Having sorted the egg whites I realised that I had forgotten to buy the peanuts, and my daughter was not going to appreciate another trip to the supermarket. Hence the pecans. They were a perfectly good substitute, as was the tin of Nestle caramel I used in lieu of the rather more expensive dulche de leche. This was a good tip from Scrumptious Sally, though I am still tempted to give the real thing a try at some point and see if it makes any difference.
Salty Peanut and Caramel Macarons - Yottam Ottolenghi (with a couple of tweaks)
110g icing sugar
60g ground almonds
2 free range egg whites (60g)
40g caster sugar
20g natural roasted chopped peanuts, roughly chopped (or pecans!)
30g natural roasted chopped peanuts, finely chopped
salt to taste
Sieve the icing sugar and ground almonds together. For an extra smooth finish you could whizz them in the food processor first, but still sieve in order to get some air into the powdered mix.
Whisk the egg whites and caster sugar together to form stiff peaks and fold into the dry mix in three batches.
Line your baking trays with Bake-O-Glide or baking parchment, using a spot of the meringue mixture to glue each corner to the tray. Pipe the mixture into rounds the size of a £2 coin, leaving gaps between each. Tap the tray sharply on a table to help smooth out the macarons. Sprinkle a few of the roughly chopped nuts on to the top of each macaron and leave to rest for 30 minutes or more.
Bake for approximately 12-13 minutes, at 150 degrees centigrade. The shells will lift off the tray easily with a palette knife when cooked.
Stir the finely chopped nuts into the caramel, add a little salt to taste and use to sandwich together the macaron shells.
One very important thing to remember if you want to avoid cracked shells and achieve those all important 'feet' (the frilly bits around the bottom), is to leave the macarons to rest for about half an hour before baking. This seems to make a big difference for me - it is worth being patient.
Making macarons is a bit of a fiddly business but well worth the effort in my opinion. I haven't been brave enough to try any other macaron recipes yet as I know the Ottolenghi ones work for me, but maybe it's time to branch out and try something new. Some fruity flavours next perhaps.