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What Is a Macaron?
Parisian macarons are gluten-free almond meringue cookies sandwiched together with a creamy filling of ganache, buttercream, or jam. Made famous pastry chefs such as Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, they’re a relatively recent invention based off an older style of Italian almond cookie. The cookies themselves, made of finely ground almond flour, egg whites, and sugar, puff up during baking to create a hollow center and a defined pied (foot), upon which different fillings are spread. With a mild flavor and color on their own, macarons are a natural base for all kinds of fillings and colorful dyes, especially around Easter.
What Is the Difference Between Macarons and Macaroons?
Colorful, delicate French macarons and rustic coconut macaroons seem a world apart, but they actually share a common source beyond their similar names: the original Italian macaroon, a cookie made from almonds and egg whites thought to have originated in southern Italy and possibly brought to France by the likes of Catherine de Medici. A version substituting shredded coconut for almonds, called a macaroon, became popular in the U.S. in the 19th century. The Parisian macaron, developed in the 20th century, used fine almond flour and powdered sugar to produce a smooth cookie sandwich that could be endlessly colored and flavored.
3 Regional Macaron Varieties
- Macarons Basques: This Southern French variety is left undyed and served individually, are older than the sandwich kind and more similar to their Italian ancestors.
- Macaron géant (giant macaron) or gâteau macaron (macaron cake): Extra-large macarons can also be found in Paris, filled with cream and berries.
- Macarons have taken on another life in the U.S., where extra-large ice cream–filled versions are especially popular in New York and California.
8 Tips for Successfully Making French Macarons
- If you have a kitchen scale, use it: measuring by weight is more accurate, and can make a difference in delicate pastries like macarons.
- You can make your own almond flour using sliced blanched almonds, processed in a food processor until very fine. Both homemade and store-bought almond meal benefit from additional sifting through a fine-mesh sieve.
- Room-temperature egg whites will whip to an airier texture. If you have the time, take your eggs out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you plan to bake.
- Use a very clean stainless steel or glass bowl to whip egg whites to avoid scraping bits of plastic into the whipped eggs.
- For easier piping, trace 1-1½-inch circles on parchment paper, leaving at least an inch of space between circles. Place a small dot of macaron batter in each corner of a baking sheet to secure the parchment paper to the baking sheet. Alternatively, use silicone baking mats.
- Use thick baking sheets to prevent the undersides of the cookies from getting too brown, or stack two thin baking sheets on top of each other.
- After piping the macarons, tap the baking sheets on the counter a few times to release air bubbles, which will give your cookies a smoother surface.
- Macarons need to soften in the refrigerator at least 24 hours after they’ve baked and been assembled. You can bring them up to room temperature 30 minutes before serving, if desired.
8 Classic Macaron Flavor Ideas
When it comes to the famous Parisian sandwich cookie, the flavor possibilities are limitless. Some classics include:
- Rose, which features pink-dyed cookies and rose buttercream filling
- Chocolate, which is made with cocoa powder and chocolate ganache filling
- Vanilla, filled with buttercream that’s sometimes speckled with the beans from a fresh vanilla pod
- Pistachio, dyed pale green and filled with nut paste
- Lemon, dyed yellow and filled with curd
- Salted caramel, usually dyed brown and filled either with caramel or caramel-flavored buttercream, sometimes sprinkled with fleur de sel
- Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry–flavored macarons are usually filled with thick jam
- Pâtissier Pierre Hermé is famous for his Ispahan (raspberry, lychee, rose) and Mogador (chocolate, passionfruit) flavor combinations
Traditional French Macaron Recipe
Prep Time30 min
Total Time1 hr
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- Gel or powder food coloring (optional)
- ½ cup (50 grams) fine almond flour, made from blanched, sliced almonds
- 1 cup (125 grams) confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)
- Filling, such as jam, buttercream, or chocolate ganache
- Place oven rack in the center position and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In the clean bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and granulated sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add food coloring, if using.
- Combine the almond flour and confectioners' sugar. Gently fold the almond-sugar mixture into the egg whites with a rubber spatula by pulling upward from the bottom of the bowl in a clockwise motion, cutting the batter in half and pressing the side of the spatula through the middle of the dough, until the batter is thick and lava-like, about 30-50 strokes. To test the batter, drop a small amount on a plate. If the peaks retreat into the batter within 10 seconds, it’s ready. If not, keep folding. Do not overmix.
- Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ⅜- or ½-inch tip. Pipe batter into 1-1½ -inch rounds, swirling the tip off to the side to create a flatter top. Repeat, spacing cookies at least 1 inch apart, until sheets are full. Tap the sheets against the counter to remove air bubbles.
- Bake cookies one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until risen and just stiff, about 13 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheets and then carefully peel away the parchment. Spoon or pipe filling onto the flat side of one cookie and top with another, gently twisting so that the filling spreads to the edges. Transfer to an airtight container or wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 24 hours, up to 5 days.