How To Make Perfect French Macarons

July 23, 2013

Have you ever attempted to make homemade French macarons? These beautifully colored cookies will surely impress your guests, so let's get started!  Cristina Valencia, baker extraordinaire from Jordan Winery, teaches us her techniques for creating the perfect macarons. In this step-by-step video, she'll show how to prepare your ingredients, how to easily customize the flavor, and how to get the perfect texture. Watch the short video and get the macaron recipe below.

French Macaron Cookies

These delectable cookies in soft, sherbet-toned hues make a beautiful addition to any holiday dessert ensemble. Create an endless array of flavors and colors by simply adding different fillings and colorings. Recipe adapted from a Martha Stewart Living favorite.

For the cookie:
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup almond flour (regular flour cannot be substituted)
2 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar (optional)
1/4 cup super-fine sugar

For flavoring (choice of):
Food coloring (for strawberry macarons, pictured)
Flavored extract (pistachio used in green macarons, pictured)
2 teaspoon cinnamon (for cinnamon macarons, pictured)
2 Tablespoon TCHO cocoa powder (for chocolate macarons, not pictured)

For basic meringue filling:
6 egg whites, large
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Click here for the instructions.

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How to Make French Macarons (video transcription)

So this time of year a lot of people are baking, wanting to do different types of cookies.  And today I’m going to show you a really unique cookie, the French macaron.  A lot of people feel intimidated by this because it’s a really delicate cookie and for a long time I was too.  But I found that really what will help you be successful is having the right recipe.  I went through a lot of recipes that failed.  This particular recipe came from Martha Stewart, and it’s almost foolproof.  If you follow these basic techniques you’ll end up with a really nice cookie.  Before you begin you want everything to be ready because with this cookie, there’s not a really good stopping point.  One of the most important ingredients is your egg whites, to have them separated beforehand and sitting at room temperature.  That’s what we start with, and that’s because when they’re warm like that it’ll increase their ability to hold air and they’ll whip up a lot faster.  So you’ll start by adding your eggs first to the mixer and then go ahead and turn it on to high.  Once you see it start foaming what you’re going to add is a little bit of cream of tartar, this is an acid.  And what it does is it stabilizes the egg white and also helps it to increase its ability to hold air.

Once it starts whipping up I’ll gradually add some granulated sugar.  This is just a quarter cup.  I’m using super fine sugar.  That’s just, it’s a lot finer, it’ll dissolve much quicker so it’ll give you a better texture.  You don’t want to add it all at once or too soon because then it prevents the meringue from whipping up nicely.  So just a little bit at a time to the mixing, this takes about two minutes on high.  This is what you’re looking for here.  And it’s something that’s really stiff and shiny.  Also at this point if you want to add a liquid flavor like an extract or a color you would do that now.  And mixing is really the most crucial part, especially when you go to add your dry ingredients because there’s so much fat in the almond flour, that fat will start breaking down your egg white.  So I’ll just add half of it, you’re trying to mix as little as possible.  If you over-mix you’re going to have a really runny product at the end.  But if you under-mix you’ll end up with a lumpy creamy kind of looking cookie.  You want it to be nice and smooth and shiny.  So you just want to gently fold it till everything is evenly incorporated and mixed up.  And you can kind of tell when it’s ready because if it’s under-mixed it’s going to just hold its form.  But you want it to be slightly runny so that you know you can pipe it, but it’s not going to keep the exact same form as what you’re seeing.

And then when you’re ready, transfer it to your piping bag.  And I’ll show you how to pipe that.  So this is about what you’re looking for, it’s not completely firm, but it’s a little smooth and still runny.  And then it’ll go in the piping bag.  Great.  So when you go to pipe you’ll want to keep it in one spot and squeeze until you’re done.  And then when you get the shape you want, don’t just lift it up, you’ll end up getting a peak on each cookie, which you don’t want.  So you’re going to squeeze and when you’re done, take the pressure off.  Leave the tip right on the cookie and just kind of go in a swirl.  And that’ll give you a smooth top.  So pipe them all out, leave them apart about an inch.  At this point what you do with macarons is you leave them sitting out at room temperature, about a half hour to 40 minutes.  And what you do is you end up getting a skin from the air over them.  And with any baked product, you usually notice it on bread is there’s always moisture in it that wants to escape once it’s in the oven.  So with bread you see it coming out the top or you see the score where the bread’s expanded.  When you have a skin on it the moisture can’t get out.  So what it does with the macaron is the moisture comes out of the bottom and that gives you the nice traditional feet, what you’re looking for right there.

While it’s sitting, heat your oven.  And the recipe calls for about 10 minutes, you want to keep a close eye on them because it only took me about four, you don’t want to get any color on these.  Let them cool completely and then they’ll come right off of the parchment paper.  And at that point you, you know, fill them with your own filling, traditionally it’s a butter cream, so like this with the strawberry, I’ll put strawberry jam in there.  If you want to do a pistachio, add a bit of butter cream and I add pistachio paste.  So really whatever you want to do, play around and make them unique to yourself.  Right here I have a variety of different flavors and colors which is really one of the nice things about them.  You can make all these using the same basic recipe.  If you don’t want to do them all in one day they freeze really well so you can wrap them up really well and they freeze for about three months and it just takes about 20 minutes let them defrost.

And I know a lot of people feel that French macarons are really difficult cookies to make.  But what I’ve found throughout the years, you know, for years I failed, but finding the right recipe has really made a huge difference.  So if you use this basic recipe and follow these tips you’ll end up with a beautiful cookie.  And if you have any questions about what we did just leave us a comment.

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