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How to Make Macarons, the Perfect Holiday and Hostess Gift

A pretty plate of homemade cookies is just about the nicest gift one can give or receive during the holidays. But if you’re the type of giver that isn’t satisfied with just nice, you might want to skip the traditional frosted Christmas cookies this year and step it up with a batch of traditional European macarons. As colorful and lovely as your sprinkle-topped snowmen cutouts, these meringue confections aren’t as difficult as their preceding reputation.

How to Make Macarons

We met with expert macaron maker Megan Gordon, aka Lady Yum, for an encouraging tutorial on creating these comely cookies. Her guidance breaks the recipe down in simple steps that even novice bakers can accomplish.

How to Make Macarons

Recipe makes 30 macarons (60 shells)

For the macarons:

130 grams separated egg whites (about 4 1/2 large egg whites)
200 grams powdered sugar
150 grams almond flour
90 grams granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
Gel food coloring (you can choose any color you want to celebrate the season)

1. Preheat oven to 285°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (not Silpat or waxed paper).

How to Make Macarons

How to Make Macarons

How to Make Macarons

2. In a standing mixer, beat the egg whites on low until frothy. Add a few drops of lemon juice, and gradually sprinkle in granulated sugar, with the mixer on medium for about 4 minutes.

3. After 4 minutes, add gel food coloring. Turn mixer up to high speed and whip just until the meringue holds stiff peaks.

How to Make Macarons

4. While egg whites whip, blend together the almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor just until combined.

How to Make Macarons
5. Empty meringue into a large mixing bowl, add dry ingredients on top and start folding together (inserting your spatula into the center of the mixture and scraping down to the bottom and up the side). Make a quarter turn with the bowl and repeat until you get a batter that resembles lava—not too stiff and not too runny.

How to Make Macarons
How to Make Macarons
How to Make Macarons
How to Make Macarons
How to Make Macarons

6. Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a size 803 (or similar) round tip. Standing your pastry bag perpendicular and close to the baking sheet, pipe dough into 1 1/4-inch circles onto the parchment paper. Starting in the center, squeeze out the dough, letting the circle grow to the desired size. Stop squeezing and flick your bag away quickly to form a nice, even medallion.

How to Make Macarons

7. Once you have a full tray, bang it 2-3 times onto the counter to release any air bubbles.

8. Transfer to the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate and bake 10 more minutes. If the macarons are still wiggly, keep baking for one minute at a time until they don’t budge when you nudge them.

9. Place the tray on a wire rack and let cool completely before peeling the cookies from the parchment paper. Sandwich a thin layer of filling (recipes follow) between two cookies. Serve within 1-2 days or freeze.

For the fillings and flavors:

How to Make Macarons

How to Make Macarons

MINT CHOCOLATE GANACHE MACARONS

Megan sprinkled chocolate flakes over the unbaked macarons just before placing in the oven (crushed peppermints would be cute and festive, too).

How to Make Macarons

Chocolate Ganache Filling

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces good quality chocolate, chopped
Mint oil or extract

1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream just to a boil.

2. Transfer chocolate to a medium-sized bowl and pour the hot cream over it.

3. Wait about 30 seconds for the cream to melt through the chocolate and whisk it quickly but gently from the middle of the bowl until shiny and smooth.

4. Add 1/2 teaspoon mint oil (or more); flavor to taste.

How to Make Macarons

HONEY LAVENDER MACARONS

Italian Buttercream Frosting

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
4 egg whites
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, at room temperature
Lavender oil
Honey

1. In a medium saucepan, add sugar and water. Over low heat, stir until the syrup looks clear and no sugar granules remain.

2. Add egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on medium speed until eggs nearly begin to hold soft peaks.

3. Continue heating syrup until it registers 235°F on an instant-read thermometer. With the mixer on medium low, in a slow stream, pour hot syrup into the whipped egg whites. Continue mixing until the mixture feels about body temperature when you touch the bottom of the mixing bowl.

4. Toss in cubes of butter one at a time, and continue to whip until buttercream is smooth. Add lavender oil (a little goes a long way!) and honey to taste.

How to Make Macarons

BLACKBERRY ALMOND MACARONS

1. Megan sprinkled toasted almonds over the unbaked macarons just before placing in the oven.

2. Follow the above recipe for Italian Buttercream Frosting, but omit the lavender oil and add almond extract to taste instead.

How to Make Macarons

3. Once the macarons are ready for filling, pipe a circle of the frosting on the bottom half of the cookie. Next, pipe or carefully spoon a dollop of blackberry jam in the center (a delicious surprise when you take a bite!).

How to Make Macarons

Megan shared this excellent visual troubleshooting guide from Sweet and Savory by Shinee as a helpful guide to perfecting your macarons game. It will help identify what you need to alter to create just-right macarons.

How to Make Macarons

How to Make Macarons

The resulting cookies seem indulgent and luxurious, but are still a lovingly made homemade treat to share with your favorite people over the holiday—or to unwind with by yourself after the entertaining is over.

How to Make Macarons

Thirstystone tray | Be Home cake platter | zestt etched coasters | bodum French press | Nordstrom faux fur throw

Special thanks to Megan (Lady Yum herself) at Lady Yum for demonstrating the perfect macaron!

Photos and art direction by Jeff Powell.