Yes, French macarons do contain flour as one of their main ingredients. Specifically, French macarons are made with almond flour, which is ground almonds. The use of finely ground nuts instead of wheat flour is what gives macarons their distinctive texture and flavor.
What are French Macarons?
French macarons are a type of small round sandwich cookie that consists of two shells made from almond flour, egg whites, and sugar. These delicate cookies are crisp on the outside with a soft interior and come in a variety of flavors and colors.
Some key features that distinguish French macarons:
- They have a smooth dome shape with a ruffled foot or skirt on the bottom.
- They are made with almond flour rather than all-purpose wheat flour.
- They are sandwich cookies – the filling is in between two cookies rather than being baked inside like an American style macaroon.
- Popular flavors include chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, raspberry, and coffee.
- The cookies can be naturally flavored or have food coloring added to create an array of pastel colors.
French macarons originated in France, particularly in Paris and areas like Lorraine. Their delicate texture comes from properly whipped egg whites folded with the ground almond flour. When baked at a low temperature, this gives the cookies their signature footed shape and lightly crunchy exterior that hides a soft and moist interior.
Do French Macarons Contain Flour?
Yes, French macarons do contain flour as a main ingredient. However, they are not made with traditional all-purpose or wheat flour. Instead, the flour used in French macarons is:
Almond Flour – Finely ground almonds make up the main flour component of macarons. Almond flour provides the nutty flavor and distinct texture associated with French macarons.
So while French macarons do contain flour, it is specifically a nut-based flour rather than being derived from wheat. Almond flour gives the cookies their melt-in-your-mouth quality with a little crunch from the nuts. Using a nut flour is important to achieve the unique properties of macarons.
Why Almond Flour is Used
Almond flour is used to make French macarons instead of regular flour for several important reasons:
- Flavor – Almond flour provides nutty, aromatic flavor that complements macaron fillings like chocolate, raspberry, vanilla, etc.
- Texture – Macarons depend on a delicate consistency with a smooth exterior that cracks to reveal a soft interior. Almond flour makes this possible.
- Low gluten – Gluten development would make macarons tough. Almond flour has no gluten.
- Low protein – High protein content from regular flour would make macarons hard. Almond flour has less protein.
- Versatile – Almond flour can be finely ground to ideal smoothness for macarons.
By using a low protein, low gluten alternative like almond flour, French macarons are able to achieve their signature appearance and enjoyment factor. While wheat or all-purpose flours contain gluten forming proteins, almond flour simply provides flavor, fat, and a means to bind the ingredients without toughening up the cookies.
French Macaron Ingredients
While almond flour is the flour used for French macarons, there are a few other primary ingredients that go into making them:
Almond Flour – Finely ground blanched almonds provide structure and nutty flavor.
Granulated Sugar – White sugar sweetens the macaron shells.
Egg Whites – Whipped into stiff peaks, egg whites give macarons lift and texture.
Food Coloring – Optional for adding color to the shells.
Flavorings – Such as vanilla or almond extract.
Fillings – Buttercream, ganache, jam, or cream to fill the center.
That covers the basics for mixing and baking the macaron shells. The ingredients are combined methodically – first the dry, followed by stiff egg whites folded in gently to maintain air pockets. Though the ingredients are simple, technique is vital for French macaron success.
Macaron Shell Ingredient Ratios
For a about 2 dozen macarons, a typical ingredient ratio is:
- 2 cups (200g) almond flour
- 1 3/4 cups (350g) powdered sugar
- 3 large egg whites, aged if possible
- Pinch cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp almond extract or vanilla (optional)
- Gel food coloring (optional)
This makes a sturdy but delicate macaron shell. Slight adjustments to the ratio of sugar and almond flour may be needed based on humidity and other factors.
The key is to end up with a smooth, thick batter that flows gently off a spoon. This consistency allows macarons to form their signature feet and domed shape in the oven.
Now that we know French macarons contain almond flour rather than regular wheat flour, let’s look at the basic process for making them at home:
Make Almond Flour
While you can purchase pre-made almond flour, making your own ensures freshness and proper grind size. To make almond flour:
- Blanch whole almonds by boiling briefly then rinsing in cool water to remove skins.
- Spread almonds out to dry fully before grinding.
- Pulse dried almonds in a food processor until a fine flour forms.
- Sift the almond flour through a mesh strainer to remove any large pieces.
Freshly milled almond flour provides the best texture and flavor for macarons. Store any extra flour in an airtight container.
Mix Dry Ingredients
In a medium bowl, combine the measured amounts of:
- Almond flour
- Powdered sugar
Mix these together thoroughly so there are no lumps. Set aside.
Whip Egg Whites
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whipping until soft peaks form.
Gradually add the granulated sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time. Whip on high speed until the egg whites are glossy and stiff peaks form. The peaks should stand upright when the beaters are lifted.
Fold in Dry Ingredients
Take about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites and stir a large dollop into the dry ingredients to lighten them.
Then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the dry mixture in two batches. Fold slowly to maintain as much air as possible. The batter should flow slowly off a spoon when lifted.
Pipe Batter Onto Parchment
Fit a piping bag with a round tip and place the macaron batter inside. Pipe rounds about 1-inch wide onto prepared parchment paper, spacing about 1-inch apart.
Lightly tap the baking sheets on the counter to remove air pockets and help feet form. Let the unbaked macarons rest 30-60 minutes until a skin forms on the surface.
Bake the macarons at 300°F for 18-20 minutes. The macarons are done when the shells feel set and do not stick to your finger.
Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from parchment. Match shells into pairs based on uniform size and shape.
|Make almond flour from blanched almonds
|Mix dry ingredients – almond flour and powdered sugar
|Whip egg whites into stiff peaks
|Fold egg whites into dry mixture gently
|Pipe batter onto parchment in rounds
|Let macarons rest to form skin
|Bake at 300°F for 18-20 minutes
|Cool completely before filling macarons
Tips for Making Macarons
Macarons may seem tricky, but these tips can help you successfully make French macarons at home:
- Use aged egg whites from refrigerated eggs for more stable whipping.
- Properly fold the batter to maintain air for feet to form.
- Do the “figure 8” test to check if the batter forms a slow-moving ribbon.
- Pipe consistent sized and evenly spaced shells for even baking.
- Avoid overmixing, which can make macarons tough.
- Bake low and slow, from 275°F to 300°F works best.
- Cool completely on the pans before filling for clean removal.
- Use thick fillings like buttercream and ganache to prevent oozing.
- Refrigerate filled macarons for flavors to meld before serving.
Mastering these steps and techniques will help you successfully recreate French macarons at home. Don’t get discouraged – even experienced bakers take a few tries to achieve macaron perfection!
Here are some common macaron issues and how to troubleshoot them:
Hollow macaron shells happen when the batter didn’t get folded properly. Try folding the egg whites into the dry ingredients more thoroughly in figure 8 strokes next time.
Lack of the signature “feet” or frilly skirt indicates not enough air was incorporated. Whip the egg whites longer to stiffer peaks and fold more gently when combining the batters.
Shells cracking during baking are often from overmixed batter or egg whites. Handle them gently when folding and piping. Only mix until just combined.
Dense or Tough Texture
Too much mixing or incorrect oven temperature can make macarons dense. Bake at a lower temp, around 300°F, and avoid over-beating egg whites and dry ingredients.
Sticking to Parchment
If macarons stick when removed from pan, the batter rested too long before baking. Only let sit 30-60 minutes before baking so moisture doesn’t develop between the shell and paper.
Lopsided or Irregular Shapes
Pipe the batter in consistent sizes and evenly spaced apart. Rotate pans halfway through baking. Let cool completely before removing so shells harden fully in shape.
Filling and Storing Macarons
Macarons consist of two cookies with filling sandwiched in between. Here are some tips for filling and storing assembled macarons:
Fillings – Buttercream, ganache, jam, Nutella, or cream cheese make excellent moist fillings. Stiff fillings prevent oozing. Whipped cream or fruit puree are too soft.
Pairing Shells – Match shells by size for even sandwiching. Pipe a ring of filling around edge of one cookie then top with second shell.
Handling – Fill macarons just before serving or store unfilled shells until ready to serve. Filled macarons are fragile.
Refrigerating – Store filled macarons 3-5 days refrigerated. Let come to room temp before serving for texture to soften.
Freezing – Unfilled baked shells can be frozen airtight for 1-2 months then thawed before filling.
With the right fillings and storage methods, your homemade French macarons will stay delicious for days after assembling. Enjoy these light, colorful cookies on their own or use them to create beautiful dessert platters.
Fun Flavor Ideas
While classic French macaron flavors include chocolate, raspberry, coffee, pistachio and vanilla, there are endless flavor possibilities. Get creative with these fun shell and filling combinations:
- Strawberries and Cream – Strawberry shells with whipped cream filling
- Cookies and Cream – Chocolate shells with cream cheese filling
- Tropical – Pina colada or coconut shells with pineapple curd
- S’mores – Chocolate shells with marshmallow filling
- PB&J – Grape jelly shells with peanut butter filling
- Lemon Meringue – Lemon shells with lemon curd filling
- Spiced Apple – Cinnamon shells with apple butter filling
- Tiramisu – Coffee shells with mascarpone filling
The combinations are endless! Match outer shell colors and flavors to the inner fillings for stunning, gourmet macaron creations.
French macarons contain almond flour rather than regular wheat-based flour, which provides their distinctive flavor, texture, and appearance. Mastering the ingredients of almond flour, egg whites, and sugar allows home bakers to create elegant, delicate macarons. Though technique is required, the rewards of bite-sized, crunchy yet chewy macarons make the effort well worth it. Let your creativity run wild dreaming up colorful shells and fabulous fillings. Macarons make the perfect elegant cookies for celebrations, gifts, and afternoon tea parties.