There is really no contest. We grow early, summer and autumn fruiting raspberries, but despite the slightly more complicated maintenance routine, summer fruiting varieties are simply the tastiest. My preferred variety is Glen Ample, as they are simply delicious; good sweet to acidity ratio; simply enormous which is excellent for the greedy gardener (more to eat for less effort); and they hold their shape beautifully, even from frozen, when used in patisserie. Glen Moy comes in a close second, which are somewhat smaller but also incredibly delicious.
Normally, our raspberries succumb to immediate fresh consumption (many don’t make it to the kitchen), but as we grow quite a few, the rest disappears in; cordials, compote or the freezer, for an endless supply of delectable breakfast smoothies.
This year was somewhat different, as with the arrival of a dehydrator, we have also been drying our fruit, including the raspberries. You don’t need a dehydrator, a low oven; left overnight will do the trick. However, as they’re purpose built for the job, dehydrators are just that tad more effective. They are an investment, so require some consideration. If you did want to buy one, I would recommend buying big, as they fill up fast and it takes considerable time (11-14 hours) to dry (soft) fruit (and veg). Mind, they are rather big beasts, so consider the space needed, on purchase.
Dried raspberries have a rather odd texture when eaten, almost like cotton wool. The flavour though is intensified tenfold, and can therefore be used brilliantly in an array of dishes, especially one of my favourites, macarons (French macaroons).
Prudish perhaps, but I’m not a fan of food colourings, opting for natural alternatives instead, for example cocoa, coffee, pistachio, and thanks to my ‘Excalibur‘ (quite the barmy name for a dehydrator), now too raspberry, with my very own raspberry powder. Natural raspberry powder will give some colour, but obviously not to the same degree as food colouring. The taste is there though, in all its delicious raspberry glory.
Be warned! Macarons can make or break you, and it can take some time to perfect the technique, but after much lawful swearing and several binned batches, you’ll get the hang of it I promise.
- 125 g ground almonds
- 125 g icing sugar
- 35 ml of water, approx 2 table spoons
- 110 g of caster sugar
- 90 g of aged egg white (Aged, at least 1-2 days, and yes, you need to weigh it!)
- Enough dried raspberries to make approx 10g of raspberry powder. Quantity of powder required is to personal choice, but recommend 7-10g.
- Grind the dried raspberries to a fine powder. Pass through a sieve to ensure powder is fine and there are no large lumps.
- Mix the icing sugar, ground almonds and 40g of the egg whites together to a paste. Weighing egg whites is a tad tricky, and may take a couple of tries. Just pour it very slowly.
- Melt the sugar in a pan with the water and caster sugar. Heat gently at first to melt the sugar. Once melted, turn up the heat until it reaches 114C, or if you haven’t got a thermometer; until it becomes a thick syrup. To prevent the sugar from crystallising, make sure you choose a small pan. It must be stainless steel, and above all leave it well alone. So don’t fiddle with it!
- Whisk the remaining 50g of egg whites in a large bowl to a stiff peak and pour in the sugar syrup until it becomes beautifully shiny. It will be ready once the temperature of the bowl is cool to touch.
- Take a spoonful of the meringue mixture to slacken the almond paste, after which add the remaining egg whites, whisking the mixture until it becomes shiny again and has the consistency of lava. If in doubt, David Attenborough can help determine the latter.
- Gently add the raspberry powder and do a final couple of turns of the mixture to ensure the flavouring and colour is well incorporated.
- Spoon into a piping bag. Tip: Place the piping bag in a tall wide glass unfolding the ends over the glass to hold it in place, making it easier to pour in the mixture. Aim to create consistent sized circles on the paper lined trays. I like smaller macaroons, but that is up to you. Ensure there is enough space in between them as the mixture does flow a little.
- Once piped, leave the macarons to dry for at least 30 minutes. This is crucial, as the proper macaroon has to develop ‘feet’. Also, pick up the baking tray and slap it down hard on the kitchen surface a few times, to flatten the macarons, and ensure there are no air bubbles.
- Bake the macarons in a 150C oven for 12-15 minutes, with the door of the oven slightly ajar. Bake one tray at a time. Remove from the oven, lift paper off the tray and leave to cool.
For the filling
Macarons can be filled with whatever you’d like; chocolate ganache, cream, ice cream even, chopped fruit or butter cream. However, true, proper macarons are filled with a Swiss meringue butter cream. Swiss meringue is slightly denser than French, or Italian meringue, and hence well suited to macaroons.
- 60 g caster sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 125 g butter
- 25 g icing sugar
- 50g fresh or frozen chopped raspberries
- 1 tablespoon of raspberry powder
- Couple of drops of fresh lemon juice (or if you’re feeling very fruity something stronger….)
- Stir egg whites with the caster sugar over a pot of simmering water, until warm to the touch after which you start to whisk them as normal to a stiff peak.
- Whisk the butter, raspberry powder, lemon juice and icing sugar until pale and fluffy. Once fluffy add the fresh or if from frozen, defrosted chopped raspberries to the mixture
- Combine the butter cream and meringue, and put into a piping bag.
- Fill the macarons, eh voila. If you’re feeling very cheffy, sprinkle some additional raspberry powder over the macarons.