First of all, now that I have tried the Italian Meringue Method, I never want to go back to the French method. These bear-shaped macarons up there are made using the French Meringue Method, but they tend to produce a more crunchy, airy cookie that melts in your mouth. The Italian Meringue macarons are more soft, chewy, and cake-like. They also melt in your mouth. However, the Italian Meringue method is WAY more stable than the French, since it uses a sugar syrup to stabilize the egg white meringue. I always have trouble explaining these things to people who aren't bakers...they have NO IDEA what I'm talking about. All they want to do is eat the cookie. Anyways, I have had way more failures using the French meringue method, and NO FAILURES AT ALL using the Italian Meringue method. Plus, it's the one Pierre Herme uses. Can't go wrong with that.
Now, on to my tips and tricks...(I am talking about the Italian Meringue method here)
- It is not absolutely necessary to own a kitchen thermometer or a stand mixer
- You should make your macaronage stiff enough that it will dry up on its own. Overmixing is the worst thing you can do. It is better to undermix than overmix, since it will warm up while your hands are working the piping bag. To check if your batter is stiff enough, leave it there for a couple minutes and touch it with your finger. If it doesn't stick, it's good. If it does, you've gone too far.
- 300 degrees works the best for me, baking for 15-20 minutes. My oven is a convection oven, so it runs a little hot. I tried doing 320 at first, since Not So Humble Pie's blog suggested it. However, it just made the feet on my macarons burst and look terrible. I like the temperature lower and longer better than higher and shorter. That way it is harder to overbake them. I tried 280 degrees before, but it makes them hollow and sad :(
- Silpats are the best option for me when making macarons. 300 degrees works wonders on them, now I wonder why I didn't use them before. I first tried using silpat with my French meringue macarons, but they would always stick to the bottoms! But with the Italian ones, they come right off! And I love how you can just wash it and use it again unlike yucky parchment. I hate throwing parchment away. Also, since I use AirBake baking sheets, they aren't completely flat, so when I use parchment they end up being lopsided. With the Silpats, they stay uniform and round :)
- It is not necessary to own a kitchen scale. I use a postal scale, and it works out fine. :) Why should I spend more money on something that I have at home?