Christmas Salted Caramel Macarons

I’ll be honest with you—I didn’t understand the craze over macarons at first. They weren’t creamy, moist, or crunchy the way most of my favorite desserts were. They weren’t particularly buttery or flaky like a good pie crust, they weren’t rich or decadent like my favorite peanut butter brownies were, and they certainly didn’t boast fresh fruits the way a great berry tart would. But it didn’t take long for me to try a few new flavors (pistachio, hazelnut, and coconut to name a few) and slowly, savoring each bite, subsequently fall for these bite-sized treats.


I think a lot of the allure comes with how “inaccessible” macarons are at home—typically, we don’t bake macarons in our own ovens the way we do with good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies or a tray of brownies. It makes macarons seem more foreign, more special.

Which is why I was terrified to try making them for the first time. I was convinced I would fail miserably.

And, well, I guess I kind of did the first time around. I underbeat the egg whites, overground the blanched almonds, and underestimated the amount of powdered sugar, ending up with an almond cookie more than a macaron. But by the second try, I was nearly there. I made raspberry ones for my first batch.

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But with the holidays coming up, I wanted to do something more cozy, more… Christmas-y.

So these were born instead!

Ingredients

Macaron Shells
3 egg whites
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup almond flour (I ground up my own from blanched almonds)
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 pinch salt
food coloring (optional)

Salted Caramel Filling
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/8 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon sea salt

Yields: 24 macarons (48 shells)

Directions

1. Beat egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form, adding the white sugar halfway in. If you turn the bowl upside down, they shouldn’t budge. And the peaks will be nice and sharp at the ends of the mixer.
2. Carefully sift almond flour and confectioners sugar in a separate bowl.
3. Pour flour and sugar mixture into the egg whites.
4. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour and sugar into the egg whites, using as few strokes as possible. Halfway through, add in your desired food coloring. I used about 6 drops. It seems like a lot but the color will fade as you bake the shells.
5. Once combined, the mixture should be sticky and thick. Make sure the food coloring is fully incorporated.
6. Fill a piping bag (or parchment paper, as I did) with the shell batter. Cut out a small, 1 cm hole at the tip.
7. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Don’t grease it!
8. Carefully pipe the circular shells, about 1 inch in diameter. (Tip: Start by piping the outer edge of the circle, and slowly spiral your way to the center. Be careful not to pipe too much out. Once you’ve reached the center, pull the piping bag up so that a small peak forms at the top, the way it does when you’re icing cupcakes. We’ll be able to flatten that out!)
9. After piping out all your shells, bang the trays against the counter to release air bubbles. This will prevent cracking once baked.
10. Wet your fingertip and carefully pat down any peaks and air bubbles at the surface. Be careful not to smear the shells as you do so.
11. Let the shells sit out uncovered for half an hour or until tacky.
12. Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
13. Meanwhile, start making your salted caramel filling. Fill a saucepan with the sugar and put on medium heat. There is no need to stir it until it starts to bubble and just starts to turn golden brown.
14. Mix with a wooden spoon as it continues to brown, being careful not to let it burn. Add heavy cream and incorporate completely.
15. Once it reaches a caramel-like texture, remove from heat and add in butter. The heat from the mixture will melt the butter so that it is easy to incorporate.
16. Add in salt and let cool.
17. Bake macaron shells for 20 minutes.
18. Let cool. Flip half the shells over and pipe salted caramel filling onto them carefully. Once complete, top with another shell.

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Okay, so it looks like a lot of steps, but I promise it isn’t as difficult as it seems! Besides, they’re a great treat to bring to holiday parties!

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