What's the difference between French vs. Italian macarons? It's all in the meringue! Did you know there's a Swiss meringue macaron too?
There are actually 2 main methods of making macarons - the Italian method and the French method (the third method is the Swiss which is not as popular).
Both methods yield essentially the same yummy and gorgeous looking concoction that most people will recognize as a macaron. However, there are a few subtle differences in the shape and taste between the two types. For the consumer, both types are equally delicious, where it really matters is which method you prefer and is able to master as a baker.
The name for the two different methods is derived from the meringue it utilizes - French or Italian. As you may know already, the making of a French meringue involves whipping uncooked egg whites and sugar to create a fluffy and airy base for your dessert. In contrast, the Italian method involves heating up the sugar with water making it into a syrup that is poured into the uncooked egg whites while beating it simultaneously. It is a little trickier to do and also requires a stand mixer. That's why some people think that the French method is simpler and can actually be considered a more "kid-friendly" recipe.
Even though the Italian Method may be more complicated with more steps, it actually produces a meringue that is very stable to use during the tricky 'macaronage' stage when the dry and wet ingredients are incorporated together. Conversely, the French Meringue may be easier to master but it the macaronage stage is relatively more difficult because the meringue is so delicate. With the French meringue, it's very easy to over mix the batter leading to less than desired results. The Italian method is the more popular method used in most bakeries due to its stability and visual appeal.
LADUREE VS. PIERRE HERME
The two main undisputed authorities on French macarons are the famed bakeries of Laduree and Pierre Herme. In Laduree's Macaron Book, the French method is used. Whereas, Pierre Herme uses the Italian method. (I'm talking purely talking about the baking method provided in their book and not the method used in the stores.)
In the Italian method, the cookies usually exhibit a more vertical rise whereas the French ones remains more like a flat disk. The baking temperature and the French meringue itself can affects the feet's development causing their appearance to be more "ruffly" with bigger air pockets in the feet. In contrast, the feet to Italian macarons are usually more vertical and cleaner with delicate air pockets.
Besides the visual differences, Italian method macarons tend to be more crumbly/powdery while the French method macarons are less sweet, chewier and tastes more like almonds due to the lower ratio of sugar to almonds.
"Which method is better?"
This is purely a personal preference. When I started baking macarons, I really liked the Italian method for its stability and effectiveness but over time, I grew to LOVE the french method since it involved less steps and is generally just easier once you get the hang of it. Also, the chewier texture of the shell is heavenly and allowed the macarons to stay fresh longer and transport more readily.
Which method do you prefer?
J. O says
Hi, I was always curious about the difference between the 2 methods and you’ve open my eyes. This article is very interesting, although I have a book of Pierre H. and in the book he used the french method. Did you make a mistake by accident. Sorry if I seamed nit picking.
Thanks for your comment. It's been a while since I cracked open that book and I took another look. It is indeed using Italian method with heating the syrup. Perhaps we have different books? Mine has a black cover with macarons on it.
I just popped in to stay your macaron blog posts and videos are just stellar. Thank you so much for doing such a great job with details on how exactly to make the meringue and how to macaronage with the timer. I ve been messing with Italian macaron recipes during COVID times with hits and misses..but I tried your French recipe yesterday and more importantly with all your instructions and they were beautiful. It was a good confidence boost.
My current challenge is the macarons at the edges of my tray bake well but the ones in the middle are sticky, so will try my convection fan today and hope it resolves!
I'm so happy to hear about your results! The last year has been a crazy one, it helps to hear about how others are coping and I also find this is a great time to pursue one's hobbies. I hope your convection fan has helped !
Raven Hsieh says
I was looking for your Italian recipe for French macarons.
I think I’m missing it some where .
I found the French way.
I don't have one yet. My goodness, it's been years. I really want to do one soon. For now, I hope you are able to find an Italian recipe that works for you. XOXO, Mimi
Hi Mimi, do you have the recipe for italian method for macarons?
Sorry, not currently. I hope to create a tutorial in the future. I use the Pierre Herme recipe which is equal ratios for the main ingredients. However, as you all know, technique is what matters. I hope to do a tutorial one day. 🙂
I finally agreed to try the Italian method because I was so fed up of the difficulties in macrophage with the macs being either to stiff and cracked or too runny (a difference of one turn) . All u say is true. The Italian macaron after all the messing with exact weights, exact temperatures etc.. is easier to succeed at. The optical result- beautiful but one bite and I'm back on French turf. There is nothing in the world like the delicious soft chewiness of French macarons, which are just the perfect degree of sweetness especially when filled with my raspberry butter cream. So goodbye elegant feet, good bye silky smooth tops 😢. I will miss you but its French macarons for me. Allons enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrivé
I also love the chewiness of the French meringue as well 🙂 It's good you tried the Italian method for comparison.
Have a happy holiday season!