In a few weeks I’ll be hosting an afternoon tea, as part of the Cancer Council’s “Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea”, to help raise funds to go towards cancer research. To make my life easier and so that I’m not rushed off my feet the day before, I’ve started making most of the goodies in advance and freezing them. Makes sense. I’m not usually a fan of doing this – I really think things are better when they are nice and fresh. But the reality is, is that I just would not be able to get it all done the day before, or the day of. So today I made some Salted Caramel Macarons. I’ve not made these before and after having done so, I’m amazed I hadn’t made them earlier. These are delicious and completely addictive. The caramel filling is especially tasty if, just before whipping, you drizzle it over some vanilla ice cream while still warm. These macarons definitely benefit from being refrigerated overnight, so make sure you give them at least one night in the fridge before you need them.
Salted Caramel Macarons
This recipe will make about 60 small macaron shells, 30 full macarons
INGREDIENTS AND INSTRUCTIONS
- 150g almond meal
- 150g icing sugar
- 150g caster sugar
- 38g water
- brown food colouring (I used a brown gel colouring by Wilton. About ½tsp will get the caramel colour needed.)
- 55g egg whites
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 55g egg whites, extra
- edible gold dust (optional)
Sift together the almond meal and icing sugar. Ideally you want to do this at least three times, more if you have the time (which is why I recommend using a crank sifter). The finer you can get the dry ingredients, the smoother the consistency of the macaron will be. Make sure you sift into a LARGE bowl.
Put 55g of the egg whites into the bowl of your mixer. Put the water and caster sugar into a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, brushing down the side of the pan with a pastry brush and water as you go, so that the sugar on the sides doesn’t crystallise. Once dissolved, add the food colouring, increase the heat and bring to the boil.
You’ll need a candy thermometer for this next bit. Once the sugar syrup reaches 105°C, add the cream of tartar to the egg whites in the mixing bowl and start mixing on a medium speed (I put it at about 6 on my Kitchenaid) – the egg whites need to be frothy. When the sugar syrup is at 118°C and the egg whites are frothy (if you start mixing the egg whites at 105°C, this should happen at the same time), increase the speed of the mixer (I had it at 8 on the Kitchenaid) and start adding the sugar syrup to the egg whites – do this slowly in a steady stream down the side of the bowl. Once all the syrup is in, continue mixing until the mixing bowl feels warm to touch. It should be roughly 5-6 minutes. In the meantime, pour the extra 55g of egg whites into your sifted dry ingredients.
Once your meringue is ready, add to the bowl of dry ingredients and extra egg whites, and start folding together. On finishing folding the ingredients, the mixture should have quite a runny consistency. If it’s too thick, piping the mixture will cause you lots of grief. My advice is this: when you think you’ve mixed it enough, fold it about 4-5 more times. It should have the consistency of a thick cake batter and when you drop some from your spatula back into the bowl, it shouldn’t just sit on top – it should fall in on itself. You may not get the right consistency the first time, but if you practice enough, you will figure out how much you should mix.
Cover two large baking trays with some baking paper, with your macaron template underneath (if you are using one). Prepare your piping bag. Using a small spatula, half fill the bag with the macaron mixture. If you have achieved the correct consistency, the mixture should start falling out through the nozzle on it’s own, without you applying too much pressure. Twist tightly closed and make sure you squeeze any air pockets out of the bag before you start piping. Then, holding the bag straight up about 1cm from the baking sheet, start piping your rounds, about 3.5cm is a good size. To finish each round, you want to do a quick “6 to 12″ (as in a clock) – this is a little flick of the wrist to break the mixture away from the nozzle.
When the piping is done, dust with the gold dust (if using) and let them sit for about 30 minutes before baking. During this time, the macaron will form a smooth skin, which lifts during cooking and causes the phenomenon known as the “foot” at the base of the macaron shell. 10 minutes into the 30 minute sitting time, you need to turn your oven on. It should be at 135°C for a conventional oven, 115°C for a fan forced.
The macarons will be ready to go in the oven when you can touch them and feel the skin – they should not be at all sticky to touch. It might take longer than 30mins if it is a particularly humid day. But once they are at this stage, pop them in the oven for around 16mins (make sure you have removed your piping template) or until a hard shell has formed, swapping the trays over about half way through cooking (the foot should start forming after about 5mins). Once you take them out of the oven, allow to sit for about 2mins, then try lifiting one away from the baking paper with an icing spatula. If it comes away easily and is dry on the bottom, then they are ready. If it doesn’t come away easily and isn’t dry, put back into the oven for another 2-3mins, then repeat the process. Allow them to cool completely on the baking trays when they are ready.
Salted Caramel filling
- 200g caster sugar
- 140ml thickened cream, warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds
- 7g sea salt flakes
- 200g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar over medium heat while stirring (some of the sugar might clump, but it will melt down, so don’t worry) and when it is a deep golden colour, carefully pour in the cream (it will froth and steam immediately, so be careful). Stir with a whisk until fully combined, then stir in the salt. Set aside to cool to around 45°C, which should take about half an hour, then gradually add in the butter, whisking after each addition. Then, once the caramel is completely cool, use an electric beater to whisk the caramel until it has thickened and changed to a paler colour.
Match the top shells with bottom shells of the same size. Half fill a piping bag with the caramel, pipe some onto the bottom macaron shell, pop the top shell on and you’re done!