Salty Sweet Caramel Macarons

June 7, 2011 § 16 Comments

I’ve been a bit of a hermit lately. Last Friday I decided to keep the streak going and texted my friends that I would be staying home after-all. By the time they responded with sad faces I was already in my pj’s, cozy on the couch with my husband and a bottle of wine – but those sad faces instantly reminded me that time spent with my friends really is special and I shouldn’t take that for granted. It also helped that they were only a mile away at our friends’ new gastropub, BRÜ Haus (definitely stop by if you live in Los Angeles – they have giant bavarian pretzels and sweet potato tater tots! They also get their sausages from the same distributor as Wurstküche). 

So – I hopped off the couch, threw on some clothes and slapped on some makeup. In the end, I was so happy that I went; good times were had and great memories were made. I saw some friends who I hadn’t seen in years, which I found to be comforting. We ended up closing the bar down – I can’t even remember the last time I did that. The next morning, I didn’t wake up until 10:30. I wanted to just lie there, but I mustered together what energy I could and rolled out of bed. … I had some macarons to make.

I made the macarons posted here – Chocolate caramel macarons topped with a sprinkling of fleur de sel. I love the dichotomy of salty sweets, and the hint of salt really shines through in macarons which have a high ratio of sugar to other ingredients. I’m definitely getting comfortable with making macarons. I still need to fiddle around to perfect the shells, but I realized as I made this batch that I don’t have to intensely concentrate while folding the meringue into the dry ingredients like I used to. Instead, I casually chatted with Eric as I folded away. It’s almost as if the process is becoming more natural for me and I’m not the sweaty nervous wreck I used to be when I first started playing with macaron making.

Macaron Shells:
100g Egg whites, aged 4 days
66g caster sugar
2 drops brown food coloring gel
2 drops yellow food coloring gel
120g almond flour
180g powdered sugar
Fleur de sel for topping the macaron shells
Chocolate Caramel filling, recipe below

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites. When foamy, add the caster sugar and food coloring drops. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Meanwhile, sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar. When the egg whites are nice and stiff, fold into the almond flour/ powdered sugar and continue to mix until the batter ribbons back into the bowl.

Transfer the batter into piping bags, and pipe onto silpats into rounds about 1 1/4 inches wide. Sprinkle a tiny bit of fleur de sel on top of each shell and let sit for half an hour. Preheat oven to 320 degrees F, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. When cool, match up the shells by size and fill with the chocolate caramel filling.

Chocolate Caramel filling:
170g chocolate caramel bar, cut into pieces
140g whipping cream
30g unsalted butter, cubed

Pour the whipping cream into a bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals until hot. Add the chocolate bar pieces, and using a wooden spoon, mix for about 5 minutes. Add the cubed butter and continue to mix until everything is smooth and completely combined. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Source: Mad About Macarons!

Clear Focus Coffee Macarons

May 22, 2011 § 12 Comments

At my studio, Yogis Anonymous, they live stream several of their classes a week and then post those classes to their online library. It’s pretty special – I overheard my teacher talking about it once, and she said that she receives emails from all over the world from people who log on and join in on the live classes. Imagine that – people in the England, Germany, Brazil, other parts of the country etc, moving the same movements, breathing the same breaths, all at the same time. It gives me chills whenever I talk about it.

The other nice thing about the online library is that as a member, I can go back and look at the classes I participated in. It’s helpful because I’ve been able to see tweaks that need to be made in my alignment. In my previous entry I wrote about the unsteadiness and imbalance of my Friday evening practice after a really stressful work week. It’s amazing what a difference a little bit of rest can make; the screenshot below (me on the red mat) was taken two days later on Sunday.

In class my teachers are always reminding us of our drishti, or focus. I think that drishti also refers to things such as goals, but in the physical practice focusing our gaze on one specific point helps with balance and concentration. If you’re curious about drishti, try standing with your eyes closed and see (pun intended!) how challenging it can be. In the screenshot I’m in forearm balance and in this pose I need an intense gaze  – whether it be a speck of dust on my mat or a grain of wood on the floor – to steady myself.

I think that coffee macarons are the perfect treat for the theme of clear focus. True, too much caffeine is a bad thing but it sure does help me focus in the mornings when I’m at work! I’m really happy with how this batch turned out… they’re my best batch yet! Still, they aren’t turning out this well consistently, so I still have a lot of practice practice practice ahead of me. I’ve been really stubborn about perfecting the macaron but it’s been a stubborn fun. Fun making them, fun eating them, and fun sharing them. That’s the best kind of stubborn.

Coffee Macaron Shells:
100g Egg whites, aged 4 days
66g caster sugar
120g almond flour
180g powdered sugar
1 tsp instant coffee
2 drops of brown food coloring gel

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites. When foamy, add the caster sugar, instant coffee, and coloring gel. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Meanwhile, sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar. When the egg whites are nice and stiff, fold into the almond flour/ powdered sugar and continue to mix until the batter ribbons back into the bowl.

Transfer the batter into piping bags, and pipe onto silpats into rounds about 1 1/2 inches wide. Let sit for half an hour. Preheat oven to 320 degrees F, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. When cool, match up the shells by size and fill with the coffee filling, recipe below.

Coffee Filling:
100g unsalted butter
160g milk
2 tbsp instant coffee
1 egg
20g caster sugar
20g instant pudding powder

Cream the butter and set aside. In a small saucepan add the milk and coffee, and heat to medium. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, caster sugar, and pudding powder. Add to the milk and coffee and stir until thickened. Remove from heat, and let cool a bit. When it’s cooled down, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to cool completely. When cool, mix in the creamed butter and pipe onto the coffee macaron shells.

Source: Mad About Macarons!
(I highly recommend this book!!)

Hello and Welcome

May 3, 2011 § 30 Comments

Hello, and Welcome! It’s definitely Spring now – a time for cleansing and renewal. In that spirit I’ve migrated here from my old site, Kitchen Meditation.  Thank you for making the move over here with me. I still plan on writing about my journey in the kitchen, but with a little bit more about my life in general. My door is always open and I do hope you are a regular visitor here.

Lately, my kitchen has revolved a bit around macarons. The stubborn Leo in me has emerged, insisting on perfecting these French sandwich cookies. I made this  batch over the weekend and I think that they are my best batch yet. I’m looking forward to experimenting with other flavors and decorations! And soon, I will write a step-by-step post on how to make macarons.

>Fourth Time’s the Charm Macarons

April 24, 2011 § 29 Comments

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Sometimes, I can be a little stubborn. With each batch of macarons coming out a little less perfect I knew I was doing something wrong. This made me even more determined to master the technique, so I regrouped and spent an afternoon reading up on macarons. I read through several detailed step-by-step processes, tips on making the perfect macaron, and common errors in making macarons. Armed with the research and my copy of Mad About Macarons, I went into my fourth attempt ready to tackle them once and for good.

I measured, whipped, folded, and mixed. Piping out the batter I knew that this time was different. The batter held its shape and didn’t spread out like it had on my previous attempts. I had a good, but apprehensive, feeling. After popping the baking sheets into the oven, I sat by the oven and stared in, watching and waiting for the feet to appear. At about four minutes they began to peek out and say hello, and the domed tops stood up tall and proud.

Finally, I had done it – I had made some progress in making macarons. With a bit of hollowness in the shells and a little chewiness still on the table I know I still have some learning to do – but I’m definitely getting there and am happy with my fourth attempt. I have more eggs in the fridge with plans to make another batch tomorrow… keep your fingers crossed for me! Maybe this will be the perfect batch. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect and I’m up for the challenge.

>Macaron Madness

April 16, 2011 § 22 Comments

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Macarons, second attempt

Several months ago I tried my hand at making macarons. They didn’t turn out perfect but since it was my first try I was wildly happy with the results. Since then, they’ve been hovering over my head and in the back of my mind I wondered if it was just luck and coincidence that they turned out, or if I truly did get the technique right. I kept putting off another attempt though, because just the thought of all the work that goes into them made me tired.

Last week my girlfriend hosted her monthly potluck, with this month’s theme being eggs in honor of Easter. I figured now would be as good of a time as any to give macarons another go. I filled them with the leftover choco-almond frosting from the cupcakes I made over the weekend and while they still didn’t turn out perfect, they were just as delicious as could be. I think my friend, who ate one after another, agrees with me!

Third attempt
Now, I’m determined to master the macaron. I made a third batch over the weekend and sadly, this was the worst batch of all. I did get the ‘feet’, but you can see from the photo how they extend past the dome (which by the way, is barely even a dome at all!). I spent a good amount of time over the weekend reading up on macarons and think I know where I went wrong. I have more eggs aging at home right now and hope to make perfect macarons with the fourth batch.

>Chocolate Macarons with Dulce de Leche Filling (a first attempt)

October 3, 2010 § 43 Comments

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As my husband and I aimlessly wandered the streets of Argentina, one of our favorite things to do was pop into the heladerías for a sweet snack. Without fail, the flavor we almost always got was dulce de leche, and when available, super dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is a sweet caramelized milk that I’ve always liked, but formed a mild obsession for during my vacation. We topped desserts with it, spread it on our morning toast, and sought out pastries accented with this heavenly deliciousness… Not that we needed to look that hard as dulce de leche is readily found everywhere we looked – even at McDonald’s! Here in the states we get vanilla and chocolate soft serve; there, the choices are vanilla and dulce de leche.

Compared to my foodie friends, I am a novice in the kitchen but enjoy trying new recipes and making things from scratch. That being said, up until now macarons have been on my “do not make” list. I made up all sorts of reasons as to why I wouldn’t make them. But the truth was that I was absolutely terrified of making them, and left macarons in the category of ‘No idea how to make these but am perfectly happy forking over money for one that someone else made’ and I was ok with that.
But lately I have seen more and more foodies roll up their sleeves, put their big girl panties on, and venture out into the wild wild world of macaron making. And as far as I know, everyone has not only survived, but they have had at least somewhat successful results. Each post I read about a foodie friend’s macaron success was a gentle nudge for me to try making them myself. Then, last month my sister got me a kitchen scale for my birthday. I took that as a proverbial push towards making a batch of macarons and began to seriously consider it. A couple weeks later while in Argentina I realized that dulce de leche filling would be amazing, and made a mental promise to myself to make them when I got back home. I finally did yesterday, and you know what? Like everyone else, I survived, and while they could have been chewier, they turned out way better than I expected!
 
Chocolate macaron recipe : Annie’s Eats

Dulce de leche filling:  Cover an unopened can of condensed milk with an inch of water in a slow cooker, and cook on low overnight (or 8 hours)

Find other recipes at Hearth ‘n Soul.

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