Santa macarons (with salted caramel chocolate ganache middles)

Is there a broken one I can try?

Look, there, that one’s not quite round, surely I can taste that one now?!

There’s one little problem with making macarons in my house. You have to wait. Unlike brownies and bread you can’t eat macarons straight from the oven. And you have to wait a while- personally I insist on two days before they can be tested! You see macarons just aren’t so nice when they are freshly baked, the shells are too crispy and sweet and the filling is lost. Eating a macaron straight after it’s been made is like eating a sandwich made with stale bread- looks the part but just isn’t quite right. And after all that effort I won’t be having it wasted on impatient housemates!

So I have a halfway house for them- I always make a little more ganache than I need. Whilst they sit there eating it with a spoon there is never any complaining!

And this ganache is good, I mean really good! The combination of caramel and chocolate is incredible; so good in fact I plan to turn it into little chocolates as I did here to put inside our Christmas crackers this year. Ooh maybe I’ll decorate them to look this Christmas puddings… So if you’re not quite feeling up to macarons definitely give the ganache a go- I promise you that you won’t be disappointed!

But of course that’s not to say you shouldn’t give the macarons a go! You definitely should – they are divine!! The recipe below follows my usual Italian meringue method with the shells dried out in the oven which I find gives much more consistent results when the weather’s wet and wintery. I update it every time I come across a new problem so let me know if you come a cropper and I will do my best to help! It’s fair to say macarons aren’t the simplest things to bake but if you follow the recipe closely you should be ok and practice definitely gets you nearer to perfect!

These are of course great baked at any time of the year but if you want to make them into Santa macarons too it’s very simple and gives such a striking result! I made royal icing according to this recipe from Sweetopia and piped it on once the shells were paired and cooled a little in the fridge to make them easier to handle. I also wanted to ensure the colours of the belt and buckle didn’t merge so I piped the buckle on the day after once I was sure the black was dry. Not a problem when you have to wait two days!

But before I give you the recipe I must admit to something – mine weren’t all as perfect as the ones in the photos. I’m not that lucky! They are never all perfect! My first batch went in on thin reusable baking paper that’s past it’s best and wouldn’t lie flat sending my carefully piped rounds off at funny angles and the second batch, whilst perfectly round, went in on a tray that warped meaning only the middle third rose evenly whilst the others rose drastically on only one side forming cheese wedges. But hey ho (ho ho) they all tasted great! And here’s the recipe…

Recipe

Makes 20 macarons

For the macarons

Adapted from Perfecting Patisserie by Tim Kinnaird

100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
37g egg white
+
100g caster sugar
20ml water
37g egg white

  • Preheat the oven to 140°C
  • Blitz the ground almonds in a food processor to make them as fine as possible, being careful not to over blitz and turn them oily.
  • Add the icing sugar and first portion of egg whites to the almonds, but do not stir
  • Add the caster sugar to a pan with the water and gently heat, stirring carefully (wiping any granules of sugar off the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush) until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to high and leave to boil (without stirring) until it reaches 118°C
  • Meanwhile, as the sugar is beginning to boil whisk the egg whites to soft peaks
  • Once the sugar has reached 118°C pour it in a steady stream onto the whisking (medium speed) egg whites. (You want the sugar to land just to the side of the whisk- try not to land it on the metal as it will form sugar crystals, nor too far up the side of the bowl as it will cool too much before it hits the egg whites)
  • Continue whisking these until the meringue has cooled and is thickening. Just before it has reached stiff peaks whisk in the food colouring. Continue whisking until the meringue has formed stiff peaks (the bowl will still feel warm but not as hot as it was)- this is your Italian meringue
  • Spoon a third of the meringue onto the almond mixture and beat in. Once it is all combined add the remaining meringue a spoonful at a time folding in and gently pressing down to remove some of the air. Do not over mix- it should be the consistency of a thick cake batter and bumps should reduce to almost nothing in 10-15secs – too much mixing though will make it runny and make piping the macarons very difficult. Stop when the mix is just starting to flow evenly, without breaking, off a raised spatula
  • Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle (1cm) and pipe into 3cm rounds onto baking paper/ a silicon mat* on a metal baking tray. (To help you can draw around a coin, leaving an inch between each circle, turn the paper over and pipe onto this, leaving a little room for mixture to spread out slightly as it settles). Trap the tray on your work bench to remove any air bubbles
  • Pop the trays in your oven and turn it off, leave for 12mins and turn it back on to 140C and bake for another 15mins. To check if they are cooked or not give one a slight push to check it is no longer stuck to the baking mat – if they seem very stuck leave them a minute or two longer
  • Remove from the oven, slide the baking paper off the tray onto your table and leave to cool for at least 20mins before attempting to peel off the mat (The longer you leave them the easier it will be)

For the salted caramel chocolate ganache

Adapted from ‘Macaron’ by Pierre Hermé

140g milk chocolate (40% cocoa solids)
50g granulated sugar
20ml water
10g salted butter, at room temperature
110g double cream, warmed
Pinch of salt

  • Melt the two chocolates together over simmering water
  • In a separate small saucepan heat half the sugar with the water on a low heat. Once dissolved add the other half of sugar, turn the heat up and boil until it is a rich caramel colour
  • Add the butter in small pieces and swirl it around the pan, being carefully as it might spit
  • Add the cream in stages whisking constantly until it is all incorporated, still being careful as it will bubble up
  • Bring it back to the boil to make sure all the caramel had mixed with the butter and cream and remove from the heat
  • Stir in the salt
  • Pour the caramel onto the chocolate in very small portions, stirring thoroughly between each addition until it is all combined. (If you pour the boiling caramel directly onto the chocolate the chocolate will burn and split and you will have to start again)
  • Remove from the heat, pour into a clean dish and leave to cool

To assemble

  • Spoon the ganache into a piping bag with a round nozzle
  • Match macaron shells into pairs if they aren’t evenly sized
  • Pipe a good sized blob of ganache onto the underside of half of the shells
  • Carefully press the tops onto the ganached macaron shells
  • Store the assembled macarons in the fridge for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 hours so that the flavours can develop and the shells soften (I refrigerate them overnight and then leave out of the fridge) 
  • Enjoy!

* I find that silicon baking mats or reusable silicon paper is better than your normal baking paper as the cooked shells slide off better.

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