Friday, May 31, 2013

Salted Caramel Macarons

A couple of weeks ago, I was teaching a macaron class to some ladies in my ward. I had really been wanting to come up with a great salted caramel macaron, so I played around until I got the perfect combination. The caramel buttercream is amazing and really makes these macarons dreamy!

Thanks to my awesome friend, Heather Palmer, who took a photo of her macarons
the next day because I totally forgot to photograph them before they disappeared!

Salted Caramel Macarons

2 T. cocoa powder
2/3 c. almond flour
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

3 egg whites (room temperature)

5 T. granulated sugar

1 t. vanilla extract

gel food coloring

flaked salt (purchased at World Market)

Heat oven to 280 degrees and place the racks on the two lowest positions. Cut pieces of parchment paper to fit two cookie sheets perfectly and then make 1-inch circles all over the papers, leaving at least 1/2-inch of space in between circles. With practice, you will be able to skip this step and pipe your macarons without the circles, while maintaining a fairly consistent size of circles. Also, silpat baking sheets are so much easier than parchment, if you want to make the investment.

Whisk cocoa powder, almond flower and powdered sugar together in a bowl. 

Place egg whites in the bowl of a mixer and start to mix on med-high. When they start to get frothy, add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until glossy, stiff peaks appear. To test it, pick up the whisk and if the egg whites peak and the top doesn't fall, they are ready. If it falls down, keep mixing. Make sure you don't over mix (it will become clumpy). Add vanilla and mix very quickly.

Transfer egg whites to a large bowl. Add half of the dry mixture and fold it about a dozen times until just mixed. Fold with a spatula, going up the sides, pushing down the center. Finish mixing the rest of the dry ingredients, being careful to fold and not stir. When you lift your spatula, the mixture should pour off like thick molten lava. If it's not flowing when you lift the spatula, it is too thick and needs more mixing.

Use a piping bag with a large round tip. Place it in a large cup and fold over the sides. Pour in half of the mixture and twist the top. Start piping the batter into the circles. The best way to do it is hold just over the pan (not touching) and let the batter come out until the circle is perfectly filled. Then quickly turn your wrist as you lift the tip to try and not leave a tail. Once the first pan is filled, hold the pan with both hands and tap hard on the counter 3 times. Turn the pan so your hands are on the opposite ends and tap again 3 times (helps get any air pockets out and flattens the cookies). Continue until both pans are filled and the rest of the batter is used up. If you'd like, you can sprinkle a couple flakes of salt onto the tops of the cookie. Let them sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes, or until the tops are no longer wet when you touch them.

Place the cookie sheets on the two bottom oven racks. You will have to experiment with the cooking times, but this is what worked for me. Set the timer for 2 minutes and when it rings, open the door to let any humidity escape. Then set the timer for 7 minutes. Once the time is up, change the pans so that the top one is now on the bottom, as well as turn around so the back of the pan is now in the front. Bake for 7 more minutes. To test the doneness, carefully lift the cookie off the sheet. If it comes off the parchment easily, they are done. If the cookie separates in half, bake one more minute, and so on. Cool the macaroons completely before filling.

To assemble the macarons, fill cooled shells with salted caramel buttercream (below). Try to match up sizes and shapes (easier when your cookies are all symmetrical) as you go.Before you sandwich the cookie with the top shell, sprinkle a VERY small amount of flaked salt on top of buttercream. 

Once they are filled, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days and freeze for up to a month. They are best after aging in the fridge for at least a couple of hours so the filling chills and they meld together a bit. Let them come back to room temperature before serving. If they are frozen, let them thaw completely in their original covered containers to avoid condensation from forming.

Salted Caramel Buttercream
(Start 2 hours before filling shells)

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1 cube salted butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Heat the water and sugar in a larger heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook over  low heat for 5 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir! Increase heat to medium-high and boil, uncovered, until the sugar starts to turn a light brown/warm chestnut color (about 350 degrees on a candy thermometer). This will take about 5 minutes, but once it turns the light brown, it will burn very quickly, so don't let it get too dark. Do not stir at all, but you can swirl the pan a few times to get it mixed together. As soon as you feel it is a warm chestnut color, pull off heat immediately and add cream, vanilla and salt. Stand back and be very careful, as it will bubble violently. Quickly add back to the burner and stir, while on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes until it is all combined and solidified. Take off heat and pour caramel into a glass jar. Refrigerate (freeze if you are in a hurry) and wait until it is thick. Usually about an hour or two is sufficient.

Pour half of the caramel sauce into a mixer with the whip attachment (save the other half for another batch or use as a caramel topping). Start beating caramel sauce on high speed until it is smooth and whipped. Add a cube of salted, room temperature butter and continue to beat. Add a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and whip until creamy. The powdered sugar amount can be adjusted as needed to obtain the perfect consistency.