salted caramel macarons (and tips for baking a good macaron)
More often than not, something always goes wrong when baking macarons. These salted caramel macarons were almost perfect (not hollow – tick; feet – tick; thin shell – tick), but I did the worst thing of all. The worst.
I oversalted the filling. Way to go.
But every mistake is a lesson learnt, so it’s a pinch less salt next time. I’ve been baking macarons quite frequently and even now, I am still prone to over mixing. Like everything in life, it’s really all about practice. And not tempting providence.
Apart from practice, having the right equipment helps. My best investment in the kitchen during 2011 was a milk warmer. It lives a double life as an excellent sugar syrup saucepan. It has a lip for easy pouring, a non stick surface for less wastage (the syrup slides straight out) and it’s small too, making one batch of sugar syrup rather nicely.
I know said I didn’t like to prescribe to myths, but here are my (and my sister, C’s) top tips for baking macarons:
~ Source almond meal where it can be bought loose. The quality of the vacuum sealed almond meal can vary in age, moisture and oil content and these factors will affect the meringue. If you get lopsided, hole-y or splotchy macarons this might be it.
~ Feet! If there are no feet, the batter is probably over mixed. If it’s not that (most of the time it will be over mixing), it’s the water content in the meringue. The water content can be reduced by aging the egg whites, though the effectiveness of this is debatable. Supermarket liquid colouring (the ones in little bottles) should be added to the sugar syrup so the water content is boiled away. Or use gel or powder colouring. Powder gives a especially intense colour.
~ Use insulated cookie sheets. Wiltshire and Masterclass make decent ones.
~ To determine if the macaron is baked, choose a macaron in the middle of the pan and push it. If it moves very reluctantly, it is ready to come out. If it moves easily, the bottom is still soft – give it a further two minutes. If it doesn’t move at all, it is on the verge of being over cooked, take it out right now.
~ Immediately after baking, remove the baking paper (with macarons attached) off the baking sheet and on to a rack or flat surface. Otherwise it will continue to cook.
~ If the (cooled) macaron is difficult to remove, leave it overnight on a rack and try again in the morning. Don’t worry if the belly doesn’t come off, just fill it anyway, no one will know the difference!
~ Most importantly – know your oven. Baking temperatures will vary according to your oven’s character.
And that’s it! Trust me, it’s all worth it in the end. Nothing prettier has ever come out of a kitchen than a macaron – and this is from someone who doesn’t even like eating them!
Salted Caramel Macarons
Read the tips above. Don’t forget you can also age your egg whites for extra insurance. To age them, separate eggs when they are cold, cover the whites with cling film and puncture a couple of holes. Leave in the fridge for a couple of days and bring to room temperature before using. There is no colouring in this recipe but yellow and red colouring can be combined for a toffee-like hue.
135 gm icing sugar
135 gm almond meal
135 gm caster sugar
32 gm water
100 gm egg whites, split into two 50 gm portions
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Prepare two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
(If you have a bottom element in the oven, double up on the baking trays.)
In a separate large bowl, sift the icing sugar and almond meal together (this is called tant pour tant).
Pour 50 grams of the egg whites on to this mixture, do not combine.
In the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment, place the remaining 50 grams of egg whites.
In a small saucepan, weigh the water and add the caster sugar. Adding the sugar to the water means the sugar will not burn on contact with the heat.
Boil the sugar and water over medium heat and get a thermometer ready.
When the syrup is 110°C, start whisking the egg whites in the mixer on medium speed.
Check the temperature of the sugar syrup. When it is 118°C, turn off the heat.
The egg whites in the mixer should be a loose, very softly peaked meringue. Reduce the mixer speed to medium.
Holding the saucepan with an oven glove, steadily pour a continuous, thin stream of sugar syrup into the whisking egg whites avoiding the whisk. Don’t worry about wastage as the some sugar syrup will inevitably harden in the saucepan and the mixer bowl.
Increase the mixer to high speed. The meringue will become fluffy, then thick and satiny. Keep beating until bottom of the bowl is barely warm to touch or when the meringue is 50°C.
Empty the meringue into the tant pour tant and egg whites.
Fold by scooping the bottom of the bowl over the top of the meringue. The meringue can withstand vigorous mixing. You can even scrape the almond meal into the meringue if that helps.
Stop when the batter becomes a thick ribbon or ‘lava like’ consistency. Drops of the batter will sink back in 15 seconds and the batter will be shiny.
Remember, it’s better to under mix because there’s no going back with over mixing.
Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a 10mm round tip.
Pipe rounds 2.5cm in diameter on the lined trays.
Pick up the first tray and rap it on the table twice. Turn 90 degrees and rap twice again. This eliminates bubbles and remaining peaks.
Slide into the oven. At the 10 minute mark, turn the tray/s around and bake for another 4 – 6 minutes (times will vary from oven to oven).
To check select a macaron in the middle of the pan and push it. If it moves reluctantly it is ready (see tips above).
Immediately remove off the baking sheet onto a cooling rack or flat surface.
Leave to cool and sandwich with the following wicked, salted caramel cream.
Salted Butter Caramel Cream
Use cultured butter, the difference in taste is noticeable (I use Watsonia cultured butter, it is packaged in silver and blue foil). I also found out that the salted component is from the butter, but you can add salt to taste.
110 gm whipping cream
100 gm caster sugar
30 gm salted butter
100 gm cultured butter (for whipping into the set caramel), at room temperature
fine sea salt flakes, to taste (optional)
In a small saucepan bring the whipping cream to the boil.
In another saucepan on low-medium heat, tip in 50 grams of sugar and allow to melt. Add the remaining 50 grams. (If the recipe is increased, keep adding in 50 gram amounts.)
Allow the melted sugar to caramelise until it turns into a dark amber colour.
Take the sugar syrup off the heat and add the 30 grams of butter. It will bubble up quickly.
Stir and add in the hot cream a little at a time, stirring to combine.
Put the mixture back on low heat and heat until 108 degrees Celsius. Take off the heat, pour into a shallow dish and allow to cool.
Press cling film over the surface and refrigerate to set.
When you are ready to fill the shells, beat the 100 grams of softened butter in a mixer for 5 minutes.
Add the caramel cream half at a time.
At this point, add extra salt to taste, into the caramel cream.
Spoon the finished caramel cream into a piping bag with a small round nozzle and fill the macarons.
To get the best out of macarons, leave them to ‘cure’ in the fridge for 24 hours. Allow to come to room temperature for a couple of hours before devouring with joy!
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