Amuse Bouche™: Weekly Musings on Food & Life

26Mar09

ArtsÉtoile.com is delighted to announce that our contributor, Suzanne Lenzer, will be writing a weekly column called “Amuse Bouche: Weekly Musings on Food & Life,” every Thursday.  With a degree from the Institute of Culinary Education and working side by side with The New York Times‘ Mark Bittman, as a food writer and stylist, Suzanne is a true epicurean expert.  To kick off her column, she is building on a popular post on macarons from last May.  Bon apétit!

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My French Fix

by Suzanne Lenzer

I want to be in Paris right now. It’s a craving I’ve had for the past couple weeks and one I don’t seem to be able to shake. However, with no immediate travel plans in my future, this rather severe case of Paris-in-the-Springtime blues requires an outlet. Which is how I found myself attempting to bake my first batch of macarons earlier this week.

Yes, I know I promised macaroons last week after the eggless adventure, so I’ll talk about those too, but a true French macaron is what I’ve been yearning for of late. One of the lovely meringue sandwich cookies with rich ganache filling in the middle; the kind that sit seductively in Patisserie windows and beckon you off the street with their curvy shapes and bubblegum colors. That was the sweet treat that I had decided would magically transport me across the Atlantic, or at least allow me to pretend I was there.

So imagine my anguish when, in the midst of researching how to make a truly authentic French macaron (or at least a reasonably passable one), I learned that that last week was the official Macaron Day in France!  Yes, March 20th was le Jour du Macaron. And if you ask me, the fact that they have a day dedicated to a cookie is just one more reason to adore France.

But I digress. After discovering that I had missed le Jour de Macaron, I was even more committed to making macarons, and so my quest began. After reading up on the various techniques and approaches I settled on David Lebovitz’s version.  If you don’t know of David, he’s an brilliant pastry chef and cookbook writer, one who spent a solid twelve years in the kitchen at Chez Panisse and who, I figured, would have sussed out a macaron worth making. He has.

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His recipe won my heart for a couple of reasons: first, it’s chocolate. Chocolate macarons are supposedly quite difficult to make, but his version sounded very accessible. He also had tested the recipe something like seven times, which made me feel confident in his results. Finally, while admitting that every French chef has tricks and words of wisdom when it comes to making the perfect macaron, David had dispensed with much of the myths and lore and written a recipe that didn’t require “aging eggs” or folding the whites exactly 373 times. In other words, a recipe that didn’t scare me off—and one that shouldn’t scare you.

Now I’ll admit macarons aren’t exactly for the first-time baker, but they’re not as finicky (in my very brief experience) as I’d been led to believe. The two notes I’d offer if you choose to try David’s recipe are this: be sure to use Dutch cocoa powder (it matters!) and consider doubling your cookie trays so the cookies don’t crack (my first batch did until I took his sage advice and doubled up).

So as the holidays approach, consider trying your hand at a true French macaron. Or, take the easier (albeit no less delicious) route and make macaroons, the traditional chewy, coconut cookie that’s also got a bit of a French thing going on. This recipe I’ve tweaked over the years to get it to just the sweetness and consistency I like. But I can’t take credit for the fabulous form I now mold these little gems into. Once again, this precious addition comes from France, and specifically, from Clotilde Dusoulier at Chocolate & Zucchini. Her suggestion to mold the macaroons into delicate pyramids may not make them taste any better, but somehow it does make them just a bit more special.

So if like me you’re in the mood for a bit of a French twist, put on some Madeleine Peyroux or Edith Piaf and make some macarons–or macaroons. Either will bring you just a little bit closer to Paris.

Coconut Macaroons

Makes about 12 cookies

2 medium egg whites

1 1/2 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes

1/4 cup sugar, more or less to taste

A good pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine the egg whites, coconut, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and mix it all together with a fork. Depending on the size of your eggs, the mixture may feel a bit too moist, if so, add some more coconut until you have a consistency that’s easy to work with.

3. Scoop out rounded tablespoonfuls of the mixture and shape them into pyramids with your fingers and put them directly on the prepared baking sheet; you may have to wet your hands between cookies to keep the mixture from sticking. Use a butter knife to smooth the sides if you like. (If you don’t feel like making pyramids, balls work fine).

4. Bake the macaroons for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until they’re nicely golden along the edges. Cool and serve.

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One Response to “Amuse Bouche™: Weekly Musings on Food & Life”

  1. 1 artsetoile

    Fabulous post Suzanne! I can relate to your Paris in the springtime blues and can’t wait to try Chocolate & Zucchini’s recipe for macarons and your recipe for coconut macaroons – delicieux! xo


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