We were walking past a macaron shop in town and the kids reminded me that I "owe" them a macaron bake and hubby found the salted caramel macaron particularly attractive. I said it would be cheaper if I made them instead of buying from a shop that sells something which can be finished in a bite but costs a meal. And that was how this bake came about :). Can you believe that I made these earl grey salted caramel bears with a batter that has way too much water content? I will share how I averted a major disaster. I am just glad that they look decent and taste fine :)...although it would have been better if I got the batter right in the first place.
The little one said that he dreamed about macarons and requested for them after each meal! Hope he doesn't get caffeine overdose at a tender age of 4 :p. My elder kid and hubby loved it too so for this batch of macs we didn't give any of them away!
I adapted the macaron shell recipe from my Matcha macarons. I used 3 tea bags of earl grey, discarding any bits that couldn't pass through a fine sieve. I also experimented with using slightly more water in the Italian meringue (79g, closer to the original recipe which used 80g that I adapted my Matcha macarons from) and half the amount of egg white powder (1/2 tsp). On hindsight those two moves were unwise on a rainy day in hot and humid Singapore! I suspect that I may have beaten the Italian meringue for too short a time (although I managed to get nice shiny and thick stiff peaks), resulting in a meringue with higher water content too. I piped round ones, teddy bear shaped ones and koala bear shaped ones. I also added a teeny bit of black food coloring to the mass to give the shells a greyer look.
After drying my macs for 3 HOURS in an air conditioned room, the macs were still a sticky to touch but I went ahead and baked one tray of macs...and as expected, ALL of them had no feet but instead, have pock-marked surfaces. I decided to shut off the oven and experiment with drying the macs for as long as they need to completely dry out. That took an overnight drying time, a total of about 16 hours! Actually they could have dried earlier but I was in slumberland and couldn't have checked :p. So lesson to all newbies, it's absolutely important to have really dry shells before you bake them. Some patience will help to avert any major disaster.
Imagine my joy at 6+am in the morning when I saw some feet and smooth surfaces on my macs after a whole tray of ugly macs the day before! The ugly macs still tasted fine, just not presentable.
If you observe the macarons carefully, you will find that the portion with the ears have no feet or very small feet. I did some search and found that the batter continues to be "folded" as you pipe the macarons. The more intricate the piping, the more folding the batter undergoes. This explains why the round macs have feet that are evenly sized and the bear shaped ones have uneven sized feet. Another thing I learn from this experience is to underfold the batter a bit during the macaronage stage if I plan to pipe macarons that are not round.
I prepared a small amount of royal icing sugar and painted the features on the bears' faces using a small food brush.
I adapted the salted caramel recipe from here. I added more salt and infused the cream with a bag of earl grey to give the macarons a stronger tea flavor.
75g caster sugar
75g light brown sugar
50g unsalted butter
96g (100ml) whipping cream
1 tsp sea salt flakes, ground
1 tea bag of earl grey
2 tbs water
1. Heat cream in a small sauce pan and let the tea bag steep in it until the cream turns tan-colored. discard the tea bag. Set aside the cream.
2. Heat caster sugar and water in a small heavy based saucepan over low fire to dissolve the sugar. Bring to boil and cook until syrup turns amber color as it caramelizes.
3. Remove from heat and add light brown sugar, butter and cream. Stir to dissolve the sugar then return to the stove and simmer at low heat for 3-4 minutes until caramel thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
4. Remove from heat, add salt and stir until it dissolves. Pour into a bowl and leave it to cool and thicken before spooning or piping the caramel onto the macaron shells.
Leave the filled macarons in the fridge overnight in an airtight container. They taste better the next day. Let the macarons warm up to room temperature for about 15 minutes before consuming or the caramel will be too hard to bite. Here's how it looks like when you take a bite! Please excuse the poor photography. I am always in a rush when I take the photos, what with being a busy mum :P.
The shells that were baked without being fully dried did not have the bit of hollow space between the outer crust and inner part of the macaron that you can see in the photo above. This is expected as I left the macarons out for a really long time before sending them into the oven. Oh well, not perfect but good enough for my family :). Everyone had fun eating these cutesies and loved the taste of them. We really didn't need to buy some expensive posh posh ones from a shop :P. Still nicely lightly crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.... Mmmm....the aroma of earl grey with salty and sweet tang of the salted caramel compliments each other really well! Not so sickly sweet. My kind of dessert :)