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Macarons (Macaroons)

How to make French Macarons plus a selection of Macaron Recipes


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What's the difference between a Macaron and a Macaroon?

Macarons are often also called macaroons however, the two items are not the same.  Macarons, often called French Macarons,  are small, light, meringue type biscuits which are sandwiched together with a sweet filling. The basic recipe contains almonds and they can be flavoured and coloured with any number of additional ingredients - particularly when it comes to the fillings.  These little delights belong firmly in the patisserie section.



Macaroons on the other hand,  are a much more substantial affair. They can be made into relatively flat soft centred cookies or made deeper which end up being a cross between a cookie and a cake. They are made with coconut or almonds and are often decorated with chocolate, almonds or glace cherries.



Brief History of Macarons

The origin of the macaron is a much debated subject. Some say is can be traced back to Venice, Italy  during the Renaissance, others, such as Larousse Gastronomique,  think it was created around 791 AD in a convent near Cormery, France,  whilst others trace its French debut back to the arrival of Catherine de' Medici's Italian pastry chefs whom she brought with her in 1533 upon marrying Henry II of France. Whichever is true, these early specimens were just simple single biscuits made of powdered almonds, sugar and egg whites.


In the 1830s, macarons started being served two-by-two with the addition of jams,  but the macaron as we know it, was the creation of Pierre Desfontaines of the French patisserie, Ladurée at the beginning of the 20th century.  His version was made up of  two almond meringue discs which were sandwiched together with a layer of butter cream, jam, or ganache. These were called "Gerbet" or "Paris macaron". Since then they have been a popular speciality in Paris however, it is only very recently, 2009/10,   that they have become a trendy patisserie outside of France.

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How to make Macarons - General instructions for making Macarons

The perfect macaron should have a thin crust with a light airy centre which is slightly chewy. This perfection is not always easy to accomplish although for the less fussy,  excellent "nearly's" are more easily  achieved.


Equipment needed to make Macarons

Accurate Weighing scales

Mixing Bowl

Electric Whisk - Although a hand whisk can be used, better and easier results are achieved by using an electric whisk

Spoon for mixing

Piping Bag with Plain Nozzle

Baking Trays - preferably heavy duty

Parchment or Rice Paper


Basic Macaron Shell Mixture

One of the most tricky parts of the recipe is getting the ratio of ingredients correct: too little or too much ground almonds, sugar or egg whites can completely ruin the finished recipe.  For this reason, it is better to weigh the egg white (s)  and then calculate how much of the other ingredients will be needed in relation to the amount of egg white being used. Below are the proportions for a basic macaron meringue  mix:-


1 part Egg White

0.75 part  Caster Sugar

1.25 part Ground Almonds
1.75 parts Icing Sugar


One medium egg white weighs around 30g and will make 12 x 5cm macaron half shells (6 whole macarons once sandwiched together).


30g/1 medium Egg White

25g/1oz Caster Sugar (rounded up from 22.5g)

37.5g /1½oz  Ground Almonds
50g/2oz  Icing Sugar  (rounded down from 52.5g)


You can easily double, triple or quadruple the amount of ingredients provided you keep the ratios the same. A manageable quantity is double the above which would make 24 half shells, 12 whole (sandwiched) macarons. Here are the proportions to save you having to work it out:-


60g/approx 2 medium Egg Whites

50g/2oz Caster Sugar

75g/3oz Ground Almonds

100g/4oz Icing Sugar



Preparing Macaron Shell ingredients

All the ingredients must be at room temperature and it is better if the egg whites have not been freshly cracked. Many believe it is best to place them in a small bowl or glass and keep them in the fridge, uncovered for 2-3 days before using to make macarons, however good results can be achieved by leaving the cracked egg whites uncovered at room temperature for as little as 3 hours.


Mixing the Macaron Shell Mixture

There are two methods used to make the biscuit mixture however, as the Italian method can be a little difficult, we will concentrate on the French method here.


1. Mix ground almonds with icing sugar. If using powdered flavouring/flavouring such as cocoa powder, add it now however, it is best not to add too much to the basic mixture as it will alter the ratios. Set aside

2. Place the the egg whites in a mixing bowl and using an electric whisk, whisk until it forms quite firm peaks.


3. Add the caster sugar and liquid food colouring/flavouring if using, whisk until well blended then add the almond mixture and stir quite vigorously with a spoon for as short a time as possible, until well combined  and smooth.


How large should macarons be?

French macarons can, of course, be as small or as large as you wish however the normal finished size is no larger than 5cm/2-inches in diameter. Mini macarons about 2.5cm/1-inch in diameter are great for parties and larger ones can be served as desserts.


How to pipe the macaron shells?

1. Pour the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle.

2. Squeeze out evenly sized blobs of mixture, just under 5cm/2-inches in diameter, spaced well apart onto baking trays covered with parchment or rice paper.  It's best to hold the piping bag perpendicular to and actually touching the tray, using a little flick away once enough mixture has been piped for each macaron.   The batter should be soft enough so that the macarons slightly level themselves a little. It's helpful to give the trays a light tap against a hard surface a couple of times to remove any air bubbles. If a small bump is left on the top, you can use a wetted finger to gently smooth it over.


3. If you wish to decorate the tops with items such a poppy seeds, crushed nuts or coconut, do so at this point. Leave to stand, uncovered,  for 20-30 minutes so the top forms a skin (croûter). They should feel firm to the touch. This helps the formation of the "feet" (pieds) which is so characteristic of the perfect macaron. Meanwhile, preheat the oven.



At what oven temperature should Macarons be cooked ?

In general 150C, 300F, Gas Mark 2 for  a fan assisted oven. For non fan-assisted ovens you should adjust the temperature accordingly, usually a slightly higher temperature.


For how long should Macaron shells be cooked?

It will take between 12 and 15 minutes to bake 5cm/2-inches macarons. They should not be allowed to brown, merely set. The biscuits should have a smooth top, with the distinctive ridge or "foot" underneath. To tell when they’re done,  lightly tap the side with a knife: the top should remain firmly on its foot and not slide about.


Decorating Macarons - How to decorate Macarons


Traditionally,  macarons aren't decorated however, if you want to serve something a little different, the smooth tops do lend themselves to being decorated with glace icing, especially for special occasions such as Easter or Christmas.  Don't overdo it as you don't want to detract too much from the basic light as air feel. A good tip is to decorate the top halves before sandwiching the macarons together. Further decorations can be pressed into the icing.


Light Glacé icing or frosting

Simply mix icing sugar (confectioners Sugar) with a very little water until the mixture is smooth but not too runny, then spread or pipe thinly over the tops of the Macarons. Flavourings can be added to the icing mixture such as lemon, orange or coffee as can colourings. Click here for lots of Glace Icing Recipes



Fillings for Macarons

The filling used can make or break a macaron. This is the part of the recipe where flavours can be easily added, rather than in the meringue mixture which cannot be tampered with too much otherwise the stability of the meringue may suffer. Macaron fillings can be anything sweet from plain jam or lemon curd to chocolate ganache or  butter cream. Whilst not traditional,  other ingredients can be used to fill macarons such as soft fruit, which is particularly good when serving larger macarons for dessert.


Butter Cream (butter icing) filling for Macarons

Click here for lots of Buttercream recipes. Allow 240nl/8fl.oz./1 cup to fill 18 medium macarons


Mascarpone filling for Macarons

Mash your favourite soft fruit with fresh mascarpone and enough caster sugar to make it sweet.


Chocolate Ganache filling for Macarons

The quantity below is sufficient to fill 18 medium macarons


Plain Chocolate 75g 3 oz ½ cup (very small pieces)
Cream 120ml 4 fl.oz. ½ cup
Liqueurs, rum, brandy (Optional) 15ml ½ fl.oz 1 tbsp
Vanilla Extract 5-10ml   1-2 teasp


Break the chocolate into very small pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Bring the cream almost to boiling point,  stir in any flavourings if using then slowly pour the cream over the chocolate and stir constantly with a wooden spoon or balloon whisk, until the chocolate has completely melted and well blended. Set aside at room temperature for 20 minutes then whip with an electric whisk for a few minutes until pale and soft.



Assembling Macarons


If you wish to decorate your macarons (see above) then you should do the before assembling the biscuits.


When you are ready, spread or pipe a small amount of filling onto the flat part of one biscuit, then then place another biscuit (flat side down) on top to complete the sandwich. The filling should be visible but not over flowing. Be gentle when handling the biscuits as they can be fragile and break. 


Once filled refrigerate for at least 1 - 2 hours before serving.





Macaron Recipes

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