Having decided a while back to start experimenting with using sahlep, I started playing around with different flavour combinations and potential recipes in which to try it out (like my Sahlep Pancakes, or my Sahlep Custard). A particularly good flavour to match with sahlep, in my opinion, is cinnamon, so while I do have other flavour combinations in mind to try, many of my ideas pair up sahlep and cinnamon. I am not sure where the idea of trying macarons came from, but it has been kind of present in the back of my mind for months.
Sahlep is a hot drink made from ground orchid tubers in warm milk, often with cinnamon too. It has been drunk since Roman times at least, and Paracelsus even wrote about it, considering it to be a strong aphrodisiac. I have no knowledge of any such properties but have always really enjoyed it as a special treat. Today it is still drunk across Turkey and Greece. Sometimes it comes in the form of pure orchid root, and sometimes it is mixed with powdered milk. It is the latter variety that I am able to find here.
I tried a first iteration of this recipe with my sister when she was visiting after Littler Bit's birth, and we were delighted with it. The recipe seemed good, but our macarons fell down on execution. It was her first-ever try at making macarons and my second, so seeing as they are notoriously difficult, I don't feel too bad about it. They were tasty but came out flat and gooey inside, and had to be scraped from the silicone baking mat. We figured we had either over-beaten the egg whites or under-baked the cookies.
In that first iteration, I also trialled using a small amount of cooled sahlep cooked in milk in the buttercream filling to give the sahlep flavour, but found that the filling was too goopy and didn't come out right. For this next trial, therefore, I tried making sahlep butter ahead of time, allowing it to cool, then softening it to make the buttercream filling.
This time, while my execution is still not perfect, it is getting better, and the finished product is not too far off the mark, and oh so good!
Cook time: 1.5 hours -- Portions: 20 cookies -- Difficulty: Medium/hard
For the cookie portion:
3 egg whites
a pinch of salt
1 c ground almonds - blitz finer if need be. Must be very fine!
1/2 c maple or light brown sugar
2 - 2 1/2 tsp (generous!) of cinnamon
For the buttercream filling:
2 1/2 tsp sahlep
1/3 c maple powdered sugar (or you can use light brown sugar, but blitz it so the granules don't crunch!)
1) For the buttercream filling, melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Stir in the sahlep and cook for a few minutes, stirring to incorporate. Cool completely and set aside.
2) Place egg whites and salt in a very clean, dry bowl. Whisk until you achieve a thick foam - just shy of soft peaks. Add the maple or brown sugar and beat until you achieved a thick, stiff consistency.
3) In a separate bowl, sift the powdered sugar, ground almonds, and cinnamon. Fold into egg whites.
4) Pipe in circles 2.5 - 4 cm in diameter onto baking paper, and place on a double baking sheet. Bake at 160°C for 8-10 minutes, then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
5) In the meantime, back to the buttercream. Cream sugar into sahlep butter. Spread or pipe on one-half of the macarons, and then sandwich with a second one. Enjoy!
I am very pleased with these! I wasn't at all sure how the sahlep butter would go, and I am very pleased with how it worked out. I have never used sahlep raw and so wasn't sure how it would go if I just added it cold (although apparently it can be consumed raw and is used as an ingredient in things like ice cream which aren't cooked - by the by, that is an excellent idea. Sahlep ice cream!). I do think that the sahlep flavour was a little strong in the final butter ( I thought the opposite was more likely to be the case), so I would reduce it to 1 1/2 to 2 tsp of sahlep for the butter next time. I would also increase the cinnamon content a little, maybe to a full (generous) tbsp rather than sticking with tsp measures.
Aside from that though, I am very happy! The larger ones collapsed a little at the end of baking, and I am not sure why. My technique still needs some practice. They still weren't flat though, or too gooey in the centre, so I am not going to quibble. They could just have been a little taller and firmer. They also had a little border... I have seen quite different cooking times in other recipes, from 7 to 25 minutes, so I'm not sure if maybe I should be leaving them in for longer. Maybe my batter wasn't firm enough? Hard to tell. I was just so wary of over-beating like last time... More experimentation and trial are still necessary in this particular domain!
Little Bit and Hubby definitely didn't mind. They very happily dug in and hoovered up a bunch before supper. ("Mama, I want a macaron. I am going to steal one. Not waiting until it's cool!" on repeat from a certain someone....)
The base recipe for this, before much alteration, came from Michel Roux's Eggs. It is, surprisingly for being centred on one simple ingredient, an excellent cookbook.
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