Macarons are like cats, Paris and Michael Fassbender; I love them far more than they love me.
After a disastrous first date, we have come to an understanding.... I accept that I will never have a 100% perfect macaron yield, at least 4 or 5 will crack across the top and not have "feet". Same batter, same tray, same temperature- my only reasoning is that the oven isn't giving out heat exactly evenly. Short of throwing out my relatively new oven and buying a new one, I think I may have to live with less than macaron perfection.... Grrh.
I used to use this Bravetart recipe, but have now switched to this Pierre Herme's recipe. Herme's recipe is a little bit tricker in that it involves making a sugar syrup and you have to age the egg whites for at least two days, but I find the results are slightly better, a shinier top and more chewy. If you aren't bothered getting a sugar thermometer out, do try the Bravetart recipe, by all means a less fussy option.
Makes 36 shells
For the macarons
150g icing sugar
150g ground almonds
55g egg whites, left on the counter for 48 hours or longer in the fridge covered in clingfilm and stabbed with a fork
7.5g good quality yellow food colouring
7.5g vanilla extract
55g egg whites, left to liquefy, as above
slightly less than 40ml water
Salted caramel filling
150g granulated sugar
175ml single cream
15g salted butter plus 70g salted butter
1/2 tsp good quality salt
1. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds separately and then together in a big glass bowl. Discard any chunky bits of almond stuck in the sieve.
2. Mix 55g of the egg whites, food colouring and vanilla extract together in small bowl. Pour on top of the icing sugar and ground almonds but do not mix.
3. Beat the other 55g of egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
4. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan until the syrup reaches 118oC. Take off the heat and allow to cool to 115oC and then pour down the side of the bowl while beating the egg whites until the egg whites cool to 50oC- this shouldn't take long.
5. Mix the meringue in to the almond/icing sugar mix in three batches until the mixture flows like magma. This will take a few minutes. Use a spatula to smear the mix against the side of the bowl. The mixture should fall from the spatula in a smooth ribbon and disappear back into the mixture within 20 seconds.
6. Pipe into rounds of 3.5cm diameter. Rap the baking sheet onto the counter sharply to get rid of any air bubbles. Leave the macarons at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow a skin to develop.
7. Heat the oven to 180oC.
8. Bake the macarons for 12-14 minutes, opening the door very quicky twice to allow steam to escape. I found that the macarons baked better on the top or bottom shelves, but it may take some experimentation with your oven to figure out what suits you. The macarons are baked when they can be peeled easily from the paper- the bottom should not be too sticky.
9. To make the filling, put 25g of sugar in a saucepan and allow to melt over a medium heat. Add the rest of the sugar in 25g portions once the previous 25g is melted until all 100g is used up. Once all the sugar is melted, cook until the sugar turns a dark amber. Play close attention and use your nose as a guide- if it smells like it is burning pull off the heat and plunge the saucepan into a sink of cold water.
10. Heat the cream until almost boiling.
11. Add 15g butter and the cream. The mixture will bubble and splatter and the caramel may go hard but will melt at the next stage.
12. Turn up the heat and boil until the mixture reaches 118oC.
13. Pour into a shallow container and cover with clingfilm. Put in the fridge to cool completely.
14. Beat the 70g of butter for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Add the caramel in two additions beating well between each. Add the salt and beat well to combine.
15. Pipe generously to sandwich the shells together.
16. Allow the macarons to 'mature' for 12 hours and then allow to come to room temperature for 2 hours before serving.