Updated: Nov 26, 2020
When it comes to macarons, people immediately think French, not realizing that there is an Italian method to making them as well.
What is a Macaron?
A macaron is an almond flour and meringue based cookie. The cookie's ingredients are simple: Almond flour, powdered sugar, water, granulated sugar, and egg whites.
So why are they so dang hard to make? The key part of preparing macarons is the macaronage process; this is the specific technique to fold the batter rather than stir. It released air bubbles incrementally until the perfect consistency is reached.
Under macaronage, and your cookies might explode from too many trapped air bubbles like a volcano. Over macaronage and you'll get pancake cookies.
If That's a Macaron, What's a Macaroon?
You might see the words macaron and macaroon being used interchangeably, but they are NOT the same thing! A macaroon is a completely different cookie, made of meringue and coconut:
Where did Macarons Come From?
Again, we think of France when we think of macarons, but it actually originated in Italy. In fact, if you simply Google 'origin of macarons', this is what you get:
MIND BLOW, right?
I had done some research of macarons when I was going dessert tours in Washington, DC, since there's a huge following there and a number of renowned sweets shops that carry macarons.
So, where to macarons come from?
According to my findings from Wikipedia, macarons were produced in produced in Venetian monasteries since the 8th century and were originally served without flavors or fillings. The French queen Catherine de’Medici introduced them to France when she brought along her Italian pastry chef upon her marriage to Henry II of France.
Macarons became famous in France when two Carmelite nuns baked and sold these cookies to pay for rent.
Macarons weren’t sold as the sandwiches we see today until the 1930s, when fillings were added between two cookies and were called “Paris macarons”. Two people have tried to take credit for this modernizing of the macaron- Pierre Desfontaines of the French pâtisserie Ladurée, which is one of the most famous pastry shops in the world, and Claude Gerbet.
What's the Difference between French Method and Italian Method?
The difference is in the meringue. Making French macarons, granulated sugar is added to the egg whites. For Italian, sugar is heated to a syrup that is poured into the egg whites. The Italian method makes the meringue more stable and easy to work with. While this seems easier, it requires more tools- you will need a candy thermometer and a stand mixer to make Italian macarons. Beginner macaron makers might not want to invest in this extra equipment, but we find that the Italian macarons turn out more consistent.
Do they Taste Different?
French and Italian macarons are made with the exact same ingredients, so they taste exactly alike. It's the texture that differs. Italian method macarons have a smoother shell, since the sugar had been melted into a syrup. They feel silkier, the air bubbles in the cookie are smaller, and we believe this makes them better at maturing, which is when the filling is added and left to rest for the finished texture of the cookie.
Both cookies have a crispy shell and chewy center, but the French method tends to be a bit chewier.
But Which one is Better?
That's up to you to decide! At the Bunny Bakery, we've tested both before deciding the Italian method is our favorite. We suggest trying both (or making both!) to decide which one your favorite is. Both are delicious, so you can't go wrong!