I first made these lovely blood orange and almond caramels from Matt Bites a few years ago and they were really good: juicy and salty and toasty. I would think about making them again every time I saw blood oranges in the spring.
I am pushing it a little late for blood orange season, I know. But I got a big bag of them in my CSA box last week and it was so exciting to see them after I thought I had had my share for this year. If you can locate frozen blood orange juice, that will work well here too. I have been thinking too that I would like to try this caramel recipe with other juices, lime, grapefruit, maybe cherry...I would love to hear about your results if you try it. These would be great with just a toasted almond salt caramel as well.
I had the bag of blood oranges, I had several jars of egg whites left over from a bunch of other yolk-intensive projects I was working on and I kept thinking about how I could use both of them together. A lot of more adventurous french macarons have a frosting or ganache with some sort of other center like a tiny square of pate de fruit. I wanted to try the same idea with a chewy blood orange caramel center. I love the toasted almond flavour in the caramels so I increased this flavour by toasting the almonds to the macaron shells as well. I used vanilla buttercream to let that subtle toasty almond flavour shine through.
Macarons are better after they sit around for a day, and they are much better at room temperature than right out of the fridge. I have a few other tips for macaron success over on the salted caramel macaron post; they are notoriously finicky to bake, but there are a few things that will help increase the odds of them turning out well.
blood orange caramels with toasted almonds:
from Matt Bites
3 cups blood orange juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder, or 1/2 vanilla bean innards, or 1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sliced almonds
a generous pinch flaky salt
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the parchment paper lightly with melted butter. Place the prepared pan onto a tea towel and set aside.
Bring blood orange juice to a boil and then simmer over medium heat until the juice is very reduced, to 1/3 cup.
While the juice is reducing, toast the almonds in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring frequently as these thin slices will burn very easily. Add the 110 grams sliced almonds for the macarons at the same time if you like to toast them all at once and set them aside for that recipe.
Once juice is reduced, remove it from the heat and add sugars, cream and butter and then return the pan to high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly so the syrup is gently boiling. Insert a candy thermometer and cook until the temperature reaches 248 degrees.
Quickly stir in almonds and vanilla and pour caramel onto baking sheet. Turn the sheet pan gently back and forth to encourage the caramel to spread in a thin layer. Sprinkle a generous pinch of salt over the caramel and set aside to cool.
toasted almond macaron shells:
from canelle et vanille
100 grams egg white (pasteurized egg whites from a carton work best here)
50 grams granulated sugar
110 grams toasted sliced almonds
200 grams powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla powder, or innards of 1/2 vanilla bean
Process the almonds in a food processor until they are finely ground. Be careful not to over grind, as the meal can turn into almond butter easily. If the almond meal gets a little sticky, add some of the powdered sugar to the nuts as they are processing and scrape the bottom of the processor to prevent clumping.
Mix together almond flour, vanilla powder and remaining powdered sugar and sift or whisk thoroughly to avoid clumps. Set aside.
In a stand mixer bowl whisk egg whites on high speed. Once egg whites are foamy, add sugar a little at a time. Mix until the eggs form stiff peaks.
Fold almond mixture into meringue gently with a spatula. Keep an eye on the texture of the batter. You are aiming for smooth and flowing not runny. The consistency is correct when a spoonful of batter dropped on a plate slowly smooths itself. If it doesn't smooth into a glossy dome it needs more folding; if it smooths out very quickly and seems runny, it is probably over mixed.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip with the macaron batter. Pipe onto parchment paper, following a template. Pipe the batter slightly smaller than the template; they will spread a little. Leave them for about an hour to dry.
Bake for 10 minutes in a 300 degree oven, turning the pan once to brown evenly. Set aside to cool for five minutes. If the shells stick to the parchment paper when you try to remove them, cook for a couple more minutes to dry them slightly.
vanilla italian meringue buttercream:
adapted from Martha Stewart
1 1/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
5 egg whites or 1/2 cup + 2tbs pasteurized egg whites
2 cups butter, softened
1 vanilla bean's innards or 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Using a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature, continue boiling until the mixture reaches 238 degrees.
As the sugar is boiling, whip the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. The goal is to get the egg whites stiff when the sugar reaches 238; if they are getting close to stiff but the syrup isn't close I turn the mixer to low until the syrup is nearly up to temperature.
Once the sugar syrup is up to temperature, turn mixer up to high and pour the syrup into the egg whites in a very thin stream. Lower speed to medium and beat until the outside of the mixer bowl is no longer hot to the touch. Add butter in small chunks, about 2-3 tbs butter at a time. The frosting will very likely curdle; this is normal and it should resolve if you keep beating. A stand mixer is very useful here because it makes your arm ache if you have to hold a hand held beater for that long. Also, I like to leave the frosting beating at this point and do something else rather than stand watching the curdled mess.
Once the frosting comes together again, add the vanilla and mix thoroughly, scrapping down the bowl.
Note: this recipe will make far more buttercream than necessary for these macarons, but it freezes very well and I like to keep frozen buttercream in the freezer for frosting emergencies. Use what you need and store the rest in a mason jar in the freezer. When you just want to frost a few cupcakes, scoop out frosting as required with an ice cream scoop and bring up to room temperature. Whip in a stand mixture-it will break at first and look horribly like a runny, viscous scrambled eggy mess. Keep on whipping and it will fluff up again by magic. You can flavour this frosting as you wish; it's very handy to have around.
Pipe a small circle of frosting onto the flat side of a macaron shell. Using a very small round cutter around 1/2 inch in diameter (I used the wide end of a piping tip) cut a circle of blood orange caramel. Place it in the center of the frosting on the macaron and press it in so the frosting spreads to the outside edges of the macarob. Sandwich another shell on top. Press them together very gently or you will crush the delicate macarons. Repeat until all the shells are filled.
I had a large amount of caramel left over and I folded it up onto itself several times and pressed it under the parchment paper and cut it into little caramels, as the recipe first intended. I wrapped them up in little parchment squares as they are very sticky. These should be kept in the fridge.
Photo credit: Tyrel Hiebert