Fleur de Sel (Salted) Caramel Macarons
My journey with macarons has been a long one, and it started with Tartelette. Even before a macaron had ever even passed my lips, I fell in love with Hélène’s photos. Her macarons (and all her food photos, really) were just so pretty. So on one day when I was feeling particularly ambitious maybe 4 years ago, armed with Hélène’s macaron tutorial, I tried my hand at recreating a pretty macaron. Oh, how spectacularly did I fail! My macarons were more like watery air pockets. I was so upset, I never tried them again. But back then, I was not aware of some crucial elements essential in succeeding with a macaron that I subsequently found out as I did more research:
- Age your egg whites! This just means separating your eggs and putting the whites in the fridge for at least 24 hours before you intend to make your macarons. Return the whites to room temperature before using them.
- A stand mixer is SO important because you need the whites to be moving when you pour in your sugar syrup. I only got my pink KitchenAid late last year, but it is the one single investment that I can say I will never regret and will use for the rest of my life to make it more than worthwhile!
- You do really need to measure the temperature of your sugar syrup with a thermometer. Using the water method to tell whether the sugar has reached the soft ball stage is not definitive and has way too much room for error.
So, imagine me, without aging my egg whites, not having measured the temperature of my sugar accurately, and struggling with a hand beater. Not a pretty picture, and no surprises why my macarons failed so badly! Since that experience, I have always been afraid of trying again, even though I had acquired the necessary knowledge and tools. After being walked through the process by chef Jean-Michel at Baroque’s macaron masterclass, though, I was thoroughly inspired and confident that finally, I could succeed in making a macaron all on my own. It is different being shown, rather than just reading about a technique and trying it out. That and, getting gold nuggets from an expert means making less mistakes on your own if you’re aware of them from the start.
I started by making the salted caramel filling. The key ingredient here is fleur de sel, a type of salt collected from the coast of Brittany. What makes fleur de sel different from normal table salt is that only the top layer of the salt bed is used, and so the salt remains as flakes and retains a full, sea salt flavour. And fleur de sel is usually hand harvested, making it more expensive than commercially harvested salt. But, what it does to this caramel, is it gives it bursts of saltiness, which brings out the sweetness and flavour of the caramel much more.
Once the caramel is made, pour it into a shallow dish to set in the fridge. It needs to be covered with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the caramel so that a skin doesn’t form.
Then, I made the macaron shells. This time, with a thermometer to measure the sugar so that once it hit 118ºC, I could pour it immediately into the KitchenAid that was busy whipping the egg whites to soft peaks.
This is exactly what you want to see- a thick, glossy Italian meringue, which is then folded into the tant pour tant mixture. Though you have to be gentle so that the meringue doesn’t collapse, you do need to mix until the right consistency. I got a bit unstuck at this stage, so I will try to describe the desired consistency- the mixture should fold over on itself and incorporate back into the rest of the mixture. It should do this in 12 seconds, according to Jean-Michel, but I think knowing the right consistency comes with experience.
This was my first batch of piped shells, when the mixture was still too tough. You don’t want your shells to look like this, because they are too high. (And have funny shapes!) All I did was to scrape the piped shells back into my bowl, give it a couple more quick whisks, and they were then good to go!
I cannot tell you how HAPPY I was watching these shells! I was positively dancing in front of the oven when I saw those feet forming, and the smooth tops!
Another important tip I learnt from Jean-Michel was to leave the oven door slightly ajar for steam to escape. The right amount of steam needs to be released from the oven because too much steam will result in soggy meringues, and too little will mean that the meringues may not rise. What I did was to insert 2 wooden chopsticks at the top of my oven, and close the door on them, so that there was a small gap at the top.
While the macaron shells are cooling, the caramel is ready to be whipped! Jean-Michel did this by hand, but having weak girl arms meant that I copped out and used my KitchenAid (told you I would make full use of it). If you can do it by hand, please do it by hand, because if you over beat the mixture, it will split! Look at the colour change! It’s just amazing, but what you are doing essentially, is whipping the butter that had set again in the caramel. The result is a light, buttery filling still rich in caramel flavour. Only when the caramel has been whipped, do you add the fleur the sel and mix ever so gently so that the salt doesn’t dissolve, and you still get bursts of saltiness in each mouthful of macaron. Then, you pipe the filling, twist on the tops of the macarons, and voilà!
And so, finally, I can say that I have succeeded at making a macaron! The feedback from my household has been very positive for a first attempt. My macarons are far from perfect, but at least they look like macarons! My macaron journey definitely does not end here, for sure, I’ve been thinking of many many possibilities for flavours, and have researched matcha macarons, as Soy absolutely loves green tea desserts.
Best of all, I’ve discovered the perfect edible gift that I can make and give to friends. Macarons box up in the prettiest manner! I’ll be sure to share all my future macaron flavour explorations right here!
Salted Caramel Macarons
Recipe from Baroque Patisserie
SALTED CARAMEL FILLING
250g Fresh Cream
350g Granulated (castor) Sugar
10g Fleur de Sel
CARAMEL MACARON SHELL
600g sifted TPT (300g Almond meal with 300g icing sugar)
120g egg whites
300g Caster sugar
120g egg whites
Step 1. MAKING YOUR FILLING:
Chop your butter into small cubes
Weigh your sugar into a medium saucepan
Weigh your cream into a small saucepan and bring to boil, remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil.
Commence cooking your sugar stirring occasionally to ensure that it caramelises evenly
When the sugar reaches a dark brown consistency remove from the heat and slowly pour in the hot cream whilst continuing to mix with a spatula
Let the caramel cool to around 45°C and then add the butter a few pieces at a time whilst mixing the caramel.
Pour the caramel into a shallow container and allow to cool in the fridge.
Beat the caramel mixture until light, shiny and smooth.
Step 2. MAKING YOUR MERINGUE SHELLS:
Add the colouring to the first batch of egg whites (1) above.
Mix the TPT with the egg whites, mixing vigorously until you have a smooth paste.
Mix the caster sugar, water and colour, commence cooking.
Place the old egg whites in a Kitchenaid mixer with the whisk attachment.
Once the sugar has reached 115°C commence whipping your egg whites until they reach ‘soft peak’ consistency.
When the sugar reaches 118°C remove from the stove and pour slowly on the still mixing egg whites.
Turn the speed to maximum for around 1min and return to medium for another 2min and then let the meringue cool to around 50°C whilst mixing slowly.
Using a spatula commence incorporating the meringue into the TPT and egg white batter. Work the mix gently from the sides to the middle until you reach a homogenous, shiny texture.
Step 3. PIPING AND COOKING YOUR MERINGUE SHELLS:
Using a plastic piping bag with no. 11 tip, pipe the shells onto a baking sheet according to the size template.
You should stop piping before the mix reaches the outside edge of the template.
Tap the tray gently on the side of the bench until the macaron reaches the size of the template.
Remove the template from beneath you baking sheet.
Leave the macarons outside at room temperature for 15 min or until they have formed a skin and are dry to touch.
Cook the macarons according to the cooking guide for your type of oven
Once cooked, slide the paper off the tray and let the shells cool (preferably on a wire rack)
Step 4. ASSEMBLING YOUR MACARONS
Pull the shells from the paper gently and turn them upside down.
Pair your Macaron shells according to size and lay them out on your bench.
Take your caramel out of the fridge and transfer it to a mixing bowl.
Place the caramel over a bain marie to soften the mixture and melt any pieces of granulated butter (take care not to melt the mix too much). Remove from the heat and whisk the caramel energetically. This will thicken the mix to a butter cream consistency (perfect for piping).
Fill one half of your paired macaron shells filling them generously but keeping a space of approximately 3mm from the edge of the shell.
Pick up the macaron filled with caramel in one hand and the empty pair in the other and close the macaron by gently twisting the two shells together from left to right.
Remember to let the filling spread regularly all the way to the edge of the shells.
STORING AND SERVING
Put the finished macarons on a tray and leave them in the fridge for a least 24 hours.
Prior to serving, let the macarons return to room temperature.