Let’s make some delicate-ass sandwich cookies.
“Macaroons” were originally airy meringue cookies made from egg whites and equal parts sugar and almond flour. Some folks added coconut to theirs, some didn’t. A Parisian baker started sticking macaroons together with ganache—and thus do we have “macarons.” The cookies share an origin, the names share an etymology, language is fluid, and just because I feel that the Oxford comma adds clarity doesn’t mean that it’s inherently “more correct” that’s right I said it welcome to my food blog motherfuckers.
Italian macarons use a sugar syrup to help set the egg whites, which is supposed to be a little more work in exchange for slightly more consistent results. French macarons have caster sugar added directly to the egg whites; honestly, I haven’t tried it, but I’ll report back when I do.
Listen. This recipe works. I’ve used successfully a bunch of times, and I’ve botched it a bunch of times. I might not be able to give you any big macaron cheat codes, here—you just gotta get a feel for it. Once you do, you’ll be surprised at how easy they come together from that point on.
How do I flavor them?
Swapping the vanilla extract for another flavor of liquid extract should be fine, but you probably just want to flavor the filling if you plan on getting wild. My lemon macarons are plain ol’ macarons with a little yellow food dye and a lemon buttercream filling, and they end up being plenty lemon-y.
I’ve experimented a little with freeze-dried strawberries in place of some of the almond flour, but it didn’t take; they altered the texture of the shells too much. I ended up with some crunchberry-esque meringues, which, honestly, I didn’t hate. You can read more about my last crack at it in my Patreon feed: Where The Flops Go!™
All that said, I’m probably gonna try it again, if I’m being honest. If I do get it right, you know where the recipe is gonna end up.
Does it matter if you “age” your egg whites?
The hell I know. I’ve used store-bought egg whites, in the little pour-spout cartons, and I’ve used leftover separated egg whites that had “aged” in the fridge for a couple days; no difference so far as I can tell.
How do I color them?
I use gel food dye, so as not to donk up the consistency of the batter. Nothin’ much to report here.
How do I pipe them?
For the size, I just eyeball it—though there are more formal ways of making sure your macaron shells end up the same size. For making sure they’re nice and round, well, let gravity do that work for you: use a small-ish round piping tip, hold it still, in the center of what will be your macaron shell, and let it flow out into a circle. Give a little swirl at the end to prevent excess from messing up your perfect circle (the little peaks left behind should settle back in).
What should their consistency be?
Okay, so, they’ll look gritty when you first pipe them, then smooth out after they’ve settled for a bit. Other than that, though, the right texture isn’t super convey-able in text. I’ve seen it described as “like lava”—you know, lava? And how lava is, consistency-wise? It is like that extremely relatable texture.
Now, macaron piping videos are a Thing on Instagram, and video is a halfway decent way of showing the post-“macaronage” (that’s the step where you fold the whipped egg whites into the almond flour and powdered sugar) texture you want. So, spending a little quality time there wouldn’t hurt.
For what it’s worth, though: you want it to come off your rubber spatula in thick ribbons, sit on top of the rest of the batter with visually distinct edges at first, and merge back into the rest of the batter after ten or so seconds.
But honestly? You’re probably gonna have to trial and error this one a little. Worst case, you’ve got some meringues.
How many folds should I do for the macaronage step?
This part is tricky. Fold at least until the egg whites and almond/sugar slurry are fully incorporated. If the result is too liquid-y at this point, well, there’s nothing you can do—start over, or just bake whatever you’ve got anyway. It’s still gonna taste good, whatever it is, but it isn’t gonna win any macaron contests.
If the mixture isn’t deflated enough, well, keep on folding until it is. You can see where I can’t put a hard-and-fast fold number on this, and you probably shouldn’t take it as gospel if any recipe does: it’s all gonna come down to how long and how fast you whisked your egg whites. There’s a side of caution to err on, here, obviously: you’re better off with slightly overworked egg whites than underworked, because you can do a little extra folding—even, dare I say it, stirring—during the macaronage.
How do I keep them from sticking?
A dark cookie sheet seems to help the bottoms end up a little more “done”—same principle as light cake pans to prevent browning and dark pizza pans to crisp a crust up nicely. A long rest seems to help. I generally have better luck with parchment than a silpat, but your milage may vary there. I’ve read that aging the egg whites helps with this step, but I’m not really buying it.
Ultimately, though, this is also gonna come down to texture. Nail the texture and you’ll have a nice tight “crumb,” pronounced feet, a smooth shell, and evenly flat, easily un-stuck bases.
Odds are, you’re not gonna get there without a little trial and error. But, the recipe is made up of only a few relatively easy-to-find ingredients (the exact brands I used are linked in the ingredients list), and it doesn’t take a lot of time.
Give ’em hell, and let me know how it goes.
Recipe: Italian Macarons
You got this.
150 G. Almond Flour
150 G. Confectioner’s Sugar
110 G. Egg Whites
150 G. Caster Sugar
35 G. Water
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Pre-heat your oven to 320° f (160° c).
Ideally, put the confectioner’s sugar and almond flour in a food processor and run it to combine. Worst case, sift them together. Separate 55 grams of egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Mix the egg whites into the almond flour and powdered sugar to form a thick, gritty paste.
Heat the water and caster sugar in a small saucepan until it hits “soft-ball” (240° f, 115° c) on a candy thermometer. You should be able to eyeball it by it bubbling and turning mostly clear, but I’m not gonna make any promises there—a reliable instant-read thermometer is the only way to be sure.
While the sugar syrup is coming up to heat, put the remaining egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer and turn it to medium-high. Once soft peaks are forming, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the inside of the mixing bowl through a mesh strainer, then trickle in vanilla extract. Leave the mixer running for another five minutes.
Take rougly a third of the meringue and mix it into the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar paste—no need to be careful with this step; you can add a few drops of food coloring gel at this point. Add the remaining meringue and thoroughly fold it into the mix with a rubber spatula. Once fully incorporated (be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl), it should run off the spatula in thick ribbons, and settle back into the rest of the mixture in ten seconds or so—if it takes longer than that to incorporate, keep folding until it thins slightly.
Pipe into silver dollar sized discs on dark cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, leaving at least an inch or two between each shell—you can draw circle guides on the underside of the parchment with a Sharpie. You should be able to hold the piping bag still, centered, using a small round piping tip. The peak in the center should incorporate after a few seconds, and sit flat again. They’ll spread slightly, but should be rounded on the sides, rather than completely flat.
Give the cookie sheets a few sharp raps against the countertop to pop the bubbles on the tops of the shells; they might spread slightly, but not by much. If you’re feeling particularly fussy, you can carefully pop any remaining bubbles with a toothpick—getting rid of them will keep the domes from cracking in the oven.
Leave them uncovered, at room temperature, for at least an hour. This causes the domes to dry out and harden slightly, giving you a smooth shell and “feet” at the bottom. By the time they go into the oven, they should feel dry to the touch.
Bake at 320° f for fifteen minutes. Wait at least ten minutes before you rotate the cookie sheets, so they don’t collapse on you. Allow them to cool completely before removing.