Don’t be afraid of making macarons. My Cardamom Macarons with Sea Salt Caramel Buttercream are a great place to start.
The first time I made macarons, they turned out perfectly. Perfect shell, incredible feet, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. I thought for sure I was an expert baker and that I could scratch macarons off of my challenging-to-bake list.
That’s what I get for thinking so highly of my baking abilities.
Every time since then, I’ve been unable to make a macaron. They have been horrible and I almost gave up completely. They are kind of finicky to make and I knew that I couldn’t let a little cookie get the best of me. I found myself with an empty house, a few hours to kill, and a jar of leftover caramel sauce. I did a little troubleshooting and gave them another go. I decided on Cardamom Macarons with Sea Salt Caramel Buttercream filling.
This time, I’m happy with how they turned out. Are they perfect? Nope. But I wouldn’t be embarrassed to serve these to anyone. And they tasted incredible. William told me that these are the best cookies he’s ever had. And he eats a lot of cookies.
So what made them work this time?
1. I aged my egg whites for a few hours. I let them sit out at room temperature for a few hours before I used them. It does something to the protein structure from what I read. You can do this up to 2 to 5 days ahead of time and keep them in the fridge with plastic wrap on top that has a few holes in it. Let them come to room temperature before using.
2. I weighed everything in grams using a kitchen scale. My daughter and I have become big fans of Cupcake Jemma and when we bake her recipes, we use a scale because she is British. I have really started to like baking this way. It’s easy to clean up and so much more accurate.
3. I used the Italian meringue method. You make a sugar syrup and whip that with the whites. It makes a stable and consistent structure for the shells.
4. I read and paid attention to the instructions in Les Petits Macarons. This book is a great resource for making all kinds of macarons. And step-by-step pictures to follow along with. It’s $11 and if you want to learn to make macarons, I recommend it highly.
5. I typically have 10 things going at once in the kitchen when I am baking. I just worked on this and was single-minded. I listened to an audiobook, and enjoyed the process. It actually was very relaxing.
So the thing about making macarons is that you do need some equipment and it uses a TON of bowls.
Bowls = dishes. (I feel like my life revolves around my dishwasher.)
You need to pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor. Push them through a sieve. Cook the sugar to a specific temperature so you need a candy thermometer (I use a Thermopop and it is the best. A little expensive, but worth it, I use it all the time). Whip the egg whites with a mixer. Pipe the macarons using a round tip on parchment or a Silpat. Most people that bake a lot have these things, but if you don’t you might want to get them before you try these.
These guys have nice feet. I should have mixed them more to have a smoother shell. I’m happy with these though, and like I said, not perfect macarons, but tasty.
I had some leftover sea salt vanilla bean caramel sauce so I made a half batch of buttercream to fill the shells. It worked perfectly with the cardamom and cinnamon. I love cardamom and don’t think that it gets enough love. I will be making these again very soon.
- 165 grams almond flour
- 165 confectioners sugar
- 5 grams ground cardamom
- 3 grams cinnamon
- pinch sea salt
- 115 grams egg whites, room temperature
- 3 grams cream of tartar
- 150 grams sugar
- 57 grams water
- flaked sea salt
- half batch Sea Salt Caramel Buttercream
- Add almond flour, confectioners sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 4 times for 3 seconds at a time. Scrape the bowl in between pulses.
- Sift through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks are formed, about 2 minutes. (Reduce the speed to low if the egg whites are are ready before syrup.)
- While the eggs are whipping, add the sugar and water to a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until a candy thermometer reaches 235°.
- Pour the sugar syrup slowly into the running mixer (make sure it is on a very low speed).
- Whisk until stiff peaks form, the meringue will be glossy and lukewarm, about 4 minutes, being careful to not overwhip. To check to make sure you are at the right stage, hold the bowl upside down, it should not slip in the bowl.
- Move the almond mixture to the sides of the bowl, making a well in the center. Add the egg whites into the center. With a rubber spatula stir the egg whites from the center in a circular motion. The egg whites will pick up the dry ingredients, it takes about one minute to get it all incorporated. Fold in a J-shape 6-8 times.
- Add to a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip (I use ½-inch). Pipe onto a Silpat or 2 baking sheets lined with parchment.
- I hold the bag straight on top of where I am going to pipe and press until you reach the desired size. Release, lift, and move onto the next circle.
- Drop the baking sheets onto the counter. Really give it a good slam. It will release the air bubbles and get rid of any little tails that might not have settled. (If you still have some, dip your finger in a teensy bit of water and gently press it down.) Sprinkle half of the shells with sea salt.
- Bake in a preheated 200° oven for 15 minutes to dry out the shells. Increase the temperature to 350° and bake for another 9 minutes. The foot and edges should feel firm, and you can lift them off the parchment with a little effort.
- Slice the paper or Silpat onto a wire rack and let cool completely, about an hour. Pipe salted caramel buttercream onto half of the shells. Top with remaining shells.
- To store keep the macarons (filled or unfilled) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. You can also freeze them for up to a month. Wrap carefully in groups of 6 and put them into a container so they don’t get crushed.
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