Chocolate and salted caramel macarons

Macarons: one of the ultimate pastry rite of passages.  I have never actually tried making them before but I am constantly looking at recipes of them (and paying absurd amounts to eat them from specialty bakeries) so finally decided to give it a go a few months ago.  Imagine my shock and horror when something went wrong and they turned out flat and awful.  I was so mortified (I mean, I never mess up at baking) that I didn’t try again for several months until I was sure I’d found a simple enough recipe and read through it multiple times.  Turns out, making them really isn’t that hard – you just have to follow the steps in the right order and make sure you let them dry on the counter before putting in the oven so they can form the correct shape.

I am not a pastry chef by any means but I do love macarons because they just scream sophistication and a bit of pretentious while also being utterly delicious and cute.  I decided to go with a classic chocolate and salted caramel combo because really you can’t get much better than that (although I love fruity flavours), and I actually had all the ingredients on hand.  You will need almond meal which isn’t normally just lying around your cupboard, but it’s worth the price to start working on your macaron technique, because this is a damn impressive cookie that everyone knows is more difficult than the average one to make.  Oh, and did I mention these were utterly delicious?  I basically didn’t even share them and kept the entire batch to myself to eat over several weeks (ok, days).  There’s just something about the contrast of the filling with the hard shell of the cookie and the chewy interior that represents a certain kind of cookie perfection.  Different from your typical gooey chocolate chip cookie of course, but just perfection on a sophisticated, tea party sort of level.  These are a great gift or just fun to make if you are looking for a little baking challenge!

Chocolate and salted caramel macarons (adapted from Bakeaholic Mama for the cookies and Flick Your Food for the salted caramel)

Ingredients

For the macarons:

3 room temperature egg whites from large eggs (some recipes say leave them out for a day which I did, but it’s fine if it’s not a whole day as long as long as they are room temperature)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (can be caster sugar, but I didn’t have any and this worked fine)
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbs cocoa powder
1 cup almond flour/meal

For the salted caramel filling:

200gm sugar (this is a cup)
140gm thickened cream – you could use light cream here though
1 tsp sea salt
200gm unsalted butter – about a stick and a half if you’re in America

In your electric mixer mix the egg whites until foamy. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar. Whip on high until stiff peaks form.  You definitely need an electric mixer for this.  Just saying, the time that I tried to whip egg whites by hand, it did not go well.

In a large bowl sift together almond flour, coco, and confectioners sugar.  I cheated and poured them slowly into the egg whites.  I just can’t stand using multiple bowls, even though it’s taking a risk with something as delicate as macarons.  If you want to be extra careful, do them separately and then using a rubber spatula carefully fold egg whites into the dry ingredients.   Don’t overmix!  It should be all combined and smooth and not a real dough like other cookie dough but almost look like brownie batter.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Transfer cookie mixture into a large piping bag, or if you are only a pretend pastry chef like me, a Ziploc bag with a little part of one corner cut off.  Pipe small circles onto the baking sheet, spacing them approximately 5 cm / 2 inches apart.  This recipe should yield about 24 cookies.  You can make them as small or big as you like but they will spread a bit so I’d err on the smaller side since that’s cuter anyway.

After you have finished piping the cookies out using a wet finger carefully smooth any bumps on the top out. Then give the cookie sheets a good whack on the counter a couple times. This removes any air bubbles that might have formed.

IMPORTANT: allow cookies to sit out on your counter for about an hour, or until the tops have started to dry.  This is a crucial step in forming the “feet” (aka the most legit thing of macarons).   Bake at 160 C / 325 F on the centre rack of the oven, making sure to rotate halfway through if your oven is at all uneven.  The cookies are done when they have risen and formed a wider layer around the bottom (aka, the famous feet) and they are dry and hard to the touch. Should take about 15 minutes but check before, especially if they are smaller!  Allow them to cool at room temperature and then carefully peel away from the parchment paper.

Now time to make the filling!  Place the sugar on medium to high heat and cook until it becomes caramel in colour, stirring continuously.  Add warm cream to the sugar (place the cream in the microwave for 30 secs to warm) – it will foam instantly (particularly if you forgot the microwave step -whoops), and stir quickly until well combined, even removing from the heat if it gets too scary bubbly.  Then add the salt (at this point it should be on low heat) and mix well.

Remove from the heat or make sure it’s on very low.  Then slowly add tiny cubes of the butter to the caramel mixture, mixing well in between each addition. (Yeah I know caramel is just a gross combination of unholy amounts of sugar and butter and cream.  But it tastes great sandwiched between macarons.)  Once it’s all combined, continue mixing until it’s pale in colour.

Then just take your cooled cookies, spread filling in between, and sandwich together.  Try to match cookies that are basically the same size.  The cookies keep well stored in the fridge or freezer and letting them cool and set in the fridge adds to their chewy amazing texture.

IMG_5622Starting to whip the egg whites until they get foamy…

IMG_5623They are done once they’ve formed stiff peaks (eg, you can lift up the beaters and they will stand up on their own)

IMG_5624As I said, I cheated a little and just added all my dry ingredients to the egg whites bowl instead of mixing the dry ingredients in a separate bowl like you’re supposed to.  What can I say, I like shortcuts and using only one bowl, and this worked.  Just make sure to fold in gently.

IMG_5625Batter once it’s all mixed in

IMG_5626Piped out with my very scientific method of putting the batter in a plastic bag with the corner snipped off.  So obviously they are not nearly as perfect as they should be.  But it’s fine as long as you make sure they sit on a counter to dry out, because then…

IMG_5627…once they are baked, the magical feet will form and you know you’ve done it correctly!  So satisfying!

IMG_5631Making the caramel, aka melting sugar in a pot

IMG_5632And then adding little chunks of butter

IMG_5633Spreading lovely salted caramel on the macarons

IMG_5634All lined up in a row with caramel dripping off the sides

IMG_5635Ok, so Laduree this is not.  They are not perfect in any way.  But the process was successful for me for the first time and they tasted exactly how a macaron should taste even if they didn’t look as nice as the perfect ones you see in the stores, so I was quite proud of myself!

To be honest, if you get the steps right, these notoriously finicky cookies aren’t actually that hard to make.  The time consuming part is waiting for your egg whites to come to room temperature, letting the cookies dry before the oven, letting them cool, making the filling, etc.  So yeah, not quite your everyday cookie, but now that I’ve been successful once I am determined to try again with some different flavours and also to make slightly smaller ones that look a little prettier!  But regardless of how they look, believe me, they taste delicious.

One year ago: Browned butter sugar cookies

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