My husband and I came back from our trip to Paris in April with an obsession for macarons. Prior to our trip, I had tried macarons from a few different places here in the U.S. and I’d even made my own mediocre batch of them at home – but I wasn’t totally gaga over them until we ate more than our fair share of them in France. Since we can’t live in Paris and probably can’t travel there as often as we’d like, I’m on a quest to make homemade macarons that taste good enough to substitute for the real French ones.
Since we returned from Paris, I’ve made five different batches of macarons with varying degrees of success – but I think I’m getting the hang of it now as the most recent batches have been the prettiest and most delicious.
One of the best flavors we tried in Paris was salted caramel, consisting of lightly caramel flavored almond meringue shells and a rich, salty caramel filling. Even though our absolute favorite flavor in France was triple vanilla from Pierre Hermé, I decided to try the salted caramel at home first. I knew I could make a decent salted caramel but I wasn’t so sure I could make something so intensely vanilla flavored as the ones we ate in France.
When it was time to make my first batch of them, I quickly came across a French macaron recipe in Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich. The recipe looked and sounded good and didn’t require me to measure ingredients on a scale (yes, I bake a lot and no, I don’t ever use a scale). That recipe ended up being perfect and I’ve used it every time that I’ve made macarons since.
Finding the perfect salted caramel filling recipe took a little more time. And even when I found the recipe, it took several batches of trial and error for me to finally get it right. It didn’t help that I needed to convert the measurements and I think the original recipe used way more butter than necessary. In the end, I reduced the butter in the recipe by a third and ended up with a much better finished product. The recipe at the bottom of this post reflects that reduction.
While I won’t go so far as to say that making macarons is easy, I haven’t found it to be quite as challenging as I had heard it was. The recipe is rather particular about some things, but if you follow those directions, you should end up with a decent batch of macarons. They may not look perfect, but they’ll still taste good.
The macarons pictured here are chocolate with salted caramel filling. If you don’t like chocolate, you can easily make a batch of plain macarons with salted caramel filling instead. I’ve made both and they’re both fantastic! The recipe posted below is for plain macarons and I’ve included the variation for chocolate at the bottom of the recipe.
- 2 cups (8 oz.) powdered sugar
- 1 1/3 cups (4.5 oz.) finely ground blanched almond meal
- 3 to 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 to 6 drops of food coloring to match your flavor (optional)
- 3/4 cup filling, such as salted caramel, lemon curd, chocolate ganache, buttercream, chestnut spread, Nutella, peanut butter, or jam
- Combine the powdered sugar and almond meal in a bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Pass through a medium-coarse sieve to lighten and aerate the mixture (which makes it easier to fold).
- In a glass measure, add enough egg whites to reach halfway between the 1/3 cup and 1/2 cup mark; or use a scale to weigh out 3.75 oz. of egg whites. Transfer these to a large bowl, and save the rest for another purpose or discard. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until they form soft peaks when the beaters are lifted; add the almond extract and the coloring, if using. Beat at high speed until the mixture forms stiff but not dry peaks when the beaters are lifted. Pour all of the almond flour mixture over the egg whites. With a large rubber spatula, fold the almond mixture into the egg whites just until it is fully incorporated. The egg whites will deflate somewhat, but the batter will be thick and moist and almost pourable.
- Drop heaping teaspoons of batter 1 inch apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Or transfer the batter to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip and pipe out disks in the following manner: Hold the bag vertical with the tip about 3/8 inch from the pan liner. Squeeze the bag without moving it until a disk of batter 1 1/2 inches in diameter is formed. Stop squeezing a second or two before moving the bag to pipe the next disk. Repeat, piping disks 1 inch apart. Let the macarons rest for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the surface of the disks is ever so slightly dry-this slightly dry crust will help form characteristic little “platforms” at the base of each macaron as they bake.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
- Slide two sheets of macarons into the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300°F. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the macarons are barely starting to turn golden (they will be golden on the bottom, though you will have to destroy one macaron to find out). Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool.
- When the cookies are cool, lift a corner of the parchment pan liner. Holding a cookie with the other hand, carefully peel the liner away from the cookie (don’t try to pull the cookie off the liner or you will lose the bottom of the cookie). Repeat with the remaining cookies.
- Spread 1/2 to 1 tsp. filling on the flat side of a cookie and top with a cookie of matching size. Put the cookies on a tray and cover them with plastic wrap. Put the trays in the refrigerator to let the cookies mellow at least overnight and for up to 2 days before serving. Bring to room temperature for serving.
Variation – Chocolate Macarons: Mix 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process) with the powdered sugar and almond meal.
Salted Caramel Filling
Recipe slightly adapted from Polka Dot Made
Makes enough filling for at least 2 batches of cookies.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons fleur de sel (or other coarse sea salt), plus more for sprinkling as you assemble the macarons
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted buter
- Chop butter into small cubes.
- Pour cream into a small saucepan, add fleur de sel and bring to boil. Remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil.
- Place sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook sugar over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that it caramelizes evenly.
- When the sugar reaches a dark brown color remove from the heat and slowly pour in the hot cream while continuing to mix with a spatula or whisk. The caramel will spit and bubble as you mix the cream into it, so please use caution while pouring.
- Let the caramel cool to around 115°F. Whisk the butter into the caramel a few pieces at a time until thoroughly incorporated.
- Pour the caramel into a shallow container and allow to cool in the fridge.
Assembling the Macarons
- Pair macaron shells according to size.
- Take the caramel out of the fridge, place in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously. This whisking will thicken the caramel to a buttercream consistency perfect for piping. Be careful not to whisk it too much or it will start to separate. For this reason, resist the urge to use an electric mixer instead of a whisk (trust me, I did this).
- Fill one half of your paired macaron shells filling them generously but keeping a space of approximately 3mm from the edge of the shell. Sprinkle with a few grains of fleur de sel.
- Pick up the macaron filled with caramel in one hand and the empty matching sized macaron in the other and close the macaron by gently twisting the two shells together from left to right. Let the filling spread all the way to the edge of the shells.
- Store the finished macarons in a covered container in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Prior to serving, let the macarons return to room temperature.