Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fussy things

Salted butter caramel macarons
A macaron, I've come to realise, is a bit like a fussy relative. There's this dear friend of my mother's, for instance, whom I call grandma (she's not actually my grandmother--it's just one of those things), who just terrified me as a child. She had this imperiousness about her--she liked to have things just so, and if they weren't done to her satisfaction, you'd be the first to know. Her eyes would narrow, her lips would pout, and she'd tell you in frank terms what you'd done wrong. Then you'd have to mumble an apology and promise to do better next time. She was a woman of stature who knew it and expected treatment befitting of it. (I suppose she also wanted me to grow up to be a well-mannered and decent human being and thought to admonish me early on at the first sign of misbehaviour. But I was young, and I dreaded her criticism.)
A macaron is a little like that. She's exacting--she needs to be treated just so--and when you don't get things quite right--if you underbake her, overmix her, or mismeasure--it shows. But when you do manage, it's well worth the effort. Your macaron will lift herself in the oven and reveal that pretty, ruffled foot, signalling to you that she's ready for great things, like salted-butter caramel. It's just a matter of figuring out what she likes and doing it. 
I'm still trying to work this out for myself. A couple of nights ago, my boyfriend and I tried our hand at salted-butter-caramel macarons. Unfortunately, quite a few of them came out underbaked and were stubborn about coming off the parchment as a result. But the handful that made it, as you can see, were something to marvel at--I should add that it wasn't me who did the piping. Most of these pretties are still tucked away in the fridge, but we couldn't help sampling a couple yesterday. And let me tell you, salted-butter caramel is a splendid thing sandwiched between two macaron shells. It's certainly a sweeter combination than chocolate and fig butter, but the salt (my trusty Himalayan pink) elevates things well beyond the saccharine. It brings out the scotch-y, buttery notes in the caramel, rounding out all the sweetness--a filling worthy of almost any fussy macaron.
Salted-Butter-Caramel Macarons: For the shells, we tried Helene of Tartelette's standard formula, which can be found here. The salted-butter caramel was from Smitten Kitchen. We made half of Deb's recipe, and there was plenty left for other applications, including eating it by the spoonful.

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