I've made no secret of my love of the flavour and have been on a serious caramel kick lately but when I heard about chocolate sea salt, my heart skipped a beat and I instantly knew that it would be to caramel what strawberries are to cream. Having had some time to master the macaron since I last openly confessed that they make me crazy - and a little bit religious (you can read more about that here), I think I have finally cracked these babies.
This chocolate sea salt is also a keeper. I can imagine it sprinkled on really rich decadent brownies, or on top of an uber sweet caramel tart, or liberally scattered over a beautiful piece of ribeye steak (swoon!). Hmm, pretty jars filled with chocolate sea salt could make for awesome Christmas gifts, but then again, that would involve sharing it...
Caramel macarons with chocolate sea salt
200g icing sugar
100g egg whites (about 3 large eggs)
35g castor sugar
1/4tsp cream of tartar
Caramel colouring or sucre brûlée*
Chocolate sea salt
¼ cup good-quality sea salt
1 tbsp cocoa nibs, ground
1 tbsp grated 95% dark chocolate
Caramelised white chocolate, for sandwiching
Line 2-3 baking sheets with silicone baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 130C (fan-forced) or 150C (no-fan).
Sift together the ground almonds and icing sugar to remove any clumps. Blend any leftover mixture then sift again until nothing remains. Begin beating the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed to medium, if necessary, and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. Add about 1/4 of the almond/sugar mixture and fold until no streaks remain. Continue to add the almond mixture in quarters, folding until incorporated. Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a fluted nozzle and pipe rows of batter onto the baking sheets, giving them space to spread. Tap the pan on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and quickly pop them with a toothpick. Allow the cookies to rest on a level surface for 30-60 minutes until they are no longer tacky to a light touch. While they rest, place an oven rack in the lower 3rd of your oven and preheat to 150C. Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes. (I always make a small tray with one or two on so I can do a test batch first). Allow to cool.
To make the chocolate sea salt combine the salt, nibs and dark chocolate and mix well.
Spread a little of the caramel white chocolate onto the tops of half the macarons and sprinkle with the salt before sandwiching together. Store the leftover salt in an airtight container and use to flavour steak, desserts etc.
*Italian boyfriend/pastry chef extraordinaire tells me that sucre brûlée is an old-fashioned method for caramel colouring. To make, place a tablespoonful of sugar in a pan and allow to caramelise until a deep almost burnt colour. Add 2-3 tablespoonfuls of water and simmer to incorporate the caramel. Allow to cool then use a few drops to achieve the desired colour.