Before we talk about how glorious the flavors are in this Cashew Dulce de Leche French Macaron recipe, we need to talk about macarons. Why are they so difficult to make properly? Egg whites, ground nuts, sugar. Doesn’t seem like it should be so complicated, right? But they are. Read on, friends.
I’ve made macarons quite a few times and each time I am sure they are going to be perfect. Only a few times have they turned out picture worthy. These macarons? Well, they’re on that fine line between perfection and disaster. I used extra care when measuring the ingredients. I even used a digital scale instead of measuring cups. I sifted, sifted, sifted to make sure the dry ingredients were free of lumps. They looked beautiful pipes onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. The tops developed skins just like they were supposed to. From all I could see, these were going to be the most perfect macarons I’d ever made.
I peeked through the oven window and my macarons even had “feet.” And boy did they ever have feet! When I took them out of the oven, they had some mighty big feet. Those macarons had GIANT feet.
I waited for them to cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet. (Okay, I’m totally lying. I ate a few warms ones right off the pan.) The flavor was incredible! Just as I was hoping. But those feet!
It was then that I decided these macarons are a bit like me–sweet, nutty, perfectly salty, with over-sized feet.
Luckily I have a few friends who helped me troubleshoot on Instagram. Utah’s high altitude makes a tricky cookie a bit more tricky to perfect. But I promise you, I’m not stopping until I get it right! I seemed to have less trouble when I lived at sea level. So this just might take some getting used to. I also didn’t use meringue powder, which is sometimes used in macaron recipes. I’ll try that out next time to see if it makes a difference. So I guess what I’m saying is that even though my macarons aren’t the most perfect macs you’ll ever see (they taste perfect), don’t despair. I can see I just need more practice. The recipe is just fine. It’s another keeper one from Aran Goyoaga’s Small Plates and Sweet Treats. (It really is one of my favorite cookbooks and if you’re gluten-free, I suggest buying it.)
Now let’s talk about dulce de leche and cashews. I honestly have never met someone who didn’t like dulce de leche. Cashews, yes. I wasn’t a fan of them until I was an adult. They are one of my favorite kinds of nuts now. Caramel cashew anything is my favorite. As I was dreaming up my idea for the perfect caramel cashew macarons, it dawned on me that instead of making a somewhat complicated caramel meringue buttercream, I should just use caramel. And then I thought some more and dulce de leche came to mind. Of course there was no other course to pursue. Add dulce de leche to anything and it’s going to taste good. I used store-bought dulce de leche because when I make it at home, it never seems to be quite as thick or dark as I want it to be. (You can find it near the Mexican food section of most grocery stores. Or order it online.)
It was a good choice indeed. I’ve never seen my family go so crazy over any other treat I’ve made. I’m thinking it wasn’t the macaron part. I’m the one who goes crazy for macarons. They are little dulce de leche fiends and the mac shells were just the perfect, chewy, nutty vehicle.
So I give you perfectly sweet, nutty, perfectly salty macarons with perfectly oversized feet. The dulce de leche filling makes up for their ragged appearance. And even if they are ugly, they taste fantastic and at the end of the day, they just get eaten anyway, right? :)
What about you? Have you ever made French macarons? Did yours come out with pretty feet and perfectly smooth tops? Tell me your secrets!
- For macaron shells:
- 5 large egg whites, aged
- 100 grams almond flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
- 80 grams finely ground roasted cashews (raw works fine too)
- 240 grams powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons fine granulated cane sugar (I pulsed evaporated cane juice in a spice grinder)
- ¼ cup finely chopped roasted cashews, for sprinkling
- For filling:
- One 14 ounce (380 grams) can dulce de leche
- For macaron shells: Bring aged egg whites to room temperature. Weigh out 140 grams. (If there is less, don't panic. The recipe will still work.)
- Line four baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Sift almond flour, ground cashews, powdered sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
- Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start whipping on medium speed. (Whipping slowly creates a stable meringue structure.) After a few minutes, the egg whites will being to foam. When they are almost fully whipped, slowly add the cane sugar a tablespoon at a time. Continue whipping. After all of the cane sugar has been added, turn the speed to high and whip to firm peaks.
- Add the dry ingredients to the egg whites all at once. Fold them together until a shiny magma-like mass forms. Don't be afraid to fold at the beginning, but as the batter starts to become shiny, watch it to see how it flows. Place 1 teaspoon of the batter on a silicone mat to test. If after 30 seconds it leaves a point on the top, it needs more folding. The batter should flow enough that it doesn't leave a point or spread too much. If it spreads too much, the macarons will not develop the proper "feet."
- Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain, round ½" pastry tip. Pipe the batter into 1" circles about 1-2" apart. Sprinkle all or some of the piped macarons with the finely chopped cashews. Let the macarons sit on the cookie sheets at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. The tops will develop a skin that is dry to the touch.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degree Celsius). Place one baking sheet in the center rack of the oven. Reduce heat to 300 degrees F (150 degrees Celsius). Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet front to back and bake for an additional 5 minutes. As oven temperatures vary, to check for doneness, gently jiggle the macaron. It will stick to the baking mat and the center will feel set, not runny. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let macarons cool completely on the sheet before trying to remove them.
- Increase the oven temperature back to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and repeat the process with the remaining baking sheets. (If you don't have four baking sheets to use, be sure to let them completely cool off before baking the next batch.)
- To fill and assemble: Open the dulce de leche and stir a little bit to loosen it. (The La Lechera brand I used was really thick--perfect for this, but required that I was extra gentle so I didn't crush the shells while filling them.)
- When the macaron shells have completely cooled, remove them from the baking sheets. Match up the macarons so that the ones with similar sizes are together. Turn half of them over and spread about 1 teaspoon of the dulce de leche on the bottom. Match up with the top and gently press together.
-Buy a digital scale if you can. I snagged one on sale and it really made things much easier and better results than without.
-Note from Aran: Filled macarons are best kept at room temperature. Storing them in the refrigerator will make them go soggy.
Yield: 3-4 dozen depending on how big they are piped. I got 38.