These Chocolate French Macarons combine a soft and fudgy macaron cookie with a raspberry filling for a perfectly delightful combo.
Macaron de Paris: Parisian Macarons
Crispy on the outside, with a soft, gooey center and a creamy, sweet filling, macarons always remind me of my time in Paris. While there, I fell in love with these soft and chewy cookies: treats the size of your hand with a slightly crisp outside and such subtle, sweet notes of flavor that complemented their delicate, airy texture.
Each bite was a dream that you never wanted to end.
In the last 5-10 years, this delectable Parisian cookie has become quite trendy in the States, where it is most common to find it, mini-sized, gracing high-end dessert tables and specialty shops. But, even with its rise in popularity, many Americans still think of macarons as a dense, chewy, coconut cookie.
Macaroons vs. Macarons
So, what is the difference between a macaroon and and macaron?
Both macaroons and macarons trace their origins to an unleavened Italian cookie that was made using almond paste. Through the years, the almond paste was replaced with coconut flakes in North America to make them sturdier, and it was replaced with almond flour by French pastry chefs, making a delicate dessert.
For Coconut Macaroons (pronounced mack-a-ROON), shredded coconut is folded into a meringue. The batter is dropped by the spoonful onto a cookie sheet and baked until crisp and golden on the outside and chewy in the center.
For Almond Macarons (pronounced mack-a-ROHN), powdered sugar and almond flour are folded into a meringue. These cookies are piped into circles and develop a cute little crinkly “foot” when baked. The baked cookies are sandwiched together with a sweet filling.
What is almond flour?
The key ingredient in macarons is almond meal (or almond flour). This is a finely ground flour made from almonds. You can make your own almond flour by grinding whole or sliced almonds in your food processor or a (clean) spice grinder.
If you decided to make your own almond flour, you must be sure that the flour is VERY finely ground.
A Perfect Macaron Batter
Macarons start off with a basic meringue: a mixture of beaten egg whites and sugar. The key here is to get your egg whites to stiff peaks. You know your egg whites have reached stiff peaks if, when you remove the beaters, the peaks stand up on their own.
After you have your meringue, you fold the dry ingredients into it. This can be a scary process if you’ve worked with meringue before, because conventional wisdom say, “Be gentle with meringue! It will deflate!” When making macarons, you don’t have to be as gentle as you would be with other meringue applications, but you don’t want to really beat it up either.
To do this, you should use a slow and steady hand to mix in half of the dry ingredients for a few strokes, and then add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated and your meringue looks smooth and glossy. If you tip your bowl, the batter should shift slowly. It should not be stiff, like a classic meringue, but it should not be super runny either.
When you pipe a properly mixed batter, the top should nearly smooth out on its own after a minute or two. If you do have a small “beak” from where you pulled up your piping tip, simply dip your finger in a little cool water and lightly tap the “beak” with your moist finger to smooth it.
Are you a visual learner? Check out our video tutorial below on making macarons!
Let The Macarons Rest
Resting macarons is a highly debated topic among macaron bakers. Some say the resting time is essential, others say it’s not.
We think it is. Kind of.
What is really important, rather than the length of resting time, is that your macaron batter develop a nice, dry film. The batter should lose its sheen (becoming dull) and you should be able to lightly touch the cookies without any batter sticking to your finger. This is when you know your macarons are ready to go into the oven.
The length of time it will take for your macarons to develop this film depends mostly on the moisture in the air. So, if you’re making macarons on a humid day, they might take 45 minutes to develop the film. But, if you’re making them on a dry day, they may only take 10 minutes.
Bottom line: you should be able to touch your cookies without the batter sticking to your finger before you pop them into the oven. Let this be your guide, not a difinitive resting time.
Baking Perfect French Macarons
What we have seen through our batches of macarons is that another very important element to making perfect macarons is the oven temperature.
Macarons need an oven that is hot enough to quickly dry out the crust and encourage a good initial rise. But, they need an oven that is cool enough that the bottom of the macarons will dry out and the and inside of the macarons will bake to that perfect, creamy consistency without the top overbaking.
To do this, we like to keep an oven thermometer in our oven, to be doubly sure of our temperatures. We have found that 325F is a good temperature to get the macarons to do their thing. Much hotter than that, the shells will crack because the cookies are rising too fast. Much lower, and the insides don’t get cooked properly.
Our Chocolate French Macaron Recipe
While the most classic macaron is your standard, unflavored macaron, with the flavor coming from the filling. Tim is a chocolate lover, so we tend towards making chocolate French macarons.
You will see in our pictures that our batter looks a bit more stiff than many tutorials. We like our macaron cookies to have a thickness to them, which is why we beat our egg whites to stiff peaks and use a bit of a stiffer batter. This gives us a thick and lofty chocolate French macaron with a chewy interior and a nice, crackly crust.
For our filling, we use raspberry jam to give these chocolate French macarons a fun chocolate-raspberry flavor combo.
Feel free to play around with other jams in the filling recipe if you love other chocolate and fruit combos!
The bottom line
Macarons can be a tricky cookie to master, but with a little practice, these impressive cookies become easier to create. So, don’t be afraid to give them a try! Even if you don’t get a perfectly smooth cookie with a perfectly crinkled foot the first time, you’ll still have a tasty cookie to enjoy!
Yield: 16 (2 inch) sandwiched macaron cookes
- 1 c almond flour
- 2 c powdered sugar
- 6 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 4 egg whites
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- ½ c + 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 Tbsp raspberry jam or preserves
- 1 c powdered sugar
- Preheat your oven to 325F. Use an oven thermometer to be sure your oven temperature is exact. Slight variances will cause large changes in your results.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, almond flour, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy with an electric hand mixer fitted with wire whipping beaters and set to medium high speed. (You're looking for the consistency of bath tub bubbles.)
- Add the cream of tartar and beat for a few seconds more.
- While beating, slowly add the granulated sugar. Continue to beat until you have nearly stiff peaks, 1-2 minutes. (To tell if you have nearly stiff peaks, stop beating, and lightly dip the beaters into the meringue. When you pull the beaters out of the meringue, the peaks that form should stand up, with the tips folding over only slightly.)
- Sift half of the almond flour mixture into the bowl with the meringue. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the meringue for a few strokes, using a circular motion around the bowl and under the batter. Sift in the remaining almond flour mixture and continue to fold, until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated into the meringue. The batter should be smooth and glossy. It should slowly shift if you tip the bowl, but it should not be too runny or liquidy.
- Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch tip with the batter. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a quart Ziploc bag with one corner snipped to create a ½ inch hole.)
- Gently pipe the batter into 2 inch circles spaced 1 inch apart onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. To pipe, hover your tip a 1/2 inch above the cookie sheet and squeeze the bag gently. The meringue should flow in an even circle outward from your tip. Stop piping when you have a 2 inch diameter circle. Gently lift your tip. The batter should flatten into itself after a few seconds, but if it forms a small beak, that’s ok. We’ll take care of those in a minute.
- After piping your cookies, if they still have a small beak, dip your finger in a bowl of cool water to slightly dampen it. Gently pat the piped meringue to flatten the beaks and create a smooth top.
- Let the piped cookies rest until a dry film forms on the macaron, the batter should lose its shininess and become dull in color. You should be able to lightly touch the cookies and the batter shouldn’t stick to your finger. This could take anywhere from 20-40 minutes, depending on the batter and the moisture level of your kitchen.
- Bake the rested macarons at 325F for 14-15 minutes until crisp on the outside and dry to the touch. (The foot should not squish or wiggle when you lightly touch them.)
- Remove the macarons form the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for 15-20 minutes before gently removing them from the parchment paper to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.
- While the cookies are cooling, make the filing. Beat butter and jam with an electric hand mixer fitted with wire whisk beaters on medium speed until the butter is fluffy and the two are combined. Slowly add the powdered sugar until a thick and fluffy frosting forms. It should be spreadable but firm.
- When cookies are completely cool, spread about 1 tsp of filling on the bottom of one cookie. Gently sandwich the filling with a second cookie, pressing until the filling nearly reaches the edges of the cookies.
- Store the filled macarons in a sealed container on the counter for up to a week or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- We recommend filling the sandwiches no more than 1 day before you plan to serve them. If you want to make your cookies ahead of time, keep the cookies, unfilled, in a sealed, dry container, until you are ready to fill them.