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Saffron macaroons A Whisper of Cardamom: Sweetly spiced recipes to fall in love with by Eleanor Ford (Murdoch Books, £26). Photography by Ola O. Smit.
February 2024
Reading time 2 Minutes
One biting November weekend I visited a Stockholm Christmas market, which was impossibly quaint and cloaked in snow. Amidst the marzipan pigs balancing red apples on their snouts and gingerbread hearts strung from the beams was a wealth of alluring saffron bakes. Wreaths of glazed golden bread nestled between scrolled saffron buns hailstoned with rock sugar. Saffron also found its way into white chocolate truffles, bottles of schnapps stained the yellow of Chinese silk and wedges of sticky cake. For me it had to be the macaroons, one quickly eaten in gloved fingers, another taken away to savour. Their crackled meringue-like surface hid a squidgy, fragrant, marzipanny centre. Here is my recreation of that moment, snow of icing sugar included.
about 20 macaroons
  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 240g icing sugar, sifted
  • 240g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of fine sea salt

Crumble or grind the saffron and add one tablespoon hot water. Set aside to infuse to a deep yellow.

Whisk the egg whites to form stiff peaks. Sift the icing sugar and set aside 30g in a shallow bowl. In a large bowl, mix together the ground almonds, saffron liquid and almond extract. Add the remaining icing sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir through the egg whites. Don’t worry about knocking out the air – the end dough should be
dense and sticky.

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Use two spoons to help you shape walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls, then roll in the reserved icing sugar, coating them generously like snowballs. Space out well on the baking sheet and flatten the balls slightly. Leave at room temperature for an hour or so to dry and form a slight shell.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 170C/150C fan. Gently squeeze the macaroons at the sides to crack the surfaces. Bake for 20 minutes then leave to cool completely on the tray. They will keep in an airtight tin for around a week, their squidgy centres perhaps even better the day after making.

The pairing of bittersweet almond and saffron is hard to compete with, but you could also try them with ground fennel seeds, rose water or orange blossom water.

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