make professional-looking, gorgeous caramel macarons
If there’s salted caramel in one guise or another on the dessert menu, that’s the thing I’m going for.
I have a recipe on my blog (hollyspinny.com) for caramelised salted caramel mini cannelés but it’s not enough – I needed more ways to work salted caramel into my baking and eating repertoire!
I hit on caramel gold with caramel macarons!
After much experimentation, I found that making French meringue with light brown muscovado sugar lends just enough caramel to the macaron shells.
As for the filling, salted caramel made to Fiona Cairn’s recipe, with lots of soft butter beaten into it, as per François Mignot’s caramel cream (from my favourite television channel, My Cuisine) was perfect.
You Will Need
Prepare baking trays with sheets of baking paper.
Measure out your ground almonds into a medium bowl and sieve the icing sugar on top. Use a whisk to mix them well.
(If your ground almonds seem a little coarse or lumpy, blitz them in a food processor before you start. You can do this with the icing sugar, if you like and in which case you can skip the sieving and mixing of the almonds and sugar.)
Whisk the egg whites until they go opaque and then gradually add the muscovado sugar as you continue whisking. Keep going until the meringue is stiff.
Add the vanilla extract and fold into the meringue before adding the almond-sugar mix in 2 goes, folding in until there are no streaks.
If the mixture is glossy and a soft dropping consistency, you can stop here. If the mixture seems stiff, then go ahead and ‘macaronner’ it, by using a spatula to press it against the side of the bowl 5 or so times.
Fit the smallest nozzle you have into a piping bag and fill your piping bag with about a third of the mixture.
Holding your piping bag vertically, pipe small circles of mixture, about 3cm in diameter, spaced about 5cm apart on the lined baking trays. The mixture will spread slightly.
Give each baking tray a good bang on the work surface to remove any big air bubbles and leave the macarons to dry slightly for 30 mins to 1 hour. They should have developed a thin skin in this time, which will stop the tops from cracking in the oven.
Heat your oven to 150°C and bake the caramel macaron shells until they have risen and gone a lovely golden colour, about 10-15 mins.
Leave them to cool completely before gently lifting them off the baking paper, or you risk leaving half of the shell behind.
Now, to make the caramel filling, measure 60ml of cold water and the white sugar into a small or medium-sized saucepan, preferably with a heavy base and high sides, as the caramel will bubble up when you add the cream. Use a slightly bigger saucepan if yours doesn’t have high sides.
Swirl the pan over a low heat to dissolve the sugar in the water and then crank up the heat to boil the mixture. Don’t stir it. It will take a few minutes for the water to evaporate (during which time the mixture will look like frogspawn – don’t be alarmed) but it will eventually change colour, first a light straw colour turning into a deep golden brown. When about half of the mixture is golden brown, turn the heat off and add the cream, whilst standing as far back as possible. Now you can use a spoon and stir it gently. The bubbling will subside and it should have become a glossy, syrupy caramel.
Add the salt and vanilla extract and stir in.
Leave the mixture to cool completely but don’t put it in the fridge.
When it’s cool, add the soft butter and beat into the caramel.
Using a teaspoon, or a piping bag if you’re feeling fancy, pop a generous amount of the buttery caramel filling onto the flat side of one of the macaron shells and gently press another on top to make the traditional macaron sandwich.
Put the caramel macarons in an airtight container and leave in the fridge overnight, for the caramel to firm up, the shells to soften in the middle and the macaron to become easier to handle.
Decorate with gold glitter, gold leaf or leave them gloriously ‘au naturel’.
These are best stored in the fridge and will keep fresh for 5 days.