Completely out of fear, I only searched using phrases like "easiest macaron recipe ever made—EVER" until I found one that fit the bill. Ann Reardon's Salted Caramel Macaron Recipe doesn't require aged eggs, rest time, or even caster sugar, so I didn't bother with any traditional French recipes as I was already entirely too stressed about feet! And skirts! And cracks!
The meringue whipped up so easily, and beautifully, we almost forgot to add in our color. Without any food coloring, we improvised and added a small amount of cocoa powder. "What if the ratios are all off now? What if we over/underfold it?" repeated in the back of my mind continuously, though I probably whispered it in horror a few times to be honest. Then came the worry over not owning an oven thermometer... They're all going to burrrn.
But they didn't! We'd nailed it! Sort of. I'm not even going to pretend I completely understand the food science going on here, working with a piping bag was hard enough, but I know we should have rapped the baking sheets on our counter just a little more to release more air. We lucked out with maybe 10 perfect circles, 40-ish ovals, and a few blobs, mostly free of cracks.
Earlier in the day I made dulce de leche to use as filling: as-is and in a buttercream. After everything was out of the oven and cooling, I combined all but a few tablespoons of the dulce de leche, a hefty pinch of salt, and half a cup of butter to make the salted caramel buttercream, which I layered over a bit of dulce de leche. Unreal. My dulce de leche was still a bit too warm and runny when assembling—messy, but absolutely incredible. Ultimately I switched over to just buttercream.
Too eager to wait, we inhaled about ten bare shells while the next set were in the oven baking, then another ten assembled cookies afterward. By the next morning we were practically eating them by the handful. We brought some to Andrew's parents' house Sunday night and even they gobbled them up immediately. They're that good.
Using the 3.5 cm template from Pure Gourmandise definitely helped as we pipped our shells. Getting them perfect is going to take a lot more practice but we will willingly labor through it! Speaking of which, I had a ton of buttercream left over so we made another thirty macarons last night! Dare I say they're even better‽