Macarons are quintessentially Parisian. There’s no one in the world that doesn’t associate French macarons with Paris and for good reason: they do them best. From Pierre Hermé to Ladurée, there are purveyors of these sweet, almond-based cookies on almost every corner in Paris. I made sure to try them all. (But that’s another post!) However, my favorite macaron experience was in a little shop called Le Foodist, created by a lovely couple and located in Paris’s Latin Quarter. Making Macarons in Paris with Le Foodist was the perfect opportunity to make something memorable … and delicious!
After searching high and low for something unique to do in Paris, I realized that there’s nothing more appropriate than to learn how to make something so deliciously cultural. I also realized that this would be the best excuse to eat as many macarons as I could … which wasn’t as many as I thought I could. The sugar caught up to me really quickly.
My mom, sister, and I made our way to Le Foodist on the second to last day in Paris, happy to spend some time learning to make Italian meringue French macarons (more on that in a second).
Amanda and Fred are the lovely couple that own Le Foodist and welcome small groups to large teams into their lovely kitchen to teach all things French. With a wonderfully French farmhouse feel, we walked into a professional kitchen and started our macarons!
Now, I’ve made macarons before and my mom had made macarons before, so we were decently well versed in the process. But with Amanda’s help and tips, I felt like I could really conquer macarons.
There are two types of macaron recipes that people use: French meringue and Italian meringue. The French meringue is much more complicated, while the Italian meringue is a little more foolproof. Be sure to ALWAYS use Italian meringue, especially if you are in a humid area.
The first step to making our macarons was to add the dry ingredients together (the almond powder and powdered sugar) after sifting. You then mix this with egg whites and a dry food coloring. It’ll become a sort of colored almond paste.
TIP ONE: Amanda stressed the importance of using dry food coloring because adding any excess liquid to a macaron batter can really screw up whether or not your macarons will turn out.
After this comes the more technical part. You’ll heat sugar and water to a certain temperature, and then start beating more egg whites in a standing mixer until soft peaks form. Once the syrup reaches 118 C, you’ll slow the whisking, and pour the syrup into the egg whites (scary). Once the syrup is in, you’ll turn back up the whisking until the whites are firm and shiny.
After this step, you’ll fold both the meringue and the almond paste together, and gently. There’s a certain point you need to mix the batter till, but it usually only takes a few minutes to get the batter to the right point. This is called macronage, and you can read more about it here.
Then, you’ll start piping! Piping was really tricky, but the best thing I took away from this class was to watch the instructor (or videos) as much as you can! There’s a specific way to hold the piping bag, to push the batter out of the piping bag, and to pipe onto parchment paper. Having a guide (whether draw yourself or with macaron sheets like these) really helps with macarons, especially because you want all the cookies to be a similar size.
TIP TWO: Parchment paper is tricky because it doesn’t lay flat on your baking sheet. Using a bit of the batter, pipe a small amount under the parchment paper to keep it still and from sliding around when you are piping!
One of the trickiest things about macarons however is getting that smooth top to the cookie. Amanda taught us to start close to the cookie sheet and to push the batter firmly out while slowly moving upwards. Once you have filled the circle, you’ll quickly flick the tip of the piping bag off the circle, so as to prevent a really prominent peak. Even if you do get a peak, the next step will help a lot.
After you’ve piped your macaron shells, you’ll want to pick up your baking sheet, and drop it from about a foot onto your kitchen counter. Trust me, this will feel strange. This is to remove any bubbles from piping and will also settle the tops of the macarons. After you’ve done this a couple of times (flip the baking sheet around once), into the oven they go!
There are lots of different fillings to make (especially if you want to get creative with flavors), but I love a easy vanilla cream for a macaron. I’ll share the directions for my favorite cream below.
Once the macarons are done baking, you’ll want to wait until they cool to remove them from the parchment paper. If they are still sticking to the paper, leave them a little longer. They just need a bit more time to dry!
Lastly comes the piping of the filling. A good dollop is all a macaron really needs, but you’ll want to be careful to not crack the shell while you pipe. You’ll want to pipe similarly to the macaron. Amanda had us match up similarly shaped shells next to each other and then pipe one side of the macaron. Once you have them piped, you can simply twist the macaron sides together, et voila!
My favorite thing about this class was eating the macarons (uh, duh). We set all of our macarons on a table, had some tea, and chatted about who made the best macarons. Everyone loved the vanilla cream filled macarons, which just so happened to be mine!
After learning to make macarons, I couldn’t wait to try my hand at creating my own flavors and colors. Though I haven’t had the chance, I’ll keep you updated and share my own flavor combinations when I narrow down what I want to try. (Key lime pie?! Blackberry lime?! Strawberry basil?!) If you have any suggestions, leave me a comment below. And if you try the recipe below, let me know if it worked out!
PS. Macarons are NOT for the beginner baker. They are really difficult and taking a class is DEFINITELY the best way to learn–and this is coming directly from the instructor. As one of the most impressive (and difficult) meringues to make in the world, it’s a lot easier to have an experienced instructor show you how to make them. In other words, don’t fault me or the recipe if they don’t turn out correctly.
Lastly, if you want to include one of my FAVORITE experiences in your Paris itinerary, don’t forget to try macarons in Paris with Le Foodist’s or one of their other baking classes. They also do creme puffs, eclairs, and croissants, which I really want to do next time! If you want to read about the croissant class, my friend Sammy wrote about it on her awesome travel blog here!
Italian Meringue (Makes 30-40)
200 g almond powder
200 g powdered sugar
73 g egg whites (2.5 eggs approximately)
200 g sugar
50 g water
73 g egg whites
Weigh and sift all of the ingredients first!
To make the almond paste: Weigh sifted almond powder and powdered sugar in a med bowl.
Add 73g egg whites and any food colouring, mix to a paste and set aside.
To make the meringue: Add sugar and water to a saucepan and with a thermometer cook the syrup to 118C. Start whisking 73g egg whites when the syrup reaches 110C, until soft peaks have formed. Once the syrup has reached 118C take off the heat and slow down the whisking. Slowly pour the syrup into the soft egg whites. Once added turn the speed up until the whites become firm and shiny.
To make the shells: A little at a time, gently fold the meringue into the almond paste. Put into a piping bag fitted with a nozzle. Put parchment paper onto a baking sheet and form small circles. Tap the sheet several times on a hard surface, to remove any air bubbles.
Bake for 12 mins at 160C; let cool out of the oven, then remove from the sheet.
Recipe courtesy of Le Foodist.
Makes enough for 30-40 macarons.
250 ml whole milk
60 g sugar
20 g corn starch
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste)
30 g butter (room temperature)
Add the grated vanilla paste to the milk and bring to the boil.
Beat the egg and sugar until thick and add the corn starch. Pour a little of the heated milk to the egg mixture and stir. Then pour back into the saucepan and continue stirring until thick. Allow to cool slightly before mixing the butter. Chill before using.
Recipe courtesy of Le Foodist.