Anyone who is familiar with making meringues is probably aware that is more than one way to make them. Various types of meringues, including Italian, French and Swiss, are commonly used when making buttercreams, toppings for pies and pavlovas, but each of those methods can be used for making macarons as well.
Once the base meringue is made, the sifting and then the folding of the ingredients – a process better known as macronage – is pretty much the same. In case you’re unfamiliar, here is a quick breakdown of all three meringues.
This is probably the easiest of the meringues and a great place to start for someone who is new to making macarons. For this meringue, the egg whites are beaten until they resemble cappuccino foam and then granulated sugar is rained into the slightly beaten whites. From there, they are beaten to a soft peak. After adding any flavoring or coloring, the soft meringue is beaten more until it reaches stiff peaks. However, a common misconception is that a stiff peak should stand straight up and down. Actually, if the meringue gets to that point, it is over-beaten. Pretending that you are looking at the hands on a clock, the peak should never go past 11:30.
Known for being the most stable of the meringues, it can also be a bit trickier than the other two methods. For an Italian meringue, sugar syrup cooked to soft ball stage and then poured into whisking egg whites until peaks form. Rather than being stiff like a French meringue, Italian meringue will have a softer, slightly curved peak, known by the French term, “bec d’oiseau” or bird beak.
Although this type of meringue is luscious for buttercream, it is somewhat forgotten when it comes to making macarons. The method is straightforward enough. Egg whites and sugar are cooked together over a double boiler until the sugar dissolves. From there, it is beaten to a stiff peak, similar to that of macarons made using the French method.
No matter the method used, macarons are delicate cookies that take a little practice to master. However, once that’s done, you can really begin experimenting with flavor combinations that will wow family and friends and leave you with a true feeling of accomplishment.