Entertaining these days presents so many opportunities to poison your guests. We really do live in exciting times!
Far be it from me to belittle anyone else's dietary issues. With my pork/shellfish/alcohol refusal and mild lactose intolerance, you'd be hard-pressed to find a guest so annoying. Although my daughter invited a friend with major nut allergies last week. The girls decided to bake cupcakes, which was quite an adrenaline rush with the worry that they would happen upon some bit of macaron batter and send the kid into anaphylaxis.
My point is, YIKES! For whatever reason, feeding people has now become a minefield of allergies, gluten, veganism, kosher, halal, nut-free and organic. Yesterday, I saw something online about a histamine-free diet. So, yay, another avenue to offend someone with my cooking.
This is a long way of saying, that you should definitely tell people that there are cashews in these macarons. Or just make them with almonds. Because cashew allergies are a thing, and poisoning your friends is not cool.
On the plus side, these are gluten-free. They make great apology gifts for a gluten-free coach if you happen to tell your kid to just hang out for ten minutes while the next team practices, but then you show up late to find the coach waiting with your kid.
"I would never leave a kid behind," she says, and you know she's right. Your cheeks burn with shame, and you scurry home to bake it off. Or so I hear!
These macarons are a combination of two recipes I use all the time. The salted caramel is from the amazing Cupcake Jemma, YouTube star and owner of Crumbs and Doilies bakery in London. I tweaked her caramel by taking it several shades darker than the original. Regular salted caramel buttercream sandwiched between sweet macaron shells, was both too pale and too sweet. You have to burn the sugar a bit to get a deeper, more complex flavor. Unfortunately, this can make the leftover sauce too bitter for some palettes. Just make more buttercream - problem solved!
The second recipe is adapted from Bravetart's macaron recipe. Hers is the first one I tried, and the one I came back to after trying all the others. But because we're adding cashew meal, it's absolutely essential to dry the nutmeal in the oven first. Cashews have a very high moisture content, and you need to get rid of some of that water or your macarons will be hollow. Just spread the ground cashews and almonds on a rimmed baking sheet in a low-temperature oven for half an hour, then get on with the recipe. As a bonus, this pre-drying eliminates most of the resting time. And if your store doesn't sell almond or cashew meal, pulse your whole nuts in the processor to chop before drying in the oven. Grind them completely with the powdered sugar before adding to the meringue.
On the subject of macarons... They are very finicky, and you simply must have a scale to make them turn out properly. So, I always give my macaron measurements in weight, rather than by volume.
Salted Caramel Cashew Macarons
Makes about 24 finished macarons, filled with salted caramel buttercream.
90g water (6 tablespoons)
200g granulated sugar (1 cup)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or a couple of pinches of kosher salt)
Cashew Macaron Shells
65g blanched almond flour
65g cashew meal
230g powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
144g egg whites
72g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered egg whites (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Salted Caramel Buttercream
113g unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
180g powdered sugar (1-1/2 cups)
150g salted caramel (about 6 tablespoons)
pinch sea/kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the Salted Caramel:
- Stir water and sugar in a deep saucepan until just dissolved. Place over low flame for several minutes until it begins to brown, swirling contents of pan, but not stirring.
- When caramel takes on a very deep amber color, remove from heat and slowly whisk in cream. This will steam and bubble up, but just keep whisking, and it will come out smooth.
- Finish by mixing in salt and vanilla. Decant to a jar, and place in fridge to cool while you make the macarons.
- Spread almond and cashew meals on a rimmed baking sheet, breaking up any large lumps. Place in 200˚ oven for about half an hour.
- Sift nutmeal with powdered sugar and salt, discarding up to a teaspoon of nut chunks too big to fit through the sieve. If you have more than a teaspoon of chunks, run through the processor again to break them up.
- In the stand mixer, combine egg whites, sugar and the optional powdered whites. Use the whisk attachment to beat at medium speed (4 on a Kitchen Aid) for 3 minutes. They will not seem especially foamy at that point, but increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then crank the speed to 8 for yet another 3 minutes.
- At this point, the meringue should be thick, with a huge mass of it clinging to the whisk itself. Add in the vanilla, and beat for another minute on high.
- Add nut mixture all at once, folding until the batter starts to fall off the spatula in ribbons, rather than clumps. (There are a million YouTube videos of proper macaronnage, so watch a few to familiarize yourself with the process.)
- Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment. Put half of batter in a piping bag with a medium-sized round tip, and pipe 1" circles; I use a template printed from here. Grab the pan and bang it hard on the counter several times, until any "nipples" in the piped macarons settle back in. Rest piped cookies for ten minutes while you preheat the oven to 290˚ regular or 270˚ convection.
- Bake for about 18 minutes (each oven is different), until you can put your finger on the cookie and feel no wiggle at all, meaning that the base is cooked through. Let the cookies cool for an additional ten minutes on the baking sheet before matching shells together and filling
- With the paddle attachment, beat softened butter for two minutes to aerate. Alternate additions of powdered sugar and caramel, beating to incorporate after each.
- Beat in salt and lemon juice, then adjust consistency with additional caramel or sugar.
- Spoon or pipe buttercream between macaron shells. Store in refrigerator, removing twenty minutes before serving.