Salted Caramel Popcorn Macarons
Its the 4th day of August, just about no leaves have dropped, and I haven't yet caught a single whiff of pumpkin spice. But as far as I'm concerned, the first week of August marks the first week of autumn, and I'll be damned if that means I can't whip out a wool sweater or two. So that's exactly what I did, whipped out a sweater, walked outside and then walked right back in because thats what one does when the temperature is post 80 degrees.
Today, I was meant to bake, and that beautiful wool sweater was meant to be thrown back into the depths of the closet from whence it came. Out comes the Kitchenaid, the parchment paper, and that ever-so-necessary determination that's a must have when baking macarons. Here, 'macarons' refers to the French variant, the impeccably textured little meringue cookies that are traditionally sandwiched together with a ganache, jam or buttercream. These cookies are often confused with 'macaroons', a coconut based American dessert that is much easier to master.
The key to making macarons is to alter your perception of their difficulty. To just immerse yourself in the moment and realize that perfection is subjective...Well at least that's what I told myself before baking my 21st consecutive batch of the irritatingly beautiful meringue based shells. No but seriously, just follow the tips I've listed below and know that whether or not they come out pretty, they always come out delicious (trust me).
SCOTT'S TOP 5 MACARON MAKING TIPS
- Use clean utensils, clean bowls, and clean pans - Make sure everything is grease free, wiping out bowls with vinegar or soapy water. Any grease that is present in the Macaron Making Process will prevent the egg whites from whipping up or deflate the meringue. I love to use a dedicated Silicone Mat just for macarons, or a fresh sheet of parchment paper.
- Add the salt at the beginning - Salt is a desiccant, this means that it will help dehydrate the egg whites during the whipping process, helping them to gain volume faster. Adding the salt at the beginning helps make your macaron-making experience stress free!
- Use exact measurements - Notice I didn't include any volume based measurements below, this is because my 'cup' may differ from your 'cup' and that slight variation can make a world of difference when it comes to macarons. You can purchase a simple digital scale online for less than $10, get the exact scale that i use here. If you want your macarons to come out perfectly every time, make sure you measure using a digital scale.
- Don't open the oven - I cannot stress this one enough. Macaron's need constant temperature in order to form their infamous 'feet'. If you constantly open and close the oven, nervously checking up on your developing treats, your oven will lose heat and the macaron shells will not develop properly. Trust me, leave that oven door closed.
- Focus on the macaronage - Macaronage, or the process of folding the whipped egg whites into the almond flour mixture, is the most important part of the macaron making process. You are slowly deflating the meringue while incorporating your wet and dry ingredients to make a homogenous mixture. A lot of recipe books and websites say that the finished mixture should resemble molten lava, but molten lava isn't something that most of us have come into contact with. This is why I say the finished mixture should resemble a thick pancake or waffle batter, a viscous mixture that dissolves back into itself slowly when dropped from a spatula back into the bowl.
Salted Caramel Popcorn Macarons
By: Scott Smith
Ingredients (For the Shells)
- 150 grams confectioners/icing sugar
- 125 grams blanched almond flour (almond meal)
- 100 grams cold egg whites (usually 3 large eggs)
- 100 grams white sugar
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
Ingredients (For the Popcorn Ganache)
- 5 oz white chocolate
- 2.5 oz heavy whipping cream
- 1 Cup popped popcorn, all seeds removed (just pop a whole bag and steal a few kernels!)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Ingredients (For the Caramel)
- 120 g heavy whipping cream
- 180 g white sugar
- 60 g water
- 180 g butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp sea salt (to taste)
Directions (For the Macarons)
- Combine your almond flour and confectioners sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds. If you do not have a food processor, simply whisk the two ingredients together in a bowl and then sift with a fine mesh sieve. Set aside.
- Add your egg whites to a (very clean) mixing bowl, sprinkle the sea salt on top of the egg whites and set aside (I'll explain why in my tell-all Macaron how-to guide, coming soon
- Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, turn the egg whites on speed 4 (or medium-low) for 1 minute and 30 seconds, or until the surface of the egg whites appears foamy.
- Turn the mixer off and add approximately 1/3 of the white sugar to the bowl (no need to measure). Turn the mixer back on, on speed 6 (medium) and mix for 1 minute, or until the egg white mixture begins to turn white. When the 1 minute is up, add half of the white sugar that remains.
- Turn the mixer on speed 8 (medium-high) for 1 minute, or until the meringue mixture resembles a smooth whipped cream. Turn off the mixer and add the rest of the sugar.
- Turn your mixer to the highest setting and mix for 1 minute, or until the mixture appears 'stiff', and a whisk attachment inverted atop your head still yields perfect hair. The mixture should appear remarkably thick and glossy and should not be 'drippy' at all.
- Tap the whisk attachment on the side of the mixing bowl to free any leftover meringue. Gently pour all of the dry mixture on top of the meringue at once.
- Here comes the 'macaronage', being careful not to apply too much pressure, gently begin folding the meringue mixture around the almond flour mixture, counting each fold. Go slowly, remember if you were in a rush you'd be making Chocolate Chip Cookies, not macarons.
- After around 40 folds, your mixture should resemble a very thick pancake batter. Try dropping some batter off of your spatula into the bowl, tap the side of the bowl a few times and wait 15 seconds, the dropped batter should absorb into the mixture completely.
- Prepare two sheet pans with clean Silicone Mats or unused parchment paper.
- Fit your piping bag with a medium round tip. I use Wilton's #12 or Ateco's #808 tip. Carefully transfer some of the batter to the bag, making sure not to fill it more than 3/4 of the way (you can always refill).
- If you're using parchment paper, pipe a tiny amount of batter in each corner of the pan to glue the paper down, so your macarons don't fly away in the oven.
- Holding your piping bag at a 90° degree angle to the pan, begin piping small circles, no closer than 1" inch together. Apply a consistent amount of pressure to the bag and count from 1 to 3, doing your best to make the macarons similar in size.
- When you're done piping, lightly bang your sheet pan on the counter or bench 10 times, in order to pop any air bubbles
- Set your sheet pan in a dry, room temperature area away from the commotion, set a timer for 30 minutes, and begin preheating your oven to 330° Fahrenheit (165° Celsius). During these 30 minutes, your macarons will rest and form a hydrophobic 'skin'.
- After the thirty minutes are up and your oven has come up to temperature, place the trays of macarons in the oven (preferably on the same side), and shut the door swiftly in order to retain as much heat as possible. Do not open the oven while the macarons are baking. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the slightest poke with your finger yields no jiggle from the baking shells.
Directions (For the Ganache)
- Crush the popcorn by using a food processor, blender, mortar and pestle, or fist and resealable bag. Set aside
- In a small microwave safe bowl, heat the cream to a low boil. Immeadiately at the crushed popcorn and stir. Let the mixture sit for 3 minutes and then add the butter and vanilla extract
- Return the crushed popcorn-cream mixture to the microwave for 15 seconds or until warm to the touch. Add the white chocolate and stir until smooth. If there are any clumps of white chocolate, return the ganache to the microwave in 15 second intervals until all of the chocolate is melted. Wrap your ganache with plastic and put in the fridge.
Directions (For the Caramel)
- Add the white sugar and water to a small saucepan and place on the stove over medium heat. Taking care not to stir the caramel, watch it until the sugar begins to melt around the sides of the saucepan. If you feel the need, gently shake the pan to mix instead of using a spoon/spatula.
- Now, the caramel will begin to cook rapidly, watch as the molten sugar goes from a translucent white to a medium amber color. Remove from the heat
- While stirring, slowly pour in the cream, and smile while knowing that if you've made it this far, you've yet to mess up.
- When the cream is mostly combined, place the saucepan back on the burner, and add the butter in pieces, stirring to combine until all of the butter is melted and combined.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sea salt and vanilla extract. Cool until the caramel is room temperature.
- To assemble the macarons: Do your best to pair the macaron shells with other shells of similar size. Pipe a ring of the completely set ganache on one shell, and fill the ring with a spoonful of the salted caramel. Place a matching shell on top.
- You may enjoy the finished macarons immediately or keep them in the freezer for up to 1 month. If you are freezing the cookies, let them come up to room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
Special Equipment (Optional)