Meet the macaron challenge with fearlessness! This classic French dessert is a simple formula of almond flour, sugar, and egg whites but requires an involved process that yields an exquisite payoff. Our step-by-step guide will walk you through every part of the process, from whipping the meringue to mixing and piping the batter, and we’ll provide you with expert tips and techniques along with helpful photos. Aided by Bob’s Red Mill Super-Fine Almond Flour, our delicate macarons are speckled with rich vanilla bean seeds and filled with a luscious Strawberry Buttercream—the perfect recipe to begin exploring the grand, adventurous world of French macarons. Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson, or keep scrolling to view our digital lesson.
Before you get to baking, don’t miss our Editor-in-chief’s video demonstration of this recipe over on our IGTV! Erin Clarkson, the baker and blogger behind Cloudy Kitchen, did her own version of this recipe, which you can find here. You can also listen to Erin talk all things macarons on our podcast, The Crumb.
Great recipes require great ingredients. Here’s how each key ingredient helps create a mighty macaron.
Confectioners’ sugar: Also known as powdered sugar, confectioners’ sugar contains 3% cornstarch to help prevent clumping (or caking). Essentially granulated sugar that has been ground into a fine powder, it comes in varying degrees of fineness (6X, 10X, 12X). The most common and the one you’ll find at the grocery store is 10X, best for items that need the sugar to melt quickly. Because the confectioners’ sugar is quickly absorbed, it helps keep us from overmixing our macaron batter.
Bob’s Red Mill Super-Fine Almond Flour: Also called almond meal, almond flour is made from blanched whole almonds that have been ground down. This fine meal is easier to sift and has a pale color due to the use of blanched almonds, which are almonds that are blanched in order to remove their skins. Inherently gluten-free, almond flour is a favorite for bakers with gluten allergies. To keep it at peak freshness, almond flour is best stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Kosher salt: Our salt of choice, kosher salt is a pure, mined, additive-free salt that dissolves readily and has a crisp, clean taste. It is flaked rather than granulated, which allows for more even distribution.
Egg whites: Egg whites are composed of water and protein. When whipped, the protein and water molecules bond together to create a stable foam, and once sugar is added, a fluffy meringue is born. Eggs are easier to separate when cold but whip up better at room temperature, whipping faster and providing more volume, so separate your eggs ahead of time.
Granulated sugar: The most common form of sugar used, highly refined white sugar is made from sugarcane or sugar beets. The removal of molasses and impurities leaves the sugar white. We add a touch of it in a steady stream while whipping our egg whites to create a classic French meringue.
Vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract: Vanilla bean paste is a viscous combination of vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds. We like to use it for its lovely speckled appearance and concentrated flavor. A boost of pure vanilla extract helps round out the intense vanilla flavor.
Three kinds of meringue, each with its own specific positive qualities, can be used to make macarons. We break down the three choices and why we went with the classic French meringue.
Italian Meringue: To make a classic Italian meringue, you heat granulated sugar and water on the stove until the sugar melts, making a simple syrup (usually heated until an instant- read thermometer registers 240°F [115°C]). Meanwhile, you whip your egg whites with a bit of cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Then you add the sugar syrup to the whipped egg white mixture in a slow, steady stream, beating until glossy, stiff peaks form. Bakers like this meringue because it is very stable and can withstand some intense mixing. However, using this technique won’t give your French macarons their classic delicate texture and can sometimes make them overly sweet.
Swiss Meringue: For Swiss meringue, you heat your egg whites and granulated sugar in the top of a double boiler until the sugar melts and an instant-read thermometer registers 120°F (49°C) to 130°F (54°C). Once the mixture reaches this temperature range, it is whipped to glossy, stiff peaks. On the plus side, this method also creates a stiff meringue that can handle a heavy hand for mixing. But it can be difficult to pipe a Swiss meringue, and when baked, it won’t possess that traditional French macaron texture.
French Meringue: The original meringue behind the macaron, a French meringue is a simple combination of room temperature egg whites and granulated sugar, no heating required. Egg whites are whipped until frothy and then sugar is added in a slow, steady stream so it dissolves into the still-moist egg whites, beating until stiff peaks form. Why did we select this method? It’s simple, requiring no extra equipment or time on the stove, and it’s the only meringue that will yield the ideal, classic macaron texture (smooth, crisp top paired with a delicately chewy interior) and just-sweet-enough taste.