They look similar to my previous attempts here and here but the flavour is different. As caramel flavour was requested, there's no cocoa powder added to the shells and I had to make the caramel instead of Oreo cookies and cream buttercream for the filling.
I realized I haven't posted how I age my egg whites in any of my macaron posts. Here's how I do it. I place egg whites in a bowl and cover with paper towel secured with a rubber band. Finally, cover the bowl with cling wrap (no need to be tight) and place in the fridge until you want to use it. The paper towel absorbs any moisture that the egg whites release during storage without dripping back into the bowl. That way your egg whites will slowly lose moisture over the few days of aging in the fridge. Remember to let the egg whites come to room temperature before using.
Recipe for Mickey macaron shells
Ingredients (makes about 90-94 shells, 45-47 macarons):
200g superfine almond meal/ground almond
200g icing sugar
20g charcoal powder
Black gel food colouring
1/4tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1/4tsp caramel extract (optional)
200g caster sugar
160g egg whites, preferably aged and divided into 2 equal portions
1. Sift together almond meal, icing sugar and charcoal powder. Add 80g of egg whites to form the mass. Add a few drops of black gel food colouring and the extracts. Mix well.
2. Prepare the Italian meringue. Heat the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan. Do not stir once all the sugar has dissolved to prevent crystalization. At the same time, beat the other portion of egg whites using an electric mixer. Do not beat it beyond soft peak stage. Reduce mixer speed if necessary but keep moving the egg whites. When syrup reaches 115°C, take it off the heat, turn up mixer speed to high and slowly pour the syrup in, taking care to avoid the beaters. Continue beating on high speed for 10-12 minutes until the meringue cools and is glossy and forms firm/stiff peaks.
3. Fold the meringue into the mass in 2 batches. Fold in 1/3 for the first batch. Use a fold and press motion. I left about 1/4 cup of meringue unused. When the batter is able to fall off the spatula in an almost continuous manner, it is ready. Do watch a video demo for a good gauge of the right consistency.
4. Transfer the batter into piping bag fitted with a 5-6mm round tip. Pipe out the shells onto trays lined with baking sheet. Place the Mickey template under the baking sheet. Tap the tray to release trapped air bubbles. Don't be shy to tap hard. It helps to flatten any "nipples" on the shells too.
5. Let the shells dry in an air con room for about 2 hours. When the shells are no longer sticky to touch, they are ready to be baked. I didn't use oven drying as I had another batch of macarons to make at the same time.
6. Bake at 130-140°C for 17-22 minutes at second lower rack. Rotate the tray halfway though baking if your oven heat distribution is uneven. Let the shells cool for 5 minutes before attempting to remove from tray.
Freshly baked! The template shifted after I tapped the tray so the shells look displaced :p
When the shells have cooled, ice them with royal icing.
All red was requested this time
Instead of using the recipe I used previously for salted caramel macarons, I decided to try whipped caramel. This eliminates the need to prepare swiss meringue buttercream separately while still retaining a lighter-textured filling.
Recipe for whipped salted caramel (adapted from The Tough Cookie)
210g caster sugar
139g heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
210g unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces
Sea salt to taste (I added about 1/2 tsp. You may add more for a more salty taste. Requester wanted me to go easy on the salt.)
1. Heat up the whipping cream until it starts to bubble a bit and set aside. At the same time, heat the sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan, preferably light coloured. You may stir the mixture to help the sugar to dissolve but stop once all sugar has dissolved. Carefully watch the colour of the syrup. Once it has turned golden in colour, take it off the heat.
2. Gradually add the cream and stir quickly with a long wooden spoon. Be careful as the mixture will bubble violently. Just keep stirring and it will calm down after a while. A deep saucepan is helpful here.
3. Add in half of the butter one piece at a time and mix well. Cool the base of the saucepan in a bowl of tap water while adding in the rest of the butter a piece at a time until well incorporated. Add in the vanilla extract and sea salt. Mix well.
Freshly made caramel
4. Pour the caramel into a mixing bowl and chill it in the fridge until it firms up (about an hour or more). Whip it with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Freshly whipped caramel
Pipe the whipped caramel onto the shells.
Filling the shells
Refrigerate the assembled macarons for at least 24 hours before serving.