Besides being arguably the best cookies in the world, did you know that French macarons also happen to be naturally gluten free? Which is such a blessing for us coeliacs! Except… they also tend to be quite expensive and, sadly, too many companies cheapen them by adding wheat flour.
Sooo, I finally decided it was time… Time to overcome my weird fear of baking macarons!
I don’t know why I always assumed they were difficult and too much faff. I only tried once before, YEARS ago… long before I knew anything about baking. This may have even been before I was gluten free. In retrospect, I had no idea what I was doing and it’s safe to say I failed miserably. haha
But in the end they’re actually not that hard when you know what you’re doing and follow all the steps properly! 😉
MY BIGGEST ADVICE TO BEGINNERS IS:
Just make sure you familiarise yourself with the process first. It’s a bit long, I know… maybe make yourself a tea, get comfortable (haha) and read through all the instructions and tips before you begin. And follow the steps carefully. 🙂
Use good quality eggs
I recommend using good quality fresh free range eggs. In my experience, old or cheap eggs (which tend to be old) can be a bit hit and miss, with some not whipping up properly at times.
Don’t use a water based food colouring!
When making macarons, you have to use more concentrated types of colourings like gel or paste.
Wipe the bowl and whisk attachments with vinegar or lemon juice
Make sure your whisk attachments and bowl are completely clean. Even just a tiny bit of grease can ruin your meringue. Wiping your bowl and whisk attachments with a paper towel soaked in lemon juice or vinegar will help get rid of any residue of grease. I’ve seen many chefs recommend this and honestly it changed everything for me. Nearly all my meringue attempts used to fail until I started doing this.
Don’t use a plastic bowl
Use a glass or stainless steel bowl. The main reason for this is that plastic bowls are more likely to have traces of grease left on them. And like I explained above, it can prevent your egg whites from whipping up properly.
Make sure you sift the ground almonds and icing sugar
You want your mixture to be as smooth and powdery as possible.
Don’t skip the drying time!
Your macarons absolutely need to dry and form a ‘skin’ on top before being baked. This step cannot be skipped or the recipe simply won’t work.
Learn to know your oven
Bear in mind that all ovens are different so the ideal baking time and temperature may vary a little. A lot of recipes call for baking macarons at 150C (300F), but in my experience 130C works a lot better with my oven.
If it’s your first time, I recommend cooking your macarons in a few different batches. Pipe them onto a few different baking trays, bake them one at a time and experiment with different temperatures and cooking times if necessary. That way you won’t end up wasting all your recipe in one go if the first try doesn’t work out.
Use a good quality baking tray
A good quality, flat baking tray that distributes the heat evenly can make a big difference.
Add vinegar or lemon juice to your egg white
This helps stabilise your egg white and ensure you reach stiff peaks.
Use beet sugar
This isn’t necessary, but it can help prevent your macarons from browning. It turns out that beet sugar takes longer to brown than cane sugar and is therefore ideal for macarons. So have a look at the source of your sugar and choose a beet based one if possible.
If you live in the UK, for example, the brand Silver Spoon is made from beet sugar while Tate & Lyle is cane sugar. 🙂
Why aren’t my macarons drying / forming a skin?
Bear in mind that the temperature and humidity level in your home can affect how long it takes for your macarons to dry and develop a skin on top.
Many recipes will tell you to dry macarons for 30 mins and that might be true when the conditions are ideal i.e. a dry warm day… but on a cold rainy winter day, it can take a lot longer. Sometimes well over an hour in my experience.
Just be patient and let them dry or the recipe simply won’t work. You can try bringing them into a drier room. Using a paper fan can also help. I had to do this last time and it worked!
BUT, it can also be that your batter is too wet / your egg whites are not whipped well enough.
Why did my macarons brown?
1. The temperature is too high and/or your macarons were placed too high up in the oven. For that reason, I personally recommend placing them on a lower shelf, lower than the middle. All ovens are different and don’t necessarily heat up to the exact temperature you set it as. So it may take a bit of trial and error.
2. The type of sugar you’re using browns too quickly. Something I discovered during this experiment is that beet sugar takes longer to brown than cane sugar and is therefore ideal for macarons. So have a look at the source of your sugar and choose a beet based one. If you live in the UK, for example, the brand Silver Spoon is made from beet sugar while Tate & Lyle is cane sugar.
Why are my macarons crunchy?
This is a sign that they may be overcooked. Bear in mind that your macarons will soften up once they are filled up and refrigerated for a while. So don’t panic and don’t throw them in the bin if they seem a bit firm at first. 😉
Why are my macarons stuck?
If your macarons are stuck to the baking paper (even after they’ve had a chance to cool down), this is a sign that they aren’t cooked enough. Try popping them in the oven a bit longer. This could also be a sign that the batter was too wet / they weren’t dry enough before baking.
- 1 large egg (just the egg white)
- ¼ tsp lemon juice or vinegar (I use cider vinegar)
- 15g sugar (caster or granulated)
- ⅓ tsp salt
- 35g almond flour / ground almonds
- 70g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
- Optional: vanilla extract (or flavouring of your choice)
- Optional: food colouring (gel or powder)
- Ganache (the thick sturdy kind)
- Jam / curd
SIFT THE ICING SUGAR AND GROUND ALMONDS:
- Run your ground almonds through a sieve and discard any large bits.
- Then also sift the icing sugar to get rid of any lumps.
- Then mix both together in a small bowl and set aside.
Note: this is important to make sure your macarons are smooth. Some people even grind the ground almond first to make it as powdery as possible.
PREP YOUR BOWL AND PADDLE ATTACHMENTS:
- Take a large mixing bowl out for the meringue.
- To make sure there is no speck of grease left (which can mess up your meringue), wipe the bowl and whisk attachments with some paper towel soaked with a bit of vinegar or lemon juice.
MAKE THE MERINGUE / WHIP THE EGG WHITE:
- Separate your egg and keep the white only. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to crack the egg and let the white dribble through your fingers and into the bowl. Then discard the yolk or better yet, keep it for another recipe. 😉
- Add a good pinch of salt to the egg white.
- Measure your granulated sugar and have it ready on the side in a separate bowl.
- Start beating the egg white on low/medium speed.
- Once the egg gets frothy (like in the second picture above), start adding the sugar little by little.
- Keep beating the eggs until it forms stiff peaks (like in the third picture above). Basically the tips of the peaks shouldn’t be floppy and droop back into bowl. They should be standing up. You should also be able to hold the bowl upside down without the content falling out. 🙂
- At this point you can add a bit of gel colouring and beat very briefly. Note: bear in mind that your macarons will get a bit lighter during the cooking process so make the batter a bit darker than how you actually want them to be.
FOLD IN THE GROUND ALMONDS AND ICING SUGAR:
- Add the ground almond and icing sugar mixture into your bowl.
- Carefully fold it into the meringue using a spatula. Be careful not to over-mix it and don’t squish it. You just want to gently stir it in by scraping around the sides of the bowl and folding the batter over. Until you have a smooth, sticky and somewhat elastic batter (like in the picture collage above). With the perfect batter consistency, you should be able to draw a figure 8 as you pick it up with the spatula and let it slowly run off into a ribbon.
PIPE YOUR MACARONS:
- Transfer the batter into a piping bag with a round nozzle/opening.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper (or silicone baking mat). Note: to make sure the baking paper isn’t moving all over the place while you pipe your macarons, secure it by piping tiny blobs of batter underneath it in all corners.
- Pipe your macarons, leaving some space in between each for spreading. Note: you can either draw circles at the back of the baking paper before getting started to make them all identical… or you can just eye it up like I did. 😉
- Then tap/drop the tray onto your work surface several times to get rid of air bubbles. This will also help the macarons spread.
- Optional: at this point you can add some decorations too, like sprinkles.
LET THEM DRY:
- Then leave your macarons to dry at room temperature for 30 to 60 mins.
- You’ll know they’re ready to bake when the tops are no longer shiny and sticky. You should be able to touch them / brush them lightly with your finger without them sticking.
BAKE YOUR MACARONS:
- While your macarons are drying, pre-heat the oven to 130C.
- Place the shelf a bit below the middle / about one third of the way up from the bottom. In my experience, this helps prevent the macarons from overcooking and browning.
- Bake for about 17 minutes. Note: make sure you keep an eye on them if it’s your first time (as all ovens vary). If they start to brown at any point before the 17 minute mark, take them out.
- Take them out of the oven and let them cool down before attempting to peel them off. If you don’t wait, you’ll end up with a sticky mess.
- Once cool, carefully peel them off of the baking paper. At this point they should come off pretty easily. Note: if they’re stuck, it means they aren’t cooked enough. Try popping them into the oven again for a few more minutes.
ASSEMBLE THE MACARONS:
- Transfer your choice of filling into a piping bag with a small nozzle.
- Pipe a dollop in the center of one macaron.
- Then add the top layer and gently press to spread the filling and secure the macaron.
- Repeat with the rest.
HOW TO STORE MACARONS:
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
- And ideally refrigerate them overnight before eating them! 🙂