French Macarons, Spring and Salted Caramel

The land here is still covered with a campfire burnt,  marshmallow whiteness.  Little by little the snow is receding and inches of green grass are beginning to emerge. It’s a relief to see green after months of the monotone flavor of winter.   I really do begin to feel as though I am hibernating - staying in more nights than heading out, tightening in against the cold when I do.  And then I notice a slight shift from hibernating to incubating- I am so sure that spring is around the corner. Birth. Exhale. 

Isn't that what Easter is all about? Pink, yellow and fluffy peeps.

Last night I had a dream that I was able to see the cherry blossoms emerging from the pink orchards. It was almost spring.

in my dream.

What does all that have to do with caramel and french macarons? Nothing really, unless like me, you savor the first hints of spring. Hints that begin in the kitchen by whipping up egg whites into fluffy white meringue when your dreams shift to pink and you conjure up flirty, fantasy sweet things like Salted Caramel French Macarons.

Macarons are not easy to make.  So, I don't recommend embarking on a macaron recipe unless you have an advanced pastry degree from France! or have some inherited aptitude for meringue.  I gave it two tries and my thought is that it is too time consuming, finicky and involves way too much preparation. But, I tend not to have much patience- a topic for another post. I want my cooking experience to have easy and successful results. Taking on recipes that are above my head only serve to frustrate me. I did learn a few things with this macaron experience that will prove to be valuable when i move onto more mundane recipes, like lemon meringue pie or strawberry clouds.  But like all things rich and orange, (yes Donald Trump) the caramel is a real standout. Leave the macarons to the pros,  let's just get nitty gritty about caramel.  Maybe give making your very own salted caramel a try. This passes the "impatient" cook test.  It's pretty easy and is annoyingly irresistible.

I like caramel more than chocolate, so I am an easy pushover for salted caramal. It's a relatively new flavor and like all things salted, it is a big hit for a reason.  Salt and sugar marry up like Romeo and Juliet, this stuff is so good!

Of course, you can always abandon cooking your own caramel altogether and just buy creamy, rich, milk caramel from American Spoon Foods in Traverse City or Petosky (or online). Their caramel is decadent and without heating, can be spread easily and is even drizzable( is that a word? it should be!). Imagine the possibilities; ice cream, pancakes, cakes, apple pies and strudels, your lover's navel, the list goes on and on.  Goodbye winter doldrums.  Hello spring!

My macarons are only marginally good, unless you talk to my mother. ( She loves everything that i do!)  Do you know that macarons come in a variety of flavors? Chocolate, Gingerbread, Matcha Green Tea, Violette Flower, Pistachio, Caramel.  Almond almost sounds boring.  But, it is that lightly ground almond flour that gives the macaron a nutty sweetness.  Well, the sugar gives it alot of sweetness. But I think that Mom was swayed by the caramel, frankly.

Here's an easy recipe for homemade salted caramel.  Go ahead.  Give it a try.  You'll be glad you did!  Start to finish is about 20 minutes.

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce      by Sally's Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons salted butter, cut up into 6 pieces
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  • heat the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir constantly with a wooden spoon.
  • the sugar will form clumps and eventually melts into a thick brown, amber colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn, but continue to stir until all of the sugar clumps are gone.
  • once the sugar clumps are gone, immediately add the butter.  Be careful here, because the caramel will bubble up rapidly when the butter is added. Stir until the butter is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes.
  • slowly add the 1/2 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Again, the caramel will bubble up and maybe even splatter when added.  do this step slowly.
  • allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute.  It will rise up the sides of the pan as it boils. keep stirring.
  • remove from heat and stir in the 1 teaspoon of salt.  Allow the caramel to cool down.

Pour, slather, drizzle, devour by spoonfuls- you know what you want to do with it!  Enjoy!

Before you know it, spring will be here!

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