Thinking about creme brûlée desserts, what comes to your mind right away? For me it is the scent of caramel and vanilla, the beautiful golden colour of the brittle on top, the cracking sound of it breaking as you lightly but assertively knock it with your spoon and then the velvety creamy custard as you taste. Every spoonful is a delight. This is one dessert that occupies all of my senses and it sends shivers down my spine every time I find a good one.
I’ve been thinking about this and did a bit of research. Turns out this is just how food science researchers are describing the current trends and developments in the food industry. More and more chefs are recognising the importance of flavor science or neurogastronomy in improving the overall dining experience. Think Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal. Inventive chefs making food so much more than it ever was by engaging all of our senses and enhancing our dining experience. This a great interview with Charles Spencer, a researcher in the study of how we experience our meals.
I wanted to recreate some of that multi-sensory experience in my macarons by making a vanilla bean chocolate and caramel filling. I also added salt flakes to my filling, essentially making a salted caramel filling, to punctuate the sweetness overall. The result: small morsels that reminds me of the joys and excitement of each creme brûlée which I can easily transport to my lucky tasters. After all you can’t readily carry around wobbly little pots and have a blow torch on hand all the time!
Macarons shell ingredients
150 g icing sugar
150 g almond meal
110 g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
150 g caster sugar
38 ml water
1 g meringue powder
a few drops of brown and white gel colouring
Follow my basic recipe to make the shells. I paired these with a salted caramel filling.
200g castor sugar
125ml fresh cream
50g butter, cubed
5g good quality salt flakes
A few drops of vanilla essence
100g white chocolate
Heat the sugar in a wide saucepan until it is melted. Be really careful and wait for it to turn amber/ golden and slightly smoke. Carefully add the cream in slowly, continuing to whisk but be aware of the resulting vigorous bubbling. Add the butter in gradually until it is melted and combined. Add in salt flakes and vanilla essence. Cool in the fridge for a few hours.
Make white chocolate ganache by heating cream and pouring over pieces of white chocolate. Let it sit and then stir till it thickens. Mix ganache with a few tablespoons of salted caramel. Return to the fridge for it to thicken. Fill half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells. The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to flavour the shells. These freeze really well (up to 3 months).