For the manner in which men live is so different from the way in which they ought to live, that he who leaves the common course for that which he ought to follow will find that it leads him to ruin rather than safety.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Flour Power: macarons

Been talking about horsepower a lot lately. Time for some flour power. Earlier this year I picked up the Bouchon Bakery cookbook from Thomas Keller. As a challenge to myself I wanted to learn more about French baking. To me, the French have it nailed. Their bakery cannot be topped.
Bouchon is one of the top bakeries in the country (if not THE top bakery). Who better to learn from? I've come to the conclusion that Mr. Keller's bakers are actually an ancient coven of witches and sorcerers. That is the only way I can explain the nearly three inch wide macarons that they make. It HAS to be witchcraft!
As a baker (I'm good...but not a pro), I don't mess up very many recipes. Macarons are the only recipe that I have failed three times on. The previous record is two. On my fourth attempt, which was yesterday, I finally had success. They aren't perfect, but they were good enough for me to say I got it. Plenty of tweaking to do yet, but I'm getting there now.
I hadn't planned on tackling macarons just yet. Back in September, I visited some friends in Oakland and a few of us took the drive up to Yountville so that I could make my pilgrimage. After having what is simply the best tasty treats I've ever had in my life, I was determined to give the infamous macaron a try.
I'm not giving away all of the recipe...nor all of the process. That cookbook has a copyright, after all.
Meringue is the key. Beat the hell out of those eggs. And when the recipe says to get your sugar water to 248 MEANS 248 degrees! Gotta hit that number. That spoon is standing up all on its own, that meringue is about as stiff as I think I can make it. It's also super rich. You won't use all of it either. Actually, you'll make 3-4 times the amount that you need for the cookies.

This is the first pan of cookies. I just about got these ones perfect. I downsized closer to the traditional 1 inch size. One day, when I become a sorcerer, I'll learn how to make the giant ones that they make at Bouchon.

An assembled vanilla macaron with French buttercream in the middle.
For those of you who may be gluten free, these are the cookies for you. They are made with almond flour instead of wheat flour. However, if you're watching your sugar intake, you're out of luck. They have enough sugar to send you to the moon and back.
For the other home bakers out there...if you enjoy French bakery, the Bouchon book is great. There's a lot more than just recipes in there. It's basically a technical manual for the kitchen. Even better than that, if you find yourself in that part of California, take the drive, it's worth it. Just walking up to the bakery will make you hungry; the smell drifts quite a way down the street.

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