Pistachio and Apricot Macarons

Yes, I know my last blog post was also a macaron recipe. I spent a little while worrying about this, before I remembered that this is my blog and I can put whatever I like on it, and if I want to do seventeen variations on macarons in a row and never post a thing about vegetables again, then no one will really care. Except maybe my dentist (sidenote: I used to think I didn’t have a problem with dentists, until I had to have a wisdom tooth removed a couple of months ago. Now I understand why people fear dentists).


Anyway, these were experimental macarons, partly because I have never done macarons with a nut other than almonds in the shell before, and partly because I had a pack of apricot leather leftover from teaching a class and wasn’t sure what to use it for. Apricot and pistachio sounded like a pretty delicious combination. And thus these little babies were born.


Notes (my standard macaron notes):

  • For this, you will need at least three baking sheets (I sometimes go onto a fourth) and parchment to line them, a sugar thermometer, a food processor, an electric hand whisk or a stand mixer, and a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle, as well as the normal bowls and scales and stuff. Sorry, lots of kit I know, but that’s just how it is for these.
  • This recipe makes around 50 shells, or 25 paired macarons, although this obviously depends on how big you pipe them.
  • I don’t personally think you need to bother ageing your egg whites unless they are stupendously fresh to start with – perhaps you have your own chickens or something, who knows – but I do always make sure mine are room temperature.
  • I am not awesome at piping, and so my personal preference is to line my baking sheets with disposable parchment and, using a cookie cutter, draw circles onto it in black Sharpie as a guide, then flip it over ready to be piped on to. You can also buy templates that are already on silicone mats (which I should do but I am cheap) or print them off the internet, or just pipe freestyle if you are confident. You want to end up with something like this.


for the shells

200g white caster sugar
75ml hot water (from a hot tap is fine, but boil a kettle if you like)
200g icing sugar
100g ground almonds
100g pistachios
160g egg whites (divided into two bowls of 80g each)
Pinch of salt

for the apricot filling

apricot leather – I lazily bought mine, but you can make it, or substitute a thick apricot gel or jam, or flavour buttercream with apricot jam, or use something else entirely. I can’t tell you how to live your life.


  1. Get out three baking sheets and line them with parchment (or silicone), and create a template if you need one. Pop your water and caster sugar in a saucepan, stir it gently together with a wooden spoon, and put the pan on a low heat to dissolve the sugar (starting with hot water speeds this up). While that’s happening, pop your pistachios with 2 tbsp of the icing sugar in a food processor and blitz for about 2 minutes, or until you have a very fine pistachio flour. Add the rest of the icing sugar and the ground almonds, then blitz again for 1 minute. Scrape the sides down, then blitz for an additional minute. Pass the sugar and nut powder through a sieve into a large bowl. You might be left with some chunkier nut mixture in the sieve. Don’t force it through – you want smooth macarons – but save it to sprinkle over the top of the shells once baked, if you like.
  2. If your sugar has dissolved into your water (the liquid shouldn’t feel gritty), turn up the heat on your syrup, stick your thermometer in it, and start to bubble it up to 115 degrees celsius (which is your target). Meanwhile, mix 80g of egg white into your sieved almond pistachio mixture with a spatula to make a thick, stiff paste. It will look like there isn’t enough liquid, but keep working it and it will come together. Pop the other 80g of egg white into a clean glass bowl with the pinch of salt and whisk to stiff peaks.
  3. When the sugar syrup hits 115 degrees, pour it into the whisked egg whites in a thin stream while still whisking them on high speed. The mixture will become shiny. Once all the sugar syrup is in the whites, keep whisking for five minutes or so while the bowl cools until you have your stiff meringue mix. Whack 1/3 of the meringue mix into the almond pistachio paste and beat it in any old how to loosen it.
  4. Now gently fold the remaining meringue into your macaron batter with a spatula. You need to make sure it’s well incorporated and there are no streaks, but the more you mix it the more air will be knocked out, and the looser the batter becomes. If you don’t mix enough, there will be unincorporated meringue and the batter won’t smooth out when piped. If you go too far, it will run everywhere when piped. You want to be able to lift the spatula up and draw a trail of batter across the surface of the bowl and leave a line which stays there for around 10 seconds, but then gradually disappears back into the body of the mixture. People say it is supposed to look like lava but that’s totally unhelpful to me as I don’t know what lava looks like. Go slowly, one fold at a time, and keep checking it. If in doubt, go for under rather than over mixing, as the process of piping the batter will knock more air out too.
  5. When you are happy with your batter, put half of it into your piping bag and begin to pipe out your rounds. I find it easier to only use half the mix at once or the weight of it makes it come out of the bag very fast, which is tricky to pipe. Piping these just takes practice. Give yourself space, pipe directly down rather than at an angle, move quickly and get into a rhythm. Your batter will spread a little so aim for batter circles slightly smaller than your template circles. Once you have finished piping, pick up each tray, lift it a good few inches off the surface, and drop it straight down. Do this a couple of times. You need to knock out any air bubbles that have accumulated. After this is done, leave your macarons to rest for around half an hour. Once rested, they should have a slight skin. Leaving them for longer – up to a couple of hours – shouldn’t hurt them.


  6. When your macarons have rested, heat your oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Bake your macaron shells for around 20 minutes. This is obviously dependent on your oven and the size of your macarons, so keep an eye on them. Check after 17 minutes. When your shells are cooked, they should lift off your baking parchment without leaving much residue behind. If they are leaving lots of very sticky mixture or not lifting off, give them more time. If they are completely dry and hollow then they are over-baked (but will still be yummy when filled). When they are done, get them on a cooling rack and once they are cool enough to touch, take them off the parchment.
  7. Match the shells of your macarons into pairs of similar sizes. Using a cookie cutter, stamp rounds out of your apricot leather and place between your pairs of shells – or, if you are using an alternative apricot filling, simply pipe rounds of it onto the bottom shell and gently sandwich on the top. If using, sprinkle with the leftover pistachio and almond mix.

Really, you should store macarons in the fridge in an air-tight container for 24 hours before eating them to let the shells soften into the filling but my willpower isn’t always up to this. Regardless, they keep very well.


Leiths: Advanced Term, Week 7

The week started with a cancelled train. Checking the TrainLine app to see how the 6.55 was doing before I left the house (might burn me once…) I saw that its Monday morning excursion had been curtailed due to an ominous and non-specific ‘train fault’. Happily for me, this was the one morning that I didn’t have to be at school early, as we had individual assessment appointments and I was lucky enough to snag a later one. I had been planning to go into school at my normal time anyway to get some work done, but I saw the cancelled train as a fairly clear sign and jumped back into bed for an extra hour of dozing. This seemed like a fantastic idea at the time, but I’m pretty sure it was this change to my obsessive and rigid routine which put me off my game for the rest of the day. I have to point at something rather than admitting I’m just an idiot. We had a very light cooking prep session in the afternoon, but somehow I managed to mess up my Danish pastry dough, making it too firm despite following the recipe to the letter (still don’t know what happened), and burnt my fingers by using them to test the consistency of sugar syrup (I admit that this sounds very very stupid but this is genuinely how they tell us to test sugar syrup).


On Tuesday, though, the week got going in earnest and I perked up a bit. This week was the week of sugar, baking, patisserie, petit fours, and all things that are good and right in the world. Tuesday morning’s dem, delivered by Ansobe and Jane, was all about petit fours. Think macarons, marshmallows, nougat, caramels… most peple were groaning and sugar-dazed when the morning was done, but I was in my element. Nibble on those scrap ends of marshmallow? Yes please. Spare piece of nougat? Don’t mind if I do.

In the afternoon we continued with our Danish pastry dough (I was pretty sure mine was fundamentally wrong and doomed at this point but marched along regardless), and made a delicious fougasse. Crusty but light, soft and pillowy, spiked with sea salt and Italian herbs, a loaf bigger than your head – it was surprisingly easy and completely wonderful and I will definitely be trying it again at home. We used a biga for the first time (another word for starter), which gives the bread a depth of flavour that you don’t get without some form of slow-fermenting yeast. I’ve made sourdough at home so the process was not completely unfamiliar, but it was far less hassle than your standard starter and worth beginning 24 hours early.

On Wednesday we had our last ever in-house dem, delivered by Phil and Belinda. It was all about fish – which I love almost as much as I love all things sweet – so I was very happy to munch away on sardines, salmon, and cod, as well as more luxurious and exciting treats such as octopus, John Dory, turbot, and even caviar. I longed anew for a decent fishmonger in Oxford. Does anyone know where I can get octopus? Not a rhetorical question, I really want to try braising it at home.


The afternoon was unexpectedly lovely. The morning group had escaped the kitchen about forty minutes late, so we approached the session with trepidation, but it was very relaxed and I even got out a little early. We made the dessert pictured at the top of this post: almond panna cotta; apricot sorbet; almond crumble; hibiscus meringues; caramelised hazelnuts; sugar work; fresh apricots and raspberries; and micro herbs. You know, casual. It was marvellous, and I got told my plate was pretty, which is always a nice surprise. We followed it up with Danish pastries made completely from scratch (see previous moaning in this post). My pastry was pronounced a little tough, but overall everything went unexpectedly well and I think my fellow commuters were probably slightly confused by the overwhelming smell of fresh pastry on the 17.49 to Worcester.

Thursday was unphotogenic but interesting. We were visited by Chris Barber for an all-day session focused on how to set up a food business. As this is what I hope to do when I graduate, the whole day was very helpful and informative, and Chris was a compelling and knowledgeable presenter. We had to split into groups to prepare a business idea to pitch for the end of the afternoon, and then vote on the best plan. Our little group won the vote – thanks mostly to the excellent presentation skills of Laura – so basically I’m pretty sure we’ll all be successful business tycoons before the year is out.


Friday was the day I’d been looking forward to since I started at Leiths: petit fours day. It’s funny how divisive it was, as a day – some people were in their element, and some didn’t even bother coming in to school. As has probably become obvious by now, I am all about the sugar, and so I was definitely in the first camp. We had a lovely, relaxed day and, as a table, made chocolate caramels with vanilla sea salt, passion fruit pate de fruit, toasted pistachio and almond nougat, lemon sherbet marshmallows, macarons with pistachio and raspberry ganaches, and chocolate truffles covered with tempered chocolate. I love making macarons anyway, but the chocolate caramels were a surprise favourite too. I took a huge box of goodies home and it was both impressive and worrying how quickly James and I ploughed through it.


I am now at the end of a cheeky three day weekend, and somehow it’s almost time to go back to school again. Stay tuned for next week, which will include jam-making, an impressive cake, and an abundance of shellfish.


Mokatines – Bake Off Bake Along Week 8

Bloody hell. When I started this bake along, I sort of forgot how tricky The Great British Bake Off gets near the end. At the beginning, it was all ‘Madeira cake!’ and ‘Biscotti!’ and everything was happy and the world was a just and lovely place. Now it’s all ‘Cream horns!’ and ‘Bloody massive éclair sculpture!’ and… yeah. Shall I start on the excuses now? I don’t have any metal horn shapes to make cream horns (I mean, obviously. Who the hell has those?!), and while I love éclairs I have no desire to give myself a panic attack and/ or heart attack by trying to make a tower out of them. Mokatines are basically cake. I mean, incredibly fiddly cake. With three types of icing. And I have never made a genoise before. But I still thought it was the ‘easy’ option.

I’m an idiot.

I hated this bake from start to finish. I have enjoyed this bake along immensely so far, but this week was dire. The mokatines were fiddly and had absolutely loads of processes, which is to be expected from patisserie, but they were unrewarding too. Not only did mine come out looking terrible – which, I admit, is partly because I was angry with them by the end and thus ended up rushing – they actually didn’t taste good. See that mokatine in the foreground of my pictures? That was seriously my best-looking one. If I make something that looks a mess but tastes delicious then I can live with that, because at least I don’t feel like I have wasted my time. But this week, I made something that looked dreadful and didn’t even taste all that nice and was no fun at all. Ugh.


You may notice that I haven’t piped the little rosettes around the bottom of the mokatines. That is because a) I was completely fed up by that point and couldn’t be arsed and b) the recipe for the crème beurre au moka only made just about enough to pipe the rosettes on the top, and there was no bloody way I was making that thing again. I had to rush the piping because the crème beurre au moka was too thin, and even though I put it in the fridge to firm up, the heat of my hands around the piping bag made it go all runny again. So I did the piping very fast, hence the messiness.

I also did the photos in a rush, so they are dreadful too, and I didn’t have time to wait for the fondant to set (as you can see), so I made the situation even worse. I suppose the lesson I can take from this is ‘take your time, stay calm, don’t rush’, but to be honest, I already know all that. I just ignored my own advice while I was doing this because I was in a huff.

On the plus side, I picked up that plate in the pictures at Sainsburys this week for about £3. Isn’t it pretty?


I’m certainly not going to bother to write up this recipe, as I definitely won’t be making these again, but here it is in case any of you are far braver and more skilled than I. That would not be hard.

Next week is chocolate week. THANK GOD. At least if I make something that’s a complete mess it still has a good chance of tasting good because, you know, chocolate. Did you hear that bit in the teaser about staggered start times for the technical? I think that must be soufflés, or something else that has to be eaten pretty much immediately. Obviously something horrifically complicated, because that’s the way things are now.

Now I have to go and make two batches of cupcakes in two hours. Argh.