My daughter and I spent one afternoon of winter break on a mission to make beautiful, easy macarons. This decadent gluten-free dessert is so pricey when I find them at a bakery, I NEEDED to know how to make my own.
For her 10th birthday last March, Julia got a Lekue macaron kit from Sur La Table. (Yup, March. It’s taken a while to get this experiment off the ground…) It came with a macaron mat, a container to pipe the batter from, and a small recipe book. If you get this kit, just set aside the recipe book. Ignore it. The mat and the piping container, however, are very useful! You are going to love having these two tools at your disposal. If you don’t get the kit, you can use parchment paper or a Silpat mat and a simple gallon or quart-size plastic bag for piping. (You can also order the mat individually online from Amazon!)
Macaron Failures – Learn From Mine
Our first attempt at making easy macarons was neither easy nor, more importantly, successful. Learn from our mistakes. Our biggest mistake was not letting the macarons sit on the counter long enough. I suggest you wait a full hour before cooking your macarons. Our first go-round, we tried 30 minutes as suggested in some recipes. Meh. The tops weren’t shiny and there were no “feet” – the sides that raise up while cooking.
Our other big mistake was not stirring the macaron batter enough. I was worried about over-stirring. Don’t worry. You are actually trying to fold the air out of the batter. You want the batter the consistency of peanut butter. You want your arm to be **tired** – my arm was tired!
Macarons Are Naturally Gluten-Free
Macarons are an excellent gluten-free dessert because they are made with almond flour as their main ingredient. I was able to purchase my almond flour in the bulk section of Earth Fare, a local chain of grocery stores with a focus on organic and local ingredients. However, almond flour is now becoming much more ubiquitous – King Arthur makes almond flour as well as Bob’s Red Mill. You should be able to find this ingredient without too much hassle. The other main ingredient in macarons is egg whites! Easy peasy. Just remember to use eggs that are room temp – don’t try to whip cold egg whites. A trick for getting the eggs to room temperature is to run the eggs under hot water in your sink for 20 seconds or so.
Add Cream Of Tartar
For my second (successful) batch, I also added cream of tartar to the mixing bowl. Cream of tartar is a useful ingredient when making anything involving egg whites. It keeps the egg whites bright and white and it also acts as a stabilizer. You can buy cream of tartar inexpensively at any grocery store in the spice section.
The tricky part about almond flour is that since it’s made with almonds (duh!) you really need to use a sieve to make sure that there aren’t big pieces of nuts in your batter. Measure your powdered sugar and almond flour into a bowl and then use a sieve to strain it so that your flour and sugar are nut-chunk-free. After using the sieve, you should have about 2 tablespoons or so of crumbly nuts. Not a problem.
Julia and I are by no means easy macarons experts, but we are feeling pretty confident in our macaron making ability these days! I hope some of these tips and tricks will help you make perfectly delicious macarons!
Easy Macarons (Gluten-free!) Recipe
Easy Macarons - I Promise
- 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
- 2/3 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 egg whites , room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- A few drops of food coloring (optional)
- Jam or chocolate ganache for filling
Sift the flour and powdered sugar
- In a medium sized bowl, measure out the almond flour and the powdered sugar.
- Using a sieve, gently sift the flour and powdered sugar into another bowl. You should have about 2 tablespoons or so of almond chunks left over in the sieve when you are finished.
Whip the egg whites
- In a stand mixer, whip the three egg whites on a low speed until the egg whites are frothy.
Gradually add the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and cream of tartar.
- Turn the mixer to high and whip on high until the egg whites form stiff peaks. You know have stiff peaks if the egg whites point straight up without sinking back down. As the egg whites have almost reached stiff peaks, add the vanilla and the food coloring.
Combine the ingredients
- Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer.
- Fold half of the almond sugar mixture into the egg whites using a rubber spatula and then gently fold the other half in. Stir the batter firmly in complete circles around the bowl at least twenty times. Your arm should get tired.
- Your batter is ready to be piped when it is the consistency of peanut butter. You want the batter to gently fall off the spatula.
Pipe the macarons
- Using a gallon sized storage bag or your Lekue macaron piper, pipe one inch sized macarons onto your mat. Don't let them get too big! If you are using the Lekue mat, you want your batter to fill the whole circle - don't just fill the center circle.
- Let the sheet of macarons sit for about an hour. You want the macarons to be almost dry to the touch on the top so that the tops are shiny when you cook them.
Cook the macarons
- We used the convection function on our oven and cooked the macarons at 350 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes. The macarons should rise a bit and have shiny tops. Halfway through cooking, I turned the pan around and put it on a lower shelf. I am nervous about giving specific cooking instructions because ovens vary so much but this timing was perfect for us.
- Let the macarons rest on the mat until they are completely cooled and then gently peel the macarons from the mat. You might want to use a butter knife or a frosting spatula to help gently lift the macaron so nothing sticks to the mat.
Fill the macarons
- Fill the macarons with strained jam, chocolate ganache or anything you wish. We made a few different types of fillings to experiment and they all were good.