Can homemade macarons safely travel by plane?
May 1, 2011 6:52 AM   Subscribe

How practical is it to bring a box of homemade macarons on a flight as carry-on luggage?

My sister wants to bake a bunch of macarons for a bake sale at a convention we'll both be attending, halfway across the US. We're flying, and not able to check any luggage, so they will be carry-on luggage. I'm concerned mostly about the following things:

1 - Does the TSA let homemade baked goods through? Is the buttercream filling going to be a concern as a gel or liquid?

2 - How is it best possible to package a box in such a way that things don't get crushed or tumbled around during transit?

3 - Do we need to worry about the temperature of the buttercream at all? This will be late May, in the northern US, and they would be going about 3 days without refrigeration (leaving town Friday, the bake sale is Sunday). The egg whites in the buttercream are cooked to 150 degrees, but I'm not sure if there could be a safety concern there.

Is there anything else I haven't thought of that might make this an impractical idea? My skepticism comes from bad experiences trying to carry Pyrex trays of brownies across several bus and subway transfers, but I really want to believe that this will work!
posted by Jeanne to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
I am not sure if leaving them unrefrigerated for 3 days would be a health risk, but I strongly expect that the pastry part would be stale and the buttercream would have picked up off flavors from lengthy exposure. I often keep vegan biscuits sealed up on a counter for several days, and they don't mold or anything, but they are noticeably less good after two days -- either dry or a bit soggy, depending on how often the container is opened.

I wouldn't try this myself, although others may have had better luck or know some fantastic trick.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:10 AM on May 1, 2011

1) You can take a homemade pie on a plane as a carry-on, so I assume macarons would be fine. It's always best to call first just to make sure; better safe than sorry.

2) Like this, and don't shake the box around or sit on it.

3) They're probably fine unrefrigerated, but I'm with GengiandProust: 3 day old macarons will have lost most of their oomph.
posted by phunniemee at 7:29 AM on May 1, 2011

A few years ago we were on vacation and bought delicious macaroons at a little bakery in San Francisco. They were dust when we landed. I know we weren't careful with them and it was our fault, but the inherent lightness of macaroons is going to work against you. Pack them in something with hard sides (in a box) and pad each of them well. My fear would be that as they bounce around, they'll chip and dent, and then won't be the beautiful little perfections you want to sell.
posted by librarianamy at 7:33 AM on May 1, 2011

I've done this. Package them carefully and they'll be fine. I think macaroons are better a day or two after baking, especially if you keep them in an air-tight container.
posted by marais at 8:00 AM on May 1, 2011

Does the TSA let homemade baked goods through?
Yes, no problem. A lot of passengers have food in their carry-ons.

Is the buttercream filling going to be a concern as a gel or liquid?
Probably not; I'd choose not to mention it to the screeners.

Since you're concerned about freshness, why not stash 'em in the freezer until just before departure?
posted by Rash at 8:04 AM on May 1, 2011

I can't testify to the wisdom of keeping macarond unrefrigerated so long, but I can give you my first person account of eating macarons transported via carry-on luggage. The macarons in question were purchased in a Parisian shop and carried to New York City. Handled with care, they arrived intact. No difficulties with TSA or customs were reported. They were delicious
posted by reren at 8:06 AM on May 1, 2011

You can definitely do this (I write the blog you link to in the first post). I would, like marais mentions, suggest baking the macarons a few days before your trip and refrigerating them for 24-36 hours before your departure. This will a) let the macarons mature, which makes them taste better, but b) also make the buttercream quite firm and the macarons less fragile.

Make a nest of tissue paper in a box, add the macarons, making sure each is nestled into the paper enough to not jostle its neighbor, and then fill the box with more tissue paper. Just don't stack the macarons on top of each other. I've taken macarons to and from LA safely.

If your sister has any macaron difficulties, tell her to send me a tweet; I've done a lot of macaron handholding via twitter, and am glad to help. Good luck!
posted by BraveTart at 8:15 AM on May 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thank you!

I'll pass this question on to my sister, and I'm glad this looks feasible.

BraveTart, we followed your recipe and advice when making our first batch, and they turned out far better than anyone's first batch of macarons have any right to, so, thank you for that as well!
posted by Jeanne at 10:46 AM on May 1, 2011

you might also consider taking the cookies and the buttercream separately, and assembling the macarons just before the bake sale.
posted by woodvine at 11:14 AM on May 1, 2011

Jeanne, hurray! Congratulations on your success! I wouldn't take the buttercream/shells separately because this would not allow the macarons to age properly, unless you were able to assemble them at your destination and still refrigerate them for 24 hours before selling/consuming. Macarons are renegade pastries in that they improve significantly with age and are not at their best super fresh.
posted by BraveTart at 3:12 PM on May 1, 2011

i think it would work. i brought some macarons home paris once, and they survived the flight (though they weren't homemade).
posted by sabh at 7:15 PM on May 1, 2011

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