Apple Butter & Toffee Apple Macaron

The apple overload begins


Our fig and plum trees have had a bad year this year, but the alternating wet / hot weather has really suited apples and blackberries in the garden. Our Granny Smith tree is yet to be picked, but I've brought in the first crop of a strange Pippin hybrid. We don't actually know what variety of apple it is - not super sweet, but not sour like a Cider apple. In any case, we have loads - far too many to eat out of hand.

One of the best things to do with too many apples (my parents' are currently picking about 100 a day in their garden) is to make Apple Butter. This is a slight misnomer, as it doesn't contain any butter or dairy ingredients - it's named after its smooth texture.

Apple Butter's origin lies in the Netherlands, and transferred to America where it's still popular - but is rarely found here in the UK. It's a great way to get 3 to 4 weeks life out of apples that would otherwise be wasted.

Uses are far reaching - have it on toast, with or without cheese. As part of your cheese course instead of quince paste. Add it to cocktails or ice cream ... or use it as an ingredient to make something else; in this case, Toffee Apple Macarons. 

The recipes for both are below - you can make the apple butter with (as is traditional) or without spices; here I've opted for without so that it's more flexible as a cooking ingredient.


Apple Butter


  • 1kg apples
  • 100ml water
  • 140g to 160g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

If adding a spice mix

  • 1 star anise
  • 2 tsp ground cassia bark or cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Equipment required

  • Slow cooker
  • Sieve
  • Hand blender or food processor
  • 700ml sterilised jar (Kilner style if possible - to sterilise your jar, upturn it in an empty dishwasher and perform a hot cycle without soap or tablet)


Wash the apples, then core but leave the skin on. Quarter them, and place in the bowl of your slow cooker with about 100ml of water. My slow cooker only has one setting (its primary use is for cooking rice) so just set it as high as it goes and close the lid. Cook the apples for 4 hours in total, stirring every 30 minutes to make sure nothing's catching and to help them break down. 

By the end of the cooking time, the apples and their peel should be pretty much disintegrated into pulp. Transfer to a bowl, and use a hand blender to purée the apples as finely as you can. This may take 5 to 10 minutes. When happy, place your empty slow cooker bowl onto a weighing scale and zero it.  Put a relatively fine sieve on top and pass your purée through the sieve into the slow cooker bowl (a bendable silicone bread scraper is useful here).

Weigh the purée - it should register somewhere between 700g and 800g. Now add the sugar - this is down to your taste preference, and also depends on how sweet your apples were to begin with. If they are a sweet variety, or you want a more tart butter, add 10g per 100g. Due to the slight sourness of our apples, I've gone for 20g for every 100g - so if you have 700g of puree, add 140g of sugar. It's personal preference; but the 20:100 ratio will give your butter a longer shelf life. Add the lemon juice (which also helps preserve the finished product) and, if using, stir in the spices.

Put the slow cooker bowl back in the slow cooker, set as high as it goes again, close the lid and leave for a further hour - this time stirring every 15 minutes to prevent catching. 

After the hour is over, transfer to a bowl to cool. If you've used star anise, don't forget to remove it now. Pour into your sterilised jar - from the 1kg of apples you're likely to fill a jar with a capacity of 700ml.

Store in the fridge - it should last 3 to 4 weeks.


Toffee Apple Macarons

Ingredients (makes 12)

For the macaron shells

  • 150g Ground almonds
  • 150g Icing sugar
  • 110g Egg whites
  • 150g Caster sugar
  • 37ml Water
  • 3g Green powdered food colouring (Americolor)

For the filling

  • 100g Caster sugar
  • 125g Unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp Apple butter
  • Pinch of salt

Equipment required

  • Food processor
  • Stand mixer
  • Thermometer
  • 2 baking mats
  • 2 heavy trays
  • 2 disposable piping bags and 1cm nozzles


I use the Italian meringue technique by Pierre Hermé to make the shells - but everyone has their own tweaks to get consistent results at home.

Start by preparing everything - have your baking mats on some heavy trays, get out the piping bag and place the nozzle inside. Measure out the 150g of caster sugar and 37ml of water into a small pot and place on your stove top with a thermometer inside. Measure out 55g of your egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer, and connect the whisk attachment

Now put the 150g of icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor, followed by the 150g of ground almonds (putting the sugar in first helps to stop it leaving the processor in a cloud of dust). Blend for a few minutes to make sure everything is as fine as possible. At this point, tip the mix into a new bowl (one big enough to fix this mix and the meringue later) and re-weigh to make sure you have exactly 300g of dry ingredients. Top up if necessary. Take the remaining 55g of egg white and place in a small bowl, then add the green food colouring and mix. If you can't find the powder colour, paste is the next best thing. Avoid liquid food colouring if you can, as they tend to dilute the mix too much. Pour this mix on top of your dry ingredients and set aside.

Start to heat your sugar / water mix in the pot over a high heat. Keep going until you hit around 112 deg C. Turn on your stand mixer to a medium high speed to get the whites whipping - remember not to go too mad with the speed at this point; you don't want stiff peaks nor soft ... somewhere in between is perfect. As the temperature of the sugar / water mix hits 118 deg C exactly, quickly remove from the heat, push up the mixer to high and slowly trickle the hot syrup onto the whipping egg whites in one smooth motion. Now leave the whites whipping until much cooler. If you raise the whisk and the meringue drips off quickly, don't despair - you've probably not left it mixing long enough, so just keep going until it comes away on the whisk and pretty much stays there.

Take a spatula and transfer all of the Italian meringue you've just made into the bowl with the dry ingredients you prepared earlier. Fold with the spatula until you get the desired consistency - to me, this is the crucial point where things can go wrong, and it's really hard to actually explain or even take a photo of the correct consistency. All I can say is that if you drop the mix from a spatula, and it doesn't re-absorb into the mix without trace in about 15-20 seconds, it needs more mixing. If it's more liquid than that, and just flies off the spatula, it's game over for you. Pierre describes it as "slightly runny cake dough". Make sure you get right to the bottom of the bowl though, or you may leave unmixed colour or ground almond at the bottom.

When ready, hold the piping bag and fold the top of it over your hand. Use the spatula to transfer the mix inside, then twist the top (put a kitchen clip on it if you like - I've lost mix many times by wandering aimlessly around the kitchen, not realising batter is dripping out behind me) cut off the end and get ready to pipe. I always have a bit if kitchen roll ready to clean the nozzle if too much mix clogs around it. This helps you pipe more perfect circles.

On the baking mats (and I would advise the Silpat-style ones over silicone, and both of those over just using greaseproof/baking paper - much easier to get them off later) pipe a row of 3.5cm rounds, keeping your nozzle as straight as possible. Keep about an inch between each round; you don't want to overcrowd the shells. Move to the next row, and pipe under the spaces you've left between the rounds on row 1. Carry on until you've filled the mat, then rap the baking tray on your work surface with relative force a couple of times. This helps to settle the batter, and is important not to forget. The French pros always do a little "whip" at the end of each pipe to stop the nipple effect (when a bit of the batter sticks up in the air), but in general I find these subside when you rap the trays. If not, you can use a wet finger to gently smoothen out any stray batter.

Repeat with the other mat so you have two full sheets. Turn your oven on to 140 deg c, set the sheets aside in the kitchen for 30 minutes to form a skin while you make the filling.

Weigh 25g of your unsalted butter onto a plate, put 3 tbsp of Apple Butter on a separate plate, and put both next to your stove top. Place the 100g of sugar into a heavy-bottomed pot. Never use a non-stick or black-coloured pot to make caramel! Use a medium heat to melt the sugar, and keep going until it becomes an amber colour with a hint of smoke emanating from the pot. As soon as it hits this point, immediately slide in the butter and use a spatula to constantly stir the caramel - it will bubble up, so be careful; sugar will burn you badly at this temperature. When the butter has been incorporated, drop in the Apple Butter and mix again. Pour the mix into a separate bowl and allow to cool.

Take the remaining 100g of butter, and put the beater attachment on your stand mixer. Beat the butter until it's completely smooth, which can take only 30 seconds on a high speed. Make sure you don't over-churn the butter though. When the caramel mix is cool, put the mixer on a medium low speed, and start to mix it into the butter a tablespoon at a time. You may not need all of the mix, or you may need the lot - as it blends in the mixer, look for a "whipped" consistency and taste it as you go to make sure you're happy with the flavour. When ready, transfer to another piping bag, twist or clip and place in the fridge to slightly firm up.

By now your oven should be hot, and the 30 minutes up. To test the shells, gently touch your finger on one; you should find that the skin has formed and won't leave batter on your finger. Place the trays in the oven, and set two timers going - one for 15 minutes, the other for 5. When 5 minutes are up, quickly open and close the oven door to release any steam build up. You'll be able to have a sneaky look at your macs at this point - you'll probably see the foot has already started to form. Don't leave it open long though, and re-set the timer for another 5 minutes. Repeat at the 10 minute mark then, after 15 minutes are over, test one of the macaron by seeing if it will come away from the baking mat. It won't just fall off, you need to slightly twist it. If there's any bend do it, leave it; they aren't ready. Carry on cooking for another 2 minutes and try again. You don't want to overcook your macaron, or you'll get a burnt colour and solid insides - so just repeat in 2 minute intervals until you can pull off one of the shells. When happy, remove from the oven. If you've got it slightly wrong, the shells will start to darken after about a minute out of the oven; this is caused by an undercooked inside - all is not lost; turn off the oven, and place the trays back inside with the door slightly open. This will gently cook the insides. Check them every minute - if all looks well, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on the mats.

What you're going for is a nice smooth base, raised foot and a soft slightly chewy inside. Obviously you can't check that last bit without eating one - though if you've piped an odd number of shells, you can always bite into one to test.

Peel each shell off and place on a cooling tray; if any get stuck, use a small spatula to slowly work around the foot, then under the shell to release it. If you're really good at piping, then all of the shells will be the same size. I never get it perfectly, so at this point will match up pairs of shells that are actually the exact same size. We're now ready to pipe - so take the filling out of the fridge and cut off the top of the bag. If the mix is too solid, leave until it's pipe-able. Squeeze a generous amount into the upturned centre of one of the shells, then place the other half your the pair on top, and press down gently until the filling starts to reach the sides. Repeat with all remaining shells and filling.

Now the really hard part - not eating them. Put the finished macaron into a box with a lid, and place into your fridge. After a few hours, they'll taste much better than when you first made them. Leave for at least 24 hours, and you'll get the best flavour and texture. 

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