Friday, June 25, 2010


Macarons have taken the foodie world by storm over the last few years - a decadent confection consisting of egg white, almond, sugar, and whatever filling takes your fancy. Sounds simple, yes? Perhaps not so much! To be fair, though, they are not that difficult - a little fussy but even if they don't come out perfectly I'm sure you will still enjoy the results; and although I've only made them twice I've been very happy with the results both times.

To me the hardest part is remembering to separate the eggs ahead; apparently the whites are more stable if they're aged at room temperature for a couple of days beforehand. I know it seems wrong but I have done it twice now and have gotten over it a bit. Probably helps that the season means our apartment is not too warm; otherwise it might weird me out a bit more.

The process is straightforward if you are a seasoned baker; beat egg whites until foamy, add sugar gradually, then blitz the almonds and more sugar, and fold into the egg mixture with a bit of powdered colour.

The flavour in macarons in most cases comes mainly from the filling - the nutty quality of the cookies is delicious but really comes alive with a tangy, fruity buttercream or a rich ganache filling. You can also change the nuts - my understanding is that this works best if you keep half the almonds, and replace the other half with, say, pistachios. 

Once you've made the batter you pipe the mixture onto a baking tray:

You could use a spoon to place small mounds if you don't have a piping bag but it's much quicker this way. Once you've piped the mixture out you're supposed to leave it to rest for 30-60 minutes; this allows the batter to form a light crust, which creates a smooth top shell when you bake them and gives the oh-so-desirable 'foot' at the base of the cooked macaron. I'm not sure why the foot is such a feature but I presume it's a good signal that your macarons have succeeded; it's caused by the pre-crusted shell being raised during cooking - since the shell has had the chance to harden a bit the whole thing rises, leaving a thin layer of rough, aerated cookie at the base. Anyway, I expect this is a bit boring for all but the most obsessed of you, so moving right along...

For filling, you can use pretty much any recipe you like; the first time I made these I used ganache, so wanted to try something fruity this time around. I made a French buttercream and split the recipe in two, flavouring half with passionfruit pulp and half with raspberries.

French buttercream (educational post today, folks!) is made by beating a sugar syrup into egg yolks until fluffy, and then gradually adding butter until thick and creamy. Definitely not a recipe I'd recommend if you don't have an electric beater - my wrist got sore holding the beater up so a stand mixer would be the ideal contraption for this!

Again, this is not a difficult recipe, but getting the sugar syrup to the right stage takes some patience, and preferably a thermometer. If you don't want to be this fussy you don't have to, though - just about anything that will hold together will work - a more basic buttercream, ganache, even a simple marscapone/fruit combo - the world is your oyster! As for the pretty colours, you'll need powdered colours to achieve these; most cake decorating or chocolate making shops would have these, and there are plenty of places you can buy them online, too. They tend to be $6 or so for a bottle but you only use a tiny amount at a time so they will last ages. I didn't quite use enough for mine - make sure the mixture looks nice and vibrant as the colour will pale a little as they cook.

Macarons (makes 24 sandwiched cookies; recipe from Tartlette)
90g egg whites (the three size 6 eggs I cracked yielded 100g)
25g castor sugar
200g icing sugar
110g almonds (ground, slivered or blanched)
powdered food colour

Beat the egg whites to a foam (think bubble bath!), and gradually add the sugar until you have a glossy meringue. Put the remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse until almonds are finely ground (this is recommended even if you have ground almonds, but the previous time I made these I just mixed these ingredients in a separate bowl, which worked out well).

Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites, until ingredients are well combined and mixture falls back on itself in 10 seconds. Test the mixture by putting a little on a plate; if the top flattens it's ready, if not give the batter a couple more folds to remove a little more air.

Use a piping bag and plain, wide tip to pipe small mounds onto two baking sheets. Leave for 30-60 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 130 C.

Bake for 15-20 minutes - when done you should be able to easily lift a macaron off the tray in one piece.

Buttercream Icing (note; this makes enough for two batches of macarons)
100g sugar
60g water
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Flavor of choice (with this recipe I tend to add flavour gradually to taste - hence no measurement)

Combine sugar, water and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup reaches 125 degrees celcius.

While the syrup is heating, begin to whisk egg and yolk at high speed until pale and foamy. Once syrup is at the correct temperature, reduce speed to low and slowly pour syrup into bowl. Raise speed to medium-high and continue beating until thick and satiny and mixture is cool to touch.

Mash butter until soft and creamy. On medium speed, add the butter in two-tablespoon chunks. Once all butter has been added, raise speed to high and beat until thick and shiny. Add flavor and beat for an additional minute or so.

To assemble, pair the macarons with similar sized shells - if yours are like mine there will be some variation! Pipe a small mound of buttercream onto one half then gently press together. Refrigerate to firm the icing (and store refrigerated) but serve at room temperature. The macaron cookies (unfilled) can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week before filling, or can be frozen. The whole cookies can also be frozen.

(by the way, gold leaf is the most annoying thing in the world to use!)


  1. Beautiful job Rosa! They can be such a bugger! I store my almond meal in the fridge as I buy a big bag of it and that meant no feet for a few batches until I realised that that was the issue. And yes gold leaf is hard to work with. I usually use tweezers but even that is hard!

  2. Thanks Lorraine! I think reading about so many others trying made it easy for me - I remember reading about yours and have had them in my mind as something to make for ages so scour every macaron post I see for tips!

    I did use tweezers, but my goodness, that stuff is crazy to try to control! Glad it's not just me! ;-)

  3. I've never had a macaroon...... =(

    They look great though, Rosa! I figured the ones at the top were a pilfered google image or something!! Well done :)

  4. Thanks Michelle! ;-) Gotta be careful with that spelling - macaroons are made with coconut, and are also delicious, but macarons are just egg white, almond meal and sugar. And you should try making them - then you could have one (or two. Or three...). ;-)

  5. Hi - I just stumbled upon your blog after doing a google search on macarons. There are a lot of people out there in blogland trying to perfect them, including me. I had trouble with the feet spreading sideways and discovered it happens when your oven is too hot. I was baking them at 130C as well, so I upturned a muffin tray and placed the baking tray on top of that, for cooking. And also put it on a lower shelf in the oven. Seems to have worked as there are no more spread feet.
    But even if the macarons dont turn out perfectly, they are still yummy!

  6. Thanks for that - I will watch the oven temperature next time. Very helpful! No harm in having to have a few trial runs on these things, though - means more taste-testing! ;-)

  7. Wow look at those pretty wee feet! Mahi pai Rosa! I like the educational post...maybe it's because I'm a hard out too? :)

  8. Aw, thanks Nessie! Always nice to find other like-minded people, too... ;-)

  9. these are still in my 'must try' pile .... they are a little scary !!

  10. Don't be scared! :-) Failures are all good because they still taste delicious, and if you've read a few accounts of macarons before you embark on your mission I'm sure you won't have any problems!


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