30 Jan Crème Brûlée Macarons
Now that I’ve gotten the hang of making macarons, I can’t get enough of it! Sweet and delicate, macarons add a sophisticated touch to any tea party, and make for a beautiful homemade gift too. Another bonus is that they carry a variety of flavours very well, so you can really let your imagination run wild! When choosing the flavour for my next batch of macarons, one of my favourite desserts came to mind.
The combination of a thick, creamy custard and crunchy, almost bitter caramel is what makes Crème Brûlée the popular dessert that it is. In order to replicate these delicious flavours and textures, I made vanilla macarons, filled them with a Crème Brûlée custard and salted caramel sauce, then roll the edges in crunchy caramel shards. The result, if I do say so myself, is rather delicious and looks really impressive too.
The one down side to using a custard-type filling is that the macarons will start to go soft in a few hours. If you need to make your Crème Brûlée Macarons in advance, simply substitute the Créme Brûlée filling with a white chocolate ganache (160g white chocolate melted gently with 40g of cream and cooled) for an equally delicious but more stable option.
PS. Why not try my Earl Grey Crème Brûlée?
75g water (5 tbsp)
150g sugar (¾ cup)
55g egg whites (A – about 2 large egg whites)
150g icing sugar (1¼ cup)
150g almond flour (1¼ cup)
5ml vanilla paste or extract (1 tsp)
55g egg whites (B – about 2 large egg whites)
Créme Brûlée Filling:
125ml cream (½ cup)
65ml milk (¼ cup)
50g sugar (¼ cup)
2 large egg yolks
20ml cornflour (4 tsp)
5ml vanilla paste or extract (1 tsp)
Salted Caramel Filling:
300g white sugar (1½ cups)
125ml water (½ cup)
125ml cream (½ cup)
70g unsalted butter (⅓ cup)
5ml vanilla extract (1 tsp)
5ml salt (1 tsp)
50g white sugar (¼cup)
- For best results separate your egg whites 1-2 days before starting. You will need 4 large egg whites. Keep the egg whites in an airtight container in the fridge for 24-48 hours. This is called “ageing” and reduces the moisture content of the egg whites. Weigh the egg whites after ageing!
- Start by making the crème brûlée filling. Heat together the milk and cream in a small saucepan until just starting to boil. Beat the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl until smooth.
- Pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks in a thin and steady stream, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to a medium heat, and heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Once the custard has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, strain it through a fine sieve and add the vanilla paste. Leave to cool at room temperature, then spoon into a piping bag fitted with a plain round nozzle about 5mm wide and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
- Next make the salted caramel. Prepare the caramel (this is the fun bit!). Place the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Cook without stirring until sugar dissolves. Use a wet pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan. This prevents the sauce from crystallising.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and continue cooking until the syrup turns a caramel colour (this requires some patience, but keep watching it – after ages of no change in colour it all of a sudden turns!). If you have a sugar thermometer this is at around 174°C.
- Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the cream. It will bubble up! Cook for another 1 or 2 minutes stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until smooth. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla extract and salt. Stir well until smooth. Set aside to cool.
- To make the caramel shards, line a baking tray with greaseproof paper or a silicone baking mat. Spread the sugar onto a nonstick frying pan in an even layer. Heat over medium heat until the edges start to liquefy, then begin to turn an amber colour. Using a heatproof spatula, gently stir the liquefied sugar in toward the centre, stirring the mixture as gently as possible until it is a dark amber colour.
- Remove from heat and scrape the caramel onto prepared baking sheet / silicone mat and spread as best you can, before it hardens. (If it gets too cool in the pan, you can rewarm the caramel slightly over low heat, to make it spreadable.) Let the caramel harden at room temperature.
- Once the caramel has cooled completely, chop or break it into little pieces and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- To make the vanilla macarons, line 2 baking trays with silicone or greaseproof paper. Draw evenly sized circles on the paper, 3-4cm in diameter (I traced around a tot glass). Turn the paper over so that ink/pencil does not transfer onto the macarons.
- Combine the sugar and water together in a small saucepan over low heat. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat.
- Meanwhile whip the egg whites (A) in the heatproof bowl of a stand mixer (or a hand-held mixer, but you’ll need help later) until foamy.
- Once the syrup has reached 116°C, remove from the heat and cool for a minute or until the bubbles subside.
- With the mixer running on medium speed, carefully pour the hot syrup in a thin stream down the sides of the bowl, away from the whisk. If you are using a hand-held mixer you will need an assistant to do the pouring here. Continue mixing until the bowl feels cool to the touch.
- Sift together the icing sugar and almond flour through a fine sieve. Make sure to push all the almonds through the sieve.
- Stir together well, then add the egg whites (B) and vanilla paste and mix well with a metal spoon.
- Now stir a third of the meringue mixture into the almond mixture to lighten it. Gently fold the remaining meringue in, using a figure of 8 motion. Stop folding when the mixture has become loose and shiny – if you lift the spoon the mixture should no longer break into pieces but fall like molten lava.
- Scoop the mixture into a piping bag and pipe onto the prepared trays. The best way to do this is to hold the piping bag directly above the circle (not at an angle) and squeeze just until, or slightly before the circle is filled.
- Once all the circles are filled, bang the tray hard onto a countertop 3 or 4 times to knock the air bubbles out.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C (without the fan). Leave the trays to stand for 30 minutes so that the macarons dry out. If you touch them gently with your finger, they should have formed a skin.
- Bake the macarons for 12-14 minutes. Allow to cool completely on the trays. If they don’t easily lift off the paper/silicon mat, they need to dry out more. In this case you can return them to the warm (but switched off oven) with the door left ajar.
- When you are ready to assemble the macarons, match like-sized macarons together, then pipe a ring of the crème brûlée filling around the outer edge of one macaron. Fill the centre with a teaspoon of salted caramel sauce, then sandwich gently with the other macaron. Roll the macarons in the caramel shards.
- Once filled the macarons are best kept refrigerated in an airtight container and served within a few hours, as the caramel shards will lose their crunch fairly quickly. The unfilled macaron shells can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.