French Meringue Method: consists of sugar, almond flour, powdered sugar, and egg whites. The egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks using the sugar and the dry ingredients are folded into the meringue. This method takes a bit more skill, but since it doesn't deal with thermometers or grams(majority of recipes online), most people in America try this method first (including me). It is easier to overmix the macaronage with this method, but some people claim that the French Meringue Method produces a more airy texture. The shell is also a bit more crisp than the Italian Method macarons. Here are some examples of French Meringue Method macarons.
(courtesy of madbaker.net and notsohumblepie.blogspot.com)
Italian Meringue Method: consists of sugar, almond flour, powdered sugar, and egg whites as well. However, the almond flour and powdered sugar are glued together by an addition of egg whites. This makes it easier to fold the meringue with the tant pour tant (mass) and you are less likely to overmix. Usually, this method does not fail to produce feet. Also, instead of making a regular meringue, sugar and water are boiled together until it reaches 240 Fahrenheit and poured into soft peak-stage egg whites. This produces a very stable meringue that doesn't deflate. You can put it in a container and save it for later, and the quality won't be sacrificed. This method produces a fuller macaron, with a soft shell and insides. Here are some pictures of Italian Method macarons. (the ones I post on this site are all Italian method)
(courtesy of notsohumblepie.blogspot.com)
So which method do I like??
Because most of the time (when I do everything right lol) they do not turn out as horrible as these cookie-fails:
(sorry guys...but an example must be shown XD)
(courtesy of ceeinthekitchen and tast-e)
I used to use the French meringue method in the beginning because I thought "Ohh, I don't want to have to buy a candy thermometer and weigh out stuff with a scale". So I used yumsugar.com's recipe...but at times I would get things like these! And I was like "MAN, WHAT A ***** temperamental cookie! How can bakeries do this every day??" By the way, the reason why those two macarons failed up there is because 1) batter was overmixed, and not rested, and 2) Were not fully rested either. Those darn macarons would take hours to dry! And I was thinking "wow, how do people have time for this??" Also, I guess I didn't know how to deflate the batter correctly in the beginning, so they would be hollow and have tall feet. To me, tall feet are not ideal in a macaron. I like smaller feet on macarons, because I know the insides won't be hollow. Tall feet=hollow shells (most of the time).
These ones were around the beginning of my baking macarons. These were French meringue method, and I didn't really care about the interiors. I just wanted feet. lol so I am pretty sure that these were quite hollow, since the feet are so tall and the shell is sort of a squareish shape. Since I was so focused on making sure my macarons had feet, I completely forgot about the interiors.
Now since I use the Italian meringue method, it basically guarantees feet as long as you follow the instructions correctly. (my recipe) I have more time to focus on the interiors of the cookies, and they have become a lot better than when I first started. The batter also takes less time to dry, especially if you use a fan. Usually when I'm done with all the dishes from baking (groan) they're done and dry (15-20 min).
If you compare those to my most recent batch, you can see that the feet are quite smaller and the shells are a more rounded shape. They have full interiors and are very moist. The French ones I used to make were a bit crispy.
So if you're a beginner and want to try making macarons, I HIGHLY suggest that you start with the Italian Meringue method. It prevents those disasters from happening, and you won't have to worry about not having feet (lol sounds funny).
I know some people swear by their French Meringue method, but a lot of commercial bakeries use the Italian method because it's just more reliable. It doesn't really depend on humidity or silly factors like that. No nonsense. No BS. No babying the batter. It's straightforward. Sorry if I'm offending any of you French meringue bakers, but this is my opinion. :)