On Friday night, the Cuban and I watched “Kings of Pastry” on NetFlix. It’s a documentary following some of France’s top pastry chefs as they prepare for and compete in the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best Craftsman in France – “MOF” for short) competition. It is the ultimate recognition for any pastry chef and it only comes around once every four years.
“Forget MasterChef. This is the culinary Hurt Locker.” – the Herald Scotland
I’m not a huge documentary watcher, but there was French pastry involved so I made an exception for this:)
It was absolutely fascinating.
The hours, and days, and YEARS of painstaking work put into something like – well, sugar.
Something that could shatter into a million pieces with one wrong move.
One pastry chef’s wife made it blatantly clear that their marriage was on the line, pending the outcome of the competition. She had already lost 8 years to his pastry affair – 4 years for the first competition, and 4 more for this one. (He was not chosen….wonder what happened to them…)
The oddest thing happened while we were watching it.
During a scene while one of the chefs teaches a student how to pipe French macarons, he said,
“I bet I could do that.”
I shot one of my classic, hell-freezing looks across the couch.
“Yeah right. Do you know how hard macarons are? It takes FOR-EVARRR to perfect them. Believe me, I’ve tried.” I hoped that would scare him off the idea.
Saturday afternoon, he disappeared for several hours. He returned home with bags from Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods. Hmmm.
“Why is there a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Blanched Almond Flour sitting on the counter?” I wondered.
“Hey do you have a piping bag?”
Oh no. No he was not. There was no way. You can’t just decide – on a whim, because you saw it on TV – “Oh, hey I’m gonna make French macarons.” WHO DOES THAT?!
Who, I might add, just produced THIS:
I am in total disbelief, but also REALLY STINKIN’ PROUD of him right now:) LOOK AT THAT! It is damn near perfect! And the second batch – in the oven now – looks even better than the first. Almost all of them have a perfectly smooth, shiny eggshell-like surface and the little ruffled “feet” on the bottoms.
I have made some seriously fugly macarons in my time. More bad than good as a matter of fact. A few years ago when I just had a food blog and baked ALL the time (using white flour, white sugar, pulling absolutely no punches for “healthy” or “fat loss”), these were all the rage in the food blogosphere. I spent HOURS researching and studying.
I mean, look at this stuff:
Raspberry Mascarpone Macarons from Tartelette – I tried to make these and my kitchen looked like the set of a Quentin Tarantino movie, everything stained red from the powdered food coloring.
French Chocolate Macarons from David Lebovitz – The only macaron recipe that ever worked for me.
Fads Aside, the Perfect French Macaron is Timeless – NYTimes.com
But it seemed like the more I researched and the more obsessed I became with perfecting them, the worse they got. I gave up and haven’t tried making them in years, deciding it wasn’t worth the frustration and that I would leave it to the pastry chefs of the world.
And maybe that is the secret here.
That you should just wake up one day and decide, “I am going to make French macarons” and do it. Just like that. With no fear or second guessing and without holding your breath. Without reading 10 different opinions on how to make them perfect.
He whipped up a bowl of espresso buttercream and is sandwiching the macarons together now. My only addition here is to give everything a light dusting of cocoa powder, to make it pretty:)
“It doesn’t have to be pretty.”
Okay, maybe I can teach him ONE thing about French macarons:)