I have come to the conclusion that macarons are one of my favourite things to make - and eat! One of my favourite flavours is the extremely popular, salted caramel. I love the versatility of salted caramel - how it not only has the ability to compliment so many flavours, but how mouth-wateringly delicious it can also be on its own. I first saw this recipe demonstrated on an episode of French Food Safari and I knew I had to give it a go. Unlike my last macaron post where I used the French meringue method; I decided to give the Italian meringue method a go - for two reasons: 1) it was an extremely cool day and I didn't want to have the un-baked macaron shells sitting on the bench for hours trying to develop a skin, 2) I have heard that there are often less failures with this method.
There is a little more work and preparation involved, but so worth it, and from now on this will be the method I will go to. Not only did the unbaked macarons develop a skin quickly, I found they cooked evenly - and I could even remove them from the baking paper with no trouble almost immediately after removing them from the oven - no cracked shells, or broken bases! In addition to this, the shells were perfectly crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
Salted Caramel Macarons
Recipe adapted from Jean-Michel Raynaud, French Food Safari cookbook
Makes about 40 macarons
For the macaron shells...
300g ground almonds
300g icing sugar
220g egg whites (separated into 2 lots of 110g)
300g white sugar
brown food colouring
For the salted caramel...
350g caster sugar
350g unsalted butter, cubed
10g sea salt flakes, or to taste
1. For the macarons, in a large mixing bowl, sift together ground almonds and icing sugar. Whisk to combine. Add 110g of egg whites and food colouring and mix together to combine
2. Place the remaining 110g of egg whites into a mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment. Meanwhile, place the white sugar and water into a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, without stirring, until sugar has melted and it has reached 118˚C. Once it the temperature has reached 115˚C, start mixing the egg whites in the mixer on medium-high. Whisk the egg whites until they are foamy and are starting to form soft peaks.
3. Once the syrup has reached 118˚C, remove from heat and slowly pour a thin stream down the side of the mixing bowl, whilst continuing to whisk on high until the side of the bowl is only slightly warm and the meringue is thick and glossy in appearance.
4. Add a third of the meringue mixture to the almond mixture to loosen the batter, then add the remaining meringue mixture, folding and knocking out some of the air as you go.
5. Preheat oven to 140˚C. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Pipe small rounds about 4cm in diameter onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Tap the trays firmly on the bench a few times to remove any air bubbles, and allow to rest for about 20-30 minutes, or until a skin has formed on the surface of the macarons.
6. Bake the macarons for 15 minutes. Remove from oven once cooked, then immediately slide the baking paper and macarons onto a bench to cool.
7. For the salted caramel, gently heat the cream in a small saucepan until it reaches boiling point. Meanwhile, place sugar into a medium sized pan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar caramelises, gently shaking the pan to stir.
8. Once the sugar has turned a dark amber colour, remove from heat, and gently pour the cream into the caramel whilst whisking. The mixture will bubble quite a bit, so just take care with this. Set the caramel aside for a few minutes to cool slightly, then start to add the butter, one piece at a time, mixing until the butter has melted. Pour the caramel into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until it has reached room temperature.
9. Once the caramel has reached room temperature, remove from refrigerator and begin to whisk, using an electric mixer until it turns pale and creamy. Add salt to taste and mix to combine.
10.Transfer the salted caramel to a piping bag and pipe a generous amount in the centre of a macaron shell. Gently press together with another macaron shell.
The filled macarons can be stored in an airtight container.