Most people would make an omelette with leftover egg whites, I make macarons. I think that says more about me than it does about them.
Macarons are technical little suckers. They require patience and practice and for you to hold your tongue in just the right position for success. Seriously though, it's mostly about practice and getting a feel for the technique of macaronage (getting the batter to the right consistency). This recipe uses the Italian method where a hot sugar syrup is used to "cook" the meringue as you whip it, the French method doesn't. After making umpteen batches of macarons using both methods, I think I've finally come to the conclusion that I prefer the Italian method. The meringue is more stable, giving you a better chance of a gorgeously baked macaron shell with the much-coveted foot. Macarons are a labour of love and totally worth the fuss. They may be more temperamental than an omelette, but I'd rather eat a macaron than an egg white omelette any day of the week.
Popcorn and Salted Caramel Macarons
Slightly adapted from here
Makes 24 small macaroons
For the Salted Caramel Sauce:
115g caster sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
50g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes
For the Macarons:
110g almond meal
200g icing sugar
3 tablespoons water
60g caster sugar
90g egg whites (about 3 egg whites), at room temperature
1/2 cup popcorn, blitzed in a food processor to a small crumble while still warm
For the Filling:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g icing sugar
1/4 cup salted caramel sauce
Make the Salted Caramel Sauce:
Put the sugar and water into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan until the sugar dissolves then stop swirling and leave to boil for about 5 - 6 minutes until it is a deep golden colour. Do not stir. Remove from the heat, add the cream (it will splutter) and salt, stir and return to the heat to cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, whisk in the butter, one cube at a time and set aside.
Make the Macarons:
Line two baking trays with baking paper marked with 4cm circles (I use this template).
Blitz the almond meal and icing sugar in a food processor for about 1 minute. Sift into a bowl and set aside.
Put the water and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Once the mixture reaches 110C, put your egg white into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high until the sugar mixture reaches 115C. Once it reaches 115C, remove it from the heat and pour it down the side of the mixer bowl into the egg whites in a steady, thin stream, whisking continuously. Whisk the meringue for a further 10 minutes on medium high speed.
Stop the mixer, remove the bowl and add half of the almond meal mixture. Smash and mash the mixture against the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the remaining half of the almond meal mixture, smashing and mashing until the batter resembles lava - thick and slow moving.
Spoon the batter into a disposable piping bag and snip a 1cm hole in the end. Pipe the batter onto the prepared pans. Rap the pans on the kitchen bench to smooth out the tops. If your macarons have peaks on the centre, wet your index finger with a little water and gently press them down to flatten them. Sprinkle the macarons with popcorn crumble and set aside for an hour for form a skin.
Preheat the oven to 140C. Bake the macarons for 17 - 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on the trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Macarons are done when the peel easily from the paper. If they stick, pop them back in the oven for a few more minutes.
Make the Filling:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium high until smooth. Reduce the mixer to low and gradually add the icing sugar. Add the salted caramel sauce, mix on medium high until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the filling into a disposable piping bag and snip a 1cm hole in the end. Pipe the filling onto the flat side of half of the macarons, top with the remaining halves.