December 27, 2010

100 French macarons for 100 posts

Yes, this is the 100th post by CaffeIna! Can you believe it? Well, I still can’t!

To celebrate this big event, and not having to host any big event for Christmas, I embarked in a big adventure: a three-day French macarons marathon. Yeah, you’ve heard me! Now, before you start uuuuuuhing and wowing at the wonderful and absolutely perfect macarons I made (sigh), I want to make a couple of things clear.

First, I’m not going to re-write here the recipes for French macarons yet another time. There are hundreds of resources out there, by pastry chef and/or food bloggers that are much more experienced than I am in making macarons. I will, however, share some thoughts and the resources I found the most useful because, let’s say it….too many resources are not always good.

Second, don’t let other people comment “if you follow the directions and the tips you will easily get great macarons” affects you! It really bothers me when some people brag about something difficult they made by saying “it’s so easy to make that even a kid could make it” or stuff like that. Not everybody is a pastry chef in his/her heart. Not everybody can wake up one morning and whip up a perfect batch of French macarons (or any other dessert you might want to pick for yourself). For sure this is true for myself. That’s why I decided to spend three days on a French macarons full immersion and share with you my (mis)adventures.

Are you ready? Let’s start.

So, French macarons, huh? Uhhhhhh. Ohhhhhh. When I think about macarons, many things come to my mind. The first is that I never really understood what the big fuss about macarons was. I do not particularly like fashions, not even in food. I mean, I have had many and I found them very pretty (actually adorable!), fun (with so many colors, flavors, filling), and good…yes good but…that’s it. I had never been really wowed by macarons. Until I got to try Josie’s macarons at the Foodbuzz Festival. Those were the first macarons that made me think “uhhhhhh ohhhhhh”. But it’s rare. There are many decent macarons but very few darn good ones. And I’d rather have another treat than a mediocre macaron.

Then, why have I finally decided to make French macarons myself? Well, CaffeIna needed a holidays project. And this goes back to my second point. I knew that making French macarons was going to be a hard project for me. I’m definitely not one of those people that get pretty and good tasting stuff at the first try, above all not when it comes to petite patisserie or refined desserts. I knew I needed time to consistently practice, to go through several trials and errors.

And here are my trials and errors.


First batch: bad. Very bad! Disastrous! Don’t let the smoothness of the top of the macarons fool you! (see the 100 picture at the beginning of the post). They were all in all a disaster. I almost cried when these guys came out of the oven. Actually, I did not ALMOST cried. I cried.

Advice #1: wait for a sunny day!
What went wrong? Well, possibly everything. First of all, just to cheer myself up and looking for something external to blame, I have repetitively read that you should not attempt macarons when it’s raining and/or very humid. On my day one, it was pouring.

Advice #2: get some darn good almond flour/meal
The majority of recipes calls for X amount of almonds, saying that you can ground them yourself. That’s what I did on day one. Now, unless you have a wonderful food processor (which, clearly, I don’t have) you will never be able to finely grounds almonds. And if you overmix the almonds, they will release their oil and that, too, will affect the final result. Do yourself a favor: buy almond flour!

Advice #3: sift confectioners sugar and almond flour at least 2-3 times.
All the recipes out there say so: do it!


Advice #4: read as much as you can about macarons making.

I had read a lot about French macarons even before attempting this first batch.
After crying over my first miserable attempt I put myself together and I spent hours reading and reading and reading again everything that I could find.
Here are the resources that I found more useful:

·  Mélanger:: To Mix. has a nice post about macarons. Even if the focus in on the Italian meringue method, I found the post very useful.

·  Tartelette has a fantastic (did you have any doubt about it?) tutorial about French macarons. You can find the link from her homemage. Also, hers is the recipe I have used in my macarons marathon.

·  Syrup and Tang has a great great great series called La Macaronicite’. I totally love every single post of the series. 

· Kitchen Musing also has a great Macaron Chronicles that I enjoyed reading.

· David Lebovitz of course has a long list of resources, posts, and book reviews too.

Armed with this additional knowledge and with a bit more of self-respect (after reading that even experienced pastry chefs fail at macarons), I adventured myself into the second phase of my adventure.

Second batch: better, definitely better but there still were many things to fix but the two most important things are: the mcacarons cracked and they did not have the famous “feet” that they are supposed to have.


I did not cry on day two. I felt better and I felt practice was improving things. There was still a lot to perfect, so I kept reading. But, as many others have remarked, directions are not always clear. They tell you that the batter should have a certain consistency, or that you should whip the egg whites until they are stiff and shiny. That is not enough information for me sometimes.

Advice #5: Watch somebody making macarons.
I felt words or step by step pictures were not enough for me. I needed to see people really making them. Being the 25th of December I figured it was going to be hard to find a macarons making class. But we all know that we can find lots on the web….here are the videos that I found more useful.

·    Josie at Daydreamer dessert did a wonderful job for the Foodbuzz Competition video challenge in showing us how she makes her wonderful macarons.

·    And of course, there are many videos on youtube, I found this one very useful! In 8 minutes you can see the whole process and….she has a pretty different way of doing her macaronage!

After looking at these videos, and practicing a few more times the macaroneage, I got the last conclusions I would like to share with you:

Advice #6: find your own way, through practice.
If Tartelette and others call for “quick strokes at first to break the mass and then slow down” or say that you should give 50 strokes, not one more, not one less, to obtain a perfect batter, others have a completely different method for macaronage. I feel that at the end of the day everybody has to find his/her own way.

See these three guys? They are part of the last batch I made on my third day. Alright, alright…they are still not perfect. See those brown dots? They are the almond flour that is not processed finely enough. But, honestly, I find them pretty cute anyway! It’s true, they were not all perfectly shaped and they even raise a bit too much (see those tall domes?) but they were damn good! Really good! I even converted Wally to French macarons…..he, who always said "I really don't like them"! After three days and over 100 macarons (not single shells! Entire macarons!), my macarons-making skills have improved a lot and, what is most important for me, I got super super good ones!

Advice #7: give yourself a break!
Once you have obtained a few good macarons, pat yourself on the back, sit down, enjoy your macarons (I suggest at least three!) and tell yourself you did a great job! Then, take a break from macarons making. You improved a lot. You will improve more and more with practice. But for now, take a break and be happy with yourself!

Have a sweet day!


  1. Congrats on your 100th post! I am just a few away from my 100th also. Great job with the macarons and it's awesome that you kept on trying. I Can definitely see the improvement with each batch. Thanks for the resources on macaron making! I did a bunch of research also before making my first batch and I found that video tutorial that you linked to (the one on youtube) to be really helpful also. They make it look so easy! My first attempt was somewhat successful but I haven't made any since then. I think I will have to soon!
    Again, congrats on your 100th post. Have a great week as we get ready to ring in the new year!

  2. You are one brave woman! I am in awe. I'm certainly not one of those people that says things like, "oh, it's so easy" because I read posts like these that convince me it's not. Brava, friend, brava! :)

  3. Good for you for attempting macarons! They are so beautiful and such a fun trend!

  4. SO glad to get the inside scoop! Macaroons seem to be everywhere these days giving the impression of ease! I appreciate you letting us know the reality of these treats so expectations are well set when trying to make them. Thanks for all your suggested resources too!

    Congruations on your 100 post! Very cute photo.

  5. Your final result looks great! I tried making macarons 3 times once and walked away with nothing. They're tough little buggers. You did an excellent job.

  6. Congratulations Sara!!
    I know what a milestone reaching 100 posts is!! Now to work on the next 100! Your macaroons came out perfectly, even if it did take more time than you thought. Thanks for sharing all those great tips with us, your right about too much help too..
    what's easy for one person is a nightmare for another!
    Hope you are having a great day my friend!

  7. Congratulations on 100 wonderful recipes, stories, sharings and all that these posts have provided! I'm so happy to have found you and to have been able to share in at least a good part of them.

    Second, your macarons are gorgeous! I'm guess that that's a nutella spread on the inside? Maybe? :)

    I loved how you presented this, the resources you provided and your total honesty about the process. This might be your shining post, which is very appropriate. I'm so looking forward to the next 100.

  8. A huge congrats to you, Sara. Macarons are my holy grail food project and I have not found the courage yet to make them. Your macarons are beautiful, even the ones with the little almond "dots". I would eat them.

    Congrats also on your 100th post, yay! Mine is approaching, too, but I would never have been able to tackle macarons to celebrate the occasion. Cheers to 1000000 more posts from you, my friend. Hope to see you in 2011. Happy New Year!

  9. Yes! Give yourself a break! I think they look great! (And just recently learned about French macarons at a local coffee shop in North Carolina). The dots are pretty! And thanks for including the YouTube video! (And CONGRATS! on your 100th post!)

  10. Congrats on 100! How funny I was thinking I want to tackle macaroons, now all I'm sure of is I will pour myself a big glass of red wine before I do so. I've been home sick, too bad, I would have come and helped you, we could of learned together.

  11. Congrats! They look just lovely...even if they aren't quite perfect. ;) Awesome job hanging tough and keeping at it. I fear I might have burned the recipe at the very least on day one...ehehehe.

  12. Congratulations on your 100th post! That's a great milestone.

    Your macarons are gorgeous - you conquered it! :)

  13. Congratulations on 100 posts! What an accomplishment. Your macaroons look perfect to me. I can only imagine what mine would look like...I'm still intimidated by those sweet things! Thank you so much for sharing with me and for your kind words on my blog. I hope you have a wonderful Tuesday!

  14. Congratulations Sara! I so enjoy reading your blog - in spite of the fact I'm not much of a baker! And, in spite of the fact that I really don't care for macarons, these are absolutely gorgeous. I'm looking forward to the next 100! Happy New Year, Kate

  15. Congrats! Great post too, sometimes things are just your nemesis...mine is bread

  16. Congratulations on your 100th posts! How wonderful! I love macaroons but I never make it before. I shall give it a try next year. Again, congrats! Happy holidays too.

  17. Congratulations on 100 posts. Note to self: try making macarons.

  18. congratulations
    macaroons look wonderful

  19. Congratulations on your 100th post...
    Sorry you had such a challenging time with your macarons, but I think your last ones look fantastic :)

  20. The advice is worth so much more than another recipe! Congrats on 100 posts!! Silly macarons made you cry and then you conquered them. Okay, I still thought your last three looked perfect even after you pointed out the spots. They're freckles, right? Freckles are cute.

  21. Thanks for the very useful tips! I'll remember to come back here when I decide to try macarons for the first time. After all, your last batch looks very successful to me! Congratulations on your 100th post!
    Happy New Year!

  22. Congratulations on your 100th post! I made macarons last year and I'm pretty sure I will never make them again, fickle little things. Your persistence paid off!

  23. Congrats on a 100th post..and what better way to celebrate than with something as sweet as your beautiful Macarons!

  24. Congrats on 100 posts! Quite an achievement! I can SO relate to your adventures with macs - this time last year I posted my very first failures and have spent the year working on them with varying degrees of success. They are a true labour of love, for sure. Going into 2011 with the same goal: Perfect the mac! Happy New Year to you!!!

  25. Auguri Sara! What beautiful macs! I bet they were delicious!!

  26. Wonderful job Sara, I'm so proud of you for hanging in there... look at those last beauties, maravilloso! Congrats on your 100th post it was a pleasure meeting you in SF, I wish you and your hubby a very Happy New year!

  27. Thanks everybody to stop by and celebrate my 100th post with me and thanks to Josie in particular, who made me taste the first good macaron of my life! Oh and I think from now on I will call them "freckled macarons" after @bakingwithoutabox suggestion :) the freckles might become my new macarons signature :)

  28. Congrats on your 100th post, and for your guest post at Chez Chef Dennis, and for the Top 9, and for hanging in there until you created the most perfect freckled macarons! Cheers to a happy and healthy 2011 and the next 100 posts :)

  29. Lovely macaroons! I have never even attempted them, they just seem to intimidate me.
    Congrats on the 100th post! I just blew past mine and didn't even notice. Guess I should pay better attention!
    Congratulations, Sara!!

  30. Sara! I don't know what to congratulate first, the 100 posts or the fact that from day 1-3 your macarons are incredible! congrats on both of them! now, let's incorporate nutella into them for post #150:)

  31. Congrats on getting Top9 and your 100th post! I get everything you're saying here,... went thru it all meself. And finally also got to big domey looking ones but so proud of them. These look beautiiful, brown specks and all ... adds character.

  32. Woohoa! I'm in Marrakech for the moment and I've had so many macarons so far. Feels comfy to read about them in your blog :)

  33. Congrats on the top 9! I found your blog via FB. I've always wanted to try making macaroons-yours look awesome.

  34. Very nice work and congrats on 100 posts! It took me a while to get my own success with macarons. You're right, everyone has their own style in making them and getting the desired results! The last batch looks pretty good to me!

  35. Ooh la la! Beautiful macarons! Congrats on top 9!

  36. Sara!! Oh my what an adventure! I am going to make macarons when I get back from skiing.. and this post is going to be so helpful! I think you did a lovely job :) Congrats on Top 9 and way to keep your spirits up through the whole thing, I'm sure they were well received! Bravo!!

  37. Congrats on hitting 100 posts, Sara! And on top 9. This is such a great post because it really takes us into the heart of making macarons for the first time (and second, and third times!). I am saving it for future reference. Hope you enjoyed your holidays!

  38. Congrats in your 100th post! I was going to attempt macarons for the 1st time a couple of weeks ago and chickened out. I fear I will end up on the floor crying my eyes out. Thank you for the resources, especially the videos I will be sure to check them out. I think your macarons came out beautifully!

  39. 100 posts is quite a feat! Congrats...
    I've not made macarons, but you make it look tempting. I love these little sandwiches.

  40. Congratulations on your 100th post! I'm impressed with your macarons...I haven't attempted them yet!

  41. The finished product looks magnificent! Can you believe, I've never made french macaroons?!? For some unknown reason, I'm rebelling against them! I think like you, it's the simple popularity of them. But these make me want to set aside my wayward feelings and pull out my whisk....maybe. :)

  42. Sara I want to give you a HUGE hug for all your efforts and what a way to celebrate your 100th post! I have yet to tackle macarons, so I have a lot of respect for you. I think your final batch looks pretty amazing, and I bet they taste incredible too. I am sure you are all macaroned out, but if you wanted any more info "Not So Humble Pie" has a great macaron resource too. Cheers my friend! <3

  43. Congratulations of the first 100 posts. Just like you, I never understood what's with all this macaons here, macarons there and to be honest, I'm not crazy about eating them either, or maybe I never found the right ones.
    thanks for sharing your thoughts about making macarons.

    I wish You..
    12 Month of Happiness,
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    8760 Hours Good Health,
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    Happy New Year

  44. I am in love with macarons and have been busy making them too. Congrats on making Food Buzz Top 9!!!

  45. Congrats on your 100th post. I love how you shared your success and stuggles with the macarons. They look SO difficult to do and I'm so impressed with how pretty yours are! :)

  46. Congrats on your 100th post. A true milestone. This post is unbelievably helpful to me - I've never made French macarons but my French hubby is forever asking me to. Thank you for sharing your trials and errors. Sorry to hear the first batch made you sad :(

    Happy New Year!! Wish you all good thing in 2011!

  47. I really have never understood the big deal about macarons, but I totally agree that they are pretty darn cute. I made them once a while back for a Daring Bakers Challenge and I just couldn't get them right. It's damn frustrating, if you ask me. But your final batch looks great! Congrats on the top 9 and the 100th post!

  48. I've been too scared to make macarons but this year I'm definitely going to try it. Thanks for sharing your experiences here, they're definitely useful to keep in mind. I must say after 3 days, your macarons look perfect to me. Happy 100th-post-sary!

  49. Sara - Congratulations on your 100th post and for challenging yourself in making macarons. I enjoyed your notes on the experiences.

    My first time making macarons was a disaster and it pushed me to try it again immediately. Last year I had my ups and downs with macarons...suffice it to say that I still haven't figured it out because I'm not consistent. I'm with you about finding good almond flour. The almond meal I initially found at Trader Joe's lent little almond flecks on my macs too, but I also rather liked it.

    Thank you for an inspiring post...I'll be working on my macs again this year. :)

  50. Just found your blog thru Dianne Jacob. If you still want to go to baking school, you should check out Tante Marie's Cooking School in SF. I went there in 2000 and I absolutely loved it! Just a suggestion. I make the best macaroons! Seriously. Take a look The recipe is slightly adapted from Tante Marie. Let me know what you think, if you give them a try :-)


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