Learn how to fix hollow macaron shells. Use this troubleshooting guide to prevent macarons with air pocks, learn what causes hollow shells, and understand how to achieve full macarons.
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Whether you've been baking macarons for a while or you're a beginner, it's inevitable that at some point you have baked hollow macarons.
Hollow macaron is a term used to describe an air pocket that is present in the shell when you crack it open.
As you probably know, an ideal macaron should have a full, slightly chewy interior. I'll walk you through all of the equipment, technique, and ingredient related issues that could be causing your macarons to be hollow.
Fixing hollow macarons should be last on your list. First, be sure you've fixed any issues with cracked shells, wrinkly tops, small or ruffled feet, and flat shells. Then, you can move on to fine-tuning your technique to achieve full shells.
As always, remember that it takes some trial and error to bake macarons at home. Don't give up on your first or second attempt, keep going!
You can always refer to my macaron troubleshooting video, or leave a comment below, and I'll do my best to help you out.
What You'll Learn In This Article
- The importance of oven temperature and baking times to avoid hollow macarons.
- A few techniques you must get right to achieve full macaron shells.
- How egg whites could be causing hollow macaron shells.
If you are looking for some more specialized help with troubleshooting your macaron problems, sign up for my free macaron troubleshooting guide sent straight to your email.
Equipment Related Issues
Here is an equipment related issue that could be causing the macarons to be hollow:
1. Oven temperature is too hot/too cool: Oven temperature is one of the most important pieces of equipment you'll use for baking macarons. A small change in temperature, even by just 5°F (3°C), can make a big difference in your macaron shells.
An oven that's too hot will cook the outside of the shells quickly without allowing the inside enough time to cook and properly rise.
While an oven that's too cold won't allow the macarons to completely dry or bake long enough to fully rise.
To avoid hollow macarons you'll need to experiment with your oven temperature. You can read more about my experiments with finding the best oven temperature for macarons if you're interested. Here's a short explanation of what I did.
I baked six batches of French-style macarons at different temperatures in my home conventional oven.
Since most bakers suggest baking macarons in a conventional home oven somewhere between the temperatures of 290°F (143°C) - 325°F (163°C), I chose my six different temperature options based on those ranges.
Before placing each macaron batch into the oven, I verified the internal temperature of my oven using a thermometer. All of these macarons were baked on light-colored sheet pans from Nordic Ware that were lined with parchment paper.
After I baked each batch of macarons at various temperatures, I allowed them to cool. Then, I cracked open each shell and observed what temperatures resulted in full macaron shells.
Everyone's home oven responds differently, so it's important to perform your own tests rather than relying on other people's temperature guides.
Technique Related Issues
If you're wondering how to fix hollow macaron shells, you have to pay close attention to your techniques. It's important to learn to master these techniques if you want perfect macarons.
Here are some techniques you could be getting wrong:
1. Under or over whipped meringue: Whipping the meringue to stiff peaks (not over or under) is one of the most crucial steps when making macarons.
Both under-whipped and over-whipped meringue (no matter what type of meringue you use) can result in hollow macaron shells. This is because the meringue needs to have the proper structure in order to rise in the oven.
A weak meringue will not be strong enough to withstand the heat of the oven when baked, causing a hollow shell. Alternatively, meringue that has been over-whipped won't have enough air incorporated to properly expand in the oven.
In order to achieve stiff peaks, you need to learn the visual cues you can use to know the meringue has whipped to stiff peaks:
- You'll notice the meringue starts to ball up inside the whisk while it's mixing.
- Pull the whisk out of the mixer. A stiff peak should stand straight up (no curl at the tip).
- You can see pointy off-shoots of egg whites on the whisk when you pull it out of the mixer.
- You can fully flip the bowl over and nothing moves or falls out.
- The meringue feels sturdy (not flimsy).
- The egg whites hold the indentation that the whisk makes as it's whipping.
It typically takes around 8 - 10 minutes to reach stiff peaks, depending on your mixer and the speed. I use a KitchenAid mixer on speed 7.
Additionally, if you're making French (common) meringue, make sure to slowly add the granulated sugar during the whipping process. This allows the sugar crystals time to dissolve so they don't weigh down the egg whites.
If the sugar is added too quickly, it can affect the final structure, resulting in an under-whipped and weak meringue.
As for over whipped meringue, this is overly thick, looks dull, and can become clumpy. Over whipped meringue will also be very hard to macaronage.
2. Under or over macaronaged batter: Another crucial step to get correct is the macaronage process.
Macaronage is a term that refers to folding the dry macaron ingredients (almond flour and confectioners' sugar) into the meringue. This process smooths the mixture and helps the macarons bake with proper structure.
Typically, under macaronaged batter happens when you over whip the meringue. It's thick and never seems to thin out, oftentimes resulting in pointy or bumpy shells. On the other hand, over macaronaged batter is very thin and runny.
To properly macaronage, you will continue folding the batter until it reaches a lava-like consistency. You can test this by lifting your spatula and seeing if the batter drops almost like lava. Once it drops off the spatula, the batter that was dripped should fade back into the batter within 15-30 seconds (not immediately).
Additionally, the almond flour should look blended into the meringue (not lumpy).
Many home bakers who are new to baking macarons will over macaronage the batter. If you're unsure if your batter has been properly macaronaged, it's better to under macaronage a bit since the batter will still be worked in the piping bag.
3. Not banging the baking sheet to remove air bubbles: Air bubbles could be the culprit of your hallow macarons.
Throughout the process of making the meringue, macaronaging, and piping the macarons, it's inevitable that air bubbles will become trapped in the macaron batter.
To allow these air bubbles to escape, slam the baking sheet with the piped macaron shells onto the counter. This will allow the air bubbles to escape to the top of the shells, where you can then pop them with a toothpick.
Don't be afraid to fairly aggressively slam the baking sheets on the counter. I usually like to do this for about 30 seconds to ensure all of the possible trapped air bubbles have escaped.
Failing to do this step could result in air bubbles that get trapped inside the shell and cause hollows.
4. Underbaked shells: If you are underbaking your macaron shells, they may not be fully rising, resulting in hollow macarons.
Not only is it important to find a good oven temperature, but it's also important to ensure your macarons are done baking. Here are some ways to check for doneness:
- The feet and the edge of the macarons feel firm when you gently touch them.
- It feels like you could forcibly lift the macaron shell off the parchment paper if you needed to (don't actually do this, just use it as a test).
- If you touch the shell and it wiggles, is still sticky, or is wet, you know the macarons need longer to bake.
5. Macarons haven't matured in the refrigerator: Most macaron bakers suggest maturing the macarons with their filling in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the flavors to marry together and the macaron shell to slightly soften.
This technique can, at times, fix some minor issues with hollow shells.
If you have very large air pockets, maturing the macaron shells will not fix this issue. However, minor air holes will oftentimes fill in once they have time to mature in the refrigerator.
Ingredient Related Issues
Most of the ingredient-related issues you'll run into with hollow macaron shells involve egg whites:
1. Too much egg white: Whether you're developing a recipe or using someone else's well-tested macaron recipe, you need to pay special attention to the egg whites.
Egg whites are made up mostly of water. In fact, 90% of the egg white is water while only 10% is protein.
If you're developing a recipe and you know you are correctly executing all of the other possible problems listed in this article, you're likely experiencing an issue with too much liquid from your egg whites.
Here are some ways to mitigate this issue:
- Reformulate your ratio. This could either include reducing the amount of egg whites or increasing the dry ingredients.
- Age your egg whites to reduce the amount of water in them.
To age egg whites, you'll separate the egg whites from the yolks 2 - 5 days before baking the macarons. Place the egg whites in a container covered with plastic wrap.
Poke a couple of holes in the plastic wrap, and place the eggs back in the refrigerator. This allows some of the water to evaporate in the fridge.
Once you're ready to bake, allow the egg whites to come to room temperature before whipping them into meringue.
- Alternatively, use egg white powder to help reinforce the protein structure. Usually, you'll want to use about ¼ teaspoon of egg white powder for every 1 egg white.
- Oven temperature is one of the most common reasons for failed macarons. I'd suggest investing in an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is properly heating.
- Only bake one tray of macarons at a time. This can also help you pinpoint any issues you may be having related to oven temperature.
- Don't forget to mature your macarons with the filling in the refrigerator for 24 hours to help with minor air pockets (hollows). I'd only suggest doing this if you're using a buttercream filling or ganache.
- If you're having trouble with under or over whipped meringue, you should consider using a different type of meringue for your macarons. Swiss and Italian meringue macarons are known for being more stable.
- Don't be tempted to throw away macarons with hollows. These macarons are still perfectly edible and should be enjoyed!
No, properly baked macarons should not have any hollow air pockets in the shell. A high-quality macaron should have the following qualities:
- Crispy (not too soft) top. You don't want the top to crack when you touch it.
- Small feet with a slight vertical rise. You don't want lopsided or ruffled feet that are spread out on the sides.
- Full, slightly chewy interior. You don't want a large hollow gap between the top and bottom.
- Equal-sized top & bottom shells. You don't want small and large shells paired together to make one full macaron.
There are a few reasons your macarons could be hollow including:
- Your oven temperature is too hot or too cool.
- You under or over whipped your meringue.
- The batter was under or over macaronaged.
- You didn't bang the baking sheets to remove air bubbles in the macaron shells.
- The macaron shells are underbaked.
- You didn't mature the macarons in the refrigerator.
- You used too many egg whites.
The best way to prevent hollow macaron shells is to master the following:
- Ensure your oven is set to the proper temperature. This could take some experimenting to find the best temperature for your home oven. Small changes in temperature, even by 5°F (3°C), can make a big difference in your macaron shells.
- Properly whip the meringue to stiff peaks. A stiff peak should stand straight up (no curl at the tip).
- Macaronage (fold the dry ingredients into the merginue) until you reach the perfect lava-like consistency.
Hollow macaron is a term used to describe an air pocket that is present in the shell when you crack it open.
You are looking to achieve a macaron shell with a full, slightly chewy interior.
Here's what a hollow macaron shells looks like: