Post updated: August 2016
At the risk of tumbling shamelessly into the world of the melodramatic, I would go so far as saying that these particular macarons are to die for.
The shells, which have some walnuts in them (just enough to give a hint), are sprinkled with smoked sea salt before baking.
Now I love salted caramel with a worrying degree of passion but it is, I feel, just too oozy in a macaron. So rather than using it “neat”, I mixed equal quantities of salted caramel with melted bitter dark chocolate: you end up with a thick, luscious fudge affair, with a subtle flavour of the salt: really quite addictive!
These macarons do err on the side of being somewhat rich, but if you are going to have macarons then they surely deserve to be rich?
For these macarons, coarse sea salt can be sprinkled over the shells just before baking, patting them down ever so slightly so they stay in place, but without squashing them in any way.
You could instead sprinkle the salt over them as soon as they have been piped and before they rest, but the salt is prone to dissolving – although to be honest this is really not a problem as you still get that lovely salty kick.
I used smoked salt here: it adds an extra dimension flavour-wise – I love it! However, any sea salt works excellently here.
The recipe components
The macaron recipe is in my main macarons post, along with full guidelines and tips (here). For these particular macarons I didn’t add any colouring or extra flavouring but I instead replaced a third of the almonds with walnuts, grinding them finely. You can increase the walnut content even further for a more walnutty-vibe if preferred, or just use ground almonds.
For macarons it is far easier to weigh the dry ingredients based on the weight of the egg whites:
- caster sugar: same weight as egg whites
- ground almonds: multiply weight of egg whites by 1.25
- icing sugar: multiply weight of egg whites by 1.25
The filling is just equal quantities of salted caramel and melted dark chocolate mixed together. This gives a fairly firm filling, which I like as it contrasts well with the crisp and then chewy shells, but you can go for a softer filling using up to 3 parts salted caramel to 1 part melted chocolate.
The recipe I use for salted caramel is here, although you can buy excellent caramel sauce that just needs salt mixed into it to give the level of saltiness preferred.
As a general guide, About 200g filling for every 100g egg whites used to make the shells will generously fill the macarons.
A few key tips for successful macarons
Full instructions for making macarons are in my macarons post (link above), but the most important tips are:
- don’t over-mix the ingredients – go for thicker consistency rather than at all runny: as a test, the mixture should be thick enough so that when you lift some out and let it drop back, it vanishes back into the mixture within about half a minute or so. A runny mixture is to be avoided so test the consistency again after a couple more folds/stirs
- rest the macarons: once piped, leave them for about an hour or so until they form a very thin skin – when you touch a macaron gently it should no longer feel sticky
- bake at a low temperature: I go for between 140C (fan) and 150C, turning the tray around part-way through (once the feet have started to form: and it is always an exciting moment when you see the feet!)
- leave the baked macarons to cool on their baking trays: they lift off easily then
Once the macarons have been filled, they benefit from maturing in the fridge at least overnight to soften up a little inside, but they still retain that slight crisp outer shell.
I decided to drizzle melted dark chocolate over some of the macarons, along with just a little more smoked salt over the chocolate: but literally just a pinch