“The perfect macaron consists of two shells that are slightly crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside, with a rich and decadent filling sandwiched in the middle,” Alessandra Altieri, director of Bouchon Bakery, explains when asked about how to perfect the fancy French favorite.
No other cookie is as elegant as the macaron, which is why we are on a quest to bring a taste of Paris to your kitchen. And while these pastries do require technical skill, the payoff is worth it (trust us). Make these cookies correctly, and you are left with a dessert that not only happens to be gluten free, but will be the prettiest thing you bake all year.
Our recipe goes the classic route, focusing on a traditional flavor that happens to be one of our favorites: rose. Pink macaron shells are filled with a ring of rose buttercream and a spoonful of Champagne jelly for the perfect balance of floral sweetness and buttery richness (see the recipe).
To help get you started, we chat with pastry chefs from some of New York’s best bakeries for tips on becoming a macaron master at home. We even have a step-by-step photo slideshow to guide you along the way.
Meringue the alarm. The batter for these cookies is made by folding meringue into a paste of almond flour, confectioners’ sugar and egg whites—but first you’ll need to decide which type of meringue to go with (French, Italian or Swiss). Need help choosing? Here’s the breakdown: French meringue is egg whites beaten with sugar, Italian is egg whites beaten with a cooked sugar syrup, and Swiss is egg whites and sugar cooked in a double boiler and beaten. Altieri, like us, uses an Italian meringue, which is more stable when making a large batch of macarons.
Once you’ve decided on a meringue, be gentle when folding it into the batter. “You want to be sure to add small amounts of meringue into the almond paste to gently lighten the batter,” Altieri instructs. “You should be able to pick some up with your spatula, and it should slowly fall off.”
Develop a foot fetish. You know what they say about big feet . . . and the “feet” here refer to the bubbling rim of the risen macaron shells, which means the bigger the feet, the better the batter.
Loia’s secret to getting the, er, biggest feet for your buck: Use aged egg whites when making your meringue. Aged whites have less moisture, which makes for a sturdier meringue overall and, thus, the potential for larger feet. To assist in the aging process, keep your egg whites in an airtight container in the fridge for one to two days before you are ready to bake.
Shell’s angels. Once your batter is made, it’s time to pipe. “When you are starting out, it helps to count each time you pipe to ensure the macarons come out the same size,” Loia suggests. “You also need to make sure you hold the tip a steady 90 degrees, [so] your batter doesn't come out on a slant. This will cause [the macarons] to bake sideways in the oven.”
The most important part of piping? Slamming the tray. That’s right, banging the baking sheet on a sturdy flat surface spreads the loose batter slightly and smoothes the tops, leaving you with a matte, eggshell appearance and those perfect feet.
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Fillers are encouraged. You worked hard to get the perfect macaron shell, so make sure your filling is on par. “Macarons are intended to be a delicacy, [eaten] one or two at a time, so [they] need to be on point and make an impact,” Altieri says. “You want the filling to be full of flavor, so the sweetness of the shell is not overpowering.”
By forming a ring of floral rose buttercream on the outer rim of the bottom macaron shell, like we do here, you will then be able to easily fill the macaron with bright Champagne jelly minus the fear of it spilling out when you eat it—which would be macaron sacrilege.
Now that you have the basics, it’s time to make macs on macs.
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