On the occasion of Jour du Macaron 2010 (I’m a few hours late) and the approximate occasion of Syrup & Tang’s third birthday, I have decided to write about ovens, rather than presenting more pretty domes of deliciousness. Why ovens? Because a lack of understanding of how ovens work is one of the main causes of so many home bakers’ problems. And I promised to write about them a year ago.
Many of you know that the macaron has become one of the, um, signatures of Syrup & Tang. In December 2007, I wrote a series of explanatory articles which I dubbed La Macaronicité. Many, many questions have been answered in the comments to those articles, and my instructions and formulae have been reproduced all over the place (sometimes without acknowledgement, unfortunately).
It’s easy to bring together the themes of ovens and macarons, because if you know your oven, the likelihood of a successful batch of macarons, for instance, is much greater. Knowing your oven is more than just the common problems of people (1) just not letting their ovens preheat for long enough (your oven’s walls need to absorb and then retain heat: it takes more than 15minutes!), and (2) opening oven doors for too long (you can usually expect a drop of at least 10C in a simple open-insert-close transaction).
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Among the many problems macaron-makers face, there are five that are almost always caused by issues with heat:
- no feet
- lopsided feet
- air pockets
- ruptured shell (minor volcano)
- sticky bottoms
Issues which aren’t usually to do with heat are: wet macarons, collapsed or cracked shells, very thin (translucent) shells (some of these issues are discussed in other posts).
Time for macaron-physics 101!
A macaron has an outer shell which should be thin and crisp in its cooked form (not thick and crunchy!). Below this crisp exterior is soft airy cooked batter, and keeping that soft stomach in is a thin dry layer with a chewy edge (the foot) where the macaron was in contact with the baking paper or Silpat. How is it that the sticky, temperamental batter of almond meal, sugar and egg white turns into a dome of three textures?
Heat causes drying, expansion and a whole pile of other more interesting things to happen. Our primary concern is how the distribution of heat in the oven affects the correct development of the shell. The diagram below gives you an idea of the desired process, with a hard shell forming before the air in the batter under shell expands too much. (Ok, other things expand too, but the air is the main thing.) With the right timing, the expanding batter causes the shell to lift, with the foot forming in the gap between shell edge and baking tray.
When reading most macaron recipes, you’ll find (a) no info about the type of oven (fan-forced or no-fan), (b) occasional strong recommendations for using stacked baking trays, (c) various instructions to vent the oven by opening the door at some point during cooking.
None of that helps most bakers.
People obey these instructions without having been given insight into why or how relevant such things are for their own situation. Is your oven gas or electric? Does the heat source cover the bottom of your oven, the rear of the oven, the top of the oven? Fan or no fan? Is your thermostat reliable? How efficiently does your oven recover from the door being opened? I could go on.
When I wrote my first instructions for making macarons in my La Macaronicité series, I had battled through so many wasted batches of these diva-biscuits thanks to my belief that published recipes would help me understand what to do right. Doubling baking trays was utterly wrong for my oven (type B below). Venting the oven was pointless. Leaving the shells for an hour before baking was unnecessary (but at least had little negative effect). It took a while after that for me to better understand the relationship between hardened crust, batter expansion under the shell and the resultant rise of the macaron off the baking surface. I get the feeling that too many people who should know this stuff are nonchalant about communicating it to home bakers.
Of fundamental importance: heat rises. If your heat source is built into the base of the oven (oven image A), as in many modern gas ovens (especially in Europe, perhaps also North America), the heat rises strongly below a baking tray. If the gas flame is at the back of the bottom of the oven (type B), as in typical older Australian oven designs, heat below the tray will be relatively weak. Electric ovens vary in element placement and heat distribution, but if you have a crappy electric oven with an element just at the top (type D), abandon much hope of easy macaron making without a serious oven stone of some sort to store heat in the lower part of the oven.
That double-tray thing you might have read about is entirely a function of people baking with ovens with lots of heat under the trays (types A/C). You double the trays to slow down the penetration of heat from below which could otherwise cause a weak outer shell to burst (minor volcano) and/or the base to brown before the rest of the shell is done. In my case (oven B), I needed to *increase* the heat below the macarons by heating the tray, otherwise the bases were always sticky, making the macarons impossible to remove from the paper.
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Understanding how heat in your oven affects your macarons is at least as important as not overmixing your batter. Doing small test batches of just a few macarons is the easiest, least frustrating way of testing the effects of various parameters (I’ve written that before, both on Syrup & Tang and eGullet, but too many people still chuck a whole tray of macarons in an oven, believing that divine providence will deliver unblemished beauties).
In my original experiments two-and-a-half years ago, I found that air pockets seemed to result from minor temperature differences. In my normal method I almost never experience air pockets, but there are still rare occasions which I can’t explain.
I have to reiterate that home bakers have to be willing to read through tips, comments and to test things out themselves — careful, systematic persistence yields results. The problems that can occur often have multiple interacting causes.
Venting the oven at some point (typically for the last few minutes in a fan-forced oven) helps prevent the shells from browning while letting the bases firm up, but even fan-forced ovens may not be giving truly evenly heat, and there’s the added drying effect of fan-forced cooking.
Leaving the shells to crust (dry on the surface) is a kind of insurance policy. It means the surface hardens in the oven a little more quickly. With lots of heat rising under a single baking tray, the batter can easily erupt through the still-weak crust like a mini-volcano. A harder crust will prevent this and, instead, all that expansion will go towards pushing the shell off the sheet, giving (hopefully) a nice foot. Poor professional bakers often leave their shells to crust for ages, resulting in an overly thick, crunchy shell (hello Sydney and Melbourne!). If you’re unlucky, the uncooked batter can adhere to the baking surface as it crusts, with the result that the shells eventually rise unevenly or the batter vomits out from wherever the seal is weakest.
That’s the round-up of macaron-related oven issues. I hope they help inexperienced home bakers solve problems better with temperamental baked goods like macarons (or canelés or pasteís de nata). I might eventually build this information into the original series of articles, but I don’t have enough time at the moment. If you have observations along the above lines that could strengthen these tips, please share.
83 thoughts on “Of ovens and baking (and macarons)”
Great work Duncan. I am still yet to try cooking my own Macarons. I think the more I read the more scared I get of stuffing them up. I think I need to dive in head first.
Hi, First of all, thanks very much for ur knowledge sharing.. i really appreciate ! I have been making macarons at my workplace about 6 months by using Italian method (I don’t rest the shell before putting in the oven)… Now my problem is every shell I make has an air pocket… I don’t know how to get lid of it even I bang the tray many times.
Sometimes the shells are not quite shiny but after it touch the air (take it out from the container a few mins), it turns out more shiny which is ok.
I am not so sure about the oven, I reckon it is A, B or C and when I baked, I turned the fan off (acturally chef said this oven is not good for macarons)
If you have a chance, please come to try my macarons at Bacco winebar paticceria in Chiefly tower, I really wanna know ur comment .. thanks very much 😀
Macarons are still too scary for me to undertake, but a great explanation. Would love to see you review the in-house macarons at Cafe Vue…
Good point on equipment. I’m not sure if the oven was to blame for my macaron mayhem, but something has to bear responsibility. Waiting for the macaron muse to strike but I reckon she’s disappeared for a good while! Enjoying your blog by the way. cheers deb
Awesome article Duncan! I’ve been doing a lot of macaron experimentation. As an engineer, I really appreciate that you try to explain the macaron cooking process scientifically. I’ve been trying to figure out why I always get the pesky air bubble in my macarons; last time I used double-stacked professional grade baking pans @ 160 F, but that made the bottom super sticky. I’ll have to do the bake-a-few-at-a-time thing and isolate all the factors (aging the batter, smacking the pan down, baking at different temperatures, etc).
This reminds me of chemistry lab in college, and that’s a good thing 🙂
Wonderful! Thanks so much for the tips and tricks, I particularly loved your diagram of the ovens and the resulting problems for macarons. I’ll have to try them again, particularly now I know I have a Type B oven! I won’t double tray them again!!!
Thanks to all who have commented so far!
@Mark: well, there’s no need for anyone to make them, so don’t feel pressured:) For some people they work beautifully first time, but the disappointment of failed batches can leave you wondering why you didn’t choose something more reliable to tickle your tastebuds!
@Ja: airpockets seem to be a function of oven temperature.
@Elizabeth: I’ve heard very mixed reports on Vue’s macarons, though they look nice.
@Janice: that’s exactly it — success in complex baking (not just macarons) requires either excellent intuition or some persistent and disciplined experimentation.
Great information here Duncan. I’ve only ever baked macarons in one oven, my oven, with an element at the top and bottom. You are right, the very best advise is just test, test, test.
Hi Duncan, First of all, thank you so much for putting in the tiime to write such an extensive and detailed outline to the wonderful world of macarons. I have been completely obsessed with making these gems and have been reading all your articles religiously.
I have been using the French meringue way and now I am trying to perfect the Italian meringue way. So far I have made 4 batches of the Italian meringue way, and kept getting macarons with air pockets and huge lopsided feet that resemble a baseball cape. I measured my counter space, thick aluminum pans and even my oven rack with a leveler and they all seem to be leveled. I have a fan based oven with optional covection option (I believe it’s type A or C). I’ve tried baking them at different temperatures (anywhere from 300F~350F) for about 13 minutes, and the ugly feet remain. I tried letting it sit out for 45 mintues, and one batch for just 15 minutes, still resulting in the lopsided elephantitis feet. I also tried piping it from the side and also vertically from the top. I even double panned, kept the door slightly ajared with a wooden spoon and it only seems to help a tiny bit, barely. The funny thing is I don’t usually get big lopsided feet with the French meringue way. I believue I have followed your instructions and formula to the t. I know it’s probably hard for you to diagnois the problem since you haven’t seen my oven, but do you think you can give me any pointers to what I can try or test out next to avoid this problem? I really do like the nice round and smooth shell the Italian meringue way creates. Please help! I am completely obsessed and even dreams about making them in my sleep! Thank you so much!
Me again. 🙂
I also always age my eggs out on the counter, uncovered for at least 24 hours.
@Julia: exactly:) One can become very attached to one’s own oven with these things!
@Yvonne: Air pockets remain a poorly understood problem. I had an experience the other day that might have shed some light on it, but I don’t want to write about it until I’m sure (because there are far too many misleading “tips” about these things out there already). I’ve only had air pockets happen once in a conventional (no-fan) oven using Italian meringue method. Convection ovens seem to cause them more often (supporting the suggestion I made in the original series of articles that it is a temperature-related problem). Lopsided feet might be a result of leaving the shells too long to crust. I’ve had the batter become stuck to the baking paper after a very long resting period, then rise unevenly. Finally, dreaming about them is probably unhealthy:P
just wanted to let you know that your article above inspired me to persevere.
I nearly gave up baking macarons forever after having several successful attempts then a few duds in a row however I was inspired to change a few variables after reading your article and since then I have been consistently getting some good results (not perfect yet!) Looking forward to tasting your macarons.
I know this is a bit of a late comment, forgive me.
I would like to give you a hug to be honest, my macaron marathon started 5 days ago, by day 3 I was tearing my hair out;until I found this article. Then everything made sense, it all came together; and I ended up with, whilst not perfect; non-cracked macarons with lovely little feet.
The rest ; colour, flavour, getting rid of the little caps, I am sure will come in time. The joy of seeing at least 50% of the tray perfectly formed is enough to send me into raptures.
This article should be required reading, and I will be linking it as such.
(has an old electric fan oven…..boo yah!)
@BrideXIII: I’m so glad the article was helpful to you! Good luck with future batches:)
I have an oven type “C” based on your article above. My macaron has “sticky” bottom. Is this because my oven is too “hot”? I baked my macaron for about 20 minutes at 300 F. I purchased an oven thermostat and it didn’t work at all, I meant the thermostat. Do you have any recommend brand for oven thermostat that you can tell me?
I appreciate your postings! Very helpful for beginner bakers!!!
@adelina: I can’t imagine why you would have sticky bottoms in a type “C” oven. I can’t do Fahrenheit in my head, so can’t comment on the temp.
By thermostat, I guess you mean thermometer (measuring device, rather than regulating device?). If you can’t control or measure your oven temp successfully, it’s impossible to troubleshoot your baking problem.
OMG, thank you so much! I just found out my macaron’s biggest flaw. I thought we should use the heat on top of the oven instead the below one. So I set it on top, so my macarons feet was flimsy, and the bottom was sticky. 🙁 is this this because of the oven?
Thank you soooo soooo much for your efforts in chronicling (is that a word?) EVERYTHING!!!
The little bastards didn’t like my cheap baking paper!!!
Yvonne, try unsticking the little things a little around the sides before putting them in the oven, mine were doing exactly the same thing or else blowing up like volcanos. I could see them struggling to rise in the oven and then just giving up completely and either rising lopsided or exploding.
I am now using the Glad baking paper and expect much better results. I also had to reduce the heat in my oven to 140C. I have a newer oven with heat from above and below.
Day 2 and counting down to perfection! Thanks again!!!
Fabulous article! It seems like all the instructional macaron articles I can find are strictly for beginners and have the same exact tips as the next, often word for word. None explain the science behind the cookie. This is the most in-depth macaron article I have found and is extremely helpful in understanding my oven/macaron problems.
Exactly what I was looking for! Thank you for taking the time to write it!
Duncan, I am so pleased and amazed that I am replicating gorgeous macarons after 3 days! Thank you!!!
I have had to add 1 tspn (2gm) egg white powder to each 50g egg white to give a dry enough meringue to form a skin after 30 min. Whether I aged my egg whites (sunny queen farm eggs) or not, my mix just seemed to be too wet.
I use Glad baking paper, thick oven trays and my oven (top and bottom heat) gives me beautiful feet, no gaps and shiney tops at 150C for 10 min.
I do have 1 question though…is there any way to stop the feet from deflating so much once they are out of the oven. I should actually be very happy with what I have, but I have now turned into a true obsessive and want them as fluffy as the photos on your blog!
I have tried higher heat, longer cooking time, keeping the oven door ajar after cooking time to try and set them a bit more, but all make no real difference, my hubby thinks I am insane, as there are plenty of photos of professional macarons which are flatter than mine. Would love to hear your opinions! Thanks 🙂
Duncan, Thank you so much for your insightful works, they are truly inspiring and helpful. I have been on a mission to master the macaron for several weeks now. After much trial and error, I believe I have produced a near beautiful macaron. However, the one flaw I have been unable to avoid is a brown shadow or cast on the macarons. I have been experimenting for several days now, using everything from different temperature setting, to covering with a piece of foil and venting the oven. My macarons continue to develop this brown/tan cast early in the baking process, regardless. My oven is a gas, fan-based convection oven. I would love to hear your opinion on how to avoid this discoloration.Thank you for the wonderful blog and for sharing your expertise!
I’ve made macarons about 6 or 7 times, my main problems are air pockets, little or no feet and being ultra sticky, my oven is an electrical element-style one and im realising thats what could be my problem.
This could be a bit far fetched, but if i put a pizza stone on a lower shelf would it help at all?
@jardeen: a pizza stone is an excellent way of modifying heat distribution in the oven.
You are my hero!!
Thank you very much for an in-depth explanation of ovens and how they work in Macarons. I baked 2 batches of Macarons today, they developed their feet and I did the feet dance *blush* but after that, all went horribly, horribly wrong. The tops were crinkled and they were extremely chewy, and stuck pretty well to my silicone sheets. What is the cause of the crinkly tops specifically?
Also, I own a type D oven, curses that it only bakes decent cookies (Not Macarons) but is there any way to help out with the heat distribution without going as far as an oven stone?
I tasted my Macarons this morning and well..it surprised me that what was an extremely sticky, chewy macaron last night has turned into an moist morsel with a thin shell that gave when bitten into. It’s like someone cast magic on it! I’m so happy that I will be able to give this to my friend as a surprise. First timer, maybe it was luck?
@Ellie: Crinkly tops is usually overmixing – they’re often a little translucent, with darker patches developing. The chewiness probably means they were cooked a little far (with overmixed batter, you can overcook, but still have totally sticky bottoms).
Type D ovens are really hard to manage — a pizza stone (or two) is really the only solution. Stones aren’t expensive unless you’re going for fancy ones. About A$20 should be all you need to pay, perhaps less.
And yes, even bad shells mature overnight:) I totally dehydrated a batch a few years ago by accident, but two days later the shells were fairly acceptable as they slowly absorbed moisture from the ganache.
Thanks so much for the explanation. I own a Type D oven and have always had problems with the macs sticking to the parchment sheet! Instead of a pizza stone, I was thinking of putting another tray on top to ‘slow’ the heat.
Also, have you ever had sticky, wet shells? My shells come out pretty okay after baking (tops are nice but bottom is a bit sticky). I put them in the fridge (or freezer) and the next day, the top of the shells get sticky! They even stick to each other in the fridge! Any thoughts on that?
Thank you 🙂
Hi, was wondering, so where should the heat come from for Macarons to have feet? My oven’s heat can be like a Type C and a Type D, or both, from top and bottom. So, which type of heat is best for Macarons?
Do you have any advice on whether it is possible or advisable to cook macarons in a gas convection oven?
@Owen: Most commercial ovens used for patisserie are gas ovens with some control of humidity and air circulation, so in a word, yes. HOWEVER, I’ve always found that commercial convection ovens cause a very fast rise in the macaron shells (VERY fast), sometimes with airpockets as the result. Domestic convection ovens are less powerful, but also more likely to have hotspots and such like. I know some home macaronniers certainly use them, so it can’t hurt to try using a convection oven, but I’d drop the temp a bit for the first experiment. Hopefully you do also have the option of turning off the fan if it proves necessary?
Just found your blog while searching for reasons as to why my macarons never come out consistent. Loved the article, I am always excited to learn about the “scientific side” of cooking and baking. Big thank you!!!
Wow, I mean…wow! That’s a lot of useful information here, thank you!
Today I tried to bake Macarons for the second time. They came out alright, maybe a bit too flat with the foot poking out, but I guess it’s because my egg white didn’t age so the batter was a little bit too thin.
But my main problem is that they stick to the parchment paper like crazy. Tips like using hot steam to get them of might help but don’t really solve the problem because Macarons aren’t supposed to be sticky, am I right with this?
I own an oven where I can choose from different options so I used air circulation. Is this a good choice? I have also the possibility to choose between air circulation & heat from above, air circulation & heat from the top or air circulation & heat from top and above. What’s the best option so use so they don’t stick to the paper like crazy?
Thanks Duncan, we have found the macarons cooked in the new oven successful. Cooking at 132 degrees with fan at half speed. No air pocket issues found. Lots of banging on the bench seems to solve that problem nicely.
Thanks for your post, it is the only post I could dig up that addresses this oven thing. My problem is hollows/air pockets. I (sadly) have a type D electric oven, and am overreaching for those perfectly filled insides. I’ve done many “experiments” of baking 3-4 macarons at a time, but I just can’t seem to find the perfect temperature and time combo. I did find that whenever they rose high in the oven, they were sure to come out hollow. It would be pooled and wet at the bottom and the shell would be empty. If I baked it for longer, then it would be the same thing but crunchy. The “good” batches I got were filled nicely, but browned/crunchy. I wouldn’t mind if the “maturation” could soften it, but they’re so brown that you can taste the brownness ever so slightly and I’m afraid it will ruin the taste even if the texture becomes a bit softer. Any advice? Thanks!
ok so been making macarons for 18months or so when i got back from overseas at my folks cafe. took me about 6months to get a good recipie and get them right have many people tell me they enjoy them more than zumbo’s lindt and places in france maybe there just nice. (my fav is la renaissance in the rocks first place i tried them) so tell me why is an airpocket bad its crisp it gives that collapse feel to the soft chewy feet then the flavor and moistness of the filling. i use a french meringue and dont have a fan forced oven just a couple of commercial shitty cobra ovens (moffets cheap brand) but usually get the airpocket. if i dont then the shell is just soft no crispness any ideas? also i put less icing sugar than almond meal not by much almost 1:1 i have a michellen starred chefs recipie do you know how that affects it? Is a french meringue in fact harder than an italian one? an italian is more stable because its basically cooked and the air molecules im not sure science are stronger, basic a fail safe version im not sure. italian meringue i do believe gives a shinier shell. thanks julian
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@Connie: maybe try lowering your oven temperature by, say, 10C and do the experiments again?
@theo: you need the tray surface to be hotter, in all likelihood, so heat from the top is working against you.
@julian: an airpocket obviously disrupts the subtle changes in texture as bite into the macaron. Instead of (1) very delicate crispness > (2) softness > (3) creaminess of filling, the intervening airpocket causes a different collapse of the shell. This is most noticeable on awful crunchy shells, of course. The ratio of sugar to almond is fairly flexible, if all else is going well (and if you’re using french meringue then the ratios are different anyway). As you can see from the other articles I’ve written here, and from readers comments, whether the French meringue is harder or not depends on a range of additional factors (luck, technique, oven, etc). Nonetheless, no-one would claim the Italian meringue is “fail safe” by any means.
Nice detailed explanation! I have a question though.
I have a modern conventional fan forced capable.
At the moment I have been baking with fan forced (both upper & lower) at 150c for 15minutes and the top of the macaron always browned. I tried 13 or 14 minutes but it still stuck to baking paper.
Should I use fan or not? and if I use the bottom heating without fan, should I place the tray in the middle or bottom or top?
Based on my observation, macarons that produce the best flavors are the one which actually have short feet than those that got tall feet. I think they tend to give better mouthfeel, think about it? Laduree, Pierre Herme, La maison ( currently voted by a famous food blog to be one of the best in states aside from of Laduree of course ). Any idea how to achieve the short feet ones?? I can get short feet macarosns from the exact same recipe from where i get the tall ones. Didnt really know what Happened I got them out of luck. Any thought?
@James: I can’t answer those questions, as only experimenting with your oven will give you the answer. Clearly, if the tops are browning and the bottoms are sticking, the heat under the shells is insufficient.
@Megan: given that the iconic macaron producers bake macarons with fairly tall feet, I’m not sure what you are saying. The height of the foot is, in the end, irrelevant to the mouthfeel, as it is the texture of the shell, its innards, and then the ganache that make the mouthfeel.
Really appreciate the detailed explanations and all the little tips.
I currently have this problem: if i cook the macarons longer, the top browns. If I cook it for shorter, the inside is uncooked and sticky.
I’ve tried varying the temperature and timings, but I always end up with the same situation. Is it possible that my oven is unsuitable to cook macarons with? I don’t mind in investing in a new oven, but I don’t want to do so and find out that the problem isn’t the oven.
I use a Tefal Delice Turbo
– 2000 Watts
– Capacity : 24 Litres
– Timer :120 mins With Automatic Shut Off
– Temperature Range : Thermostat:100 Degree to 240 Degree
– Heater Settings : Oven,Grill,Turbo Fan & Defrost
– Others : Cleantech-Self Cleaning Wall
– Hinged Top Heating Element
– Enamel Oven Sole
– 2 Indicator Light:Cook & Preheat
Tearing my hair out after baking these for days on end. Any suggestions or little tips you might have? Thanks so much once again. – Jeremy
@Jeremy: your oven *could* work for macarons (a French friend has successfully made a tiny batch in a similar oven), but you face the problem of poor temperature reliability usually in one of those. Aim for cooking them within 8-13 mins and perhaps try to preheat the baking tray to get more even cooking.
Thanks so much for this post! This is the only post I found that addresses the oven issue.
Every batch I made turned out hollow and shells were splotchy and translucent. The shells were rested for 30-45 mins, and I doubled the pans and tried baking at 280F-320F for 12-14 mins. I got feet (sometimes protruding @ 320F) and I had no problem removing them from the paper. My oven is type C. Any suggestions? Thank you!
I hava crappy old type 6 oven…. and use Italian method. For sticky bottoms…. I cool for 11 minutes fan forced at 160 Celcius, in the middle of the oven, then move to the bottom at 145 Celcius for 3 minutes. I take the tray out and leave them on the oven rack, and put the tray on the top shelf so they don’t go brown. Works a treat, and I turn out about 120 macarons a night this way. Yes I know, I need a life…
I just dicovered your website a few days ago thanks to a link from David Lebovitz.
I haven’t yet ridden everything you wrote about macarons, but I have a question about oven! I have a Montague gas Convection Oven with a button to use hot or cold fan. Do you know if I have to use the hot fan during the cooking or no? And do you know how they will cook without the fan? I made a first attempt today (and it was a disaster!!! though I had already made some at home with a basic gas oven and they went well!…) so I’m going to continue to try, but if you have any recomandations for this kind of oven, it would be great!
@Adeline: I’ve always found it difficult to adapt to a domestic oven with convection. I would try small trays with and without fan (making the necessary temperature adjustments).
Hi! So I bought a silpat for making macarons, but everytime I use it, my macarons crack on top and the feet don’t really come out. My friend also borrowed it using a different oven and she had exactly the same results. Using parchment, they always turn out (despite a couple with lopsided feet which I haven’t figured out yet) but since my parchment is kinda crinkly, the feet don’t turn out as even 🙁 Do you know why? Thanks!
@Emily: I’ve come to believe that Silpat only works for macarons in commercial ovens. Haven’t had the opportunity to test the hypothesis though, as I have no Silpat (did try it twice in domestic oven at a friend’s place though).
I just want to say a big thank you for this article. I have tried numerous attempts at making gorgeous macarons BUT they have mainly been a disaster. I have a type A oven, and am finding the shells cracking and no feet appearing. They also tend to be quite crispy on the bottoms. Do you think that doubling up on baking trays will help? Thank you.
@Rachel: Thanks for your comment:) Yes, I think your oven is a good candidate for the double-tray method. The heat is probably too strong from below, causing the shells to break apart before they get to stiffen enough.
Hi Duncan. I have tried a few times baking macarons and always the feet rise beautifully but then deflates to the half when they are still in the oven. I’ve tried differents temperatures without success. I have an electric fan forced convection oven with the heat element at the back and no option to turn off the fan. Please HELP!!! Thank you
Thank you for your excellent explanation on the importance of the oven in macaron making!
If there was a stronger term than “macaron obsessed” that would be me.
I am a professional baker and I’ve made thousands of macarons using the Italian method and a commercial rack oven. I quit my job about 18 months ago and have been baking for friends’ events from my home kitchen. But I have a problem. I can’t make macarons at home. I have read hundreds of blogs, recipes and websites and most of the time people dont really know what they’re talking about. They figure out what works for them in their kitchen and think they understand all about macaron making. HA! There is so much misinformation going around.
I have only found 2 truly useful sites, yours about understanding your oven and bravetart.com that has a great piece about all of the stupid myths people believe about macaron making.
Now for my problem, I understand all about making macarons and the importance of the macaronage. I believe that there is nothing wrong with my recipe or method. So I’ve isolated the problem to my oven. I have tried all kinds of baking times, temperatures, rack placement and double traying, but to no avail. All of my macarons come out with very lopsided feet, just like Yvonne who posted earlier. I have tried everything! At one point I decided that my actual oven was the problem, that there must be hot spots, or it must not maintain the temperature or something. I figured my oven was just too old! so I went to my friend’s house and baked them there. Thy turned out amazing and perfect! I rushed right out bought new double ovens (very high end) and excitedly made my first batch. FAIL! No change, lopsided! Help. I’ve since tried 3 other ovens. They always come out lopsided or exploding out the top if the temps too high. HELP! What else can I try?
If anyone could help me it would be you…..
Oh, and I literally dream about macarons all the time, too. Yvonne, I feel your pain…
@Maria: I think only Pierre Hermé has mastered the art of keeping the feet maximally high at all times. You need to experiment with oven temps and timing if you want to stop your feet shrinking a bit.
@Connie: Thanks for your comments:) You know, I’d hazard a guess that you’re using a different baking paper at home than you did at work or your friend’s place. Possible? I know for me that I changed brands once and had a similar problem. If you leave your unbaked shells on the paper they can adhere too firmly, resulting in uneven rise or even bursting.
I have a Smeg 900mm freestanding oven and I think heat coming from the back too rather than top and/or bottom. I am using french method for the macarons. I get the feet OK, but have problems with the tops over browning no matter what I seem to do. Have tried leaving oven ajar, tray on top, less time in oven, lower oven temp. Not sure what to do next. Other than the tops being too brown, most of the time they are pretty good. I just want the lovely colours to remain and not go brown!!! Hope you can help
@Laus: I can only guess that you are cooking them for too long. Many colours will change towards the end of the cooking time, so it can be a balancing act between a minute or two more to make sure the shell is well cooked vs a minute or two less to preserve the colour beautifully. You’ll find most commercial producers use *a lot* of colouring to try to fight the browning.
LOVE this post. I just opened a sweet shop in Connecticut and I want to start testing macarons in my oven. I’ve only made them at home (turned out so-so). I have a Vulcan (American brand) electric convection. You seem to have the answers. So, any tips? Temp to set it at, how long, which rack? I’m nervous the fan is going to blow the cookies away. Ha. There is a setting for hi and low fan speed. Any info you have would be GREAT. Thank you!
@Miriam: start by using my Italian meringue version and then adjust. The fan on a commercial convection over can be very fierce, so be careful!
I just made macarons with the Italian method. In the oven they looked beautiful with gorgeous feet. After they cooled on the parchment on a rack the feet shrunk to be very minimal, loosing about 85% of it’s height. They came off the sheet easily and had a nice crust with a perfect chewy interior. How do I prevent so much shrinkage?
Thank you very much for helping:)
I am reading your post like macaron bible, but my drama w macaron still exists! I made several succefful batches weeks ago ( french stlye). But when I ran out of the almond flour and switch to those I got from Trader Joes and Whole Foods, the nightmare happened! I did bake them in a very low temp to make sure the flour is dry, but with the same batter, the result came out very different on two kinds of trays which I’ve used to bake successful ones.
I have one thick and one thinner tray. Those baked on thick tray now came out w uneven feet, only rise on one side. I suspect the oven heat caused the problem; but some has the feet rise on the right side, and some rise on the left side. For those baked on thinner tray, the feet rise OK, but still have some uneven rise level. My question are
1. Does almond flour matter?
2. How come the same batter on different kind of tray turned out different result.
Thank you so much for your help!!!
Hy Duncan , i´ve been trying to make macarons so many times, i have a gas oven , the heat cames from the base… ive been making italian meringue macarons and i have a real problem , the shells doesnt rise level, and 3 of 4 trays came out of the oven with lopsided feet… im very frustrated becuse i dont understand why some of my trys came out well and the other trys came out with a lopsided feet.
the oven temperature i always use is 155 degrees
Try different baking paper or rest your shells for less time.
I have recently moved houses and the oven i have now is a gas oven (type B in your diagrams) and i am struggling to bake good macarons and would like some advice.
My Macarons are browning which i have sort of resolved by placing an empty tray above my macarons but i am still getting air pockets. Is this because i am baking them on too low/too high heat or do i need to stack a tray at the bottom as well?
They are quite crispy too – I had an issue with my macarons always being undercooked so on the safe side i normally bake them on low heat (Gas Mark 4) for roughly 20 minutes or so then leave them resting in the oven for another 10 mins with the oven door open.
Another question I have is does the egg whites have to be stiff peak before they are used? I have seen some youtube videos where people stop when they are only at soft peak and they seem to bake well?
Thanks for helping 🙂
@Jessica: You’re cooking your shells for a very very long time. I would expect them to be unacceptably crunchy. The stiffness of your eggwhites probably isn’t a serious issue.
I have been making macarons for a year, I used to bake macarons with rotary rack oven (convection oven) and it came out perfectly in terms of appearance (high feet, flat surface), but mostly it hollowed. Anyway, it still tasted great.
Since I moved to another place, I purchased conventional oven (deck oven) , and of course you know that moving to other place means we have to adapt ourselves in preparing macarons. Conventional oven that I bought, it has bottom heat and upper heat. It confused me, when I bake that at 160C-160C (bottom-top heat) for 15mins, it get burned and still sticky. I lower the temp 150C-160C , it still burned and uncooked shells. Moreover, the feet doesnt rise as great as I used to have in convection oven. However, I mostly have perfect texture using conventional oven (no hollow).
any comment / idea / suggestion ?
Hi Duncan, i just tried my first ever batch of macaroons without ever having eaten a professionally made one so i am not exactly sure how they are meant to be. I have a type B oven and you said above in your article that you heat the tray more from underneath? Do you heat the tray prior to putting the macaron batter on the tray or just increase the temp of the oven? And if you increase temp how much should it be by? My shells we nice round, crisp and thin and my feet formed but all of my shells stuck to the tray and were sticky on the inside despite leaving them in nearly double the time on the recipe. I also baked two trays of shells at once is that a no no? Should i increase temp by 10 degrees and try again. Thanks
Hi Duncan, I have been baking my Macarons in my my home convection oven with a top and bottom element. Initially, I had my rack in the top third of the oven and the macaron tops were getting a bit dark. I then moved the rack to the middle of the oven and now they are not getting overly browned. I am now ready to go into a small business and get a commercial convection oven. Do you have any recommendations on what kind is better to get?
@Bobby: I’ve not had a chance to try out that sort of oven.
@Kate: I think you are making things unnecessarily difficult for yourself. Until you’re used to baking them successfully, one tray at a time is appropriate. You need to experiment. I cannot see why you would have sticky bottoms in a type B oven after baking them for twice the recommended time.
@Lori: I don’t have commercial oven recommendations because they vary so much, and in my experience required an exhausting amount of experimentation. (Your first battle will probably be the intensity of heat and/or power of the fan.)
What a fascinating entry! I have been baking macarons for the past two years. I, like you, experienced many failures, but after a while, I had tamed my oven and was getting 100% success each time. That is until some day, out of the blue, disaster struck again. All my macaron were lumpsided, non of them beautiful like they used to be. I tried again, and again but I couldn’t fix the problem. I took extreme measures and bought a brand new convectional oven. Again, things were not right. I use a commercial oven in a special kitchen and all my macarons do fine there, for a while I thought my “coup de main” was off. I think I just fixed the problem by using Silpat mats at home. With them, things seem to be back on track. Do you know why? Today I did two trays, one with parchment paper and one with the Silpat. Sure enough, the cookies on the parchment paper were lumpsided and the ones on the Silpat were fine. Do you have a theory on that? I used my oven on the convection setting at 325°F. Thanks!
@Caroline: the Silpat is more insulating, so probably provides a more even heat distribution, but the change in behaviour of parchment paper probably means you’ve either (a) changed brands of paper, or (b) changed how long you’re resting the shells (too long), or (c) changed the trays.
Thank you so much Duncan, I think you nailed it on the head. I baked yesterday and determined that the heat coming from the bottom of my oven can be too aggressive. I have been getting an air bubble (at home, not at the commercial kitchen), so I raised my oven temperature to 320°F, used the Silpat and doubled my trays. There is still a small air pocket, but it is better. I never thought that the problem could be coming from the paper I use though 🙂 I blamed my failures on: my oven, my technique, the almond flour I was using, my eggs, etc… I went from completely successful batches to 98% spoiled. I am so happy I can finally put it all behind (after 8 months of trying).
This is the most informative article about macaron and ovens. I used to have fan-forced oven resulting a very good shaped macarons but now since I changed the oven everything changed. This is such a great observe that shall help me out. Thank you tons.
i need your help! so i have been wanting to make macarons for a very long time now so i gave it a try, using the italian method.. all went perfectly well, well thats what i thought until i put them in the oven. my first tray cracked and the rest of the tray all had no cracks, they also had feet but all hollow from inside and the bottoms had stuck on to the paper.. 🙁
my oven is type B, with the heat coming from the lower back end. it is also a gas oven so i set it at gas mark 2/3 which i believe is about 150 degrees celcius. can you please advise on what i may be doing wrong??
@sabina: I don’t understand why you baked them at a lower temperature than I recommended. Stuck on the paper means that they were either overmixed or the heat from below was too weak. Cracking has many causes. Try again at a higher temperature.
I have been making macarons for a long time and I would like to transition to using the Papetti’s egg whites. It’s a US brand of pasteurized egg whites that I know bakers use. Unfortunately, when I use them, my shells have a big air pocket and don’t come out the same. Do you recommend some special baking when you use such egg whites? The commercial oven I use only has increments of 25°F. Today, I tried: 325°F for 14 minutes and the macs where hollow. I increased the cook time to 16 minutes but then the macs were turning brown – the top baking sheets had hollow macs and the one underneath was okay (although brown). Do you recommend anything to fix this? I am so frustrated!!!! I would like to take my tiny business to the next level and I know that breaking and separating eggs for my orders won’t work for huge orders. Thanks!!!!
@Caroline: If the pasteurised egg white contains less water than fresh egg whites, then it might require some adjustment to your batter, but other than that I can’t see why there would be any negative effect on the outcome.
I have no idea why people bake their macarons for such long times. For me, this has always resulted in dehydrated and hollow shells.
I cooked them for that long because the shells stuck to the Silpat and the inside of the macaron was soft and doughy. Sorry for all the question, it’s hard to transition from making macs at home to in a commercial kitchen. I found out that chefs don’t like to help and give tips to people like me 🙂
Hi Duncan! I’m using electric commercial convection ovens. The macs on the top shelves always come out well; the other shelves, not so much. I seem to be fan-challenged, but I cannot turn it off. Any suggestions? Rotating trays? Putting many trays in to block air circulation? Sometimes, they almost look wind-blown!
@Ami: I had similar experiences with some commercial ovens! There might not be a way to turn off the fan. And I vividly remember the shells which had been windblown! You should try creating fairly robust walls at the back of your trays – maybe in aluminium foil. You don’t want them to be the full height of the shelf because it’d probably cause airflow problems, but hopefully even shortish ones would reduce the blowing effect.
Thank you so much for this article! It has helped me very much. I have been getting air pockets and I think the problem is definitely related to my oven temperature/baking time. I am going to start experimenting as you suggested.
I tend to get browned shells that are slightly undercooked on the inside, which is why I think they have the air pocket. Would you recommend a lower temperature for longer?
I also recently discovered that the gel food colouring I was using was causing some browning- the specific brand is Wilton, so watch out for this brand!
@ Mel: Browning can also be a function of the colour you’re using, rather than the manufacturer – reds will often brown unattractively rather quickly (as will colours which contain red).
I’ve been baking macarons with the Italian meringue method for a while now and they look great and taste great. Although my macarons all have feet, they aren’t nice and fluffy. They are uniform but really short. Is there anything you can recommend that I try?
Since moving, I’ve gone through numerous of test batches where I’ve adjusted temperatures and baking times, all in which have resulted in short little feet. 285F seems to be the right temperature for me. I’ve tried a higher temperature but it only caused my shells to darken.
Please help if you have some idea of what I may be doing wrong.
@Diane: if the feet are super-short, perhaps you’re overcooking by a few minutes? Tall and fluffy feet and a mystery to me too – I think it’s a mix of good batter and ideal oven temp. 285F seems low to me (assuming no fan). If shells are darkening, then either you’re cooking too long or the oven is too hot from the top.
Hi Duncan! Thanks for this wonderful post and I was relieved to see that you have still replied to comments rather recently. I’m hoping you might be able to help me because I am desperately seeking advice on how to fix my French macarons. I was able to make pretty decent ones in my old apartment with a crummy oven, but the oven in my new apartment seems even worse. I used the Italian meringue method (Pierre Herme’s recipe) in hopes of greater stability and used aged egg whites as well as cream of tartar for the meringue. I took photos of the whole process (https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8683/15984114858_987bde780b_o.jpg) and my baker friend confirmed the macaronage looks right, but I got terrible results. I think the main problem is that my oven is bottom heat only (type C, I think) and very uneven. I think the usual solution for the lopsided feet I’m getting is to dry the piped batter for less time, but I’m also getting cracks on top which usually means I need to dry for longer? For the batch in the photos, I baked on a shelf slightly higher than the middle with my pizza stone on a shelf in between the heat source and my pan to try to buffer the strength of the heat. I baked at about 295 F with a single pan for about 20 minutes. In addition to those ugly lopsided feet and cracks, the shells had HUGE air pockets. Previously, I have tried to bake with double pans but I barely got feet, the shell bottoms were sticky, and the tops browned. Please help me I have tried 4 batches in a row without success and I am almost about to give up although I adore these delectable treats. Thanks in advance and Happy New Year! -Xiaolu
@Xiaolu: From your picture, I’d say the shells have perhaps been rested too long (sticking to the silpat) and are overcooked (maximises the air pocket problem). If you have a fan-oven, it might be worth trying with the fan an (at a lower temp) and seeing if that changes how the shells behave. Cracks on top can definitely mean resting for too short a time, but given all the other observations, it could still be too strong a burst of heat from below. BTW if you don’t have the fan on and have put the shells up one shelf, it’ll usually be hotter there, so it makes the troubleshooting more complex. If you’re using the pizza stone to block heat, it’s possible it causes more problems if it isn’t the same shape/size as your baking tray – perhaps try just replacing the pizza stone with a second baking tray? (Not stacking the two together, which you’ve already tried.)
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