Macaron Test, Italian Meringue Challenge

Macarons at Home
Close-up of Italian meringue macs

So I've been a little obsessed with Pierre Herme recently, every classic french pastry recipe I've been using has been leading back in some way to him and his techniques, so imagine my surprise that unlike Laduree and some of the other big "French" names in the macaron business, he (along with Thomas Keller's Bouchon bakery) prescribes to the Italian meringue method for making macarons.

While I finally have a handle on French meringue macs, I had read all over the place that Italian meringue macs are so much easier to make that French meringue macs, so I was intrigued. I still do have occasional disasters with my French meringue macs - right before Christmas I attempted to bake a batch while consuming wine, I not only overmixed my batter, I somehow piped it onto the wrong side of my silpats, let's just say it ended badly.

So for Christmas I asked for and receeved Pierre Herme's macaron book where he gives all his tips and recipes for his macarons. Let's just say some of them are crazy (savory foie gras or black truffle macarons anyone?) and I devoted a weekend to macaron making via his recipe.

Let's start by saying his recipe is sized larger than my standard French recipe, so I ended up with more than 200 shells (I piped 2 cm babies, 3.5 cm traditional, and 6 cm giants like Bouchon does) and I couldn't even fit all my sheets on one table.

Just "some" of my piped trays.

Like always I experimented with baking times as well as silpats vs parchment, light pans vs dark, etc. I won't bore you with all the details, but I have to say - other than the annoying part of making the sugar syrup to "cook" the meringue, the little beasts were a cinch to make. Nowhere near as fussy as french macs.
Parchment and silicon mats tested for Italian method macarons

What amazed me most though was that in every single shell, there was not one crack or hollow, nor footless freak in the mix (hollows have been my biggest frustration with french macs). As you can see above, the little darlings came out perfectly (although I did have problems with browning - note for the future, never use a dark pan with macarons).

Alas though, when it comes to flavor, in this first attempt I must admit that Italian meringue macs are nowhere near as tasty and French meringue macs. The texture is chewier vs super light and delicate, and the Italian macs are noticeably sweeter too, another mark against them in my book.

So now I plan to continue to experiment with Italian meringue macs, but when I want some just for myself to eat, I'll be sticking with French.

Have you made macarons? Do you prefer French or Italian method better?

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