Monday, November 21, 2011

Les Petits Macarons: The Book Party!

On an uncharacteristically balmy November night under the glow of a nigh full moon a party was held to celebrate a new book on one of my favorite topics: macarons. We gathered in a candlelit room filled with the heady scent of freshly baked breads and pasties at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) to give Les Petits Macarons by Chef-instructor Kathryn Gordon and Anne E McBride a proper welcome to the world of cookbooks. Though the book came out October 4th I was waiting to buy my copy and have it signed by the authors at the party. The invitation promised plenty of macarons and champagne- which was just what I got! Since its release the book has been receiving some high praise for superior comprehensiveness. As a macaron book connoisseur I must say I agree with this proclamation. I have a handful of books which are all good in their own right but this book is the most extensive in its exploration of the macaron in addition to being visually stunning. 

Not only do you get the detailed basics on how to make almond (that is to say unflavored) shells in the French, Italian, Swiss and "Kathryn's Easiest French Macaron" styles you also get a variety of ways to flavor the shells for both sweet and savory macs. Think your basic vanilla and rose but also ancho chile, saffron and wasabi. The variety doesn't stop with the shells either. The many filling choices include the typical buttercreams, ganaches, caramels and jams but also a chai flavored ganache, popcorn pastry cream, oatmeal cookie buttercream, a few ice milks, then things like chile-pineapple-kumquat marmalade and S'mores! Finally the amazing savory fillings: hummus, tomato confit, chicken mole and even foie gras with black currant gastrique, and more! This is the ultimate macaron lover's cookbook! The combinations are endless and exciting. 

Fortunately for me, as a party guest, I was able to sample some of these flavor combinations at ICE. My favorites were the foie gras and the cocoa nibs. The foie gras was being seared at the macaron table- what more could a francophile ask for?! Oh yes, champagne, which was flowing! The crowd was a mix of ICE faculty, staff, alumni and students and macaron enthusiasts like myself. I was lucky enough to be invited to the party by Anne sometime after our meeting on Fashion's Night Out (the night I met François Payard- another macaron master!). She and I had a little time to catch up and talk macs but I also got to meet Kathryn for the first time. She had a nice, relaxed way of about making macarons, especially to someone who has yet to master them. When I told her I had been in the habit of grinding my own almonds from unpeeled nuts she said it "just makes them more rustic!" They are both lovely women with a shared passion for these well-loved French confections! 

I have baked macarons from the book three times so far (tomorrow's post will give you more details as well as a giveaway of a signed copy of Les Petits Macarons!). I would recommend buying this book before you buy any of the other books on the market for a few reasons (my other preferred macaron book is Mad About Macarons! by Jill Colonna- this was published in the UK and is less available in stores in the US). In addition to being all encompassing of macaron styles, the variety of flavors savory and sweet and a well-rounded guide to troubleshooting there are a few points made in the book I have yet to see elsewhere. First, instead of leaving the macarons out on the counter to form their skin Kathryn and Anne have you dry the shells in the oven at 200ᵒ for 15 minutes. This makes for a controlled environment to dry the shells and also cuts the resting time in half (or more, depending on your kitchen atmosphere). I like that they give a history of macarons in the beginning of the book. The "anatomy of a macaron" is a helpful photo and detail about the qualities a macaron should have, this is helpful since there will be plenty of people making/eating macarons for the first time from this book (page 15). I look forward to spending a lot of time with this book to perfect my macaron making art and trying all the delicious flavors!

Overall its a really great book. You should definitely take the time to read through the first 5o pages before you make your first batch. And follow the instructions! It will only make for better macarons in the end. Happy macaronning! 
Both Anne and Kathryn recommend watching the videoLes Petits Macarons Video
Their website: Les Petits Macarons
The Facebook Page (share your macaron photos here!): Les Petits Macarons on Facebook
Now for some party shots!: 

The plentiful macaron spread
Cocoa Nibs
Seared Foie Gras and Black Currant Gastrique Macaron
Carrot Cake macarons with Gold Leaf
Tomato Confit with Black Sesame


Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

Congratulations on the launch of the book. That looked a great launch party: lucky things with Champagne, too! Cheers.

The Culinary Librarian said...

Thanks for the comment Jill! This book and yours are my absolute macaron favorites! Another post on actually making them is on the way tomorrow!

Hali Bey said...

My friend just bought this, I should have told her to wait for your give away!

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