Recipe: Macarons au Caramel Beurre Salé (Macarons with Salted Caramel)
Techniques: Italian Meringue, Caramel
Macarons, or mini hamburgers, as one of my taste testers dubbed them, have become a colourful icon of the patisserie world. They were around before the hype of the cupcake, the cronut or even the duffin. French Patissiers Ladurée and later Pierre Hermé, have become famous for the Macarons they create.
The history surrounding the Macaron is vast, but it seems that like the Florentine, this treat was bought to France by Catherine de’ Medici. The early macaron was just the small Italian meringue shell, it was either Ladurée’s grandson (Pierre Desfontaines) or Claude Gerbet who came up with the idea of sandwiching together two macarons with ganache as a filling.
The full name for the filled meringue is actually Paris Macaron or Macaron Gerbet, this is either a huge clue to the true heritage, or a giant red herring. The name macaron has became synonymous with the filled variety and this is how they are now better known.
The little confections are so well recognised that they have even been added to the menu at the McDonald’s owned McCafes. Based on these adverts, perhaps mini hamburgers isn’t such a bad description.
One of the most revolutionary macaron producers is Pierre Hermé. From foie gras and fig to wasabi, or even olive oil and vanilla, he sees no limit to the possible flavours of a macaron.
I haven’t been as daring and I settled for a salted caramel filling for my macarons. The book has an entire chapter dedicated to the macaron, comprising 18 recipes. There is a raft of instructions and general guidelines based on the sizing of the meringue and the preferred colour for different flavours of macaron.
I began by making the caramel for my filling. I boiled sugar in batches and cooked it until it was a caramel colour, I then slowly added the double cream. You have to work really quickly when adding the cream as the mixture really bubbles up. Once all of the cream has been mixed in, the caramel needs to come off the heat and the chilled, diced butter is added.
The addition of the butter stops the caramel from cooking further. I always assumed that salted caramel actually had salt added to it, however this recipe simply uses salted butter to give it a slightly salty taste.
The final step before the caramel can chill is to mix it up with an immersion or stick blender. This is necessary because it incorporates the butter into the hot mix and ensures the caramel is completely smooth. The caramel is then covered in cling-film and placed in the fridge. The recipe for the caramel can be found here.
The next part is the macaron. These have a bit of a reputation as being difficult to make, but there are a few simple steps that you need to follow which will make your macarons a success everytime.
Before I go into the details of the recipe, here is a checklist of things to do that will help you.
- Always weigh the egg whites and try to use older eggs
- Grind the ground almonds and the icing sugar in a food processor
- Have a sheet with circles drawn on it, underneath your greaseproof paper, so you know how big to pipe your macarons
- Use a piping bag and nozzle for the best finish
- Tap the bottom of the tray lightly before baking the macarons (this stops cracking)
- Leave the macarons on the tray until they’re completely cool
If you do all of those steps above, you should get perfect macarons.
So, to make macarons, I used the Italian meringue method. I’ve mentioned this a lot and it’s a fundamental component of patisserie. Now that I have a Thermapen, my sugar work has been made so much easier. I heated a sugar syrup, added it to half of the egg whites and whipped the ingredients together until they formed a stiff peak.
To make the macarons a light coffee/caramel colour, two ingredients are added to the meringue, yellow food colouring and an ingredient I’ve never used before, coffee extract.
The meringue is added to an almond paste, which is made up of equal parts ground almonds and icing sugar. In French this is known as tant pour tant, literally meaning so much, for so much.
The first step of the almond paste involves grinding the icing sugar and ground almonds together in a food processor. The ingredients are then sifted into a bowl. It’s not strictly necessary to blitz your ground almonds and icing sugar, you could just sift them. However if you want a smooth macaron with a flawless finish you will need to do this step.
The remaining egg whites are added to the almond sugar mix and beaten until a paste is formed. This should be a fairly thick paste. Into this paste the meringue is added. Firstly a small amount is added to loosen the paste and this is beaten in quite vigorously.
The remaining meringue should be folded in gently, ensuring all of the paste is mixed in evenly.
The macaron mix is spooned into a piping bag and piped out onto my prepared baking trays. I gave the bottom of the tray a light tap, this ensures your macarons don’t crack on top. They are then baked for 12 minutes. The trays need to be rotated part-way through the cooking time.
Leave the macarons to cool completely, you won’t be able to remove them from the greaseproof paper without damaging them when they’re warm.
On the flat side of the macaron make a light indentation with your thumb, this keeps the filling in place. The macarons are laid out in alternate rows, some facing up and some facing downwards. The filling is then piped on one half and the macarons are sandwiched together.
The macarons need to be put in the fridge for at least an hour to set, however they are best eaten the following day when the flavours become more intense. These are delicious and well worth making.
Also this week, I made some cranberry and pistachio florentines for a fundraising bake sale, raising money for the Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary. They are trying to raise money for a new equine hospital on site, the sale raised over £200 towards their cause. I hope they make their goal soon and wish them the best of luck.
Next week, I’ll be baking something from my most recent acquisition, a recipe book for La Patisserie des Reves.
Thanks for reading.