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Pretty little classic macaron (with the Caribbean in the far background)

Macarons

Yield 48 macarons

Ingredients

Macaron Shells

  • 170 g almond flour
  • 300 g powdered sugar
  • 180 g egg whites, at room temperature
  • 160 g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract (optional)
  • Gel or powder food coloring (optional)
  • Decorations, like food glitter or nonpareils (optional)

American Buttercream

  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract, or other flavoring of choice
  • fresh berries (optional, though raspberries are highly recommended)
  • Food coloring (optional)

Instructions

Macaron Shells

  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F /150˚C, and position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Using a round cookie cutter or the base of a glass (something about 1.5 inches in diameter), draw a "template" for your macarons your parchment papers, leaving about 3/4" between each circle. Here is one you can print and trace. Flip the parchment paper over so that the side you drew on is touching the baking sheet.

  2. Combine the almond flour and powdered sugar together in a large bowl. Sift or pulse the mixture in a food processor, to ensure there are no large lumps and that the mixture is properly aerated. Set aside.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, increase the mixer speed, and whip on high until the meringue starts to firm up. Add gel food color a few drops at a time, until the desired color is reached. Add almond extract and mix until incorporated. Continue to whip until the meringue forms stiff peaks.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add half of the almond flour and powdered sugar mixture, and fold into the meringue. You want to deflate the meringue just a little at this stage, to combine the meringue and ground almond mixture.

  5. Add the remaining almond flour mixture, and stir lightly to combine. Now you are going to "macaronage" the batter until you get the right consistency. Fold the mixture in a series of 'turns', deflating the batter by spreading it against the side of the bowl. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat the movement - scooping the batter from the bottom of the bowl, and spreading it against the side. Continuously check the consistency of the batter - you want it to flow like lava when you lift the spatula from the bowl, and you should be able to 'draw' a figure 8 with it, without the batter breaking (see video #2 above). This step can take some practice until you know what it should feel and look like. If in doubt it is better to under-mix them than over-mix them - the process of putting the batter into the bag and piping out will help mix a little too.

  6. Fit a large pastry bag with a medium sized round tip, such as an Ateco #805. Holding the piping bag at a 90˚ angle to the surface, pipe out the batter into blobs the size of the circles drawn on the template. Finish off each piped circle with a little "flick" of your wrist to minimize the batter forming a point (it will still form a small one, but we can get rid of this with banging).
  7. Hold the baking sheet in two hands, and carefully but firmly, evenly bang it against the counter. Repeat this a few more times - this will get rid of any air bubbles, remove points on the top, and help them to spread out slightly.
  8. Repeat the piping and banging process until you have used up all of the batter - I usually make four sheet pans worth. Assuming you do not have four baking sheets, keep the unused batter covered. When you're ready to pipe, make sure to repeat the macaronage technique with the batter to ensure the proper consistency again. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the macarons with food glitter, nonpareils or sprinkles for fun after piping and banging the tray.
  9. Allow the macarons to dry at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes, or until they form a skin that you can touch without your finger sticking to them. This time will vary depending on the humidity.
  10. About fifteen minutes before you are going to bake the macarons, place a spare sheet pan on a lower rack in the oven to preheat - this should help ensure even baking. Bake the macarons one sheet at a time - place the sheet with the macarons on a rack above the preheated sheet, and place in the oven.
  11. Bake for approximately 18 minutes, rotating the pan once during the cooking process, and checking for doneness after 15 minutes. The macarons should develop a foot (the ruffled part on the bottom of the macaron), and bake without browning. To see if they are done - press down lightly on a shell. If the foot gives way, it needs a little longer; if it is stable, then it is close to being done. Test a macaron shell - if you can peel it away cleanly from the paper, they are done. If they are stable but cannot yet peel away cleanly, give them another minute or so. Again, this part takes a little trial and error depending on your oven. If they seem done but do not peel away cleanly, do not worry - there is a little trick for that!
  12. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the sheet pan for 10 minutes before peeling off the parchment paper and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat the baking with the remaining trays.
  13. If your macs do not peel away cleanly, place them, on the parchment paper, into the freezer for 5-10 minutes, then peel away from the paper.
  14. Store cooled macarons in an airtight container until ready to use.

American Buttercream Filling

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod (if using) into the bowl and add in the salt. Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Mix in the heavy cream and almond (or other flavoring) on low speed just until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4-5 minutes. Add gel food coloring until the desired color is reached. Transfer to a bag fitted with a large round tip.

Assembly

  1. Pair each macaron shell with another of a similar size. Pipe a circle of buttercream on one half, not quite reaching the edge and then gently sandwich with the second shell. If adding a surprise of fresh fruit or curd in the middle, pipe a ring of buttercream, not quite reaching the edge of the macaron. Fill the hole with the fruit or curd. Top with a second macaron and gently press to spread the buttercream to the edges.
  2. Macarons taste best if you 'mature' them in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors come together, if you have patience for that. Bring to room temperature before eating. They're delicious eaten the same day as well, which is recommended if using a fresh berry on the inside.

    Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. If freezing, defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours and then bring to room temperature before enjoying them.

Notes

Source: Macaron Shell adapted from Cloudy Kitchen; Buttercream from America's Test Kitchen

The buttercream recipe will be enough for a scant amount of filling. Double it if you want to ensure plenty of filling.

The yield will depend on the size of your macarons, but I generally get about 48 filled and assembled.