Making macarons for the first time? Here is what you need to know! Read the post below with the best macaron tips for beginners!
First I will explain the three methods of making macarons, and below you can find 5 Macaron Tips for Beginners!
This is part of a series of posts where I try to educate you and pass along all of the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years after making thousands of batches of macarons.
I’ve made a LOT of mistakes on my journey, and I still do, specially if I attempt to experience with a new technique, or with new equipments or ingredients.
It’s all a part of it. I take each mistake as learning, and I suggest you do the same.
There are basically three methods you can use to make macarons: French, Italian, and Swiss. My favorite method for making egg white macarons is the Swiss, and for vegan macarons is the French method.
The most popular method, and also the simplest one, because it requires less steps.
The French method consists of whipping the egg whites with some form of stabilizer such as cream of tartar, until foamy, and then adding the granulated sugar and continuing to whip until the meringue achieves stiff peaks. And then mixing the dry ingredients, almond flour and powdered sugar together with the meringue to make the batter.
The French method is simple and more straight-forward, however it has its downside, which is the fact that this technique doesn’t make the most stable meringue out of the three different methods. So it’s more prone to deflate, break, get over whipped.
Italian method is definitely the one with the most steps. My least favorite one.
It requires making a water/sugar syrup, and heating it to a certain temperature, soft ball stage (238ºF-240ºF), while you whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Then, as soon as the syrup reaches this temperature you have to add it to the soft peaks whites, while the mixer is still running, and continue to whip until the meringue achieves stiff peaks, which will also take a while, since now the meringue has to cool down a lot before it reaches the peaks.
And you should also mix some of the egg whites with the powdered sugar and almond flour, forming a paste, which will get folded into the meringue.
As you can see, this method is the most high maintenance one. It requires a candy thermometer, and you have to try your best to achieve the soft peaks of the whites at the same time you achieve the syrup temperature, otherwise the syrup will not be in the perfect temperature if you need to continue to whip the whites, or the whites will not be in the soft peak stage anymore if you need to continue to heat the syrup. It’s just a whole thing.
I don’t recommend this method if you are a beginner. Of course, lots of beginners may have had luck with this method, and it does make the most stable meringue out of all three of them. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t work on perfecting the French or Swiss methods without having to go through all of these steps to make your macarons.
Which brings me to the best method of all (in my opinion of course)
The king of all! The Swiss method is in between the French and the Italian, as in it make a more stable meringue than the French method, but it doesn’t require all the fussy stuff as the Italian does.
To make the Swiss method macarons you will heat the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler, just until the sugar melts, which will take 1 or 2 minutes. And you don’t need a thermometer for this, you just need to touch some of the syrup with your hands, and if you don’t feel any sugar granules, it’s good to go.
Then, the syrup gets transferred to a mixer and whipped until stiff peaks are achieved. Lastly, the dry ingredients get folded in with the stiff meringue.
By far the best method! It has way way less steps than the Italian, it’s more reliable than the French, it’s great for humid climates, I can’t vouch for this method enough. It is the method I recommend for beginners, and it was the first method that made perfect macarons for me.
Anyway, continue to read as I have 5 very awesome Macaron Tips for Beginners below!
1- Have a learner’s mindset
Ok, I don’t mean to get all motivational on you, but you will need a growth mindset in order to master macarons. Because you WILL make mistakes, you will be puzzled at times wondering what is going wrong. Sometimes you will be so confident thinking you nailed every step of the way, only to open your oven and see cracked macarons! Trust me, it will happen!
My best advice for this is: have a notebook where you register notes, and write down experiments, different resting times, oven temperatures, techniques, ingredient ratios, almond flour brands. Write it all down. It will come in handy when trying to troubleshoot your batches that give you issues.
And understand that you will learn a lot from those mistakes. Refer to my Troubleshooting Guide if you need help. (coming soon)
There is a lot of information out there, lots of fabulous bakers, bloggers and YouTubers who post such valuable tips and share their knowledge. It’s also very helpful to join macaron Facebook groups, they can be very helpful, people in these groups are usually really kind with sharing their knowledge, helping troubleshoot batches, and offering amazing tips and tricks.
Stay learning, researching, improving. Don’t give up.
2- Leave out the food coloring
If you are a beginner, leave out the food coloring or any flavoring for that matter.
Keep your macaron shells plain until you master the basics: a nice smooth shape, and cute feet.
Once you have found a recipe and method that resonate with you and give you good results, then you can start adding food coloring and flavoring to the shells.
The reason is very simple, food coloring adds a lot of moisture to the shells, and it will take time for you to find a brand that works well for you, the proper amount you will need to add to achieve the colors you want.
My tips for food coloring are: always use gel or powder food coloring. Liquid food coloring is not recommended. I do know of some macaron bakers who use liquid food coloring, but they have been baking macarons for years and years, they are masters, and they know which brands to use, how the food coloring affects their recipe, and how much to add.
The issue with adding food coloring at the beginning is that it may throw you off when trying to troubleshoot any technique issues you may be having. For example, if you are adding too much food coloring, or the wrong kind of food coloring, your shells may crack in the oven. However, cracked shells may also be a result of under whipped meringue, under rested shells, or high oven temperature. Those are fundamental techniques you need to master, and if you are making one of those mistakes and also using food coloring, it becomes harder to pin point what mistake you are actually making.
Now about the flavoring of the shells, be very careful with this. Adding anything that contains oil will ruin your shells, some flavorings might be oil based, or contain oily ingredients. Also ingredients such as cinnamon, turmeric, will ruin your shells, you don’t want to add a whole lot of them to the shells. But until you are an advanced baker, leave them out, because, again, it will make it harder for you to pin point any technique mistake you might be making.
If you are a beginner, it’s ok to add cocoa powder for Chocolate Macarons, or matcha powder for Matcha Macarons to your shells, as long as you are following a recipe that provides the correct measurements.
Keep it simple. Once you become more comfortable and advanced, then you can begin to spice up your shells.
3- Get an oven thermometer
This is probably the most important of the Macaron Tips for Beginners I am offering today, because so many people take it for granted.
The truth is, you shouldn’t even attempt to bake macarons without an oven thermometer.
I am not exaggerating. Read all about the oven in detail on this post.
But please understand how important it is to have an oven thermometer in your oven.
Home ovens (and even professional bakery ovens) are very inaccurate at keeping a stable accurate temperature. Most often, the oven is set to a certain temperature, say 325ºF, but the internal temperature will fluctuate up and down, or spike up.
For example, my oven spikes up the temperature and even when I set it to 325ºF, after some time, the temperature will be 350ºF, which is way too hot and will crack my macarons. Without an oven thermometer I would never be able to know that I have to actually turn the temperature down on the dial.
When making macarons, just a difference of 5 degrees can make for completely different results. Which is why I couldn’t recommend enough that you get an oven thermometer before you even attempt to make macarons.
I usually keep 3 in my oven, so this way I am aware of any hot spots in there also, so I know how to best position the tray in the oven, and if I have to rotate it or not.
Please make sure to read this post about understanding your oven when making macarons.
Get an oven thermometer!
4- Use a scale to weigh the ingredients
I have already said this in previous posts, but I will say it again on these Macaron Tips for Beginners Guide.
It is very important to weigh the ingredients with a scale.
Scales are not very expensive, and will be very useful if you like to bake. And they will be essential for making macarons.
I get this question all the time: can I have the measurements in cups?
And the answer is: sorry but no! Here’s why.
Macarons are finicky enough as they are. There are already so many elements you have to pay attention to, and aspects you have to nail down, that you don’t want to leave much to chance.
The things you have full control over, such as the measurements of the ingredients, should definitely be spot on, because they are easy to get right.
It’s not always easy knowing when to stop mixing the batter, but it is always easy to weigh the ingredients accurately.
Using cups to measure ingredients is definitely not accurate.
This is the scale I use. Now this scale is on the more expensive side, it’s usually around $45 to $50, you can definitely find cheaper ones, however I’ve had mine for over 6 years! So to me that’s worth it, considering I use it a lot.
5- Get acquainted with the terminology
These are some terms you may read around when learning about macarons. Hope this list can help.
Macaronage- the act of folding the dry ingredients (almond flour/ powdered sugar) with the meringue.
Stiff meringue- meringue with peaks shooting straight up, not bending to the side or down.
Resting the macarons- letting the piped batter sit before baking, until it develops a skin and the macarons feel dry to the touch.
Over whipped/ Under whipped meringue- referring to the meringue, when you whip the egg whites with sugar too much, or too little. Under whipped meringue will be soft, with long peaks that bend. Over whipped meringue will be separated, chunky. The perfect meringue is glossy, and the peaks are shooting straight up when you lift up the whisk.
Over folded/ Under folded batter- referring to the macaronage process, after you’ve mixed the dry ingredients (almond flour/ powdered sugar) with the meringue. Over folded batter will be runny, too liquidy. Under folded batter will be stiffer, not flowing off the spatula. The perfect consistency batter will be flowing off the spatula slowly but effortlessly, also known as the figure 8 stage.
Figure 8 stage- when you are able to draw several figure 8s with batter falling off the spatula without the batter breaking up. Usually an indication that the batter is ready.
Drying egg whites- some people crack their eggs and separate the whites from the yolks a couple of days or the night before making macarons, leave in a container with a loose plastic on top, and place the whites in the fridge, in the hopes of letting some water content evaporate from the whites (I don’t do this, but some bakers swear by it, so you may read about it around).
Egg white powder- not the same as meringue powder. Egg White Powder is a special product some people add to their meringue when making macarons, hoping to make the shells fuller. You should add about 4 grams of egg white powder per 100 grams of egg whites, but again, only experiment with this once you are more experienced.
Hollow macarons- macarons that have a space between the top skin and the bottom feet. It can be a big gap, or small holes.
These were some basic tips to get you started! Please read my other posts to find out more information.
- The most important stages of making macarons
- Understanding your oven
- Frequently asked questions (coming soon)
- Troubleshooting Guide
- Hollow Macarons
- Tools I use to make macarons (coming soon)
- The Meringue Stage
- Macaron Tips
- Vegan Macaron Guide
- Vegan Macaron Troubleshooting
Thank you for joining me for today’s Macaron Tips for Beginners! Hope you learned something new and helpful!
Leave a comment below telling me if you have any questions, and if you would like to see any specific macaron content on the blog or on my YouTube channel!