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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.