Sunday September 30, 2012
I’ve wanted to write a post about hollow pursuits for a while, but I’ve kept waiting and waiting so I could check out one more technique. Try out one more idea. Test another theory. Research a different angle. I realized if I waited until I’d fully mastered the science of hollows, the post would never get written. I will always have one more thing to learn about what can exacerbate or minimize hollows.
The problem of hollow macarons doesn’t break down into a simple list of dos or don’ts, like my Macaron Myths and Commandments, it’s just too complex. Someone can read about how to do a backflip every day, watch videos that demonstrate the perfect technique and listen to detailed talks from the pros. But that person won’t stand a chance of nailing a backflip on the first try. It’s not a matter of knowledge, but one of muscle strength and momentum and balance and the whole body working in unison.
In the same way, making beautiful and hollow-free macarons isn’t a 1 + 1 = sort of problem, it’s about making a variety of judgement calls during every step of the process. You can only learn how to make those calls through practice and careful observation. I can’t make a magical checklist that will guarantee hollow free macarons, but I can talk about some points to consider for those who’d like to improve their technique.
1. If you want to understand why your macarons turn out hollow, skip the flavoring and food dye. To get to the bottom of hollows, you have to divorce the problem of ingredients from the problem of technique.
If that seems boring, grab some watercolor brushes and paint the finished shells with food coloring, grab a food-pen and doodle on them, use a stencil and some cocoa powder to pattern them, rub the baked shells with luster dust, or go wild with a flavorful, colorful filling.
2. Underbaked macarons have a soft interior that doesn’t have enough structure to support itself as it cools, so make sure the macarons have baked through and will cleanly peel away from the parchment paper. I don’t like baking macarons on silicon because even underbaked macarons will slip off easily, which makes judging doneness more tricky and hollows more common.
3. Crack one macaron open before you pull the rest out of the oven. Is it already hollow? If so, the problem probably goes back to the meringue or macaronage, but it could mean your oven runs a little hot. Forget what it says on the dial, check the temperature with an oven thermometer.
4. If you crack that macaron open and find out it isn’t hollow, do a flip test! As soon as the macarons come out of the oven, lift up the parchment and carefully turn it upside down with all the macarons still attached. Set aside one or two macarons to cool right side up. Once they’ve fully cooled, break open one of each.
Either both macarons turn out perfect (high five!), they both turn out hollow (aw, shucks!), or you wind up with mixed results. If the upside-downers have a nice structure and the right-side-uppers are hollow, the problem is that the interior is collapsing as it cools. Why is another matter.
One reason may be that the macarons are cooling too fast, which can happen in the wintertime or if you’ve got the AC set to Frosty the Snowman (I found this out my first January in the Pastry Dungeon). Another reason may be the macaron is slightly underbaked and, like an angel food cake, will benefit from cooling upside down. This helps the macaron maintain its structure until it sets firmly enough to support itself.
5. Don’t skip sifting even with pre-ground almond flour and don’t skimp on grinding for whole nuts. When sifting, use a sieve not a colander. If a large amount of almond meal will not pass through the sieve, put it back in the food processor and keep grinding and sifting until more than 2 tablespoons of chunky bits remain. Too many small chunks make an abrasive dry mix that will tear holes in the meringue as it tries to rise in the oven and cause collapsed, hollow macarons.
6. Try a splash of oil. Macarons are fairly lean by nature and sometimes a little extra fat is all they need. Any odorless, flavorless oil will work. Add in 4 teaspoons of oil along with the dry ingredients before grinding and/or sifting. Don’t worry about the slight dampness, just sift as usual; use a spatula or whisk to make sifting easier if you need to. The oil seems to minimize hollows in a variety of circumstances, but most especially when using less-than-fresh nuts (or nuts without an expiration date, like some purchased from a bulk bin).
I know from countless impassioned emails that preventing hollows is a major concern, but please give yourself time and space to learn. Macarons involve too many variables for anyone to reasonably expect to master them in only a handful of attempts. Don’t forget that macaron are for eating and even the best pastry shops in Paris sell hollow, funky, mismatched macarons.
Have fun. Enjoy the process of making them and learning. Share them with friends and family; they’re not judging you. And if they are? They don’t deserve your delicious macarons (jerks). Because with or without hollows, macarons will always be delicious.
95 comments and counting
Oct 01, 2012 · 6:26 AM
Thanks! Whenever I see you have a new post, I’m delighted.
Now I thought I had read enough about macarons for a lifetime, but this post still intrigued me. OIL in a macaron? That flies in the face of one of my religious beliefs. I worked on a project where different testers were not able to produce pretty macarons. I tried the recipe 4-5 times, and finally my conclusion was that you have to have a VERY light touch when grinding the nuts, because the oil they release angers the macarons gods. But heck, if you can throw in a few teaspoons of oil, then surely a little oil from the nuts won’t do any harm. Sigh, it’s hard to see that the lessons learned the hard way were useless to begin with. The macaron continues to humble me. Thank you for testing and reporting for the benefit of those of us who don’t have the patience or the faith any more!
· Astrid · www.lacerise.blogspot.com
Oct 01, 2012 · 11:12 AM
I juuust diagnosed my hollow macarons late last week, and was slightly jumping for joy (along with a complete switch from Italian to French meringue).
Turns out I was underbaking, and the interior flopped to create the hollow. I changed from the upper-middle rack to the lower-middle rack, went to a single metal tray, and stuck with parchment paper.
Ended up needing around 20 minutes at 290F, but no more hollows!
· ken (@mooken) · www.torontofoodies.com
Oct 01, 2012 · 11:27 AM
I’ve diagnosed my hollow macs too- not deflating them properly. Whenever I think I’ve completed the “macaronage”, and the batter looks like its perfect, I give it two or three more folds. Of course I run the risk of oily spots on the top of my macs but I may get two or three shells with some blemishes but the rest will be hollow free.
Oh, and a tip I learned- keep your almonds in the freezer so they’ll stay fresh longer.
Thanks again Stella!
Oct 01, 2012 · 11:39 AM
@lexi, I was going through http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/2012/03/why-do-my-macarons-have-hollow-shells-a-work-in-progress/ and reduced my whipping time to 2 min @ low, 2 min @ med, 2 min @ high (rather than Stella’s 3,3,3,1) — I barely have to beat out any air during macaronage, and it seems to avoid the hollow issue as well.
· ken (@mooken) · www.torontofoodies.com
Oct 01, 2012 · 11:53 AM
Our hollows seemed to result from the oven temperature. We experimented with different temperatures and found that the macarons baked at a lower temp (290-310) created hollows. (Even when baked for a longer period of time.)We have achieved successful and solid macarons when baked at 320 for 11-12 minutes. If you are reading this and struggling with hollows, try increasing your oven temp a bit…it worked for us!
· theconfectionoven · www.theconfectionoven.com
Oct 01, 2012 · 2:15 PM
I’ve been cooking at 155C, 310F without hollows (risk of singeing at 160/320 in my oven, heating element is above, dreadful!). It’s something that’s been driving me completely insane but it does seem to be reliant very much on temperature, though whether that’s the only reason I won’t bring myself to swear! Thanks for your informative post as usual, Stella.
Oct 01, 2012 · 7:59 PM
Stella – high five girl! Love all your troubleshooting and have tried most of these with success and sometimes not. The most important part of this post for me is this paragraph:
“Have fun. Enjoy the process of making them and learning. Share them with friends and family; they’re not judging you. And if they are? They don’t deserve your delicious macarons (jerks). Because with or without hollows, macarons will always be delicious.”
· Mardi (eat. live. travel. write) · www.eatlivetravelwrite.com
Oct 02, 2012 · 9:37 AM
Thank you for this! I have always been fearful of making macaroons. They are so intimidating. I have heard nothing but how difficult and troublesome they are to make. You make it sound less scary. Thanks, again!
· Rachel · lifeinbatches.com
Oct 02, 2012 · 10:08 AM
@Laura, keep at it! They’re the world’s tastiest homework.
@Astrid, uuugh, I know the feeling. I try to take everything I “learn” with a grain of salt, filed under “correlation does not imply causation.” There are so many thing I think I learn and then later it all falls apart. I also grind the bejeebers out of my nuts. But it could depend on the recipe too, if your using a recipe that has a higher proportion of nuts to begin with, for example.
@ken, sweeeeeet! Yeah, underbaking’ll getcha every time.
@lexi, yes! The freezer is your friend.
@theconfectionoven, are you talking about the temp on the dial, or the temp on an oven thermometer?
@Eleanor, temperature definitely plays a crucial role in how fast the macaron expands (too fast = hollow)…
@Mardi, I’ve come to believe the oil trick will cover a multitude of sins, but it won’t make up for a bad meringue or improper macaronage. And I do need to try out your shorter whip time too, see how that treats me. But for people doing this at home, the key will always be have fun.
@Rachel, oh yeah. They’re definitely difficult and troublesome, but so is learning to ride a bike! Only macarons don’t scrape your knees.
Oct 03, 2012 · 5:00 AM
Beautiful looking macarons! I wish I could make them – that would take a lot of tries to learn. I might not have enough available time.
· Julia | JuliasAlbum.com · JuliasAlbum.com
Oct 03, 2012 · 9:29 AM
Julia, there’s no reason to hold yourself to any standards other than deliciousness. I bake for a living, so mine had better look good, but when you’re just starting out, perfection shouldn’t be any sort of worry. Just yummy cookies!
Oct 04, 2012 · 9:59 AM
Siobhan, yay for parents! When I was little, I had a blue shirt with black Dalmatian spots on it and I’ve had an obsession with the color combo ever since.
Oct 04, 2012 · 4:53 PM
this is a great tip! i always have hollow macarons
i just tried your basic macaron recipe today, unfortunately they all fell flat in the oven (like a cookie without baking powder). I might have over mixed! still trying to find that “just right” lava consistency.
· Lindsay · finedoemacarons.wordpress.com
Oct 05, 2012 · 8:57 AM
Hi Lindsay. Flat macarons are usually over mixed, but sometimes it can be an oven issue. If the oven is way too hot, they will turn out very flat with odd feet that seem to squish out the sides…
Oct 07, 2012 · 2:12 PM
I too suffer from hollows on and off. One thing I noticed though, when I make the chocolate macaron from eatlivetravelwrite.com, those always seem to come out with little to no hollows. Is it that little bit of extra dry ingredient – the cocoa – that makes the difference?? Maybe I’ll try to add a bit extra of the sugar or grounds almonds as an experiment. I will also try playing with my oven temp, and turning them upside down, as you suggest. Thanks for you wonderful post, as always!
· Bonnie · www.bakecookeatmove.blogspot.com/
Oct 08, 2012 · 1:12 PM
Occasionally, I get macarons that are hollow like a contact lens – no flat bottom, thin crumbly feet, nice top, hollow. I googled everywhere and couldn’t find a single tip on this particular issue!
I finally figured out that it happened when my batter warmed excessively in my hot, humid South Florida kitchen. If I baked half a batch and then piped out the second batch, the second batch would turn out concave.
Oct 09, 2012 · 9:36 AM
@Bonnie, my suspicion is that it’s the extra fat from the cocoa, kind of doing the role of that Tablespoon of oil I like to use. Hmm.
@Brianna, huge high five on diagnosing! When making macarons it’s so important (presuming you want to master them) to take notes, and pay attention to the details; like that the second batch was the trouble, etc.
I’ve heard some people say that shape comes from a too hot bottom element, which could also affect a second tray as perhaps the oven has continued to heat up over time. I haven’t encountered this sort before…
Oct 11, 2012 · 11:38 AM
Stella, can I just say I think it’s so nice how you answer all or most comments? It must take so much of your time. I hope you don’t burn out! (However please don’t bother responding to this comment, I prefer you focus your energy on your next post, which I look forward to!)
· Astrid · www.lacerise.blogspot.com
Oct 11, 2012 · 6:43 PM
Astrid… can’t…resist…urge…to… reply!
Oct 13, 2012 · 12:16 PM
Great tips Stella! I haven’t attempted the art of macaron making yet, but when I do, I know I have a solid source to look back to =)
· Peggy · feedingandy.blogspot.com
Oct 14, 2012 · 8:30 PM
Hey Peggy! You’ll have to let me know if you ever give ‘em a shot!
Oct 17, 2012 · 9:00 AM
Hi lac! Congrats on jumping in to macarons for the first time! A fan is okay, just make sure it’s not blowing too hard. The one I use at work used to crack my back row of macarons it blew so hard, so I repositioned the racks to be just a little above and below the fan and that helped a lot, since it took the macarons out of the direct line of fire, so to speak.
Nov 08, 2012 · 9:47 AM
If only I hadn’t stumbled upon this post just slightly too late – nonetheless it is BRILLIANT! I just posted my own macaroon tribulations on my new blog the other week. They are such tricky little things.
· Farheen · lemoncakeme.wordpress.com
Nov 08, 2012 · 10:00 AM
Hi Farheen! Yeah, they do take some time and practice to master, that’s for sure. Can't wait to check out your macaron adventures.
Nov 16, 2012 · 8:49 AM
I discovered that oven position can be important – try moving trays around eg from top to bottom third of oven. My oven is a weird one with only a top heating element, and for some reason baking in the bottom third (with oven stone) eliminates hollows where all other methods fail!
Nov 17, 2012 · 7:51 PM
@S, yes! Heat and heat distribution play a huge, huge role in it. I’m glad you’ve found a solution that works for you; hopefully some others will give it a try too. Thanks for sharing.
Nov 23, 2012 · 8:08 AM
Finished my first attempt at macarons last night at around 1am. All three batches were hollow, had feet but very small and most of them had uneven feet (I mean, half the macaron had a foot the other half had none). I am pretty sure the problem was that they were all a little underbaked. If it was just that, I can easily correct it next time, but I’m fearing my meringue might have something to do too. It only took me 2 minutes to be able to put it upside down without falling (I used a “tall vase” sort of recipient instead of a bowl so it rose very fast because the electric whisk could easily touch all the egg whites at once). So, since I could turn it upside down, I thought that was enough, is there anything else I should expect from a meringue other than “not falling on my head when turned upside down”?
PS: The first batch also cracked because I opened the oven halfway through to rotate it 90º. Huge mistake, they all cracked at once. Didn’t open the oven during the other two batches and those were ok.
Nov 24, 2012 · 1:06 PM
Hi Bitrixa! Hmm, I would definitely suspect something was going on with the meringue. The shape of the bowl/vase thing might have created a sort of vacuum which would have held the meringue inside, regardless of its stiffness. I can’t imagine, even with the best mixer, getting the meringue done in two minutes.
But here are some cues to help you the next time: the meringue should be very, very thick and white, almost like a shaving cream. It should be glossy and have very finely textured bubbles, it should not look foamy at all.
I’m surprised opening the oven caused you problems (I always rotate my sheets halfway through), so it might have just happened to be some bad timing and they might have been in the process of cracking anyway. Often, a second sheet of macarons winds up turning out better because the oven has had longer for the temperature to regulate, or because the batch might have been slightly over mixed (resting helps over mixed macarons turn out better).
At any rate, chewiness is a valued property of macarons, so frowny face not required!
Nov 25, 2012 · 2:04 PM
Aw, you are my saviour. Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a wonderfully long answer. The general looks of my macarons was fine, despite the cracked batch and the uneven feet in the other two, but at least they did have some sort of feet and they were even shiny, it was the hollowness and chewiness gone wrong. Is chewiness really desirable? I’ve only tasted macarons once, at Paris’ Ladurée, and they weren’t chewy, they were soft and moist in the inside, it actually reminded me of something like wet marshmallows; the ones I made sticked to my teeth after chewing them a couple of times, a sort of rubbery texture.
Oh and if I may abuse your kindness a little more and ask further, what do you mean exactly by “might have created a sort of vacuum which would have held the meringue inside”? It might not help much, but this is the electric whisk I used to do the meringue and the “tall vase” I meant: http://www.appliances220.com/images/Braun-MR-320-Omelette.jpg (middle and right items). Do you think they are not ideal for meringue-making? I first started in a bowl and the egg whites didn’t rise, so I started anew with those… aw, what a hard time meringues give us!
Nov 25, 2012 · 8:45 PM
Hi Bitrixa! It may come down to philosophical macaron arm wrestling, but to me a good macaron is chewy. It’s actually a sort of tough texture to achieve. Crisp macarons are easy, just bake the heck out of ‘em. Super soft macarons are easy too, just spray the finished shells in simple syrup and fill with a high moisture filling. But chewy? You’ve got to strike a balance between the perfect bake-time and the perfect filling. To me, a chewy macaron is a showcase of skill, in the Goldilocks zone. Maybe some disagree, it’s up to your personal preferences, really.
By the vacuum, I mean… If the bowl has perfectly straight sides, the fluffy meringue can easily form a seal, edge to edge, which makes the meringue hold in place even upside down, despite perhaps not being mixed enough. Air has to slip down the sides in order for the meringue to slide out. But if the meringue is “locked in” so to speak, edge to edge in a vessel with 90° sides, it won’t really move; even upside down. In a typical bowl, there is lots of room for the meringue to slide around, so it has to be totally stiff in order to hold position.
I think (given the whisk and vase you showed in the link) that the meringue isn’t able to achieve the best volume. People who’ve followed my macaron recipe using a hand mixer have reported needing to beat the meringue for double or triple the time allotted. So my gut instinct is that a mixer like that, with a fraction of the horsepower in a stand mixer, the meringue simply couldn’t achieve the aeration necessary in just a few minutes.
Nov 26, 2012 · 7:09 AM
I see, what you are saying actually makes a lot of sense. I’ll try to make the meringue differently next time and see how it goes. I’m drying the almonds now and will hopefully try again in a couple of days, will tell you how I do this time! And as someone said in a comment here somewhere, you are amazing for answering to everybody in such a detailed, patient way. We amateur and clumsy bakers really appreciate it, thanks.
Nov 26, 2012 · 8:45 AM
It’s my pleasure! Baking is one of those things that, while there’s a lot to “tell” being able to “show” really helps the learning process. Since I can’t really do much showing, I like to try and verbally show as much as I can since everybody can’t be here in the kitchen with me. Hope your next round of macarons goes more smoothly now you have some extra info to work with. Cheers!
Nov 26, 2012 · 8:55 PM
Hi Dean, thanks for sharing your experience. It’s funny how the balance of ingredients can change the macarons so drastically.
Dec 02, 2012 · 6:44 PM
Hi, I’m back. Tried again, failed again. This time I did get a shaving foam-like meringue, don’t know if stiff enough or not, but it definitely looked different from what it looked the last time, and it took 9 minutes in the mixer (3 slow, 3 medium, 3 high). This time’s result: no feet at all, all hollow, some cracked but not all of them (there doesn’t seem to be a pattern though) and, interestingly enough, less batter (no idea how, it’s the same recipe and I got less macarons out of it!). I want to cry. On second thoughts, I’ve decided I do not want to cry, I want to punch something instead. What the heck am I doing wrong with the freaking meringue!? PS: You do not have to answer to this, I’m sharing my disaster just to blow off some steam really.
Dec 05, 2012 · 9:34 AM
Hi Bitrixa. I may not have to answer, but I like to. I’m starting to think your electric whisk may simply not have the sort of horsepower needed to whip the meringue properly. I’ve heard from people using hand mixers that it’s much more difficult and can take twice as long to whip. At any rate you may not be doing anything wrong, you may just be an equipment victim.
Dec 05, 2012 · 4:11 PM
I FINALLY SOLVED MY END OF MY HOLLOW MACARONS!
I flipped them over after they came out of the oven and after waiting about 20 minutes, No hollows! However… I still think it is something I’ve done incorrectly in my part because the very edges are still hollow-ish.—When I take them out of the oven, they have this small but totally undeniable gap right where the shell meets the feet. Some of them are still hollow after cooling upside down. I’ve tried baking them at 285F per instructions of my recipe, I tried a suggestion here and cranked it to 310F (came out burnt within 9 minutes though). Tried baking it longer under 285F and nothing helped. Banging the tray countless of times… I guess I’ll be the weirdo that flips over her baking sheets.
Also, for the french method, to harden the skin, I just pop it in the oven held open with a chopstick under “WARM” setting for a little bit et voila, don’t need to wait an hour or longer (which is what I did last night and they still cracked!) After baking, I’d pop in the next tray and just keep it ajar with the chopstick again without turning it on (because the oven still hot from baking the macs before) and they will begin to harden. It’s dry in there so it hardens the skin real quick without baking and getting them all hot. Give it a try with some sample macs and see if they work for you guys. (=
Dec 09, 2012 · 6:08 PM
Hi Carolyn! I’m glad the flipping helped mitigate some of the issue for you. Macaron behavior can vary so much from recipe to recipe it’s hard to say what might be going on. Out of curiosity, have you used an oven thermometer to verify your oven temps? It sounds like you’ve tried baking over a wide range, in any event. As for me, I don’t ever dry my shells so I won’t have a chance to try your trick; but perhaps for some people who follow recipes that need drying it will help!
Dec 18, 2012 · 12:46 PM
I think I am going insane….I jhave made no less than 13 batches in the past 4 days and with the exception of a chocolate batch that were overcooked and a few, maybe ten total, plain ones, all of mine are fricking hollow!! I have checked the temperature in my oven..all good. Have figured out how to prevent the macarons from cracking. Check. Have added oil to the mix. Nothing. Have tried Beatrix method of beating for less time….no good. Have counted the strokes…blah, blah, blah…and still, hollow. Why oh why are they hollow?! I have made them at work as opposed to at home, thinking maybe it is the oven. Again, hollow. I have worked the batter a bit longer until it is difficult to pipe because it is coming out so fast. Hollow. I want success! I want to be successful at this. I have not given up. I don’t use a silpat, use commercial baking half sheets but have tried other baking sheets. Hollow. I have left them out to dry. Hollow. Put them in right away. Hollow. It has now become a problem to figure out what I am doing right or wrong because I have done it so many times. So, the batter shoudl fall off the spatula after mixing in a steady ribbon or does it come off in blobs? My daughter is getting sick of macarons and I have been known to sit myself in front of the oven to watch them bake…yeah, it is that bad.
Can you help?
Dec 18, 2012 · 10:51 PM
Hi Joan! I’m so sorry to hear of your macaron frustrations, it sounds like you’re doing everything by the book! Hollows are a problem whose solution I have not been able to articulate very well; I can’t even say that I know the solution, I just know what has and hasn’t worked for me. My macaron batter does flow off the spatula, in a nice thick stream, almost like pate a choux.
So long as you’re not rocking back and forth and crying while you watch them bake, I think you’re fine. I know how frustrating this is and I wish I could beam over to your kitchen to offer more help.
Dec 22, 2012 · 9:24 PM
Hi Stella! I just made your macarons today, and they turned out looking pretty nice, but 100% of them were completely hollow. I first pulled them out of the oven at 20 minutes and then at 23 minutes, but both times were undercooked. They peeled off without sticking at about 30 minutes and I cooled them upside-down, but by that time they were all hollow. Could taking the macarons out of the oven too many times be making them hollow?
Dec 23, 2012 · 11:26 AM
Hi Rachel! I’m sorry to say I haven’t had enough experience with pulling the macarons in and out to determine whether or not it could be a contributing factor. It very well might, I just try to hold of on macaron pronouncements until I’ve tested a theory through and through. Wish I could be of more help on this one.
Dec 27, 2012 · 2:04 PM
Thanks for responding I am not rocking back and forth yet,lol! My boyfriend who is a chef as well, is visiting and he has had much macaron success. So, we made a batch and…hollow. He doesn’t know what happened either. Beginning to think perhaps the oven? WE are trying them again and will post with results. WE might up the oven to see what happens. It seems the insides appear wet when broken open after cooking. I am not giving up and wuill forge on for years if needed, until the sweet smell of success is mine! Another question I have for you: have you ever made Caneles? I am thinking of giving these a try but wonder if I have to have the copper mold or if the cheaper, silicone mold will do? Also, have you ever made a millasson? It is, from what I can gather, a French custard of sorts? Not sure….
I love your blog and your whole way of looking at things, ie., questioning why we do things like slowly add sugar for a meringue. You have taught me how to successfully make a straight meringue and for that, I am so grateful!
Dec 28, 2012 · 10:49 AM
Hi Joan! If they’re wet on the inside, it sounds like they’re underdone and they’re hollow because the meringue inside is collapsing since as it cools. If the outsides are baking too fast, you might try double panning or shielding the macarons with an empty sheet tray on the top rack.
Canelés aren’t something I’ve tacked because I don’t have the pans for ‘em, which is totally crucial despite what some people would like to think. They also require beeswax, and any recipes that skip it are big fat cheaters. The best canelés I’ve ever had were made by Shawn Gawle, who’s a pastry chef in San Fransisco (though at the time he was cheffing in New York). But I haven’t tried millasson, I’ll have to investigate!
Jan 09, 2013 · 2:18 PM
I stayed at the Ritz Carlton, in Charlotte, North Carolina last week and they had an adundance of macaroons to try. So, I did. And do you know that only the chocolate ones were not hollow! I met the chef and asked him about it and he began telling me how they make them, etc and didn’t really hear me say that his pretty cookies were hollow. After trying the non hollow ones and me being someone who has to make it the right way, I will not give up my pursuit of hollow-less macaroons! I will try again this weekend. I have purchased my caneles pans and the beeswax as well. I also got some mini financier molds to try. But first, the macaroon must be conquered!
Jan 10, 2013 · 9:30 AM
Hi Joan! Haha, it sounds like he had his fingers in his ears, “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you!” But yeah, even the pros get hollows. Good luck on the canelés!
Jan 13, 2013 · 6:43 PM
Okay, new attempts….first run, all hollow with an empty pan put above the macaroons cooking. Double pans didn’t allow the bottoms to cook. So, second batch this weekend. Made one using Silpat ( just trying anything at this point!) and set oven to 325. Let them sit out to form a skin. Baked and were hollow. Next pan, no Silpat and at the halfway mark, I tested one and the meringue inside was sticking to the top. I was hopeful. But, when I pulled them after 18 minutes, they were of course too brown (I expected that but just wanted to see what would happen at a higher temp)and a lttle less hollow than before so some progress was made. I had maybe two that seem to not hollow out but these were all overcooked. My boyfriend tried a recipe using a meringue powder and it worked but I told him if others can make them correctly using just basic ingredients than so will I! I am a stubborn gal when it comes to stuff like this. I have nicknames for the little roons in my house but I can’t repeat that here. I will try, try again. I wish there was a scientific reason for all this so I could understand it. Like, why does the meringue pull away on a food science level of explanation? Thanks Stella!
Jan 14, 2013 · 12:05 AM
Hi Joan! Are you following my recipe or someone else’s? I ask because mine won’t form a skin/don’t benefit from sitting out, and I’m not very good at diagnosing problems with other recipes since I don’t have experience with anything but mine…
Jan 15, 2013 · 2:24 PM
Well, I was following yours but, was trying anything to get these darn things( although I was calling them other bad names in my kitchen)to work….and guess what? THEY WORKED!!!! YAYYYY!!!! After over 25 times of making and throwing away my hollows in frustration, I succeeded!! So, what I did that was different was I went to work and baked them in my convection oven there. And, ya-hoo, they all worked! No hollows! I even forgot to time the meringue properly but the little dudes just wanted to be who they were meant to be, hollow-less critters with cute feet and smooth bottoms. Wow! All along, I thought it had something to do with my oven at home. Whew! I can now move on to other things such as the caneles. Thanks for your patience and help. I just kept believing that your way had to work and wouldn’t give up til it did. Thanks again!
Jan 16, 2013 · 2:47 AM
@Joan you are a trooper! respect must be shown for perseverance. You go girl.
@Stella your patience and humor in answering all posts is grand. Since I bumped into your blog I read you while having my morning coffee.
· Angelina · www.angelinapadilla.eu
Jan 18, 2013 · 9:14 AM
@Joan, that’s awesome! You’re also a trooper for baking at home. When I get done with work, I am all baked out. But, as you’ve found out, ovens play a huge role in macaron-ing. You’re lucky to have another option!
@Angelina, aw, thanks! I love having the chance to meet all sorts of people at different stages of their baking adventures. Now on to my morning cup of coffee…
Jan 23, 2013 · 6:37 AM
I have been trying to master macarons for quite a while, its the most frustrating thing!!! Iv tried lots of recipes but yours is by far the most successful! My main issue is that they are slightly brown on the top. Iv tried leaving the oven door ajar but they were too soft in the middle, and lowering the temperature did the same. Any suggestions would be greatly welcome. Also, when making brightly coloured macarons, is it better to use gel or powdered colouring?
Jan 24, 2013 · 8:19 AM
Hi lisat! Are the macarons that are browning colored or plain? Browning on top can sometimes be a result of using a food coloring that isn’t heat safe. I’ve heard powders work the best, but I use gel colors. The most important factor is to make sure the brand you’re using is meant for baking, a lot of dyes are only meant for frostings, etc, so their color fades to brown quickly in the oven.
If not the dye, you can try putting an empty sheetpan on the top shelf of your oven, to serve as a shield for your macarons below. Hope that helps!
Jan 26, 2013 · 10:30 PM
I am glued to your blog! It is so unbelievable to me the amount of time and information that you are willing to share. Your love of baking is special and inspiring
I am a self-taught baker and decorate sugar cookies with royal icing. The amount of time and effort to perfect the macaron reminds me of my daily struggles with both royal icing as well as something as simple as sugar cookies. It is comforting to me to see that I am not the only one who analyzes the heck out of the baking experience. LOL! I now feel more “normal”!
I look forward to more posts! And thank you for your expertise.
· lstone · www.batches.etsy.com
Jan 28, 2013 · 9:35 AM
Hi lstone! OMG, yes, royal icing can be such a pain! So many consistencies to balance when working with a range of colors for decorated cookies. I love that you appreciate attention to detail! Thanks for stopping by.
Feb 20, 2013 · 7:48 PM
Stella- Which brand of gel food coloring is heat safe? I’ve been using the Wilton colors and at my home oven my macarons are ALWAYS browning.
Also, when you say bake on 300 degrees- do you mean regular bake? or convection bake? my oven doesnt automatically convert the temperature when i put it on convection- what should i be setting it at?
Also- what pans do you recommend? Ive been using chicago metallic’s aluminum jelly roll pans (doubling them in the oven) and i think they are the cause of my hollows- before i was using insulated baking sheets and never had the problem of hollows.
Any help is appreciated! these hollows are killing me!
Feb 22, 2013 · 9:56 AM
Hi sheina! Americolor dyes do a pretty great job in the oven. Wilton are definitely the worst offenders. They all bake into a khaki color. For combating hollows, I’d say to ditch food coloring until you get ‘em right. It can be hard to know if it’s your technique or the added ingredient that’s causing the problem, so in the beginning it’s best to just go plain.
You can bake with convection or convention, the only thing that changes is the time. While I do put bake times in my recipes, they’re always only ever approximations. There’s so much variation in ovens, it’s better to bake “until they’re done” than until a specific time.
I always use basic restaurant grade sheet pans, single thickness. So I’d say your Chicago Metallic pan is perfect! Whether you double up or not depends on your oven and whether it runs hot at the bottom. Hope the extra info helps!
Mar 07, 2013 · 7:42 PM
Thanks for your straight talk on macarons! I have perused the comments from your posts and didn’t come across my particular question. (Hope I didn’t miss it.) I have noticed that my shells made with cocoa powder last longer than my plain shells. The filled chocolate macaroons stay shiny and chewy for a week or so, whereas the filled plain almond flour (no color or flavoring added) shells seem to begin to “dissolve” and become soft in a couple of days. What gives? Thanks for any thoughts.
Mar 09, 2013 · 6:08 PM
Hi Susan! The difference might have to do with your filling; do you use something different with plain versus chocolate macarons?
Mar 15, 2013 · 7:21 PM
Hi Shiva. Are you basing your temperature on an oven thermometer or the temperature on the dial? Just curious! I hope you find some success soon, I know how frustrating hollows can be.
Mar 17, 2013 · 6:57 AM
Hi stella I have tried and tested so many recipes and yours seems to be just the perfect one for me to play with! but still the same problem over here in australia for me with hollow shells. Pretty on the outside yet no soft inside I tried adding some cocoa powder to make choc ones and they turned out fine! Next time i’ll try adding a small amount of oil to my almonds while processing as you mentioned above it may help. Wish me luck!
· Totally Macarooned AKA Tash · www.facebook.com/TotallyMacarooned
Mar 17, 2013 · 4:38 PM
Stella….. I feel like you are family with all this time I have spent listening to your experiments. I never got to go to Paris but my boss did in 2005. I had never had anything like them before, and I fell in love. Back then I wasn’t into the Internet thing, and then I found out recently that they are gf! My son has autism and is on a gf diet. So I am always googling recipes for him and I came across your site. December was when I gave it a shot, and it bombed! I guess I couldn’t accept the failure….. I unintentionally joined a mission to make perfect mocarons. Since then I have had great success fallowed by again more failure! That’s the worst feeling… To succeed only to be humbled by failure once again. I was even able at one point to reduce the sugar significantly by adding egg white powder to the meringue to stabilize them even more, and also adding gum powder. It worked for a while and then again I was hit by a batched patch out of the oven. This all happened when I bought this new device called whisk -a-bowl attachment for my kitchen aid mixer…… It makes good meringue but something happens… I don’t know what it is that makes them so unpredictable! This device is supposedly just for egg whites and guarantees results. This thing has caused my so much stress that I have cried over my attempts to adjust my method. Have you tried this product? Anyways I ordered me a traditional wire whisk this weekend bc I can’t afford anymore mistakes lol! When the replacement comes in the mail, I will try making a batch and see if my results go back to what they were.
Mar 17, 2013 · 10:35 PM
I love your explanations on macarons! They’ve been so useful to me as I’ve learned how to make macarons. I recently wrote a tutorial blog for macarons and I made sure to list you as a great resource for others to check out. Thanks again for everything!
Mar 18, 2013 · 8:25 PM
@Tash, I hope the oil trick works for you!
@Diala, haha, welcome to the family! I’ve never heard of the whisk-a-bowl, but I just looked it up after you mentioned it. My first thought is that it looks gimmicky. A normal whisk attachment will make a splendid meringue, so it just seems like an unnecessary tool. I’m not big on “gadgets,” though; just the basics for me!
Given that this attachment whips the whites differently, I’d say that it would cancel out most of my instructions and timetable for macaron making, since I’m basing all of that info on standard equipment. The whisk-a-bowl may make fabulous macarons, but you’ll have to adjust the whip times accordingly.
Fortunately, no matter what macarons look like, or even if they’re hollow, they still taste great, which I’m sure your son appreciates. Have you tried filling and aging the macarons? Often, the hollow pockets are minimized in that time.
@Tried & Twisted, oh, that’s cool! I’ll have to check it out, thanks for including me. Congratulations on your success!
Apr 02, 2013 · 11:09 PM
Tried the oil trick, unfortunately no luck there. Tried fiddling with the time of cooking, I now bake them at 135C for 13 mins and they worked! Turns out I was over cooking them and they collapsed. Now I can stop fiddling and just bake bake bake.
· Totally Macarooned AKA Tash · www.facebook.com/TotallyMacarooned
Apr 03, 2013 · 9:16 AM
Hi Tash! Ahh, that’s so wonderful to hear you found the perfect baking zone for your macarons, congratulations!
Apr 05, 2013 · 6:38 PM
Thank you for all the macaron posts!!! This is my first time ever making them and one tray was perfect, the other two trays had hollowed shells/cracked.
My oven is crazy so I think it was too hot for the other trays. But followed your recipe to the ‘t’ and gosh darn they were delicious.
Next time will be better!
Thank you thank you thank you for all your tips.
· Preeti · thebigfatindianwedding.com
Apr 05, 2013 · 10:34 PM
Hi Preeti! Sounds like your first batch was a mixed bag, but any batch that includes perfect has got to be a winner, really. I’m so happy you enjoyed them, though. That’s the most important part, and people seem to always forget that the point is to eat them!! Hope your baking adventures continue to be delicious and successful.
Apr 13, 2013 · 3:53 AM
Wow I just read through all the comments written in this post and I would like to say:
1. very informative (I didn’t know that there were different types of food dye that didn’t work when baked… explains my only-ever-brown macaron)
2. you seem so dedicated! still replying to comments now even though it been half a year since the first one.
But even though I have read through so many comments as well as posts made by other people, I can’t seem to find anyone with the same situation as mine… I’m working on my 9th batch and I can already tell they won’t have feet (again). I think there may have been a problem when I was making the meringue because I also reached the point where it would not fall out of the bowl, but it remained quite foamy? I used a large stainless steel bowl with a wide surface area so I dont think it was the vacuum caused by the shape of the bowl…
Anyhow, whether relevant or not, I also found my batches don’t seem to be able to form a skin no matter how long I leave them out, and I’ve been sticking them next to a dehumidifier since I thought that may have been the problem. I think the lack of crust on the macaron is the reason I’m not getting feet, because they seem to expand sideways AND upwards (so they are not overfolded and collapsed) but when I pipe them they settle quite quickly implying that I have overfolded them?
And finally, when I take them out, the insides are always hollow and I am starting to get really frustrated… Only plus side to baking so many times over the past two days is that I’ve found the perfect temperature and time required to fully bake under the macaron, but the inside is still chewy and often hollow. Sorry for the long comment, your help would be greatly appreciated!
Apr 13, 2013 · 11:13 AM
Hi Annie! Are you using my recipe for macaron making, or just stopping by for some extra info and troubleshooting? I just want to make sure we’re on the same page, since macaron behavior is highly dependent of the recipe. For example, my macarons will never form a skin. They’re not designed to. But other recipes are, and need one for success. So lemme know and we’ll start from there!
Apr 14, 2013 · 2:50 AM
I tried your recipe today, following the instructions extremely carefully, and the beating took me 3, 3, 3, 20 with my hand mixer but I’m so glad I tried it out because I finally got feet on my macarons! Thank you! My mum thought I had gone mad cause I was running around my house shouting ‘I GOT FEET!!!’ haha! I just cooked my first batch but most of the macarons are cracked open on the top (only 2 out of 11 shells are fine… ) and the feet are only to one side, though I still think it is better than nothing The second batch, which I rapped much more and doubled on the baking sheets, has the same result. Do you have any ideas to what may have happened?
Apr 14, 2013 · 7:40 AM
I feel silly for writing three comments in a row, but (with another 10 trials since finding your recipe) I found out how to fix all the problems I had! Apparently all the problems I had was not caused by the my errors or the oven.. It was my baking tin. The sides of my tin was too high, and since my oven is a very small one, the tin itself was blocking the heat that is produced from the side. And the cracking was because the macarons were too close to the power from the extra layering. This really ended up being a unique problem… haha… sorry about that Thanks for the recipe though! The macarons that I ‘failed’ at least taste great!
Apr 14, 2013 · 10:00 PM
Hi Annie! Oh, you got everything all sorted out before I even had a chance to help! I’m really glad you were able to analyze what was going on and figure out how to fix your macarons. Being able to keep an eye out and pay attention to the factors going on in your own kitchen helps more than anything else, I think. It means you actually learn from batch to batch, rather than just going through the motions. Congratulations on your success, and many, many more to come.
Apr 17, 2013 · 1:35 AM
Hi Stella, I’m in a big bind! Disaster has struck my macaron making! I’ve made many perfect batches, even won local comps. I always baked them at 125 degrees fan forced for 22 minutes pretty much exactly. This week when I put on a batch after not making them for a little while, they seem to be sinking in the middle when I take them out! This is despite doing everything I usually do to the letter and letting them form the skin before baking etc. The seem stickier too and do not come of the baking paper cleanly. The only different thing I’m doing (and it can’t be this can it?) is using a black texta to draw my circles under the baking paper whereas in my previous batches I used a pencil. This can’t be the cause surely? But that’s the only different thing! I’m absolutely confounded and more than a little concerned. Have I lost the knack???? Please help! Any suggestions appreciated!
Apr 17, 2013 · 9:32 AM
Hi Fiona! Oh no, how frustrating! Can you grab an oven thermometer to double check the internal temperature? I wonder if something might be going on with your oven itself. Whereas it might have been working perfectly fine before, ovens can totally go off course. It sounds like a heating issue to me.
Apr 17, 2013 · 9:23 PM
Can you describe a little more about what you mean by deflating? No cracks, nice, but small feet?
Apr 17, 2013 · 9:59 PM
Hi Stella, by deflating i mean that as soon as I remove the tray from the oven they looked puffed up but start sinking down quickly in the middle (which appears hollow) down to the base which is still sticky and as they do this of course they crack. There is no nice domed shiney top, it starts to wrinkle as soon as I remove the tray from the oven and the top sinks down….
Apr 18, 2013 · 10:18 AM
Hi Fiona! It sounds like they’re not fully baked. So long as the base is sticky, they’re definitely underdone. To test for doneness, you can quickly open the oven door and try to snatch a macaron off the parchment. If it sticks: not done!
Apr 19, 2013 · 8:30 PM
Hi stella, i worked it out by gradually increasing the oven temp and you are right – it must be the oven! I increased the oven to 140 fan forced and they are fine! (maybe a bit hollow, but will work on that) – thanks so much for the feedback!!!!! you are so kind to reply.
Apr 28, 2013 · 11:24 AM
Hi Stella, first I must say your web is fantastic and you certainly help a lot of people your macaron picture are also great please please help me!!!
I have started my own business (website being done at moment) one of the products I am doing as they ARE my love along with my very patient husband and son . Little did I no how challenging
they would be….. Good job I love everything about them , although I have to admit the names I have called them are sum what unmentionable . When
I started shall we say ‘practicing some months ago ‘ they didn’t come out to bad , I had a few problems like browning, then oven temperature
not hot enough then too hot. We bought an oven thermometer my husband ( who is an engineer) fixed one thermometer stick to the back on left and the other stick to the right middle ish front . Macarons started coming out fine………then dare I say it the macarons started to come out beautiful looking but HOLLOW…..
This is driving me insane not to mention the cost, and I certainly can’t sell sub standard macarons
I follow the French method as I think 1. They taste so much better and 2. I think the Itilian method has so much sugar.
I age my egg whites from anything between 24hr to 5 days have bought a hygrometer to make sure the hudmity is fine.
They are just perfect looking but hollow, I have a fan oven which I set to 319 f (160c) to heat up then once a tray goes in I turn it down to 292 f – 298 f ( 145 – 148c) for 15 minutes the macaron are slightly discolouring the bottom of the macarons are smooth and come of parchment paper very easily yesterday I made 2 batches the first did have slight air pockets but not hollow the second batch hollow I did notice when I broke one in half ( it was still slightly warm ) it was sticky ( not hollow) when they were cold some were hollow and some were like sticky but they come off the parchment paper fine. I did last week turn the parchment paper upside down as you have suggested in your post.. And they came out not hollow. Please help. Janet
Apr 30, 2013 · 9:28 AM
Hi Janet! Aw, what a frustrating quest! So to be clear, you turned some macarons upside down on the parchment and they turned out fine? If so, it sounds like the macarons are just contracting as they adjust from the hot oven to the cool kitchen.
Apr 30, 2013 · 12:07 PM
Hi Stella, thanks for getting back to me I must apologise to you , my first post was so confusing to me let alone for you, as you probably can understand how upsetting it can be when macarons keep turning out hollow, very frustrating , but I’m NOT giving up :/
A week and half ago I made a batch of mac’ s I did what you suggested when they came out of the oven I turned them upside down on parchment paper once cold I cracked a few open..
YES not hollow slightly crisp but once filled and few days maturing ….. Lovely.
Now , over the weekend I had aged some egg whites for 5 days as I had read that this can help strengthen the meringue ( book by LujanQuinene)
I had enough egg white for 2 batches.
1st batch came out not hollow but had air pockets didn’t turn upside down!
2nd batch decided to add cream of tarter thought I would try as some add and some don’t ( I never had before) they came out hollow . They came off parchment paper fine but when we cracked open they seemed sticky at the bottom ( on the inside)
Also Stella we have noticed why is it when I make brown once using cocoa powder they are 99% fine and hollow free:~ very confusing !!! Best regards janet
May 01, 2013 · 10:59 PM
Hi Stella! I hate to bug you, but hollows consistently plague my otherwise great macarons.
I use an oven thermometer, so I know that the oven’s at the right temp. The macarons are very easy to peel off the parchment paper & they all have feet (except for the cracked ones — stray meringue), but when I cut one open in the oven, the insides are still wet. So I assume the insides have collapsed while cooling.
I’ve let one batch sit in the oven for about 30 minutes once, and I still had the same issue, except now the outsides are hard and brownish all over. These batches don’t have food coloring added to them (though most, I’ve added 3 Tbsp of earl grey tea ground with the almonds/powdered sugar).
I’ve flipped a batch upside-down once out of the oven and they were hollow as well.
Any ideas? Thank you so much for your wonderful recipe, it’s the only one that’s given me any measure of success so far! (Though all recipes yield deliciousness :9)
May 02, 2013 · 8:52 AM
Hi Phoenix! Hmmm. When all else fails, you can try beating the meringue a little bit less (maybe skip the final minute of mixing). Hollow macarons can be caused by an overwhipped meringue, but because an underwhipped meringue is singlehandedly the most common macaron problem, I always advise extra whipping. But if your macarons are otherwise turning out great, try cutting back on whipping just a bit and see if that helps.
May 15, 2013 · 11:57 AM
Hi! I just made macarons for the 1st time, and thatnk to all your advice they turned ok (as you say, I just make them to eat ). The only problem I had was that they were not flat at the top, they looked more like meringues. Is it because I didn’t do the “macaronage” properly?
May 16, 2013 · 6:33 PM
Hi Julia! Congrats on jumping into macaron world! Chances are, there was just a bit too much air still in the mix, so they stayed nice and puffy. Next time, try folding it a liiiitle bit longer and see how it goes. Happy baking!
Jun 01, 2013 · 4:12 PM
Hoping you can help! I love your blog and i tried your macaron recipe a while ago. My macarons looked perfect but were hollow. I think my oven runs hot (shows 300 with a thermometer in there, but jumps 10 degrees once you out something in the oven). Tried again yesterday, and they were hollow with no feet. I think my merengue wasn’t stiff enough. Tried again today, and this is the weirdest thing: the first couple trays had feet and looked great, the last couple trays have no feet, are cracked, and shaped like little toadstools. All from the same batch of batter! Alas, all are still hollow. Any ideas what might be going on?
Jun 01, 2013 · 8:20 PM
Hi NicoleB! In my experience, cracking is caused by undermixing 99% of the time. There are a couple of other factors that can contribute (like high water content), but most of the time cracking goes back to mixing. But I’m intrigued by your second tray turning out better. Usually it’s the other way around (as the second tray gets more mixing and therefore less prone to cracking). If you’ve got an inkling that your meringue wasn’t quite where it should be, though, it could definitely play a role.
I wish I could give you some more solid information, there are just so many variables when it comes to macarons that it’s hard to pinpoint a cause secondhand.