Note: I highly recommend watching the corresponding video if you have never made macarons before. I also highly recommend using the weight measurements for the recipe to give yourself the best chance at success.
- Prep two sheet pans with parchment paper. You can also print and place two macaron templates per sheet pan under the parchment to help you pipe more accurately.
- Place the powdered sugar and almond flour in a food processor and pulse about 10 times to ensure the mixture is very fine. If you don't have a food processor, you can skip this step, but your macarons won't be as smooth.
- Sift the almond flour mixture into a medium mixing bowl. Any large bits left in the sifter can be thrown out. Whisk in the salt and set the dry ingredients aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy and starting hold soft peaks, slowly start adding the sugar while continuing to mix, about 1/2 tbsp at a time, waiting a few seconds between each addition.
- After all of the sugar is added continue beating on medium speed, checking the firmness of the peaks frequently. Once the whites are almost holding stiff peaks, add the vanilla extract and a few drops of gel food coloring if desired. It is not recommended to use liquid food coloring for these as it can ruin the consistency of the batter. Continue beating until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
- Add about 1/3 of the sifted almond flour mixture into the egg whites and stir it in completely with a rubber spatula. Don't be too rough with it, but you do want to stir some of the air out of the egg whites.
- Add another 1/3rd of the almond flour mixture and this time gently fold it with a rubber spatula until it is all combined. Continue with the last of the almond flour mixture. Continue folding until the mixture slowly flows freely off your spatula into the mixing bowl and you holds its shape for a few seconds before dissolving back into the mixture (watch the video to see what this looks like)
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fit with a round open tip. To pipe, hold the pastry bag straight over the parchment lined baking sheet and squeezing from the top give even pressure to pipe about 1" circles. Release the pressure to release before pulling the bag up. Leave about 1" between each macaron to allow for some spreading.
- Take the sheet pan and firmly tap it on the counter 5-6 times, to help release any air bubbles that may have formed in the macarons.
- Let the piped macarons sit for 30-60 minutes until a skin forms over the top. You should be able to rub your finger over the top and it won't be sticky at all. This usually takes about 45 minutes for me, but depending on where you live it could take more or less time.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 285 F (140 C).
- When the macarons have a skin on the top and you can run your finger over it and it isn't sticky, you can go ahead and bake them. Bake at 285 F (140 C) for 13-15 minutes. To check if they are done, gently nudge the top of one with a finger and if the top separates from the bottom they need a bit more time.
- Allow to cool completely on the baking sheets before filling
For Classic Buttercream Filling
- Place your room temperature butter in your mixing bowl fit with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, and beat on high for about 1 minute, until fluffy. Scrap down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the powdered sugar into the mixing bowl and start mixing on low until the sugar starts to combine with the butter. Turn the mixing speed up to high and beat for about 3 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the salt, vanilla extract, and almond extract if using.
- Add a bit of milk or cream if needed to thin out the mixture.