Macarons (nut free) · GF (about 3 dozen)
If you’ve never made macarons before, please check out these 10 Myths and also the 10 Commandments for macarons. Between those two posts, I’ve addressed 20 common issues. If you’re having trouble with hollows read this post. If you have a question not covered in one of those places, get a hold of me on the Facebook page and we’ll chat!
Click through to my classic macaron recipe and scroll to the bottom if you’d like to see different variations and flavor combos; any variation to that recipe will work with this one.
4 ounces (115g) pumpkin seeds
8 ounces (230g) powdered sugar*
5 ounces egg whites (144g), temperature and age not important!
2 1/2 ounce (72g) sugar
the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2g) kosher salt
approximately 10 ounces (290g) Swiss buttercream
Preheat the oven to 300° and have ready a large (18”) pastry bag, fitted with a plain tip. If you haven’t wrangled a pastry bag into submission before (or if you have and found it frustrating), these 12 tips for using a pastry bag will make the process mess and stress free; take the time to read them before you get started and you’ll do great!
You’ll also need two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.
I am hopelessly impatient and given to rushing, even when I know better. So to prevent my macarons from growing ever larger as I pipe, I use a 1 1/2” cookie cutter to trace out guide-circles (about an inch apart) and then I flip the parchment paper over, ink side down.
If your pumpkin seeds aren’t already toasted, just pop ‘em in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they lightly brown. Cool thoroughly before proceeding.
To make pumpkin seed flour, grind the toasted pumpkin seeds and powdered sugar for about a minute in the bowl of a food processor. Take the mixture out and sift it, reserving whatever bits don’t pass through the sieve. Add these bits back to the food processor and run the machine for another minute. Sift again. You should have about 2 Tbsp of slightly chunkier bits, but hakuna matata. Just add those into the dry mix.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean (not the extract), and salt and turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid). Whip for 3 minutes. They will not seem especially foamy at that point.
Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then crank the speed to 8 for go another 3 minutes.
At that point, turn the mixer off and add in any extracts/flavor/color and whip for a final minute on the highest speed, just to show it who’s boss (and to evenly distribute the color/flavor).
At the end of this minute, you should have a very stiff, dry meringue. (Check out this photo if you’d like to see a picture of how your meringue should look.) When you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a big clump of meringue in the center, just knock the whisk against the bowl to free it. If the meringue has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so.
Now dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl.
First timers: the dry ingredients/meringue will look hopelessly incompatible. After about 25 turns (or folds or however you want to call “a single stroke of mixing”) the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. Another 15 strokes will see you to “just about right.” Keep in mind that macaronage is about deflating the whites, so don’t feel like you have to treat them oh-so-carefully. You want to knock the air out of them.
Undermixed macaron batter: quite stiff. If you spoon some out and drop it back into the mix, it will just sit there and never incorporate. Do this test before bagging your batter and save yourself the trouble of baking of undermixed macarons!
Overmixed macaron batter: has a runny, pancake batter-like texture. It will ooze continuously, making it impossible to pipe into pretty circles. Um, try not to reach that point.
You can evaluate your batter one stroke at a time, no rush.
Essentially, the macaron batter needs enough thickness that it will mound up on itself, but enough fluidity that after 20 seconds, it will melt back down. I’ve heard people describe this consistency as lava-like, or molten, and that’s pretty apt.
Transfer about half the batter to a piping bag. (When your bag is too full, the pressure causes the batter to rush out in a way that’s difficult to control, making for sloppy macarons.)
Pipe the batter into the pre-traced circles on the baking sheet. Stop piping just shy of the borders of the circle, as the batter will continue to spread just a bit.
After piping your macarons, take hold of the sheet pan and hit it hard against your counter. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macarons to crack.
Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it’s not done. Likewise, fi it sticks to the paper, it’s not done.
Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment. Use a metal spatula if necessary.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with the buttercream of your choice and pipe a quarter sized mound of buttercream into half of the shells, then sandwich them with their naked halves.
Macarons, against all pastry traditions, actually get better with age. The shells soften and become more chewy, mingling with the flavor of the buttercream too. So, while of course you can eat them right away, don’t hesitate to store them refrigerated for up to a week. If at all possible, set them out at room temperature for a few hours before consuming, because cold buttercream is kinda gross.
*Cornstarch-laced powdered sugar isn’t a problem for macaron making, but it is a problem for Passover. You can buy cornstarch free powdered sugar here.
To make Malted Macarons, follow the above recipe, grinding up 3/4 ounce (21g) malt powder in with the pumpkin seeds and powdered sugar. Flavor the buttercream by whipping in 1 ounce (28g) barley malt syrup. This variation is not gluten free.
Dec 17, 2011 · 7:49 PM
Hey Stella – I just wanted to say THANK YOU for coming up with a nut-free macaron recipe, on behalf of everyone else out there allergic and dying to try macarons. I’m going to whip up a batch as soon as I buy pumpkin seeds.
· sabete · http://www.sabete.org
Dec 18, 2011 · 2:10 PM
@sabete, I’m so happy you’ll be able to try macarons now! I love the pumpkin seed variety, the flavor is mild so you can enjoy any other flavor added in on top of it (unlike, say, sunflower seeds which have a more pronounced flavor). Good luck and enjoy!
Jan 11, 2012 · 3:42 AM
I think pine nuts (which are seeds, not nuts! But also expensive!), sunflower seeds and maybe even sesame seeds (blended with something else as they’re quite strong flavoured) might also work.
There’s a brand of chocolate around here that uses roasted soy grits to make their “nutty” chocolate bar. Do you think baking soy flour (maybe sprayed with a nut-free oil for the missing oily moisture) would also be an option?
Did you try any of these options?
Jan 12, 2012 · 10:53 AM
@M, I haven’t made pine nut macarons, though I have a gut-instinct that they’d work fabulously. I have made them with sun and sesame, though I haven’t blogged about it. My friend Xiaolu at 6 Bittersweets has experimented pretty extensively with sunflower and sesame seeds, so check out her blog for more details there.
I don’t think soy flour would work in the same way, though. It has a different structure and behaves more like a traditional flour than a nut meal (it tends to soak up all available liquid). You may be on to something with adding a bit of oil, but I can’t say for sure as I’ve yet to experiment along those lines. What wonderful questions! I wish I had the experience to give you better answers.
I can tell you that I’ve made nut free macarons with both corn meal and cocoa nibs, though I would consider both of those a little “advanced” as they are a major pain in the butt to learn. Macaronage is quite different for both of those substitutes and it can be tricky to master, but I can at least assure you it’s possible.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope some of that info helps!
Jan 21, 2012 · 1:39 PM
@StaceyL, haha, hmmmm. I’ve never tried, so I can’t rule it out but I can say that the most important part of making macarons successfully is whipping up a strong, stable meringue. If an egg replacer can do that, then I’d wager you can make macarons. If not, I don’t know of any substance that can give the macarons the structure they need.
If you do try it out, please report back! I’d love to hear your findings. Cheers!
Feb 18, 2012 · 10:46 AM
@Sammy, I don’t have much experience with the Italian method, but I see no reason why you couldn’t swap the almonds out for pumpkin seeds or other nuts. That part of the equation should be universal. I hope. Let me know how it works out for you!
Mar 03, 2012 · 8:33 PM
Hey Stella! Fabulous recipe, I’ve been using it for quite a while.
Like most bakers here, I’ve been having trouble with hollow shells. I have browsed throughout the comments but since you were not given enough information to elaborate on the many reasons macarons could be hollow, I hope to seek help personally.
I follow everything for word and end up with very beautiful macarons with great feet and smooth tops. But even then, my macarons always end up hollow. It lacks the fluffy interior! Could it be that my meringue isn’t as stiff as your recipe says? I do whip them until they’re very stiff. I’m most convinced that I’m not deflating the meringue in the macaronage as much as a should. Maybe that’s the problem. I’m looking forward to your hollow macaron theory post because I haven’t seen you post it onto your blog yet. But if you have, link me!
Mar 04, 2012 · 12:43 PM
@Kar, as of right now, I still haven’t had a chance to type up a dissertation of hollows and how to avoid them. It is, like all things with macarons, an issue of technique and something that takes practice. A quick tip in that regard, the meringue needs to be so stiff that when you lower the bowl, the meringue stays inside the beater. If, when you lower the bowl, the meringue just falls away from the beater, it’s not whipped enough.
It’s been a hectic month for me, but I am truly hopeful to have time to write up my hollows post soon. Stay tuned. If you’d like, subscribe to BraveTart by email and when the post is written you can be sure to have it delivered straight to your inbox.