Italian vs French: Which Macaron Reigns Supreme?

Italian Macarons vs French Macarons

For any long-time readers of Miss Buttercup, you’ll know that we’re massive fans of macarons.

After all, once you’ve had one, it’s easy to understand why!

They are a delicate cookie made from egg whites, sugar, and almond flour.

While they are often associated with France, there is another country that also claims to have invented this dessert – Italy. 

Indeed, there are many differences between them but the main one is between Italian and French macarons is the meringue used to create them. French macarons use a French meringue that is made using uncooked egg whites, while Italian macarons are made using a simple syrup and egg whites that are cooked.

The differences in meringues naturally affect the final product, resulting in different textures and flavors.

But there’s so much more to talk about and so, without further delay, let’s dive right in and take a closer look at these beloved treats!

Historical Differences

Italian macarons have a rich history that dates back prior to the Middle Ages. The exact origin of macarons is not known, but it is believed that they evolved as a result of trade between Italy and Tunisia.

Arab troops from Ifrīqiya (now Tunisia) brought new papermaking techniques and foods, including nut-based sweets, to Sicily in 827. These sweet pastries, like almond-paste tarts and noodles, evolved into various desserts and were also introduced to Spain. It’s thought that Italian monks borrowed maccheroni from Maccarruni, from which today’s macarons are derived. These small, sweet treats were initially made with almond flour, sugar, and egg whites.

Macarons made their way to France in the 16th century when French queen Catherine de’ Medici brought Italian pastry chefs to France who created the macaron. In the 1790s, two Carmelite nuns in Nancy sold them to earn money and became known as the “Macaron Sisters”. Initially, the macarons were served without any flavoring or filling.

French macarons are a more recent creation, and they are smaller and more delicate than Italian macarons. They are made with almond flour, sugar, and egg whites, but the French use a different technique to make them. French macarons use uncooked French meringue, while Italian macarons use cooked Italian meringue. This difference in meringue causes French macarons to be less stable, chewier, and less sweet than Italian macarons.

Macarons became popular in the 1930s after jams, liqueurs and spices were added to the traditional almond meringue discs. Pierre Desfontaines of Ladurée is often credited with the invention, but Claude Gerbet also claims to have created it. In the 2010s, macaron bakeries became trendy in North America.

Characteristics Italian Macarons French Macarons
History Pre-Middle Ages, believed to have evolved from trade between Italy and Tunisia 16th century France, introduced by Italian pastry chefs
Origin Italy/Sicily Italy
Recipe Almond flour, sugar, and egg whites, using cooked Italian meringue Almond flour, sugar, and egg whites, using uncooked French meringue
Texture More stable, crispy exterior, soft and chewy interior, sweeter Less stable, chewier texture, less sweet
Fillings Initially served without any flavoring or filling, later adapted with jams, liqueurs, and spices Filled with ganache, buttercream, or jam
Popularity Popular in Italy, Spain and North Africa Became popular in France in the 1930s, and later trendy in North America

Ingredient and Preparation Differences

Italian macarons are made using a method that combines meringue made from egg whites and hot sugar syrup, almond paste, and icing sugar. It is known for being both structurally sound and sweet, and a candy thermometer is needed.

The French Meringue Method involves whisking egg whites until a stiff peak is formed, then folding in sifted ground almonds and powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached, a process known as macaronage.

Characteristics Italian Macarons French Macarons
Meringue Method Cooked Italian meringue (with syrup) French meringue (whipped egg whites)
Ingredients Egg whites, hot sugar syrup, almond paste, icing sugar Egg whites, ground almonds, powdered sugar
Sweetness Sweet Less sweet
Macaronage required? No Yes
Candy thermometer? Needed Not needed

Texture and Appearance Differences

Italian macarons are known for their tall rise and compact texture. As previously mentioned, the meringue used in Italian macarons is made using a simple syrup and cooked egg whites.

The result is a cookie with a smooth and crisp exterior, with small air bubbles and clean edges. The texture of Italian macarons can be described as crumbly or powdery, and they tend to be more delicate than French macarons.

Italian macarons have a taller foot and overall shell than French macarons, which gives them a distinctive look. The foot is less ruffly than the French macaron foot, and there are fewer air bubbles in the shell. Italian macarons come in a variety of colors and flavors, and they are often used in elaborate dessert presentations.

French macarons are also known for their wide range of colors and flavors.

They are often filled with buttercream, ganache, or jam. French macarons have become a popular dessert all around the world, and many patisseries and bakeries specialize in making them.

The texture of French macarons can vary depending on the recipe, but they are generally less delicate than Italian macarons. The shell of French macarons tends to be flatter and may have a ruffled appearance due to the air in the meringue.

The interior of French macarons is lighter and more airy than Italian macarons, with a chewy texture that is less crumbly. French macarons are also less sweet than Italian macarons, with a stronger almond flavor due to the lower ratio of sugar to almonds.

Overall, the texture and appearance of Italian and French macarons are distinct and easily recognizable.

Characteristics Italian Macarons French Macarons
Texture Crumbly, powdery, delicate, with a smooth and crisp exterior Chewy, airy, less delicate, with a flatter shell
Appearance Tall rise, compact texture, fewer air bubbles in the shell, and less ruffly foot Flatter shell, ruffly foot, with more air bubbles in the shell
Meringue used Cooked Italian meringue (with syrup) French meringue (whipped egg whites)
Sweetness Sweet Less sweet
Flavor Variety of colors and flavors, used in elaborate dessert presentations Variety of colors and flavors, often filled with buttercream, ganache, or jam
Almond flavor Less pronounced More pronounced

Flavor and Filling Differences

Italian macarons are denser and more compact than French macarons, so they can hold up better to heavier fillings. Some popular flavors for Italian macarons include:

  • Chocolate hazelnut
  • Lemon
  • Raspberry
  • Pistachio
  • Coffee

Italian macarons are often filled with ganache or buttercream, which can be flavored with a variety of ingredients such as fruit purees, liqueurs, or spices. Italian macarons can also be filled with jams, curds, or caramel.

French macarons have a lighter, airier texture than Italian macarons, which can make them more delicate and prone to cracking. However, this also allows for a wider range of flavors and fillings. Some popular flavors for French macarons include:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Lavender
  • Earl Grey tea
  • Matcha green tea

French macarons can be filled with a variety of fillings such as buttercream, ganache, curds, jams, or fresh fruit.

They can also be filled with unique combinations such as salted caramel and chocolate, or raspberry and rose.

Overall, the flavors and fillings of Italian and French macarons are limited only by the baker’s creativity and imagination. Both styles of macarons offer a wide range of options for flavor and filling combinations, making them a delicious and versatile treat for any occasion.

Characteristics Italian Macarons French Macarons
Texture Denser, more compact Lighter, airier
Flavor Options Chocolate hazelnut, Lemon, Raspberry, Pistachio, Coffee Vanilla, Chocolate, Lavender, Earl Grey tea, Matcha green tea
Filling Options Ganache, buttercream, jams, curds, caramel Buttercream, ganache, curds, jams, fresh fruit
Durability Can hold up better to heavier fillings More delicate, prone to cracking
Unique Combinations Wide range of options for flavor and filling combinations Unique combinations like salted caramel and chocolate or raspberry and rose

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