ARTICLE

La Macaronicité 3: the more reliable macaron recipe and a few tips

coloured macarons

Macaroniers, Macaronistes et Macaroneurs,

So you want to make better macarons? Welcome to the third instalment of La Macaronicité at Syrup & Tang! If you missed the introduction, click here to read it. And if you want to learn about basic technique, ingredients and method, visit the second article.

La Macaronicité: Advanced technique and knowledge

Main sections:

Ingredients
Fundamentals
Recipe B — macarons au sucre cuit
Background to my recipe

There's a lot of information here and it's possible that not everything applies to your kitchen or experience. I don't know everything about them (there's a limit to how many kilos of almond meal a poor writer can buy!). I welcome feedback about other solutions/explanations/ideas, but please don't submit comments listing other recipes unless it contributes to a better understanding of the actual process and problems. You're welcome to contact me directly if you prefer and I'll incorporate helpful info into the article where appropriate.

Ingredients

To summarise the more detailed ingredient information from the previous article, the macaron batter consists of only four ingredients:

  • almond meal (ground almond) – amandes en poudre
  • pure icing sugar (confectioner's sugar, no starch added) – sucre glace
  • egg whites, preferably old – blancs d'œufs
  • sugar – sucre

On occasion you might also see mention of cream of tartar or salt, both of which strengthen egg white foam.

The batter may be coloured (very common) and flavoured (less common, though not too difficult).


There are three types of recipe:

  1. macarons au blanc monté (1) – a simple eggwhite foam is combined with the dry ingredients; preferred in Pierre Hermé's books
  2. macarons au blanc monté (2) – a simple French meringue is combined with the dry ingredients; in most other books, including Alain Ducasse
  3. macarons au sucre cuit – an Italian meringue is combined with the dry ingredients; preferred in most professional books

I'll explain the third recipe type (Italian meringue) here.

The important differences in this style of macaron recipe are as follows:

Meringue: This recipe uses a so-called Italian meringue, made with a hot sugar syrup which is beaten into the whipped egg white.

meringue 'bec d'oiseau'
An Italian meringue gives this beautiful peak, called a 'bec d'oiseau' (bird's beak) in French.

Mixing: As with the simpler recipe, at first the ingredients won't mix together well. The Italian meringue is slower to pick up the dry ingredients and needs a bit more mixing to achieve a smooth batter. If you find you have lumps of powder in the batter, don't be scared to smear the batter against the side of the bowl with the spatula. The final batter looks fluffier (some visible bubbles) than for the simple recipe. If the batter sits for any length of time the aeration becomes more apparent. That's fine. This batter seems a little more tolerant of overmixing. This mixture dries out much more quickly than the simple one, but also remains usable for longer. Just cover the bowl with plastic film until you need it (e.g., if you're baking multiple batches).

Crusting: I experimented with leaving some macarons to crust for an hour. The surface was actually almost hard after this time! Popped them in the oven and they rose happily, though some air bubbles made the surface irregular. The most striking difference between crusted and uncrusted macarons is that the former have a clearly defined line between the shell and the foot. On the downside, the shell was thicker than desirable. [UPDATE: after more testing, I now recommend permitting the shells to sit for half an hour or so. It helps reduce some problems if your oven has strong heat below the baking tray.]

Sugar syrup: The syrup is made by simmering off moisture until you achieve a certain sugar concentration, which is judged by its temperature. If only making a small quantity of syrup (e.g. for the recipe example quantity below), it's best to use a small narrow saucepan or even a Turkish coffee pot.

Hot sugar syrup can cause bad burns, so be careful of splashing and don't feel tempted to stick your finger in it! You need a digital thermometer or sugar thermometer to check the temperature. (Actually, you can check it using the old-fashioned drop test into cold water, but for that I suggest you check out one of your cookbooks — look up 'firm ball' stage.) Syrups harden quickly as they cool, so you need to have your equipment and ingredients ready to go.

Oven: Being slightly less touchy, this recipe doesn't require changing temperatures and leaving the oven door ajar. You should be able to cook the shells at one temperature with the door closed. In general, you'll lose fewer shells to burning or sticking if you use your first attempt to work out the best temperature for your oven — just cook a few macarons at a time at different temps (or trust me, LOL).

In testing, I found that at 150C the shells came off the paper beautifully, had good feet, but had air pockets. At 160C air pockets were absent, but the bottoms were just a bit sticky. At 170C the feet were more modest (still good) but the bottoms were sometimes too sticky. Permitting the shells to crust before baking gave a good rise (feet) and fairly dry bottoms, but a duller shell.


mixed or overmixed
macarons tops
macarons bottoms
This is what happens with batter at different levels of mixing when cooked at 150C.

air pockets in macarons
Experiment with temperatures: air pockets at low temperature.

Be brave and face the batter!

Recipe B
macarons au sucre cuit; (Italian meringue)

This method is rarely found on the English-speaking internet and is only mentioned in a small number of professional cookbooks. It is fairly reliable, though still requires some practice.

Decide how many eggs you want to sacrifice. Crack and separate the eggs, remembering to keep the whites and all vessels and implements scrupulously free of fat or egg yolk. You don't need to weigh the egg whites at this point. One egg white will yield about fourteen 3-4 cm macaron shells.

It isn't necessary to age the eggs (though probably doesn't hurt).

Formula and method

When you're ready to start cooking, weigh the egg whites and then scale the recipe appropriately. The formula is below.

'eggwhite' refers to the weight of the egg whites in grams. The righthand column provides an example calculation.

Ingredient   Amount   Example (with eggwhite=50 gm)
Almond meal 1.35 x eggwhite 1.35 x 50 = 67 gm
Icing sugar 1.35 x eggwhite 1.35 x 50 = 67 gm
Sugar 1.35 x eggwhite 1.35 x 50 = 67 gm
Water 0.33 x eggwhite 0.33 x 50 = 16 gm
Egg white 50 gm

A batter with 50 gm egg white should yield one baking tray 30 cm x 40 cm or approximately 25 shells.

Preheat your oven:
Conventional oven: centre rack, 160C. Convection oven: 140C

  1. Stack two or three heavy baking trays. Line the top tray with non-stick baking paper. If you're well organised, mark the paper with 2 or 3 cm circles, spaced about 4 cm apart (the piped batter will spread about 1 cm).
  2. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and leave to stand.
  3. Divide the total egg white into two equal amounts, placing one half in a small bowl or glass and the other half in the bowl which you will use for making the meringue. It is preferable to weigh the amounts, not do it by volume or eye.
  4. Process the almond meal and icing sugar at high speed to achieve a fine powder. Sift (or whisk the powder by hand) to break up any lumps of powder and place in a large bowl.
  5. Place the saucepan for the syrup over low heat and bring to a simmer. Stir once or twice to help dissolve the sugar, but once it's simmering you shouldn't stir it again. As the syrup boils it will splash the sides of the pan and you should use a wet basting brush to dissolve the dried sugar so that it runs back into the syrup. Start to measure the syrup temperature after it has been simmering for a minute or two.
  6. If you are using an electric hand beater rather than a kitchen machine, beat the egg white until it makes soft peaks. If you are using a kitchen machine you can start the machine when the syrup is a few degrees below the final temperature (see below).
  7. The final temperature you want the syrup to reach is 118C (no drama if you overshoot slightly). Beat the egg whites to firm peaks just before the final temperature is attained.
  8. Set the beater/machine to slow speed and slowly pour the hot syrup into the bowl of beaten egg whites in a thin stream. The syrup may splash a little. If you are too slow to do this, the syrup might harden in the saucepan… there is always some wastage.
  9. As soon as all the syrup is in the egg whites, increase the beating speed to maximum and beat for several minutes until the meringue is just warm to the touch. If there was lots of splashing when you poured the syrup on, you can stop beating briefly at the start to scrape down the sides a bit. The final product should be a stiff, white, compact meringue with a lovely satiny consistency.
  10. Pour the unused amount of egg white (see beginning of this recipe) onto the dry ingredients. Then scoop the meringue on top of that. Mix the ingredients with a spatula using a circular motion around the bowl and under the batter. The mixing process for this recipe takes a little longer than for the simpler recipe in the previous article. You don't need to be gentle, but the goal is to incorporate the dry ingredients quickly to avoid overmixing. It's better to undermix than overmix. You can add colourings or flavourings during this mixing.
  11. meringue bowl of ingredients macaron batter almost ready

  12. The final batter should be the colour of pale ivory (if you haven't coloured it) and smooth and thick but flowing (typically referred to as being 'like magma', but as few of us have visited an active volcano or been to the centre of the Earth…). A ribbon of batter dropped from a spoon onto the top of the remaining batter should take about 30 seconds to disappear.
  13. Dab a little batter under each corner of the baking paper on the tray to anchor it (otherwise it'll slip).
  14. Spoon the batter into a piping bag/gun with a 8-10 mm nozzle and pipe evenly onto the baking paper. Mild peaks should settle back into the batter eventually. If they don't disappear, tap the tray repeatedly on a table until the peaks have largely disappeared. Usually the batter will spread a little and any bumps will disappear. Sometimes the batter is quite runny and will rapidly flatten out. (It might be overmixed.) This consistency will often yield irregular shells. If the batter never stops spreading then you should probably scrape it all back into a bowl, gently add some more almond meal and try again.
  15. If you want, you can leave the piped batter to dry for anywhere between 20 mins and two hours.
  16. Place the tray in the oven. If you're using a conventional oven, cook as normal (ie, with the door closed) for the entire time. For a convection oven, you will need to experiment a little, possibly leaving the door ajar for part of the time.
  17. At the 5 minute mark the shells should have lifted and developed 'feet'. At the 6-7 minute mark they should be starting to colour just slightly. Rotate the baking sheet if the colouring is uneven. The outermost shells often have to be sacrificed in order for the centre ones to be cooked, but the majority should be no more than the palest cream colour. They are probably ready if a shell moves only reluctantly on its foot when you lightly nudge it with a finger.
  18. Remove from the oven and leave on the tray for a minute or two. Gently try to lift one of the outermost shells. A slight twisting motion or a peeling motion can help. If the shells stick badly, but are firm, try spraying or brushing a little water under the baking paper. This will moisten the paper and soften any stuck bits after 1-2 minutes. Don't use too much water or the shells may start to dissolve around the edges. Remove each shell by gently peeling away the baking paper or with the aid of a thin palette or paring knife. Another solution to the sticking problem can be to place the paper or Silpat (with stuck macarons) in the freezer for a while.
  19. Once removed from the sheet, leave the shells to cool on a wire rack, face up.
  20. unhappy macaron
    Very sticky macarons leave their bellies behind :( Don't try to peel the macarons off. Just put the paper with stuck macarons on a rack for a few hours and then peel carefully.

  • If you haven't already made a filling, do so now.
  • The plain shells can be frozen for a few weeks quite well. Complete macarons store well in the fridge for two to three days. After that they become softer. Eat macarons at room temperature.

Background to my recipe

There's only really one formula for the Italian meringue style of macaron recipe, as illustrated here. Alain Ducasse (in his Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Desserts and Pastries) is approximately 1.4:1.4:1.0:1.4 (almond:icing sugar:egg white:sugar). My favourite book, by Christophe Felder (Les Macarons de Christophe), uses a ratio of 1.33:1.33:1.0:1.33. I've used both successfully, but settled for a compromise of 1.35:1.0. I don't know how much impact these minor variations will have in your kitchen.

If you have any doubt about the preferability of the Italian meringue approach, read what talented Joycelyn at the beautiful Kuidaore site has to say, or see what Kitchen Wench has written about her macaron adventures.

For troubleshooting and additional info on technique, remember to read the previous article.

coloured macarons raw  coloured macarons cooked

Pause for breath

I'll leave everyone who is so inclined to play with their delicious divas over the weekend. Next week I'll write about fillings and flavours, amongst other things.

My piping gun has cracked, my piping bag is torn, and I have fourteen neglected egg yolks in the fridge, clamouring for use!

macaron shell with ganache
Naked shell with chocolate ginger ganache. My midnight snack.

You can read La Macaronicité 1: an introduction to the macaron.
La Macaronicité 2: basic technique and simple macaron recipe.
La Macaronicité 4: fillings, flavours, frippery.
La Macaronicité 5: Macawrongs and macarights, macarons day and night.

- DM

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COMMENTS

135 responses to “La Macaronicité 3: the more reliable macaron recipe and a few tips”

  1. Alice

    Hi Duncan,

    I am amaze at your site on macarons know how and absolute surprise that all the discussion dated back year 2008. Amazing!

    I just want to solute you for your wonderful, rare and professionality to your blog and giving so much honest information. I perfectly agreed with you that some site or blog are waste of time and crap!

    Thank you DM.

    Alice

  2. han

    Hi Duncan.

    I tried the recipe today, using the method you write above. However, The macaron don't have body perhaps? They were flat!!! Maybe you can suggest what I have done wrong?

    Next time I will put less sugar because the macarons are very sweet.

  3. Lee

    Hi Duncan, you are a genius!! I tried your recipe last night and it worked! My last two attempts (using other recipes from the net) were epic failures BUT this time, using your detailed step-by-step recipe and tips, it was a success! Thank you so very much for sharing
    = )

  4. Annalisa

    Congratulations on putting together this AMAZING guide to macarons! Thanks to you I managed to fix what I was doing wrong and produce lovely ones!

    I have one question: how would you convert this recipe to make chocolate macarons? I tried substituting some icing sugar for cocoa but they came out very cake-y and didn't rise properly…

  5. Lisa

    sooooooooo excited i stumbled upon your site! i recently attempted the french meringue method with some success. they looked pretty, however they had quite a large air pocket inside. can't wait to try your other method! thank you sooo much for such a detailed recipe! can't wait to try it!

  6. Hilary Thorogood

    Hi Duncan

    i've just been on a course making macaroons and the tutor sugggests you 'shock' them once out of the oven by moving greaseproof + macaroon shells off the baking tray immediately and onto a cold surface.

    this seemed to ensure they then came effortlessly off the paper.

    Also to solve the egg problem they use a product called 'two chicks' which is in all supermarkets (you might need to ask) its often with the milk. Its basically fresh pasturised egg white and contains 15 egg whites in each carton-its brilliant and SO easy. no more egg yolks.

    Hilary

  7. Dave

    I've received a couple of macaron cookbooks in French recently. Something got lost in translation, because my first try was too moist in the center, and the tops were too dry. Your recipe helped fill in the blanks, so my next try was nearly perfect. Macarons a la Pistache!

    The only thing different from your method for me was I needed about 10 minutes in the oven.

    Thanks!

  8. Steve

    great article Duncan!
    I'm obsessed with macaron and have been making or should I say trialling 2 or 3 times a week! its a sickness! :)
    If you can give me one advice, should I go with French or italian meringue? I do want to get serious with this…meaning hoping to be the australian version of Herme lol
    Thanks

  9. Greg

    Great inspiration, thanx. I used the 'more reliable' version. First time I didn't pay enough attention to the recipe. Made another batch today sized to 160g eggwhite. With my spacing this was 4 cooking sheets, and as I only have 2, I made the 2 sheets first, and covered the remaining meringue with cling-wrap directly on the surface. The first 2 sheets weren't optimal and quite a lot of the shells came out cracked, velved and not flat on the top, and without a symmetrical foot. However when making the last 2 sheets the meringue seemed to have changed character after the resting time, the shells 'floated' out much mure nicely. I tried the first sheet at 160c conventional oven-mode and the last sheet 140c hot-air. The last sheet came out perfect, all beautiful shells with a nice little foot. Stuffed half of them with prune/armagnac/chocalate filling and the other half with plain ganache. Greg/Denmark

  10. liaM

    I tried making them the first time with the other version..didn't turn out so great. The second time I used the Italian Meringue version and they came out pretty good; I made the plain version filled with Dulce de Leche. But since I'm obsessed, a couple of days later I took the risk of making the chocolate version and they came out beautiful!! I wish I could send you a picture. A few days later I made the Pistachio recipe, and OMG!!! Of course, each time a few came out cracked, but I found out that using the bottom rack of the oven is what did this, so next time I will bake them on the middle rack even if I have to bake them in several batches. We made a taste comparison with some macaroons we bought at a local French bakery…mine were soooo much better tasting!!! I'm really proud of myself. Thanks for the step by step instrucions

  11. liaM

    Duncan, I was thinking of making the plain recipe, adding some nice color and filling them with hibiscus jelly (pink) or some other type of jelly or jam (ie: mango, coconut, guanabana, etc.), but I want to know what you think…is it going to make them soggy?

  12. Amy

    Hi i would like to ask a few questions. When im cooking my sugar syrup, it always starts to turn yellow when the temperature hits 100 degree celcius. Upon further waiting for it to reach 118, it became darker yellowish brown colour. Is the sugar syrup supposed to be this colour?

    Also when im pouring the sugar syrup into the egg whites, the sugar syrup hardens n sticks to the whisk and a large amount of harden candy is stuck to the side and bottom of the bowl where i poured the syrup at. The beating speed is slow and i poured it in a thin stream. Occasionally stopping to let it incorporate before adding more of the syrup.
    My meringue was left with chunks and little balls of hard candy.

    What did i do wrong?

  13. Joyce

    Hi Duncan I finally made a decent looking macaron thanks to your detailed posts!! But I was disappointed when I lifted the macaron and found it has a hollow bottom!!!it has feet though!it looks like a macaron outside but inside its hollow and chewy!!help!!!!i have failed so many batches before which had no feet!!i have the type A oven and I baked them at 160C for 15 min…please help!!

  14. Ashley

    Firstly, thanks so much for the recipe! I've tried two others without success, this reliable recipe worked the first time for me. The macarons had feet for the first time and were (mostly) smooth across the top. I also appreciate that you are so active in the comments; it's really great to be able to get some feedback.

    I had two questions about the process. The first is about the merengue itself. I am not overly familiar with Italian merengue, and am not sure I used it to its fullest potential. I whipped the egg whites till there were soft peaks, but it did not seems as expanded as I had expected. Once I added the sugar, the merengue did taste great but still did not seem like as much as I had when using the Swiss method. I was not sure that I was beating enough (or maybe not on high enough speed) but did not want to break the merengue. I beat it a little past the point where the beaters left decisive tracks in the merengue. Should I have kept going? The batter ultimately made ~30 little cookies with 93g of egg whites (~1.5 inch diameter). The batter looked thicker in terms of almond flour to merengue distribution than yours did in the pictures.

    My second had to do with knowing when the cookies are done baking. I baked them past 7 minutes, to where the tops were very set and about to brown. I took one out of the oven, and when I broke it open noticed that the middle still seemed very battery (past what I would define as 'moist'). I left them in for longer to set the middle more, to where the tops were hard. The cookies did not 'jiggle' when I poked them, they were very solid. Did this have to do with my oven temperature, or did I just overbake them?

    Thanks!

  15. Cveta

    Hello Duncan,
    What do you think about Swiss Meringue?

  16. Nancy

    Duncan,
    Have you gone to the trouble of translating your recipes into the "Imperial" system we use in the US? We're having a bakathon this weekend, trying your recipe and vast knowledge.

  17. Shaz

    Hello Duncan,
    I need some macarons troubleshooting…

    Thank you for sharing your tips and recipes on macarons!
    The photos and all that were were helpful!

    I've been making some chocolate macarons using the Italian meringue method and replacing almond meal with hazelnut meal and they worked well. I baked them at 170~160 deg.

    However, just today, I made some normal ones using the same methods using almond meal instead. I was so stumped when they came out with large air pockets at the top. I baked them at 170 and 160 degrees many times to test.

    I might have overmixed the mixture just slightly… but I don't think it would affect the shape that badly? What do you think might've been the cause? I did try to dry out the almonds in the oven and might just have overdone it… and I also blended the meal+icing sugar till fine…

    Cheers.

  18. Yvette Meijer

    Dear Duncan, Your site has been very useful for me since I started making macarons! Nowadays most batches are successful (i am touching wood as I write this!).. However, since the overall product has become better, my shells are becoming matter and grainier. I use the same almond meal, sieve it twice, but they are not smooth and shiny (perhaps you can have a look at the pics on my website). Do you have any suggestions? Thank you!!
    Yvette

  19. Raul

    Dear Duncan,
    Greetings from Mexico, thanks to your kind research I was able to produce perfect non hollow beautifully proportioned feet macarons. I have aleays adhered to the sucre cuit metjod and thanks to your notes I finally grasped my mistakes too much sugar (I used x3 instead of x1.35) and I shifted the temperature by opening the door. I cooked then for 310f aprox 155c and they now came out perfectbfrom the oven. Such happiness and a great accomplishement all thanks to you!
    Most kind and warm regards
    Raúl

  20. Raphaella

    Hi Duncan,

    Thank you for your extensive explanations for making macarons! I have tried SO many times, all attempts resulting in disaster, until today when I tried your simple method. For the first time my macarons had feet, and a smooth, shiny shell.

    There was one issue, however, and that was that they were lopsided- it looked as though the tops had slipped off the feet. As mentioned, I used your simple method and baked the macarons in a conventional oven (no fan), opening the door after 2 minutes. I wondered if the lopsidedness was to do with the ambient temperature of the room when I opened the oven door? Or to do with my oven temperature? (My oven is relatively new, though so far the temperature seems even and correct).

    Finally, my other query was regarding the sweetness– would you recommend adding salt to the recipe to lessen the sweetness, and if so, how much?

    Thanks again for really useful and comprehensive posts!

  21. Tamzin

    I would like to share a little bit about a project we fell into at my sons school earlier this year. To be fair I dragged others into it albeit with their consent and great enthusiasm. I'll go back a couple of steps.

    In April I was lucky enough to swing a three week trip to Europe with my beloved and without kids. i discovered macarons, courtesy of Richart and then Pierre Herme (Isphahan no less).

    The first Saturday after I had returned home, I woke and a decided that the best way to "ground" my self back into family life was to teach myself to make macarons. I searched and read many sites and yours was the one which resonated the most. Given I am not a baker, a good cook, great at pastry, but cakes are biscuits are not my forte, my fascination with macaron baking was odd.

    First ever batch was perfect. As was the second, third and fourth.

    The following weekend, our school had the fundraiser stall at the Collingwood Childrens' Farm Farmers Market, so I whipped up 120 macarons and dropped them off. From here on every time there was something I could make macarons for, I was mixing, folding and piping.

    At the start of third term another fundraiser/macaron making opportunity presented itself. I organised a macaron making workshop and bake-up in the tech kitchen at school. We made 140 macarons to sell at the weekly school market to help fund children in my son's class whose families were not able to afford to send them on school camp. At this point the principal offered us the whole of the fundraiser stall at the Childrens' Farm, which was again available to the school. The macaron madness began.

    The children helped plan, source and calculate quantities of ingredients. They made signs and negotiated the flavour choices. They organised roles and responsibilities. In the process the teachers guided the children in exploring the idea of being a change-maker inspired by Margaret Mead's the famous quote Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

    We had three huge baking sessions, each with three teams of parents and kids. We made 600 macarons in 11 flavours in the school tech kitchen.We sold out by 11 am and raised $1200. We were able to fund all the kids who couldn't have afforded camp. Many of these kids are from refugee and seriously disadvantaged families in the Collingwood housing estate flats and have never been on camp. Instead they went with their friends and canoed and yabbied and slept in a tent and ran around in the bush and played spotlight tiggy and had the time of their lives.

    It all started with your blog and fantastic instructions. So thank you. And thank you because although I know full well my macaron obsession can partly be afforded to thesis procrastination, I also love making them and love watching other people go ecstatic when eating them.

  22. Annie

    Hi Duncan,

    I am new to making macarons and I've only tried using the italian meringue. When I pour in my simple syrup and turn the mixer up for several minutes – my egg whites don't give me nice "bird beak" shape when I take off the whisk. Instead, it almost has the consistency of a taffy… what am I doing wrong?

    Also, another annoyance is hollow pockets and protruding feet… does this mean I am not baking the shells at a high enough temp? Or does it mean I am baking them at TOO high of a temp?

    Thank you!!!

    Annie

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TASTY PRESERVES

  • Daring Bakers: lavash
  • Vanilla slices – glorious, perhaps mundane, quite mysterious
  • La Macaronicité 1: an introduction to the macaron
  • Greed, business and bookselling
  • Some disappointments don't need naming