Tuesday, April 22, 2014

macaron madness

Macarons. The sweet, delectable parisian dessert that will send your taste buds on a journey to patisseries in Paris and warm spring picnics in the grass at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Only in our dreams, right? This weekend I decided to take on the challenge of making macarons from scratch for the first time. And it was quite the challenge. Nevertheless, I'm here with you today to share the recipe for salted caramel macarons and guide you through the process so you can enjoy them, too.  
The thing with Parisian desserts is making sure you're precise. Precision, I've found, seems to be the key ingredient to mastering French delicacies. That means, when it calls for 3/4 of a cup, It's a true 3/4 of a cup. Not heaping. Not scant. Another thing I've found to be helpful is really reading the recipe and directions before you start. Grasp a thorough understanding of what it's asking you to do. Timing is another factor. And if you have a basic knowledge before hand of what the recipe calls for, you wont be in such a panic. So here we go. Are you ready? 

You'll need:

Macaron Shells:
2 3/4 cups of almond flour (unblanched or blanched) 

2 3/4 cups of powdered sugar

1 cup of egg whites (roughly 7-8 eggs) at room temperature

pinch of salt

3/4 cups of superfine granulated sugar

food coloring of your choice (if desired)

Salted Caramel Buttercream:
3/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract 

2 cups of powdered sugar

1/2 cup of salted caramel 

Preheat your oven to 325 F and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. 
Blend the almond flour and the powdered sugar in a food processor to make the mixture as fine as possible. (This will keep crumbs from forming on the top of the macaron shells)
Attach the wire piece to your electric mixture and beat the egg whites and salt until the eggs start to rise.
Slowly (in a steady stream) add the super fine granulated sugar to the egg whites. 
You can add your food coloring here if you choose to do so.
You're going to beat the egg white until stiff peaks begin to form and the meringue becomes stiff and shiny.

Slowly fold the egg white mixture into the almond flour using a rubber spatula.
When there are no more crumbs, you're done mixing.
For this next step use a pastry bag to pipe the mixture onto the baking sheets. If you do not have a pastry bag, simply fill a ziploc bag with your mixture, cut a small hole in the corner, and use that as your piping bag. 
I piped my shells in circles at about 1", leaving an inch or two of distance in between each one. 

Leave your piped macarons out on the counter to rest for 15 minutes before putting them into the oven.

Bake for 14 minutes. After 5 minutes in the oven, open the oven door to let the steam out. (this step in extremely important as it lets moisture out of the oven)

While your macaron shells are cooling, whip up the salted caramel buttercream.

Beat the butter on medium speed until it becomes fluffy.
Then add vanilla and powdered sugar
Slowly add the salted caramel until fully incorporated.
(for my rendition of salted caramel, I bought house made caramel from whole foods and added 1/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel) 

Once your shells have cooled, pipe a small ammount of buttercream to the center of the macaron shell.
Gently twist the other half of the macaron on top of the buttercream.

Let the macarons cool for about 15 minutes before serving
And finally...

Enjoy every last bite!

(and share with family and friends of course)

If you have any questions about the recipe, feel free to ask
It can be a grueling process, but after your accomplishments, it will be worth it.
Macarons can be daunting, but once you get the hang of it, you can play around with different flavors and colors. If the buttercream is too heavy for your liking, you can always substitute it for a raspberry or fruit jam. 

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