These macs are evil. Oh, don’t get me wrong – they are spectacularly good to eat! The shells mature beautifully, the caramel firms in the fridge to be just chewy enough to compliment the texture perfectly and they taste like a dream. But they are kind of addictive… I could eat a whole batch and feel no remorse whatsoever. They reel you in, get you hooked and won’t let you go! Evil macs!
Makes 30 filled macarons
140g ground almonds
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
100g granulated (white) sugar
140g granulated raw (golden) sugar
100g butter, cold, diced
pinch sea salt flakes
65g whole cream, warm
Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets.
Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar together then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean.
Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. Set aside.
Beat 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.
Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small saucepan and heat to 118°C.
While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm (you should get a beak when you lift the whisk) and shiny.
Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogenous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon and a trail in the batter melts back into itself within 20 seconds.
Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm plain tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 3cm, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.
Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C.
Bake the macarons for 18 minutes, one sheet at a time, turning the tray half-way.
Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully to a plate for filling. If they stick, you can spray the underside of the parchment with water, let sit for a minute then remove to a rack to dry completely.
Spread the sugar evenly across the bottom of a small, heavy-based saucepan. Heat over a medium-low flame without stirring until the sugar starts to melt and becomes liquid around the edges. Once about a quarter of it has melted, gently stir continuously with a wooden spoon until it starts to smoke, a few minutes depending on how high the heat is. Be careful not to burn it. Using raw sugar for making caramel is a bit more haphazard than using white sugar where you go by colour, but just past smoking point is the aim.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and salt, stirring well with a wooden spoon to obtain a smooth mixture.
Return the saucepan to the stove on a low heat and carefully pour hot cream into the caramel, stirring continuously – it will splutter and steam so be very careful as it is extremely hot. Keep stirring until it stops bubbling.
Set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.
You will probably have some caramel left over, but it has so many uses, I’m sure it won’t go to waste.