I've never had a problem with the French. Being an American citizen, I am vaguely aware that there is some sort of obligation to hold a grudge against the people of France. But I figure that our cultural differences boil down the fact that Americans and French are self-involved in a way that doesn't overlap well. In any case, I thank my lucky stars that I was abroad in the era of "freedom fries." What a bullshitty insult. The French don't even call them French Fries, rather the more apt (for their language, at least) Pommes Frites.
In fact, as a connoisseur of carbohydrates, I quite like the French and all they have done in the kitchen. O, Culinary Gods of the Land of Liberté, égalité, fraternité, thank you for buttery goodness and the like. And while I'm on an homage kick... O, sweet sweetness of the proverbial Sweet Tooth. My dentist gives thanks to you. My waistline does not.
In any case, I decided to channel my newest obsession--checking shit out from the Library-- into my ongoing obsession with baking cookies. For good measure, I also combined my waxing and waning obsession with PBS, home of my favorite cooking show (sans Julia et Jacques or Yan Can Cook), America's Test Kitchen by checking out its cookbook, The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.
But what's with this France business, you ask?
On page 192 is a recipe for French Sandwich Macaroons. I love Macaroons, particularly of the French and the Coconut variety. I look at the photograph on page 192 and the caption below says, "These French Macaroon Sandwich Cookies are well worth the effort it takes to make them and will even rival those you'll find in a French bakery."
"Oh, really?" I asked aloud skeptically. "As good?" I looked over the recipe. It wasn't as exciting as my more exotic macaroons from Portland's Pix Patisserie (the curry, pistachio and Fleur de Sel being my favorites), but it still sounded very tasty. I decided that I could probably make these cookies and it would be a lot less torturous than those evil Phonetician Walnut Cookies.
I turned out to be partially correct. I could make an approximation of the cookies pictured on page 192 and it would be a lot less torturous than those evil Phonetician Walnut Cookies.
Still, these cookies were a bitch. Not Hell and High-Water bitchy. More like Heck and Shoulders-Deep Water bitchy.
First of all, it required Almond Flour. When one bakes regularly, one learns that there are certain shortcuts not to be taken. If the recipe asked for Almond Flour, I was getting Almond flour. Luckily, I decided to pair this quest for Almond Flour with my "Minor Adventures" To Do List item #12, tour Bob's Red Mill.
The recipe also required some baking supplies I do not own. Namely, a pastry bag and (unbeknown to me for some odd reason) a food processor.
The pastry bag was a fiasco. In order to buy one pastry bag, one 1/2 inch plain nozzle and one screw top, I had to go to five different stores in four different corners of the city. Lame.
I tried to make due without a food processor by using the coffee grinder I'd received from Santa Claus. (Thanks, Santa!) Mixing almond flour and confectioners sugar by the two-tablespoon got very wearisome. I tried the blender, but my blender is of bottom shelf quality and is not good for much besides looking like a cheap blender. Nothing was working right and these cookies were turning out to be a pain in my tail feathers.
Eventually I went around and begged to the neighbors. The nice Italian lady didn't know what a food processor was or why I would want to use one. Luckily Upstairs Angela had a very nice one and was willing to loan it out. Dear Santa, I want one for next year.
Oh yes, I know it is oft mentioned, it bears repeating: Egg whites are persnickety bastards.
In any case. My cookies don't look or taste like the pros, and I almost set fire to my apartment building. Oops. Make sure your stove burners are off before getting lackadaisical with the parchment paper, kiddos!
The best of my cookies turned out like this:
I'd say my chemistry is off somewhere. Though they are still quite tasty.