with your rubber spatula, scraping down the sides of the bowl and cutting through the middle. This way, you won’t knock all of the air out of the meringue. It’s quite difficult to properly describe this process, so please do take a look at the video to see how it’s done. You want to mix like this until, when you hold up the spatula, the mixture ribbons of it and doesn’t melt into the mixture in the bowl right away. Jemma and Dane explain it perfectly in the video. It’s easy to overmix at this point, and if you do that, there’s no way back, so pay close attention.
10. Transfer batter to piping bag Fit your piping bag with a 1 cm nozzle and fill it with the batter. Make sure the batter can’t run out: you can turn up the tip with the nozzle, or use a handy clip to keep the piping bag shut at the end while you’re putting the batter in there.
11. Pipe! Now, it’s finally time to pipe the macarons onto your baking sheet. The trick for piping macarons is to keep the piping bag completely vertical to the baking sheet. Keep the nozzle close the sheet and squeeze some batter onto it. If you’re using a template (which I recommend you do): squeeze until the hole is just filled. The batter will spread a little bit, but don’t worry about that. Jemma and Dane recommend keeping about an inch (2.5 cm, apparently) between two macarons.
12. Tap baking sheets on counter Once you’re done piping, you’ll need to tap the baking sheet on your counter a couple of times to knock out any air bubbles. You’ll ensure your macarons will come out nice and smooth. If there are still a few bubbles left, you can use a toothpick to pop them and then smooth out the batter again.
13. Leave them be You’ll need to leave your macarons alone for a while now. Depending on your climate, they’ll need to sit for half an hour (colder climates) up to an hour (warmer climates). You’ll know they’re ready to go into the oven when you can carefully touch a macaron and the batter doesn’t stick to your finger. They’ll have dried a little bit.
14. Bake! Ah, the next bit where it can all go wrong… The baking! Make sure your oven is preheated properly and check your freestanding oven thermometer for the exact temperature. Put in one baking sheet at a time and bake the macarons for about 12 minutes. You can test them by touching them and seeing whether the top comes away from the bottom. If this is the case, they’ll need a minute or two longer in the oven.
15. Let them cool and make your filling Once the macarons are done baking, take them out of the oven and let them cool. They’ll cool faster if you slide the parchment paper off of the baking sheet. Don’t try to take the macarons off of the parchment paper yet at this point; wait until they’ve cooled completely, otherwise part of it might stick to the paper and you’re left with half a macaron. While the macarons are cooling, prepare your filling. I just use storebought lemon curd and put that in a small piping bag.
16. Add filling Sort the macarons into pairs when they’ve cooled completely. Some will be bigger than others, but with a bit of luck, you’ll be able to match every macaron to a friend of equal size. Pipe a bit of your preferred filling onto one half of the macaron and then press the other half on top of it. Do this for all of them.
And that’s it! You’re finally done and you’ve got yourself some delicious macarons! Even if they’re not looking perfect, they probably still taste pretty damn good.
Oh wow, what a ride. It was stressful, but also so much fun! Thanks to CupcakeJemma for providing such a useful guide and thanks to my trusty oven for making it work. Now it’s time for me to have another macaron because they taste like heaven and I’m hungry after typing all of this up.