Chocolate Macarons with Salted Vanilla Caramel

by angelika on February 21, 2011

I think we’ve had enough of healthy recipes for the time being. I had some friends come for the weekend, so of course I whipped up a batch of my most favorite little treat. I was going to go with my old standby of Pistachio Macarons with Lemon Curd, but when I put out feelers to the intended recipients I learned that chocolate and caramel were two beloved flavors. Well twist my arm. 
Chocolate Macarons

3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup almond flour/ powder
3 egg whites, left out overnight
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Vanilla Salted Caramel

1 1/4 cup sugar 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 375º. 
In a food processor mix together the cocoa powder, powdered sugar and almond flour. This gets the lumps out of the powdered sugar and in my mind alleviates the need for sifting. Use a good quality cocoa powder. You need very little of it, but you really want a nice rich flavor. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs until they foam. I start on a low speed and gradually increase over a minute. When the eggs foam, start adding the granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. You are looking for “bird beak” peaks. 
Pour the almond flour mixture into the egg whites and fold them in using a silicone spatula. No need to be too gentle. Once you have all the flour mixed in and you can’t see the egg whites you can begin to macaronage. This is the process of spreading the batter against the side of the bowl while you fold it. You basically smear the batter against the side of the bowl, and then re-gather the batter in the middle, flip and begin again. You continue to work the batter until it folds onto itself when you drizzle from the spatula, and is shiny. You can find more a more detailed description of the process here

Stand your piping bag up in a pint glass. I don’t use a tip at all, just the coupler that goes on the end of the bag. I find this to be the perfect size. Fill the bag and clip it closed. 
Pipe the cookies onto a baking sheet that has been prepared with a sheet of parchment. The air core cookie sheet is the best, but you can also use a sheet pan if you stack two of them together. You want to make sure that your cookies don’t get too hot too quickly, or they will crack. 
Pipe by holding the bag about an inch above the sheet and flooding a small area. Then quickly pull up. If there is a nipple in the middle of the cookie wait a few minutes to make sure it recedes. If it does not, you have not worked the batter enough. If they spread too quickly you have overworked it. In the beginning it may seem impossible to figure the consistency out, but it really just takes practice. Once you get it, the become so easy to whip up at any time. Rap the sheet on the counter 5 or 6 times to get rid of the air bubbles. 
In my oven I bake the cookies for 7 minutes, and at that point they have just developed the foot. I open the oven and let in a blast of cool air, then close it again. This is my trick to prevent cracking. Then they bake an additional 4 to 6 minutes. I bake them shorter on the air filled cookie sheet and longer on my double stacked sheet pan. You will have to find the right temperature and time for your oven. Mine runs a bit cold, when I made these at a friend’s house we baked them at 325º after burning the first batch. The cookies are done when they are firm, but not at all browned. 
Let the cookies cool on the sheet until you can pop them off the parchment easily. Place the cookies in an airtight container until you are ready to fill them. 
Salted Vanilla Caramel

1 1/4 cup sugar 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

To make the caramel, put the sugar and water in a saucepan on medium heat and stir until the sugar melts. As it comes to a slow boil, stop stirring and just watch and wait. You want to let the sugar water boil away until you reach a nice golden color. You can take a wet pastry brush every so often and wet the sides a bit so you don’t get crystallization. It always takes longer that I expect it to, so be patient. However, once you start to see it going golden, stay close! It goes very fast from there. 
just starting

half way there

ready for the cream

When you have a nice golden color, take the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. It will bubble and spit and this is exactly what you want. Just keep stirring until you have a creamy caramel sauce. Once it comes together stir in the vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt. I like to use a flaky fleur de sel, but you can use what you have. 

Pour the hot caramel into a heat proof bowl or container, and let it cool. Once the caramel is cool, you can begin to make your Macarons. Match up cookies that are the same size, place a dollop of carmel in the center and sandwich them together. 

You want to do a few at a time and then get them into the fridge. The caramel is melty and can run out the sides. Like all Macarons, you really need to leave them overnight in the fridge to set. It makes a huge difference in the texture of the cookie. Does this mean I don’t cheat and eat the broken or mismatched cookies right away? Of course not. I want to see the person who could resist. I do make sure that any I want to serve to guests are made the day before, so they get the best possible Macaron experience. 
A votre santé! 

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