So, I thought I was cookie-ed out. It was after Christmas, and I’d eaten my weight in my mom’s Grand Marnier sandwich cookies, apricot jam stuffed half moons, O’Henry bars, and Seven Layers of Goodness.
But then I really wanted to make macarons. These little cookies are just adorable, and a Berkeley bakery makes a delicious salted caramel version that I desperately wanted to create in my own kitchen. These salted caramel macarons are like the subtle French counterpart to my supremely American, dense, chocolatey, salted caramel whoopie pies. There is nothing subtle about whoopie pies.
Now I don’t have a mixer in my own kitchen (as one of my uncles would say, “I’m the mixer!”). I have no problems creaming together butter and sugar in my own kitchen with just a wooden spoon and some determination. Burning calories while baking just means you get to eat more dough! err… cookies.
I also love doing things by hand. The same desire that leads me to make my own jam and can my own tomatoes does not, however, extend to whipping egg whites to “stiff peaks” by hand with just a whisk and some determination. I’m determined, but I think after beating egg whites by hand for 15 minutes I’d be determined to drive myself to the nearest bakery to buy a macaron.
Luckily my mom has a hand mixer, and enough baking experience to tell me to just keep mixing for minutes after I would have gone myself. The first time I made these, I didn’t beat the egg whites long enough, and the batter spread out into one giant cookie on the cookie sheet. A tasty cookie, mind you, but hardly delicate circles meant to be frosted into precise sandwiches. The second time I beat the egg whites for about 5 minutes past where my arm muscles wanted to stop and produced these cute little circular cookies
Then I ate one.
And suddenly I no longer wanted to make macarons. I’m sure that sandwiching some caramel frosting between two of these little cookies would have been decadent to the extreme. But, it was the day after Christmas. I’d already done decadent to the extreme. (see “eating my weight in cookies” above). Instead I wanted to let these little cloud cookies dissolve on my tongue, just hinting at chocolate with a touch of salt. These are subtle cookies. Delicate cookies. Day-after-Christmas-I-still-want-a-cookie-but-I-can’t-handle-any-more-butter cookies.
Salted Chocolate Cloud Cookies
Light and fluffy, these crackle as you bite into them and then disappear, leaving behind just a hint of cocoa and salt. I found they’re sort of like potato chips; you definitely can’t eat just one. They’re so light though, that eating 5 or 15 won’t give you that uncomfortably full feeling. Not that I know from personal experience. This recipe makes four dozen, quickly vanishing, cookies.
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1 1/4 cup confectionary sugar
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 3 egg whites
- 3 tbsp granulated white sugar
- pinch of cream of tartar
- sea salt for topping
- In a food processor, grind the almonds until they reach the consistency of a fine powder. Add the confectionary sugar and cocoa powder, and process until you have a homogenous mixture.
- Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they foam. Add the granulated sugar a tablespoon at a time while continuing to mix the egg whites.
- As the egg white mixture goes from clear to opaque, add the cream of tartar.
- Continue mixing until the egg whites form stiff peaks. This took me nearly 15 minutes of consistent mixing with the hand mixer. The egg whites will be all that gives the batter structure, so if you don’t mix them long enough, your cookie batter will spread completely over the pan into one giant cookie.
- When the egg white mixture is completely opaque and thick, fold in the almond/sugar/cocoa mixture with a spatula. You want to fold instead of mix to keep as much air in the batter as possible.
- Transfer your batter to a pastry bag with a round opening tip or a ziploc bag with an 1/8” opening cut in one corner.
- On parchment paper, pipe approximately 1-2 tbsp of batter (just do this by eye) into small mounds, leaving plenty of space between each cookie. The cookies are going to spread out into nice even circles as they sit, so don’t worry about piping perfect circles of batter.
- Allow the cookies to sit on the parchment paper for 10-15 minutes, or until they’ve spread out and are about 1/4” high. Sprinkle sea salt on top of each cookie.
- Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool for at least ten minutes on the cookie sheets after baking before transferring to wire racks for cooling.