HOMEMADE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE
You can use a store-bought caramel sauce if you'd prefer, but personally I love making homemade caramel sauce. It's really easy and only takes about 10 minutes!
Wet vs. Dry Caramel
To make a wet caramel, sugar is boiled in water, without stirring, until the water evaporates and the sugar turns golden brown. A dry caramel is made by cooking sugar by itself, stirring constantly, until the sugar crystals melt and turn into a golden brown liquid. For both methods, once the sugar is golden brown and caramelized, adding cream stops the cooking process so the caramel doesn't burn. Then butter and salt are added at the end.
I've made caramel sauce plenty of times using both methods and I like them both, but I find wet caramel slightly easier to make and less likely to burn. Boiling the sugar in water helps cook it evenly, whereas with dry caramel the sugar crystals melt at different speeds, so by the time all of the sugar has melted some parts of it can already be starting to burn. Dry caramel also needs constant attention and stirring, wet caramel can be left unattended for most of the process.
MERINGUE FOR MACARONS
Macarons can be made with a French, Swiss, or Italian meringue. One isn't necessarily better than the other, it just depends on what you feel most comfortable with or works best for you.
The French meringue method is the simplest and least technical, it's a great place to start if you're new to meringue or to making macarons. The Italian meringue method is much more involved. It's what most professional pastry chefs use because it makes a very stable meringue. The Swiss meringue method is kind of in between the two.
This recipe for salted caramel macarons uses a French meringue.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE SALTED CARAMEL MACARONS
- Bowls and mixers: Several large bowls and an electric or stand mixer. Unlike Swiss and Italian meringue, a French meringue can be made just as easily with a hand-held mixer.
- Food scale: Weighing your ingredients keeps everything accurate, which is crucial for baking and especially for making macarons! This food scale is hands-down my favorite piece of kitchen equipment, it makes baking so much easier and practically eliminates the need for measuring cups.
- Piping bag and round piping tip: For piping the macaron batter, I recommend using a ½" round piping tip.
- Baking sheet: For macarons you want to use a sturdy baking sheet that won't warp in the oven. You can also double stack your baking sheets to keep them from warping. You will need two baking sheets for this recipe!
- Silicone baking mat: For piping the macaron batter onto. If you make macarons often enough a silicone mat is definitely worth the investment. They're easy, reusable, and the batter doesn't spread as much as with parchment paper.
- Template: A template makes piping consistent size macaron shells much easier. A lot of silicone baking mats come with macaron templates printed on them. You can also make your own by tracing circles onto a sheet of parchment paper.
SALTED CARAMEL MACARON INGREDIENTS
- Almond flour: Almond flour is made from blanched ground almonds and is what gives macarons their unique taste and texture. Some brands tend to be less fine and more oily than others. My favorite brand that always gives me the best results is Blue Diamond almond flour. You can find it at most grocery stores, however buying it online is much cheaper!
- Powdered sugar: Sifted with the almond flour to make up the dry ingredients. Powdered sugar absorbs moisture in the batter and is crucial in macarons developing feet during baking.
- Salt: Just a pinch to bring out the flavor of the macaron shells.
- Egg whites: Egg whites are the main ingredient that make the meringue. Separate the eggs while they're cold and then let them come to room temperature for about 30 minutes-1 hour. Eggs separate easier when they're cold and egg whites whip to stiff peaks easier and to a greater volume when they're at room temperature.
- Cream of tartar: The acidity stabilizes the egg whites and helps them whip to stiff peaks!
- Light brown sugar: Usually macarons are made with granulated sugar, however using brown sugar works just as well and adds a delicious caramel flavor to the macaron shells!
HOMEMADE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE
- Granulated sugar: For the best results I recommend sifting the granulated sugar first. If there are any specks of debris in the sugar it can cause the caramel to crystallize.
- Heavy cream (hot): Heavy cream, heavy whipping cream, or evaporated milk. Make sure you get the cream nice and hot before you add it to the caramel, otherwise the sugar will clump up.
- Butter: Salted or unsalted is fine.
SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING
- Cream Cheese: Cream cheese in the frosting helps cut down on the sweetness. Use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature.
- Unsalted butter: Softened to room temperature
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract: Optional.
- Homemade salted caramel sauce
HOW TO MAKE SALTED CARAMEL MACARONS
Prep the ingredients: Separate the eggs while they're cold and then set the egg whites aside to come to room temperature for 30 minutes-1 hour. Make sure you don't get any yolk in the bowl with the egg whites or you won't be able to whip them to stiff peaks.
Sift the almond flour back and forth between 2 bowls, at least twice, but the more you sift the almond flour the smoother your macaron shells will turn out! Each time you sift discard any larger almond chunks left at the bottom of the sifter.
In a large bowl, add 100 grams of the sifted almond flour, 140 grams of powdered sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Sift everything together again into a large bowl and set aside.
MAKE THE MERINGUE
Start with a completely clean, dry bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Wipe the bowl with a little white vinegar or lemon juice to get rid of any debris or traces of fat that could prevent the egg whites whipping to stiff peaks.
Use a hand-held mixer or the whisk attachment in your stand mixer to whip the room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar for about 1 minute or until starting to thicken and increase in volume.
With the mixer on low speed, add the light brown sugar, about 2 teaspoons at a time, and mix for 20 seconds after each addition. It's important you don't add too much sugar at once or it can deflate the egg whites and ruin the meringue.
Once all of the sugar is added, increase the speed slightly and mix until the meringue reaches medium-stiff peaks. When you lift the mixer out of the bowl and flip it upside down there should be a peak that sticks up with a very slight droop at the tip.
Macaronage is the process of combining the dry ingredients and meringue to make a macaron batter. It can be done by folding the dry ingredients into the meringue, or by folding the meringue into the dry ingredients. I prefer to fold the meringue into the dry ingredients, but feel free to do whichever way is easiest for you!
The key for proper macaronage is to take your time and be very gentle so you don't deflate the meringue too much.
In 3-4 additions, gently fold the meringue into the dry ingredients by wiping around the sides and bottom of the bowl. It will be thick and pasty at first. Wipe any batter or meringue off of the spatula as needed.
After the last addition, continue to fold by wiping the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Take your time and check often for signs it's getting close to the right consistency. It should be smooth and flow off of the spatula in thick ribbons without breaking.
Figure-8 test: The macaron batter is at the right consistency when you are able to draw a figure-8 without batter breaking off of the spatula. Stop folding as soon as it gets to this point or you'll risk making the batter too runny.
PIPE THE CARAMEL MACARON SHELLS
Add the macaron batter to a large piping bag fitted with a half-inch round piping tip. For better piping control I usually only fill the bag halfway.
Hold the bag straight up and down with the tip right in the center of the circle on your template. Gently squeeze the batter out from the center until it fills the circle. Stop squeezing and lift up with a quick twisting motion. See here: How to Pipe Macaron Batter
Once you've piped all of the shells, lift the pan up and drop or bang it firmly on your counter several times. Or you can hit the bottom of the pan with your hand several times if you don't want to drop it on your counter.
DRY THE SHELLS
Let the shells dry out at room temperature until they form a skin on the surface. This usually takes about 45 minutes, you should be able to gently touch the tops without batter sticking to your finger.
Arrange your oven rack to the middle position and preheat your oven to 300°F/150°C. Bake the macarons, one baking sheet at a time, for 13-15 minutes each.
Let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheet for at least 30 minutes before touching or removing them.
When removing the macarons, it's easier to peel the mat off from underneath the shells, instead of trying to pull the shells off of the mat. If your macarons are sticking to the mat try placing them in your freezer for about 10 minutes.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE
1. Start with a completely clean heavy bottom saucepan. Lightly spray the inside with non-stick spray to prevent sugar crystals splashing up and sticking to the sides.
2. Add the granulated sugar and water and place the pan over medium-low heat. Stir with a spatula until the sugar is dissolved and the water turns clear.
3. Increase the heat to medium and stop stirring completely. Watch as the sugar syrup turns from clear to light golden brown. When you see the color of the sugar start to change, watch it very closely the entire time so it doesn't burn.
4. While the sugar is cooking, add the heavy cream to a glass measuring jar and microwave in 30-second intervals until simmering.
6. As soon as the sugar turns golden amber in color, take the pan off of the heat and slowly pour in the warm heavy cream while stirring with a rubber spatula. Be very careful because the sugar will bubble up a lot when you add the cream.
Note: The caramel can clump up if the cream is too cold when you add it. If this happens, simply cook the caramel over low heat until it re-melts and is smooth. If you still have a few clumps you can strain the caramel through a sieve before mixing in the butter and salt.
Stir in the butter and salt over low heat until the butter is melted. Pour the caramel into a glass container and place it in the fridge to cool.
SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING
Use an electric mixer to beat the softened cream cheese, softened butter, and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons (cooled) caramel sauce and mix to combine. Save the rest of the caramel for filling the macarons.
FILL THE MACARONS
Take two matching macaron shells. Use a piping bag to add a ring of the salted caramel frosting around the outside of the bottom of one shell. Fill the center with caramel sauce, then gently top with the second shell.
HOW TO STORE SALTED CARAMEL MACARONS
Macarons taste best a day after they're filled and stay fresh in an airtight container for one week in the fridge. You can also freeze the shells, filled or unfilled, for up to 2 months.
To freeze: Place the macarons (shells or cookies with filling) in a single layer on a baking sheet and set the sheet flat in the freezer until they are completely solid. Then transfer to a sealed container that will protect them from getting squished and keep frozen for 2 months. Thaw in the fridge for about an hour or until soft.
MORE MACARON RECIPES
Salted Caramel Macarons
- electric or stand mixer
- Large piping bag and round piping tip
- 2 Baking sheets
- 2 Silicone mat with macaron templates
Caramel Macaron Shells:
- 100 grams egg whites
- 100 grams almond flour
- 140 grams powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 120 grams light brown sugar
Salted Caramel Sauce:
- ½ cup granulated sugar, sifted
- ¼ cup water
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Salted Caramel Buttercream:
- 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons salted caramel sauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
Make the Caramel Macaron Shells:
- Prep: Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats with macaron templates. You can make a homemade template by tracing 1.5" circles onto parchment paper.
- Separate the eggs while they're cold and then set the egg whites aside to come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Make sure you don't get any yolk in the bowl with the whites or you won't be able to whip them to stiff peaks.
- Sift the almond flour back and forth a few times between two bowls. Discard any larger chunks left at the bottom of the sifter each time. Place a large bowl on your kitchen scale and add 100 grams of the sifted almond flour, 140 grams of powdered sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Sift everything together again into one large bowl and set aside.
- Make the meringue: Add the egg whites to a completely clean and dry bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Begin whipping the egg whites on medium speed for about 30 seconds or until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and whip for another 30 seconds-1 minute until starting to thicken and increase in volume.
- With the mixer running, begin adding the light brown sugar, about 2 teaspoons at a time, and mix for 20 seconds after each addition. Once all of the sugar is added, keep mixing until the meringue reaches medium-stiff peaks. If you lift the mixer up out of the bowl and flip it upside down there should be a peak that sticks up with just a slight droop at the tip.
- Make the macaron batter (macaronage): In several additions, use a rubber spatula to gently fold the meringue into the dry ingredients. It will be thick and pasty at first. Keep folding by wiping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Once all of the meringue is added, continue to fold gently until the batter flows in thick ribbons from your spatula without breaking. If you lift the batter up and draw a figure 8, it should disappear into the batter after about 10 seconds. If it doesn't disappear or if the batter breaks off of the spatula, keep folding and check again after every few turns.
- Pipe the shells: Add the macaron batter to a large piping bag fitted with a ½-inch round piping tip. Hold the piping bag straight up and down with the tip right in the center of the circle on your template. Squeeze the batter out from the center until it fills the circle, then lift up with a quick twisting motion. See here: How to Pipe Macaron Batter
- Once you have all of the shells piped, lift the pan up and drop or bang it firmly on your counter several times to get rid of any trapped air bubbles.
- Let the macaron shells dry out at room temperature until they form a skin on the surface, you should be able to gently touch the tops without batter sticking to your finger. This usually takes about 45 minutes, but can take longer in a more humid environment.
- Bake: Arrange your oven rack to the middle position and preheat your oven to 300°F/150°C. Bake one sheet of macarons at a time, for 13-15 minutes each. Take the sheet out of the oven and let the shells cool completely before touching or trying to remove them. If using a silicone baking mat, it's easier to pull the mat off from under the shells then to pull the shells off of the mat.
Make the Salted Caramel Sauce:
- Add the sifted granulated sugar and water to a clean, heavy bottom saucepan. Place the pan over low heat . Stir until the sugar dissolves and the water turns clear.
- Stop stirring and increase the heat to medium. Cook the caramel, without stirring, until the sugar begins to turn color from clear to light golden brown. You can walk away from it for about 5-7 minutes, but as soon as the color starts to change keep a close eye on it the entire time.
- While the sugar cooks, add the heavy cream to a glass measuring jar and microwave it in 30-second intervals until simmering.
- As soon as the sugar turns golden amber in color, take the pan off of the heat and slowly pour in the warm heavy cream while stirring with a rubber spatula. Be very careful because the sugar will bubble up a lot when you add the cream.
- Stir in the butter and salt over low heat until the butter is melted. Pour the caramel into a glass container and place it in the fridge to cool.
Make the Salted Caramel Frosting:
- Add the softened butter and softened cream cheese to a medium bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until fluffy and smooth. Add the powdered sugar, cooled caramel sauce, and vanilla extract (if using) and mix until smooth.
Fill the Shells:
- Take two matching macaron shells. Use a piping bag to add a ring of the salted caramel frosting around the outside of the bottom of one shell. Fill the center with caramel sauce, then gently top with the second shell.