I learned to make macarons by trial and error. The first time I made a batch, I lost several shells because I didn’t know how to pull them off the cookie sheet. Some were hollow inside, others had cracks, and some were hard like vanilla wafers instead of chewy like perfect macarons. I think I experienced every possible problem the first time I baked macarons–and in several batches after that. One time when I mixed macarons, I even left out half of the dry ingredients because I was so intent on mixing the batter correctly! Since then, I have found better recipes and learned from experience.
Using a Baking Mat
Here are some tips for baking macarons on a baking mat.
- Use a silicone nonstick baking mat such as a Silpat or another equivalent brand that you can find at discount home goods stores or online. Some baking mats have circles printed on them, and some have indentions for macaron making. Macarons do not stick to these mats, they are washable, and you can use them for years. They come in different sizes to fit several sizes of baking sheets. This is my favorite way to bake macarons.
- To correctly pipe macarons on a mat, it is essential to hold the piping bag perpendicular to the baking mat. This means to point the end of the piping bag to the ceiling as you squeeze out the batter onto the silicone mat. This will make perfectly round macarons. If you hold the bag at an angle, the macarons will be odd shapes.
- If there are no macaron indentations or circles printed on your baking mat, try to pipe them all the same size. Then after they bake, you can match similar-sized shells together and fill them with buttercream, and no one will notice the different sizes.
Using Parchment Paper
Here are tips for baking macarons on parchment paper.
- As an alternative to a baking mat, use parchment paper on top of a baking sheet.
- Draw circles on the paper. One way to help guide the size of the macarons is to draw circles on the parchment paper. Use a 1 1/2-inch round cup or another round object and draw around it, making sure to space out the drawn circles to allow the macrons to spread when you tap them on the countertop to settle them. Place the parchment paper onto the baking sheet with the drawing side facing down against the baking sheet. (This prevents pencil lead or ink from cooking into your macarons.) You will be able to see the circles through the paper. Hold the piping bag perpendicular to the parchment paper to make round cookies.
- Most recipes make more than one sheet of cookie shells, so you will theoretically need more than one baking pan. However, this is the reason parchment paper is a good choice. If you have at least one flat, rimless baking sheet, you can use additional sheets of parchment paper and pipe batter onto all of the sheets at one time. Just keep each parchment sheet on a flat countertop. Then slide a rimless baking sheet under the parchment paper when a batch of cookies is ready to bake. After the cookies come out of the oven, cool them for a few minutes so that the pan is not hot. Slide the parchment paper off the pan. Then slide the flat pan under another sheet of parchment paper with cookies and bake.
Using Other Cooking Surfaces
- I do not recommend using a greased cooking sheet because the shells will not release from the baking sheet. You need a mat or paper so you can pick it up and peel the cooked cookie shells off.
- Do not use wax paper or greased aluminum foil for macarons. Use one of my recommended methods because macarons are too much trouble to risk ruining them!
What to Do After the Macarons are Piped
- Once you pipe the macarons onto the baking mat or parchment paper, immediately tap the pan onto the countertop a few times to settle the macarons. If you are making several sheets of macaron shells, tap them as soon as you fill one mat or parchment sheet and before you start another one. If the cookie shells sit too long, they start drying and will not settle if you tap them later. This can cause a rough finish instead of the shiny, smooth finish that macarons are known for.
- After piping and tapping the shells, let them sit until they dry on top. They are ready when they do not stick to your finger when you touch them. Depending on the humidity, they may dry in 10 minutes, or it can take an hour. Drying the cookie shells forms a skin on top. This helps to prevent cracking when they bake.
Baking the Shells
- Macarons do not take long to cook. Keep an eye on them because you do not want them brown at all, or they will lose their pretty color.
- After baking, cool the macarons completely by letting them sit. Do not try to pull them up if they are warm, or they will not release from the baking surface. Once they are completely cool, they are easy to remove. One trick I use is to pick up the edge of the baking mat (or parchment paper) and pull the paper or mat away from the macaron shell as I gently hold the shell with two fingers. Pull the baking mat away one cookie shell at a time because they are fragile. Also, take your time when you remove them.
Macarons have a short shelf life and will dry out in just a few days. The best way to keep them fresh is to separate the ones you want to eat right away and freeze all the others. If frozen, they will keep their fresh taste for a few months without altering the texture. One of my favorite ways to enjoy a macaron is to eat it partially thawed because it is chewy, which is the hallmark of a delicious macaron!