Macarons are one of my favorite treats to make for special occasions, and they should be one of yours, too. These little french cookies are made with thin meringue shells that have a crisp and chewy texture and they are sandwiched together with flavorful fillings. They’re small, sweet and beautiful to look at. The cookies have a reputation of being difficult to make, largely because the almond-based meringues are delicate when compared to other cookies. That being said, the cookies are not as difficult to make as they might look and with a little patience you can easily make them at home.
Chocolate macarons are one of my favorite flavors. Chocolate shells go with a wide variety of fillings, including Nutella and chocolate ganache, and they can also be paired with a simple buttercream like I’ve used here. The finished cookies have a deep chocolate color and a lovely crisp-chewy texture to them.
The macarons are completely gluten free and start with a paste made with almond flour, cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar. I make an Italian meringue – a cooked meringue that has a hot sugar syrup poured into beaten egg whites to cook and stabilize them – and fold it into the chocolate paste. This gives the cookies a lot of stability and creates enough bubbles in the batter to make the cookies puff up nicely when they bake. The cookies should be piped onto parchment paper or a silpat in small circles and allowed to set for about 30 minutes before baking. This set-up time allows the surface of the macaron to set and form a kind of “skin” that gives the macarons their signature smooth look.
I’ve given the quantities for this recipe in volume and by weight. I really recommend weighing the ingredients out if you have a kitchen scale because you’re going to get the best results that way. If you don’t have a scale, just be sure not to pack the ingredients down tightly (just as you shouldn’t pack flour down when you measure it) when you measure them because your cookies will be a little on the dense side if you do
Chocolate Macarons with Vanilla Buttercream Filling
2 1/4 cups almond meal (180 g)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (200g)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (30g)
4 large egg whites, divided and at room temperature
1 cup sugar (180g, granulated)
1/4 cup water
Vanilla Buttercream Filling, recipe below
Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
Sift together almond meal (finely ground almonds), confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Add in two egg whites and stir mixture, preferably using an electric mixer, until it comes together into a very thick dough. This may take a minute or two, and the dough will be thick.
In a small saucepan, bring granulated sugar and water to a rolling boil. Boil for at least 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, in another large mixing bowl, beat remaining two egg whites until frothy. When sugar mixture comes to a boil, beat egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer on medium speed, drizzle the hot sugar mixture into the egg whites very slowly until all of the syrup has been incorporated and you have a thick, fluffy meringue.
Take 1/3 of the meringue mixture and stir it into the chocolate paste with the electric mixer. Fold in remaining meringue in two or three additions.
Transfer batter to a piping bag (or plastic bag) with an approx 1 cm opening. Pipe dough onto prepared baking sheets to form 1-inch discs (approx 1 tbsp per disc); batter will spread slightly after piping. Leave about 1-inch between discs on the baking sheet.
Once all of the batter has been piped out, let the macarons sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes to form a “skin” that will give them a smooth, shiny top during baking.
While the macarons sit, preheat the oven to 350F.
Bake macarons for about 12 minutes, until the tops are set and macarons have risen.
Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. The bottoms of the macarons may be slightly tacky and it is best to use a metal spatula to slide them off.
Once macaron shells are completely cool, sandwich them together with about 1 teaspoon of buttercream filling. There is no need to be exact with this measurement, just so long as there is a thin layer between each pair of cookies.
Cookies are at their peak on the day they are made, but can be stored at room temperature for several days (the cookies will become slightly chewier as they age).
Makes about 36 sandwich cookies.
Vanilla Buttercream Filling
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
1 tbsp milk
1 1/2 – 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a medium bowl, beat the butter until soft. Scrape in half of a vanilla bean (or add vanilla extract) and add milk and confectioners’ sugar. Beat until frosting is light and creamy. If it is too thick, add a small amount of milk to thin it out.
The filling should be easy to pipe and slightly softer than you would use to frost a cake.