When I wrote my first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, I wanted it to contain a French macaron recipe that was as uncomplicated as possible. The idea was once people try their hand at these chewy, but often finicky, cookies, they would understand what is so wonderful about them. Yes, they boast an adorable look: the signature “foot” around the base, the crisp outer shell that gives way to a soft, chewy interior. Other than the fact that they’re delicious, macarons are special because of their flexibility: in addition to their contrasting textures, they’re easy to make in a variety of flavors by switching up the fillings you sandwich them together with. They’re also naturally gluten-free, to boot.
This chocolate recipe is my simplest, flavored only with cocoa powder and filled with a whipped ganache. It’s a great base recipe to try. And then once you get the hang of it, they’re no longer a finicky cookie but a really fun one to make, and a wonderful opportunity to get creative with flavors, too (see Variations below recipe for a few ideas).
Adapted from The Fearless Baker. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
- Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes
- Cook time 25 minutes
- makes 24 sandwich cookies
- Chocolate Macaron Shells
1 1/2 cups
(150g) finely ground almond flour
1 3/4 cups
(198g) powdered sugar
(21g) cocoa powder (preferably dark or black cocoa powder)
(2g) fine sea salt
large (140g) egg whites
(99g) granulated sugar
(2g) vanilla extract
- Whipped Ganache Filling
1 1/3 cups
(8 oz / 226g) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
(157g) heavy cream
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (use your flattest ones). Use a 1 ½-inch round cookie cutter to trace rounds onto the parchment paper. Trace the circles in rows, spacing each about ¾-inch apart from one another, staggering the rows to fit as many macarons onto the sheet as will comfortably fit (ideally, 24 per sheet). Turn the parchment paper over so the ink won’t touch the batter when you pipe onto the paper. Fit a pastry bag with a large round tip (such as 803/804/805).
- Make the macaron shells: Sift the almond flour, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Repeat 1 to 2 more times—you’re trying to eliminate clumps, combine the dry ingredients, and also aerate this mixture. (If any rogue clumps of almond flour remain that won’t fit through the strainer even when coerced, discard them.)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a large bowl and a hand mixer), whip the egg whites on medium speed until slightly foamy, about 30-45 seconds. Raise the mixer speed to high and gradually add the granulated sugar in a slow, steady stream. Continue whipping until the meringue holds stiff peaks, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
- Remove the meringue from the mixer. Add about half of the almond flour mixture to the bowl and start to mix with a silicone spatula to combine. It’s OK to mix the batter a bit more vigorously at this stage; you’re sort of “tempering” the batter with the dry ingredients, which will make it easier to incorporate the remainder. You’re also intentionally starting to deflate the batter to get it close to the ideal texture.
- Add the remaining almond flour mixture to the batter, and fold gently to incorporate with a silicone spatula. Move the spatula around the outside of the bowl in a circular motion, then cut through the center and repeat. Rotate the bowl as you fold to keep working with all the batter evenly. The goal is to end up with a batter the consistency of “lava”—it should hold its shape when dropped from the spatula but slowly spread and lose definition (in other words: thick, but not so thick it holds any peaks).
- Gently transfer the batter to the prepared piping bag, filling it just over halfway full. Pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheets using the guides to keep them evenly sized. Hold the pastry bag parallel to the baking sheet and begin to apply pressure, allowing the batter to flow out of the tip into a fluid round. Stop applying pressure just before you reach the end of your guide. Repeat until the baking sheets are filled up, refilling the pastry bag as needed.
- Gently tap the baking sheets on the countertop; this should smooth out the surface of the macaron and spread it slightly. If desired, use a needle or skewer to pop any visible bubbles on the surface of the macarons.
- Let the macarons rest at room temperature until they form a skin on the surface, about 30 minutes to 1 hour (it can take less time in a dry environment, longer in a more humid one). Towards the end of rest time, preheat the oven to 300°F with your oven rack in the center portion of the oven. (I bake one tray at a time because they are so finicky, but if your oven can handle it, you can bake both trays at once.)
- Bake the macarons until they have risen, forming a foot on the bottom, and the surface of the cookies is shiny, dry, and set, 18 to 20 minutes. Once baked, cool the macarons completely on the baking sheet. The shells can be carefully stored in an airtight container, layers separated by pieces of parchment paper, and frozen for up to 3 months. (When you’re ready, assemble the macarons using frozen cookies, then refrigerate overnight before serving.)
- Make the whipped ganache: Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for about 15 seconds. Use a silicone spatula to stir the mixture until it forms a smooth, shiny ganache. Let the mixture cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s firmed slightly, but still scoopable.
- Transfer the cooled ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or to a large bowl if using a hand mixer). Whip on medium speed until the mixture lightens in color and texture, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag that’s been fitted with a medium round or star tip.
- When the macarons are cool, gently peel them off of the parchment paper. As you work, you can pair up the macarons with their closest match, size-wise, flipping over half of the cookies.
- Pipe a mound of filling into the center of the cookies that are flipped over, stopping just shy of the outside edge. Place its cookie pair on top and press down gently.
- While the cookies can be eaten immediately, they are typically refrigerated overnight, which softens the cookie as it absorbs moisture from the filling. To do this, transfer the cookies to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. (The filled macarons can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving.)
Vanilla Macarons: Omit the cocoa powder from the above recipe and increase the powdered sugar to 2 cups (226g). You can tint these macarons any shade you like by adding gel food coloring to the meringue in step 3. They can be filled with any kind of filling to create a variety of flavor of macarons.
Fruity Macarons: Make a batch of the vanilla macaron batter as indicated above. Tint the macaron batter with a color to match your filling flavor—just add gel food coloring to the meringue in step 3. Heat ¾ cup (180g) of your favorite jam, jelly, or preserves. Bring to a simmer so the mixture is fluid, then strain the mixture. Cool to room temperature. Make a batch of Italian Buttercream (https://food52.com/recipes/41452-italian-buttercream), and add the fruit mixture at the end of mixing. Use this buttercream to fill the macarons. If desired, pipe a ring of buttercream around the outside edge of the macaron, and pipe or spoon more jam/preserves into the center for a fruity core.
Spiced Macarons: Make a batch of the vanilla macaron batter as indicated above. Add 2 teaspoons (6g) ground spices (such as cinnamon, cardamom, or even black pepper) to the almond flour and powdered sugar when you sift.