My foray into Macaron making

(Not to be confused with macaroons. They are two totally different things!)

If you popped over here to check out my tips, I congratulate you on your bravery. People like to talk about how hard it is to make macrons, but here’s…

Tip #1: It isn’t actually all that hard!

Granted, it does take patience to figure out just how long to mix the batter and just what temperature and what cooking time works best for your oven, but once you have those figured out, most batches turn out perfectly. Yes, I said most. Because nothing is that easy, right? Lol. More on that below. Also, making macarons isn’t a fast process. So, if you have patience and time then (hopefully) you’ll have fun with this! (Once mastered, they are certainly, IMO, worth the time. Because they are delicious!!)

Now, let’s back up… we start with the recipe for the shells. There are a slew of recipes out there, but here’s what I’ve found works for me and has a flavor that I love.

The recipe I just shared came from this post: That post is where I started. Then, when I couldn’t get the shells to form quite right, I also read several other posts and watched a good handful of videos. (There are lots out there!) Doing all of that helped me to solve specific issues, so what I’m going to do throughout the rest of this (very long) post is copy the directions directly from that link—and then I’ll add my commentary and tips. (NOTE: You might want to print this info and reference it later. It’s a lot, but don’t get scared away. I’m just tossing out all the things I’ve learned and discovered.)

Also, before we get started, please note that I’ve seen other recipes that change up the ratios of almond flour/powdered sugar just a bit, some that use only 2 eggs, and some that are specific about weighing the ingredients or going to a lot of trouble to make sure the granulated sugar gets fully dissolved. I’ve tried weighing; it didn’t make a difference for me, so I don’t do it. And, as for doing crazy things with the sugar…I can be a patient person, but I certainly don’t have time for that! However, neither do I have any issue with my sugar from doing what I mention below.

OK, here are the directions for the shells, copied directly from the link above. My additions are all the listed tips in bold.

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Keep beating and slowly add the sugar until stiff peaks form.

Tip #2: Use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment! It is SO MUCH EASIER.

Tip #3: Beat the eggs on medium speed until frothy (30-60 seconds) then add in the granulated sugar 1 teaspoon at a time.

Tip #4: As soon as the last of the sugar is added, I increase the speed on the stand mixture to an 8 and let it do its thing!

Tip #5: Seriously…mix it until you have stiff peaks!. If you can take the bowl out of the stand and turn it upside down and nothing comes out, then you’re there.

  1. Sift the powdered sugar and almond flour over the egg whites. Fold the dry mixture into the egg whites, giving the bowl a quarter turn every third fold. Once the batter reaches a lava-like consistency, transfer half to another bowl and add the food coloring. Mix until just combined. Do not overmix!

Tip #6: Although I don’t weigh my ingredients, I do spoon out the almond flour and powdered sugar instead of scooping them out with a measuring cup. Scooping can sometimes pack too much into the measuring cup. (Also, I did try weighing, and there was no difference. So, I went the easier route.)

 Tip #7: Sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together 3 times before adding to the egg whites.

Tip #8: Use a silicone spatula to mix in the flour/sugar mixture, and don’t worry about making sure to turn a quarter way every 3rd fold. It’s very thick to begin with, so just fold, smoosh, fold, smoosh, turn, smoosh, whatever. Just get it mixed and don’t wear yourself out doing it. 🙂 (But don’t “stir” the batter – fold, smoosh, fold, smoosh…)

Tip #9: Don’t stress out about over mixing because it takes a LOT to overmix. (I messed up several batches by seriously undermixing for fear I would overmix.) HOWEVER…

Tip #10: You absolutely do need to learn what “mix to a lava consistency” looks like.

Tip #11: If you’re making the shells all one color, you can add the food coloring to the egg whites before ever adding the flour/sugar mixtures! THAT IS SO MUCH EASIER THAN DOING IT BY HAND!!!

  1. Working quickly, put the white and pink batters into separate small zip-top bags. Cut a corner off of each bag and squeeze the 2 batters evenly into a larger gallon-size bag or piping bag to create a multicolor effect.

Tip #12: Ignore “work quickly.” Again, this stressed me out and had me making all kinds of messes.

Tip #13: Silicone pastry bags are the only way to go! I thought they’d be nasty and hard to get clean, but it’s just the opposite. I make far less mess using a large silicone bag than the disposable ones, and they’re super easy to clean. <–100% worth the expense!!!

Tip #14: I use a #1A tip (large circle) to pipe the shells. To fill the bag, I use a 5-6” tall cylindrical storage bowl. I fold the piping tip end up (pointing toward the ceiling) and put that down into the bowl, then I roll down the edges of the bag, opening the bag wide so that I can easily pour the batter inside. Keeping the tip folded up this way will keep the batter from leaking out before you’re ready to use it.  

Tip #15: The only “work quickly” I’ve even been able to figure out is needed here is because unless you have four hands, it’s very hard to fill two Ziplock bags with batter, cut off the corners, and then squeeze both colors into the large bag at once. (Hard, but doable.) When done this way, it *does* make for really cute shells, but it’s also messy (since I only have 2 hands). I’ve found that making pink shells makes me just as happy. 🙂

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Tip: use a little batter to “glue” down the edges of the parchment paper so it stays put). In a circular motion, pipe 1½-inch (4-cm) dollops onto the baking sheet. Lift the baking sheet and gently tap on the counter to settle the batter. Let the cookies rest for 1 hour, until they are no longer wet to the touch and a skin forms on top.

Tip #16: You’ll need two large baking sheets, and possibly a small one, as well.

Tip #17: I use a silicone mat with the circles drawn on it to help get all the shells the right size. However, I use that under parchment paper, and then I carefully slide the mat out from under the parchment paper just before baking. (I have two mats since it uses two large baking sheets.)

Tip #18: I keep my batter thick enough (mix until just able to form that figure 8 but not any additional) so that when I pipe the shells, I hold the tip perpendicular to the parchment paper and directly in the middle of the drawn circle. I squeeze out a circle (without swirling or moving the tip at all), then lift and move to the next circle. If the batter is thinner, this is harder to do because it’ll “drag” along with you when you move to a new circle. In that case, you need to hold the bag at an angle and swirl in a circle.

Tip #19: Don’t gently tap. Lift those baking sheets and drop those things hard. 🙂

Tip #20: Absolutely let the shells rest for an hour! Cooking before that skin forms thick enough will result in the shells cracking while cooking.

  1. Preheat the oven to 285ºF (140ºC).

Tip #21: You might have to cook several batches before figuring out what works for your oven. For reference, I cook mine on 315º for 12 minutes.

  1. Make the filling by mixing the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and milk in a medium bowl until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag and set aside until ready to fill the cookies.

This filling is delicious!! I have tried many other recipes for fillings, as well. For instance, you can use straight buttercream or chocolate ganache. (Color the shells for whatever matches your flavor.) I’m not going to go into fillings right now (because I’m tired of typing), but if all of these tips haven’t scared you off and you want to hear about the filling and different shell flavors I’ve tried, reply to the newsletter and let me know. Then when I get time to pull that info together, I’ll send it to you.

  1. When the cookies are dry to the touch, bake for 13-15 minutes, until they have risen. Let them cool for 10 minutes. To fill, pipe a circle of the cream cheese mixture around the edge of 1 cookie and place a small dollop of jam in the center. Sandwich with another cookie. Macarons are best kept refrigerated until serving.

Tips for baking (Tip #22):

  1. Make sure oven is fully preheated.

  2. If you used a silicone mat, gently slide that out from under the parchment paper before putting in the oven. It’ll cook fine if you forget to remove it, but I’ve found they rise slightly better without it. Also, piping directly onto the silicone mat, in my experience, always causes the shells to stick. Parchment paper all the way!

  3. Don’t open the oven door before the first 10 minutes.

  4. It’s very hard to tell while cooking if the shells are done. Figuring this out simply takes experience and trying different times and temps.

  5. If you try to lift a shell while its hot in order to test doneness, it’s going to stick to the paper, and you’ll think it’s not cooked enough. But that may not be the case.

  6. If you overcook them and the shells are white/pink/light in color, they’ll end up sightly yellowed.

  7. Basically, watch them rise, give it another minute or two (base this upon your temp), then pull from the oven and wait until cooled to check them.

Tip #23: Let shells cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then move the parchment paper to a wire cookie rack. Don’t pull any cookies off the paper yet!

Tip #24: Just have patience! Once you get it figure out, it really is easy. Then it’s just a matter of choosing your flavor and filling.

Tip #25: Tip #24 was a slight exaggeration. When you start experimenting with different flavors (there are a ton of great suggestions out there), keep in mind that if you add anything like ground pistachios (which have oil) to the batter then that can affect how they cook. They might crack, or possibly cook faster. However, I haven’t noticed an issue when adding extracts such as vanilla or peppermint. Again, just experiment. 🙂

  1. Enjoy!

NOTE: I’ve made the following flavors:

I still plan to try:

If you have any questions, feel free to reply to the newsletter and ask away. It might take me a few days to get back to you (because I have a lot of words to get done next week!), but as soon as I have time, I’ll answer as best I can.

Also, as stated above, if you find yourself interested in the different flavors I’ve made and which recipes I used or how I tweaked them, reply to the newsletter and let me know, and when I have time to pull all of that together, I’ll send that info to you.

Happy baking! 🙂