In keeping with my overachieving, Type A ways that I developed years ago as a student, I’ve been making my way steadily through a variety of culinary memoirs as “homework” for my Queens Eats column.
The latest offering that I devoured was decidedly the best of the current crop, David Lebovitz’s “The Sweet Life in Paris.” Following the death of his partner, Lebovitz, a San Francisco-based pastry chef, decided to give his life a reboot and moves to the City of Light. Chock full of recipes and humorous observations about the denizens of his adopted city, Lebovitz’s book is like the macarons that he writes about: light, tasty and pleasant to consume.
One of my favorite chapters in the book deals with Lebovitz’s encounters with Paris’s ubiquitous bousculeurs, which is translated to those who push abruptly in all directions. In his quest to blend in with the natives, he eventually begins to walk into people without apologizing and actually finds himself treated with more respect for doing so.
Naturally, this week’s culinary adventure began with my quest to find authentic macarons in Manhattan. So, on Sunday, my fellow culinary forager and I headed to the Madison Avenue outpost of the Macaron Café, a quaint, charming café filled with the said treats in flavors ranging from caramel to lavender honey.
The lavender honey macarons were my favorite - they imparted a distinctive flavor that had just the right amount of assertiveness. With its colorful paintings, cozy black leather booths and French accented counter staff, I would recommend Macaron Café if you’re in the mood for a sweet French cookie.
Although I haven’t made it myself yet, I’m including Lebovitz’s recipe for Chocolate Macarons. Given what I know of his recipes that I have tried, I trust his judgment.
Macarons Au Chocolate (Chocolate Macaroons)
(Source: The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz)
Makes 15 Cookies
For the Cookies
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup almond flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the Chocolate Filling
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon salted or unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have ready a pastry bag with a plain tip (about ½ in.)
2. To make the cookies, grind together the powdered sugar, almond power or sliced almonds, and cocoa in a blender or food processor until there are no lumps and all the dry ingredients are fine and powdery.
3. In a bowl of a standing electric mixer or by hand, beat the egg white until they begin to rise and hold their shape. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about two minutes.
4. Carefully fold the ingredients into the beaten egg whites in two or three batches with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag.
5. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets in one-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon of batter each) evenly spaced one inch apart. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the countertop to flatten the cookies a bit, then bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until they feel slightly firm. Let cool completely.