This petite Parisian pastry has stolen the show on social media, spoiled our taste buds and sparked interest for at-home bakers everywhere—the dainty and colorful cookie sandwich we adore, the macaron.

Mastering French MacaronsDon’t confuse this delicacy with its distant relative, the macaroon. While the names may be similar, the flavors are completely different. A macaron (pronounced mack-ah-rohn) is a meringue based almond flour cookie, while a macaroon (pronounced mack-ah-roon) is a soft cookie made of shredded coconut and sometimes topped with chocolate.

At first glance, the French macaron might seem simple, but after attempting to bake these finicky favorites I quickly learned that there’s much more to them than their elegant exteriors. Have you ever wondered why this tiny mouthful is so expensive? (Price point: $2.25 each at Bakery Lorraine, $1.95 each at Delice Chocolatier, $1.89 each at Central Market)

A handful of failed attempts and multiple trips to the grocery store later, I quickly learned the answer to this question—macarons are an exact science and they can be very difficult to create.

Mastering French MacaronsFrom Pinterest to YouTube, I surfed the Web desperately seeking insider secrets to making the perfect macaron. Fail. This wasn’t just science, this was French science and I was completely lost in translation!

Enter Martha Stewart (a.k.a. my personal macaron savior). Check out the recipe that won me over combined with helpful tips I learned along the way! Bon Appétit!

1 ¼ cups plus 1 teaspoon powdered sugar (also known as confectioners’ or icing sugar)
1 cup finely ground sliced, blanched almonds or Almond Flour
6 Tablespoons fresh, room temperature egg whites (about 3 extra-large eggs)
Pinch of salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
Macaron filling
Gel food coloring
Parchment paper

Mastering French MacaronsDirections:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and almond flour. Sift (several times if necessary) to get rid of any lumps. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric (or hand held if you want a work out) mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add in the sugar. When soft peaks form, add desired colors and/or flavors. (It is essential to use gel food coloring rather than normal food coloring otherwise the consistency will be ruined.) Continue to whip until stiff glossy peaks form. (If you’re unsure if it’s ready, carefully try turning the bowl upside down. If it doesn’t move, it’s done.) Remove from mixer.
3. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the powdered sugar mixture until completely incorporated, making sure the batter has a lava-like consistency.
4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. (I tried using a silicon macaron mat, but found it to be more trouble than it was worth so I would high suggest just using parchment paper.) Fit a pastry bag with a round tip and place in a cup to easily fill the bag with the batter.
5. Pipe 1-inch disks onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. The batter may spread a little. (Try your best to make every cookie the same size so you’re able to sandwich them together evenly later.)
6. Bang the baking sheet against the counter on every side to release any air. Follow up with a toothpick to gently pop any additional bubbles that may be visible.
7. Let stand at room temperature until dry and a soft skin forms on top of the macarons and the shiny surface turns dull. This step is vital to successful macarons and can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half. Be patient!
8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (Don’t preheat the oven too early or else it will get too hot and the macarons will not bake correctly.)
9. Bake until the surface of the macarons is completely dry, about 15 minutes.
10. Remove baking sheets to a wire rack and let cool completely on the baking sheet. Do not rush this step or you will risk ruining the macarons!
11. Once they have cooled completely, gently peel off the parchment. They are extremely fragile, so take care when removing. Use immediately or store in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
12. To fill the macarons, fill a pastry bag (or a Ziploc bag if you don’t have pastry bags) with the filling you desire. Turn macarons so their flat bottoms face up. On half of them, pipe about 1 teaspoon filling. Sandwich these with the remaining macarons, flat-side down, pressing slightly to spread the filling to the edges. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.