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Friday, March 4, 2011

Salted Caramel Macarons - Me against Ladurée and Zumbo in the red corner

My obsession with macaron has driven me to spend (too much) time reading what people have posted about macaron on the internet. Be it, the recipe, walk-through processes, flavours, tips & tricks, and so on. One thing that kept coming up was the admiration towards salted caramel macarons at Pierre Hermé's and Ladurée's. This was on my must-have list when I visited Tokyo last year; salted caramel macarons at Pierre Herme's or Laduree.

I had the chance to sample macarons from both Ladurée and Pierre Hermé in Tokyo. The salted caramel from Ladurée was great. It tasted like heaven. That's what you get when you mix sugar with cream, butter and a little bit of salt… heavenly salted caramel. Yum! 

Ever since my trip, the thought of the salted caramel flavour has stayed with me. I have a relatively long list of macaron concoctions I plan to create but salted caramel was moved up to the top of the list for this week’s bake.

The salted caramel batch was a special ‘thank you’ for S’ friend who rode 800km from Sydney to Melbourne carrying special delivery of some Adriano Zumbo (Australia’s version of Pierre Hermé ) macarons for us. To keep the delicate little things safe, the macarons travelled all the way wrapped in a pair of socks on the back of a motorbike. As it turned out, one of the flavours he brought was also salted caramel. Oh! my humble salted caramel macaron would be compared against the great Zumbo’s. Ding! Ding!

The verdict? Mine was, compared against Zumbo’s, surprisingly good. I started to think that there could be some issues with commercially prepared macarons. I’ve found most (if not all) of them to be dry. Where is that “melt-in-your-mount” characteristic of macaron? The Zumbo macarons are good, better than most in Melbourne, but compared to mine they were somewhat dry.

The other thing that stood out was how much more delicate my shells are. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating, home-made macarons can easily go up against the great Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, Zumbo, and the rest. Home-bakers everywhere should see that as a victory to all of us!

S’ took a bunch of my salted caramel macarons to his work. They all loved this flavour. Well who wouldn’t, hardly anything can go wrong with caramel and topped off with salt… HEAVEN!

An earlier post for Snickers macaron also had an emphasis on caramel, but the filling is different from this recipe. It used dulce de leche, which only include milk and sugar. Whereas this salted caramel contains cream, butter and sugar so the texture is firmer and more set. The dulce de leche tends to be stickier as well. They are both heavenly, only the salted caramel is richer and creamier.

I didn't use the coffee extract, but instead use instant coffee mixed with a little bit of hot water. As of the result, the shell is only pale brown. I thik the colour will be better if you use coffee extract.
This batch was also slightly overmixed, or it could have been that the egg white wasn't whipped enough to get the very stiff and glossy stage. I could just tell when I finished the mixing that the mixture was a little too runny. Though, they were certainly not the prettiest macarons, they tasted scumptious!

Here is the recipe...

Salted Caramel Macarons Recipe

makes about 25 3-cm macarons

More details on Basic Mararons using Italian Meringue tecniques can be found here.

You can also see more detailed intructions on making macarons in my Basic Macaron Recipe and I heart Macarons blogs (however, they are recipes using French meringue method). This recipe is using Italian meringue method. The only difference is the cooking sugar syrup part but the rest of the processes are the same.

Macarons shell ingredients
125 g pure icing sugar
125 g almond meal (almond flour or ground almond)
100 g egg whites (separated 24 -48 hours in advance and is at room temperature)
125 g caster sugar (super fine sugar)
30 ml water (2 tablespoons)
7 g coffee extract
A pinch of yellow colouring powder or liquid

Salted caramel ingredients
100 g caster sugar
165 g thickened cream (minimum 35% fat content)
15 g salted butter
70 g soften salted butter

Making macarons shells

Sift almond meal and icing sugar together through fine sieve and set aside.

Divide egg whites into two equal portions (50 g each portion).  Pour the first portion of egg white (50 g), coffee extract and colouring powder into the almond meal/icing sugar mixture.  Don’t mix or stir them, just leave it as is.

Put the water and caster sugar in a heavy-base saucepan over medium-high heat. When the syrup start to boil. Place the rest of egg white (50 g) into a mixing bowl, using the whip attachment, whip egg white to the soft peak. When the syrup reaches 118°C (on a thermometer), take if off the heat and let it cool down to 115°C.

While the mixer is still running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Be careful not to pour syrup onto the whip as it might spatter.

Continue mixing until the meringue cool down to slightly above body temperature (50°C) or when the side of the mixing bowl is warm to touch. The whipped egg white would be stiff and glossy.

Mix a third of whipped egg white into the almond meal mixture and combine them well. At this step, I work the mixture very vigorously to blend the egg white with almond meal mixture. Fold the rest of whipped egg white into the mixture and mix well, yet gently, until the batter is smooth. The batter will be thick. It resembles a very thick cake batter, or as many web sites describe it as a magma-like consistency (I believe it means the thick batter would flow slowly like a magma).

Put the mixture into a piping bag fitted with 1-cm plain tip (size #11). Pipe the staggering rows of 1-inch rounds onto baking papers or baking sheets. You will need two trays for this recipe.

 Let the piped shells stand at room temperature for 30 – 60 minutes to let the crust forms. This depends on the room temperature and humidity. When the piped shells are dry to touch without it sticking to your fingers. They are good to go into the oven.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan-force or convection oven, increase the temperature by 20°C if you’re using conventional oven) for at least 15 minutes. Just before baking, turn the temperature down to 150°C and bake the macarons for 15 minutes.

Lift the baking papers/sheets off the baking tray to the cooling rack and let it completely cool down before removing macarons (it is easier to remove cool macarons off the sheet. They are also less likely to stick to the paper).

Sandwich cool macarons shell with chilled salted caramel.

Store macarons in airtight container in the fridge. Macaron will taste better after it is chilled overnight.

Making salted caramel filling

This caramel is done using dry-caramel method where sugar are melted on the medium high heat without any water.

Place cream in a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Put it aside and keep it warm.

Add 30 g of caster sugar to a heavy-based small saucepan over medium-high heat. Let the sugar melt and shake the pan every now and then to help sugar to melt. When the sugar is
melted, put another 35 g of sugar into the pan and let it melt. Repeat with the rest of sugar.

Leave the sugar caramelised until it turns dark amber. Remove the pan from the heat and add 15 g of butter.

Add warm thickened cream to the sugar mixture. Be careful as the mixture might spatter. Quickly shake the pan to help blending cream and caramelized sugar.
Put the saucepan back to medium-heat and let it boil until it reaches 108°C.
Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a bowl. Cover the mixture surface with cling wrap to prevent the skin forming. Set aside to cool down and won't melt butter in the next stage.

Pot of gold. I can just have all of it on its own. Heaven!

When the sugar mixture is cool, beat butter on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy (approx. 8 – 10 minutes). Mix the sugar mixture into the butter in two batches.

Chill the mixture until ready to use to fill macarons.


  1. yup i agree with you, homemade macarons are way more delish! p/s i hv been following some of your tips also, and am gathering courage to try the italian mtd! tqs for sharing!

  2. You're welcome, KG. I find tips gathered from Blogs and forums are highly useful for making macarons, as I've learnt that myself, it's all about tips and tricks, something more than 10 lines of recipe.

    I don't want to sound cocky or anything. Before, I went to Tokyo and had chances to try Pierre Herme, Laduree and Fuchon, I had high hope, but as it turned out in some cases, Herme's was only as good as home-made macarons. I admire his creativity and all. But there seems to be some problem with commercial macarons. The flavour was good but the texture wasn't right. So, I really think that it's the triumph to all home-bakers that we can all beat Pierre Herme and Laduree, if we try.


  3. Yup! cant agree more even though am not a pro at making macarons...home made simply tastes better!

  4. Just read your blog and your recipe...never made macarons before so cant wait to try your recipe. Many thanks for sharing it and for taking the time to write about it. To be followed.
    All the best,
    Laurence, London

  5. Thank you, Laurence. I have put updated pics of my recent salted macs together with slight changes in caramel filling method. They are truly heavenly.

  6. Thank you so much, the macron recipe is perfect. Managed to make absolutely divine spite of this being my first attempt !

    1. Hi Sharmila...great to hear you had a success with your first try. Salted caramel is one of my them so much so that I can't make them too often!

  7. Hi Sue, I'm a big fan of making french macarons myself too! I love your blog and I learned a lot :) Since you know so much about the macs... how does Lduree get the crust so thin and flat. Other macarons have a bulgy crust that makes them a bit wobbly.
    Do you know what I mean?
    Best regards, Tine from Holland

    1. First of all, I am, not a MAC expert. I can only answer based on my own experience.

      From my observation, factors contributing to thick crust is the stiffness of meringue and the oven temperature. Stiff meringue and too hot (and too long) oven can cause thick and dry crust.

      Flat macaron can be achieved by tapping tray of piped MAC until they are flatter. A just-mixed batch also helps flattening MAC.

  8. hi! how long will we be able to store the salted caramel in the fridge? thanks!- Jes

    1. Hi Jess

      It should last few days. If you want to keep them for longer, you can store them in freezer and thaw them few hours before. They freeze well.