Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mactweets Challenge: My Turkish Delights - Sumac and Apricot Macarons



On one special trip to Istanbul I discovered sumac. I was trolling the Spice Bazaar saw a mound of it displayed and struck up a conversation with the vendor. 




Because I had never seen this spice before, I asked how to use sumac in food. He was a lovely guy with a gourmet flair who eagerly shared ways to incorporate it into cooking. One of the best tips I got was to toss it on salads. I do that now all the time. Slightly lemony and rich tasting, I also have used it in rubs for chicken.




I traveled to Istanbul by myself on a whim and a spontaneous purchase of an 86 euro round trip ticket from Cologne. One of the best travel decisions I ever made. 



Every day was an adventure. I stayed in a small hotel near the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. What an incredible experience to be able to stroll over there after breakfast, travel notes and map in hand. Every morning I would sit in the park between these two wonders and leisurely plan my day.




Once my daily itinerary was set, I walked all over the city every day crisscrossing bridges visiting palaces, monuments and mosques. Most of the time I was so enchanted by the city I forgot to eat. 




One particular day, it was about 6pm and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. It hit me hard. I had walked for miles and found myself wandering around a non tourist neighborhood. I was starving. Dizzy have to sit down starving.  I was in some sort of textile neighborhood and everywhere around me the local shop keepers were closing up their stores. No restaurants. I forged ahead mentally calculating how much time it would take me to get back to my hotel area where local eateries abounded. My stomach wasn't growling. It was roaring. Light headed and famished, I turned a corner and there standing on the opposite corner was an old man selling apricots. I pounced on him and bought a bag full. Now I know I was hungry but I kid you not, these were the best apricots I ever had in my life. Sweet and juicy with deep flavor. They literally stopped me in my tracks. I went back the next day to see if I could find my apricot angel again but sadly I never did. And I have never had apricots that good since.




From then on, when I remember Istanbul I always think about the gift of sumac spice it gave to me and those amazing apricots that came to my rescue. Sumac and Apricots. My Turkish delights.




This month's Mactweet's Challenge from the fruity and spicy macaron sisters Jamie and Deeba was to use  fruit/spice combo in a macaron.


Sumac Macarons with Apricot Filling



For the Shells:

I used the Tartelette's basic recipe. Use a kitchen scale for precise measurements.


Ingredients:
  • 3 egg whites - aged at least 2 days. Let them sit out on the counter uncovered.
  • 25-50 grams of fine granulated sugar
  • 200 grams of powdered sugar (minus 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons ground sumac
  • 110 Grams of almond flour*
  • 1 or more dabs of paste or gel food coloring (Optional)
  • Apricot jam

*You can buy almond flour that has been ground with or without the skin. I use the later (blanched). The former looks really nice if you are not coloring the shells. You can also grind your own almond flour by putting whole or sliced almonds in a food processor or blender. If you do, make sure you throw a little of the powdered sugar in to prevent the almonds from forming a paste.


Directions:
  • Sift the powdered sugar, Sumac and almond flour together or pulse them together briefly in a food processor. Make sure there are no large pieces and set aside. 
  • Whip the egg whites. When they start to get foamy, slowly add the sugar. Continue whipping until you can turn the bowl upside down and nothing slides out. (I also add a pinch each of salt and cream of tartar)
  • Add the powdered sugar/almond/sumac mixture to the egg white mixture and fold, using quick strokes at first then slow down.  No more than 50 strokes all together. The batter should have a "flowing like lava" consistency. I halved the batter and left one half au natural. To the other half I added a few dabs of gel food coloring (Wilton's Burgundy)  
  • Fill a Pastry bag and pipe circles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or on a Silpat. 
  • Let the macarons dry for about one hour until they harden.
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  • I keep the oven door propped open with a dish towel or wooden spoon. Try to refrain from obsessive peeping to see if they get feet. 
  • Let cool completely and then match up the shells into pairs according to size and fill with apricot jam.

The sumac gave the shells a tangy flavor making them less sweet than usual. The apricot filling was the perfect companion.

12 comments:

  1. This is truly a unique way of using sumac and I am so going to try it with the tiny sachet of this spice I have sitting on my spice rack, unopened. And love the pairing with apricots. This is such a wonderful, lovely post and the story of the sumac and the apricots is both beautiful and magical. What fabulous inspiration for these macs!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a great combination of flavours - and a wonderful description of Istanbul! I am in awe (=jealous) of your ability to create perfect macarons consistently. I'm avoiding making macarons for the moment as the last few batches haven't turned out well, but will remember this combination when I get back to them!

    ReplyDelete
  3. @ Jamie: Thank you so much! I am so happy I got you thinking about trying some su-macs.

    @inspiredbywolfe: I appreciate your admiration. Thanks! However, the sad truth is I still produce many failed mac batches. The day after I made these relatively nice looking macs, I tried to make some egg shaped one which turned into a pastel goopy mess. I am definitely getting better but still a long way to go. Being part of this challenge every month has been my biggest inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Amazing! What a unique use for sumac! I love it on meat as well, w go to a middle eastern restaurant and they have it on the table as if it was parmesan cheese at an italian place! Beautiful color on those red macs too!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sumac sounds like a delicious spice and I love the idea of sprinkling it into salads. Your macarons look really great and I love your travel photo's.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What an incredible flavour combo! I love sumac and I love apricots... just cannot imagine the flavour explosion with them together. Would love to try these one day!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I guess when they say 'you took the ball and hit it out of the park', this is what they mean. I think you found the best fit so far for the months challenge my sweet Lora. Loved sharing your wonderful trip, with a bit of envy! Thank you for being 'always there' with so much enthusiasm at MacTweets!

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a fantastic sounding combination! Hmmm.. I think I may have found my newest obsession in tracking down Sumac in Austin, TX. These look amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love sumac too Lora. I use it to flavour cous-cous sometimes, and yes, in salads and on roast chicken too. You must have been having so much fun to forget to eat!! Lucky for your apricot angel. And these turkish delights do sound divine :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I went to Istanbul a year and a half ago and bought Sumac at the Spice Bazaar and still haven't used it! I didn't know what it was either. I loved reading your travelogue and recognized every place you mentioned. I loved Turkey and have done a number of posts about it with more yet to come.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Beautiful macs, and beautiful photos too! I am not familiar with sumac but this sounds like a winning flavour combination. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Always enjoy hearing about your mac+travel adventures. Makes the baking experience much more special and personal. I've never tried sumac and am curious. What an exotic mac creation you've made. Looking forward again to seeing what unique macarons you make for MacAttack every month.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comments and feedback. I love hearing from you!