French Macarons w/ Step-by-Step Photos

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I owe this blog post entirely to my friend Jen, a French Macaron baking queen. These temperamental treats are so cute to look at - truly little bites of heaven - but notoriously difficult to make. Baking macarons takes extreme precision and isn't something you can just throw together on a whim.

After a few batches of failed macarons following numerous recipes, Jen finally nailed the art of making macarons and have been experimenting on different flavors for the past few years. Luckily for me, she recently moved to New York and brought her macaron-loving spirit with her (and KitchenAid mixer!). Today, I will share some of her secrets.

During a Sunday afternoon back in December, we set out with an ambitious goal to make four different batches of macarons, each one with a different filling and flavor. What were we doing with so many macarons you ask? We were giving them away for the holidays! I'm telling you, my coworkers were all happy campers when I brought these macarons in.

Boy, were they impressed, they couldn't believe that these were homemade! And honestly, I was so impressed too. I mean, just look at them...

French Macaron



Aren't these macarons so cute and dainty? I think females are naturally wired to think that tiny things are cute because as I admired the cuteness of these macarons, my guy friends just stared at me blankly. Men, they just don't get it.

French Macaron

Before I jump into the macaron baking process, let me let you in on a secret Jen unveiled to me: the different flavors from a macaron usually comes from the filling itself. Say whaaaattttt? Shows you how much I really knew about macarons before this day.


There are two essential parts to a macaron: the macaron shell and its' filling. The shell is a sweet meringue-based confection made with eggs, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food coloring. These two shells sandwich a filling of buttercream, jam, ganache or whatever else you want to put in between them. So gluten-free friends rejoice, no gluten is involved in the making of a typical macaron.

Here's the four flavors that we made:
  • Chocolate w/ Trader Joe's Cookie Butter
  • Salted Caramel
  • Captain Crunch topped w/ Buttercream - Jen's signature macaron!
  • Apple Cranberry Cinnamon (Buttercream mixed w/ Apple Cranberry Jam and topped with Cinnamon)
After a lot of failed attempts, the recipe that Jen found worked best for her is from Giver's Log. It is an adaptation of a Martha's Stewart recipe, so most of what I'm telling you here on out will be based on those resources. Giver's Log also has a great list of "troubleshooting" tips for baking macarons for the first time so definitely check it out as well if you want to give macaron-making a try.

I mentioned that we made four batches of these macarons, and we actually did these steps four different times. Jen's said she's tried doubling the batch and it never turns out right for her. These are truly a labor of love but it's soooooo worth it!

Getting excited? Alright, let's get started...


Start by measuring out 3/4 cup (2.5 oz) almond flour  and 1 cup (4.5 oz) confectioners’ sugar. For precise baking, I would recommend always weighing out your ingredients. Sift through each of these ingredients once, then combine them together by pulsing in a food processor. Sift the combo again and set aside.


Whisk aged room temp egg whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Then, add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form. It's debatable how long this step takes, anywhere from 3-8 minutes but make sure not to over-whip this. You should check on the mixture periodically to check for stiff peaks. This mixture should have a shiny sheen to it.

You can also add the food coloring in at this step - Jen uses just a few drops of liquid food coloring 1-2 minutes before stiff peaks form.



Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny. The precision of this step is essential as well - you have to mix it so that the batter falls naturally from the spatula down like thick ribbons. Keep folding the mixture until this happens, but make sure to not under or overmix. Fold this about 50-65 times, but honestly who's counting.



Once you're done folding the mixture, transfer to a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain round tip. Pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks (which we didn't do, as you can see in these pics, but will try next time!)

The batter should fall pretty naturally out of the bag without much force, but not be too runny either.


Now you have to let the batter rest for 30-45 minutes in room temperature. During this time, preheat your over to 375° F. Tap the bottom of your pan to release any trapped air in the macaron shells. We also pushed down the peaks that we created while piping. Topped it off with some decorations. In Jen's signature Cap'n Crunch macarons, she crushes some cereal and sifts it on top of the shells. Since it was for Christmas, we added red and green cereal bits.

Be sure not to put anything too heavy on top of your shells or else it won't bake properly. Allowing the batter to rest here allows a skin to form on the top so that when the macarons are baking, the macaron could puff under the skin and form the foot of the macaron as you can see on the picture on the right.


Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. (We were rebels and actually put 2 sheets in at a time, but you could tell that one of the sheets turned out a tad darker than the other.) After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.



As the macarons batter was resting, we went ahead and made a few more batches, so this pink shell became the Apple Cranberry Cinnamon macaron. Once again, we just added red food coloring about 1-2 minutes before the eggs were whipped into stiff peak. Topped the shells with cinnamon before baking.

After the macarons bake for about 10 minutes, take them out of the oven. Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove them from the parchment paper. (If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons.)


Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon jam, ganache, buttercream, caramel, cookie butter, or whatever you can dream of. The sky is the limit here. You can serve this immediately (I happily ate all of the macarons I ended up "messing up"), though we found that the macarons were even better a day later.

For the macarons we were gifting, we left in the fridge, however left some in the freezer and as it turned out, it was a tad better than the ones we put in the fridge. If you're planning to eat them 2-3 days after, I recommend just freezing them. It takes only 30 minutes out of the freezer for macarons to be ready to serve.


The macaron baking party continued like this for a while. As I played matchmaker to the different shells, matching cookies of the same size and then filling them, Jen continued making more shells and the buttercream and caramel. She followed this buttercream recipe from this beautiful blog post from Tartelette, and improvised by adding apple-cranberry jam to the buttercream for the Apple-Cranberry Cinnamon macaron filling.

The caramel was a bit soft the day of, and after a day in the fridge, it hardened up and was much better.


If Trader Joe's cookie butter wasn't good enough on it's own, we paired it with a chocolate macaron shell by substituting 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the almond flour in the recipe. These shells if you can see had a much heavier "foot" and were a tad more dense than its fully pure counterparts. If you can see in the picture, the shell had some issues rising as the center of the shell sank a little. It tasted like a glorious brownie which I loved, but Jen and I agreed that she might need to add even less cocoa powder next time around.


So there you have it! The secrets behind the beautiful French Macaron. There's definitely a sense of accomplishment in seeing these come together and a newfound appreciation of the intricate and personal detail that goes into each and every macaron. Love went into each and every single bite of these lovely macarons and truly is a great gift to anyone you make it for.

If you end up trying this recipe, comment below and let me know how it works out for you! :)
French Macarons
Recipe & Hints from Giver's Log & Martha Stewart

For the Macarons
1 cup (4.5 oz) confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup (2.5 oz) almond flour
2 large egg whites, room temperature - older eggs are better!
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar

Suggested Fillings
Buttercream - plain or mixed with jams
Cookie Butter from Trader Joe's
Chocolate Ganache
Homemade or store-bought dulce de leche
Fruit Jams - Raspberry, Strawberry, Peach, etc


1. Separate aged egg whites and bring to room temp. Be sure to use an older egg in this recipe as they hold air better. Take out the egg out of the fridge the day before or the morning of, separate egg whites and bring them to room temperature.

2. Prepare and sift confectioners' sugar and almond flour mixture. Measure out your confectioner's sugar and almond flour. For precise baking, I would recommend always weighing out your ingredients. Sift through each of these ingredients once, then combine them together by pulsing in a food processor. Sift the combo again and set aside.

3. Whip egg whites into stiff peaks. In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, whip the aged room temp egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Then, add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then gradually add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form. It's debatable how long this step takes, anywhere from 3-8 minutes but make sure not to over-whip this. You should check on the mixture periodically to check for stiff peaks.

You can also add the food coloring in at this step. Either liquid food coloring or food coloring paste will work here. Add about 1-2 minutes before stiff peaks form.

4. Fold flour mixture in egg whites. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny. The precision of this step is essential as well - you have to mix it so that the batter falls naturally from the spatula down like a thick ribbon. Keep folding the mixture until this happens, but make sure to not under or over-mix. This should take you about 50-65 folds.

5. Pipe macarons into circles. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain round tip. Pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. The batter should fall pretty naturally out of the bag without much force, but not be too runny either.

6. Rest the shells in room temperature. Now you have to let the batter rest for 30-45 minutes in room temperature. During this time, preheat your over to 375° F. Tap the bottom of your pan to release any trapped air in the macaron shells. We also pushed down the peaks that we created while piping. Topped it off with any decorations if you have it.

Allowing the batter to rest here allows a skin to form on the top so that when the macarons are baking, the macaron could puff under the skin and form the foot of the macaron which is essential in any macaron.

7. Bake macaron shell in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.

8. Cool macarons and transfer to wire rack. Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove them from the parchment paper. (If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons.)

9. Fill macarons & enjoy! Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon jam, ganache, buttercream, caramel, cookie butter, or whatever you can dream of. The sky is the limit here. You can serve this immediately.

For the macarons we were gifting, we left in the fridge, however left some in the freezer and as it turned out, it was a tad better than the ones we put in the fridge. If you're planning to eat them 2-3 days after, I recommend just freezing them. It takes only 30 minutes out of the freezer for macarons to be ready to serve. 

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