Pastry chef Joanne Chang first learned how to make macarons at Payard Patisserie in New York. “Francois Payard was famous for his gorgeous macarons," Joanne told us. "We’d make them in huge batches—which was just fine with me! I have a soft spot for them, especially the contrast of the crisp cookie and the creamy filling."
Texture is the key to these little cookies, which are simply two meringues made from ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar, sandwiched with a sweet filling, such as ganache or lemon curd. Classic French macarons—not to be confused with the American coconut confection, the macaroon—fill the display cases of some of Paris’s most elegant patisseries. Now they are making their way to pastry shops here, including Joanne’s Boston bakeries.
In this video, Joanne shares her secrets to getting that textural contrast just right. She takes you step by step through the process of making the cookies and then shows you how to prepare two delicious fillings, Lemon Curd and Vanilla Buttercream. (Don't worry, chocolate lovers, you can get Joanne's recipe for Chocolate Ganache filling here.)
Joanne’s recommendation: “Get creative, go wild. The combinations are practically endless.”
Start by making the subtly sweet Almond Macarons, which are an incredibly versatile blank canvas.
7-3/8 oz. (1-3/4 cups plus 2 Tbs.) confectioners’ sugar
4-3/8 oz. (1-1/4 cups plus 2 Tbs.) almond flour
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Macaron filling of your choice: Lemon Curd, Vanilla Buttercream, and/or Chocolate Ganache
Make the Batter
Line 3 completely flat baking sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners and set aside.
Using a medium-mesh sieve, sift the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour into a large bowl and set aside. In a clean stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a large bowl and a hand mixer), whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy and the wires of the beater(s) leave a trail, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbs. of the granulated sugar and continue to whip for another 30 to 45 seconds. Repeat 3 times with the remaining granulated sugar. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, continue whipping the whites until they turn glossy and stiff (when you lift the beater(s) from the bowl, the whites should hold a straight peak that doesn’t curl at the tip, 4 to 8 minutes more.
Use a scale to weigh ingredients like confectioners’ sugar and almond flour—it’s much more accurate than a cup measure. And bring the egg whites to room temperature before using; they’ll whip up better. (Separate eggs when they’re cold, though; it’s easier to do).
With a large rubber spatula, fold in half of the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once most of it has been incorporated, fold in the remaining mixture until just combined.
Pipe the Cookies
Using a piping bag fitted with a 1/2- to 3/4-inch round tip (Ateco#806 to #809), pipe the batter onto the prepared sheets in rounds that are about 1 inch in diameter and 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, spaced about 11/2 inches apart. As you pipe, hold the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet and flick the tip of the bag as you finish each cookie to minimize the peaks. Rap the sheet against the counter several times to flatten the mounds and pop any large air bubbles. Let rest until the meringues no longer feel tacky, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.
Use a flat baking sheet and a new piece of parchment (or a nonstick baking liner) to ensure that your cookies bake into a nice round shape. If the baking sheet is warped or if your parchment’s creased, you may end up with amoeba-shaped cookies. And, test the surface of the batter after it has rested for 20 to 30 minutes. It should have dried out a bit and no longer feel tacky, ensuring that each cookie forms a crisp, delicate top when baked. If the batter still feels tacky, let it rest for a few more minutes before baking.
Bake the Cookies
Put 2 of the cookie sheets in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 300°F (let the third sheet sit at room temperature). Bake, rotating the sheets and swapping their positions after 8 minutes, until the meringues are very pale golden, 15 to 20 minutes total. Cool completely on the baking sheets on racks. Meanwhile, return the oven temperature to 325°F and then bake the third sheet as you did for the first two.
Remove the meringues from the parchment and pair them by size.
Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking so that the cookies bake to an even pale gold.
Fill the Cookies
Using a piping bag with the same tip used to pipe the cookies, pipe 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of the filling onto half of the cookies—you want to use just enough filling that it spreads to the edge when topped but doesn’t squish out much when bitten. Top the filled halves with their partners. The cookies are best the day they’re made, but you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
Leave a narrow, unfilled border when piping the filling onto the cookie bottoms. When topped with another cookie, the filling will extend to the edge.