Salted Caramel French Macarons

Yum

Salted Caramel French Macarons

Ahh, beautiful Macarons.  Not to be confused with the “Macaroon” coconut cookie, these are light as air little meringues that have a kiss of sweetness and are, naturally and deliciously, gluten free, because they use almond flour instead of wheat flour.  If this is your first time making macarons, check out my Strawberries and Cream French Macaron tutorial here.  And once you have mastered the sweet little shells, fill them with glorious caramel and a little sprinkle of sea salt.  And that, my friends, is how classics are born.
What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!

Salted Caramel French Macarons

(adapted for my own use from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

100 grams egg white (the whites from 3 large eggs)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
50 grams white sugar (roughly 1/4 cup)
200 grams powdered sugar (roughly 1 2/3 cup)
110 grams almond flour (roughly 1 cup)

Filling Ingredients:

1 can dulce de leche caramel
Sea salt, for sprinkling
Directions: Whip room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar with the whisk attachment until the whites begin to foam.  Slowly pour in the white sugar and begin to whip the whites on high.  Meanwhile, pulse your almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor until the mixture is well combined.  Sift your almond flour/powdered sugar through a sieve and throw away the pieces that are too large to pass through the sieve.  When the whites have whipped into stiff peaks, fold the almond/sugar mixture into the whites, gradually and carefully until they reach proper “macaronage.”  Pipe the circles onto a silpat, using a template, if desired, and slam the cookie sheets 15 times on the counter to dislodge air bubbles.  Allow circles to dry for 20 minutes before baking at 285 for 20 minutes, one sheet at a time, in the center of the oven (move oven racks, if necessary.  Do not open the oven until the 20 minutes are up, and use an oven thermometer for best results).  When your macarons are done, they should feel “firm on their feet.”  Remove entire silpat to cooling rack and allow to cool, completely, before removing almond shells from the silpat.  Fill cooled shells with caramel and sprinkle with sea salt.
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1

Macarons are delicate, sweet looking little things, but they are deceptively difficult.  They are like the beautiful girl who broke your heart in high school . . . the red rose that jabs you with thorns just as you reach out to inhale its loveliness.  They are the teacher who called on you in class, on the one day you forgot your homework.  They are evil.  But oh . . . so lovely.  How can something so beautiful . . . be so WRONG????  haha.

You need to make these devilish little desserts using a kitchen scale.  And this is only the beginning.  If you’ve never made macarons before, you are in for the ride of your life.  Prepare to fail about 2394298374923874 times before you get those perfect, curved little shells.  They are precise cookies, and you need precise measurements.  A kitchen scale is totally the way to go.  You can pick one of these scales up for around $15 at any kitchen store, and it will be well worth the investment, because I really don’t think you’ll get those pretty shells without one.  At least, I never have, when I have tried to “wing it” and not use the scale to measure my ingredients.
Start by getting your meringue whipping.  I use boxed egg whites (although macaron purists eschew this method), because I get the best, most consistent results by using these.   For more on macarons and the different ingredients you can use, check out my much more detailed macaron tutorial here.  There is just too much to learn about these little gals to put it all into one post.  Place your sugar, egg white, and cream of tartar into the bowl of your stand mixer and start those babies whipping.  The process goes quickly, so while they are whipping up all nice and light for you, go ahead and start preparing the rest of your ingredients.  This is where that little kitchen scales comes in . . . go ahead and measure your ingredients by weight, so that you’re sure to have the correct amounts.  When you get perfect macaron shells, you’ll thank me.  😉

2

 Next, use a food processor to grind your powdered sugar and almond flour together.  Well, I can just skip this step– that sounds stupid . . . I don’t have time for this . . .

Nope.  Stop right there.  I used to try all of these shortcuts, too, thinking macarons really couldn’t be that difficult.  Well . . . they really are that difficult.  This is one of the very few recipes where I never take shortcuts.   I know it’s hard, but the more you make these temperamental little babies, the more these seemingly pointless steps will make sense and become second nature, and they won’t really feel like they’re taking extra time.  Good for you.  The best things in life take practice.

3

 After the food processor has ground your ingredients, you need to sift them.  Yep. Sorry– another extra step.  But you’ll be glad you did when you sift out the grit and get a nice, powdery mound to add to your egg whites when they are finished whipping for you.  I mean, look at it . . . who doesn’t love a nice mound of sugary softness?  YUM.

4

 Ah . . . now for the magnum opus of Macaron Making . . . the macaronage.  This is the hardest part.  You’ve hung in there so far, and you’re doing so great!  You can do this!  If you want to add caramel colored food coloring (I mixed a little copper and a little yellow), go ahead and add that when the meringue is at the “soft peak” stage.  Then whip another minute or two until you get stiff peaks (the egg white stands in a straight point without bending over when you remove the whisk), and then you’re ready to use a spatula to incorporate the almond/sugar mixture.

Basically, we want to gradually add our sifted ingredients (I do 3 different “adds” until I get all the sifted mixture in there) to the egg whites.  Keep folding the dry ingredients into the egg white until you have a smooth, thick batter that will drip off your spoon in a thick, continuous line– it has been described as looking like “volcanic magma.”  You don’t want to overstir and get the mixture liquidy, or the macs are dead.  Finished.  Goodbye, Cruel World (Taps plays in the background).  Fold JUST enough that the mixture is thick but slides off the spatula in one drip, without breaking.  At that point, it’s ready.

5

 Next, pipe your circles using a paper template underneath the silpat (I use a circle template I drew on paper from my kids’ Juicy Juice cap! :).  You will be able to see the circles and can remove the template from underneath when you’re finished piping.  Then, slam the baking sheets 15 times from about 6 inches above the counter.
I’m sorry . . . what?
I’m serious.  You have to slam the baking sheets to get the air out of the shells.  This is the perfect time for you to unleash all that hidden passion.  Think about the girl you took to prom who spent the whole time dancing with your best friend.  Picture the jerk who whipped into that primo parking space, just as you were waiting your turn to take it.  Picture the neighbor whose dog always digs up your flower beds.  Picture all of it.  And slam away.  Hmmm.  Maybe these macarons aren’t so bad, after all 😉
When your cooking sheets have been slammed as directed, you will see little air bubbles start to pop on top of the shells.  That’s good– that’s the whole point of slamming the little dears, in the first place (not because some exhausted macaron maker, once upon a time, had enough of these little things and decided to throw his cookie sheets down in frustration, although I might be tempted to believe that’s how it got started).  Go ahead and top your shells with a few sprinkles of sea salt and let them rest for 20 minutes before baking. Yep.  They need to have a little siesta, folks.  They are pampered ladies of leisure, and they won’t work without a niiiiiiiiiice rest.
After they have rested for 20 minutes, bake them one at a time in the oven (do I really need to explain that, yes, they DO need to bake 1 sheet at a time– they are high maintenance– why are you surprised?) for exactly 20 minutes at exactly 285 degrees.  Use an oven thermometer if you have it, because even a 10 degree oven difference can ruin them.  It’s a good thing these babies aren’t people . . . because they would be the most high-maintenance friends, ever.  Whew.    When the shells are finished they should feel “firm on their feet” when you gently press one of them.  They shouldn’t crumple or indent.  If they do, then you need a few more minutes of baking.  Each oven is different, and it will take you a few times to figure out the quirks of your oven, and where the hot spots are.  Don’t open your oven to check partway through, or that can deflate the shells.  Don’t let your oven temperature vary away from 285.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.
Speaking of shells, when they are finished (and “firm on their feet,”) go ahead and take them out of the oven and put your next tray in.  Slide the baked cookies (on the silpat) from the baking sheet to a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Yes– even sitting too long on a baking sheet can burn their little French behinds.  It’s like the Princess and the Pea– they feel even the slightest disturbance.  Your majesty . . .

 

6

 Once the shells have cooled, it’s time for the filling, and she is muy delicioso.  Mmmmm.  Dulce de Leche is a canned caramel that is thick and amazingly delicious.  Sometimes, it’s best not to fight the Force.  Just accept it.  This is caramel a can. And it will be OK.  You’ll take a bite . . . and rethink your stance on canned stuff.  Plus– think of all the time you’ll save!  You could use that time for something noble . . . like solving world peace, or perhaps eating more cookies.

7

 Use a cookie scoop to place a nice blob of sweet caramel onto a cooled macaron shell.  Sprinkle a few grains of sea salt on top.  Gently twist another cookie on top, and the caramel will spread toward the edges as you rotate the cookies.

Salted Caramel French Macarons

Macarons are technically supposed to “cure” for 24 hours, before you eat them.  This curing period allows the shells to kind of absorb the flavor of the filling and become soft. But, you know, I’ve never had any luck waiting a whole 24 hours to eat one.  And you know what?  I think they taste just fine– a delicious, crispy shell filled with gooey caramel and a smattering of sea salt.  It’s hard to imagine anything better than that . . .

Unless you have two of them 😉

Because you did it.  And I’m just so proud of you.


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