Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gifts and Goodies - a recipe

First, a bit of background.   Albert Vieille is an essential oil and absolute producer in Grasse.  They started out almost 100 years ago, producing Neroli, since they were surrounded by groves of bitter oranges.  Today they supply many of our most rare and beautiful Absolutes - Rose de Mai,  Osmanthus, our Spanish Mountain Hay absolute, our Cistus and Labdanum.  Exquisite riches.   The sales rep I had been dealing with has left, and his replacement flew to the States to connect with some of his new clients.  Christophe came to Nashville to meet us and we had a delightful visit. (The ladies of Nature's Gift agreed that we would love to have him bronzed and keep him here on a shelf.  Not only was he as charming as a young Frenchman should be, but very handsome as well!)

He came bearing gifts - cookies from an artisan biscuitier in Vallauris.  Delicate cookies and macarons flavored with the Albert Vieille oils and absolutes. 

Bergamot, Rose, Orange,  Ground Hazelnuts, dark chocolate, Cinnamon,  Blood Orange, Lemon - delectable.   And Christophe cautioned me just a drop or two, very little.

Years ago, in the 60's and 70's, I was a huge fan of Julia Child. I have all of her "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" books, and for several years her almond macaroons were among the cookies I baked every year.  I haven't baked them for years, and I don't know why not...they are easy, and delicious when made according to her recipe. The only flavoring the almond paste and a touch of almond extract.  But I am thinking Rose and Almond,  or Bergamot and Almond, or organic sweet orange and almond, or a touch of almost any spice (nutmeg?) with almond.   
I dug out the old tattered recipe last evening.  In total honesty I have not yet made these yet; I am out of Almond Paste and need to do a grocery run.  But I will!

Julia Child's Macarons:
  •  8 oz Almond paste
  •  1 c  Sugar
  •  1/4 ts Almond extract
  •  1 pinch Salt
  •  2    Egg whites

      Cut canned almond paste into 1/2" pieces.  Process on and off in food processor until it's the texture of brown sugar.  Add sugar and blend. Add Extract, salt, and
      1/4 C egg white. Process until no lumps remain. The dough should not be stiff, but hold its mass on an inverted spoon.
      For a crisp shell and soft interior, add a bit more egg white up to the full 3/8 cup. (This is how I made them!)
      Beat in bowl with a wooden spoon until creamy and flexible.
      Line cookie sheet with brown paper.  Drop small blobs on the paper, leave room around them, they spread.  Smooth the tops. (Optional, at this point, you may decorate each with a
      sliver of glaceed cherry)
      Bake both cookie sheets at once in a 325 oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on size.  Switch position of cookie sheets after about 12 or 15 minutes. They are done when lightly golden browned and crusty.
      Let cool on paper.  When cool, turn paper up side down, dampen the back of the paper to release the macaroons. Dry on a rack for another 30 minutes. Then store airtight or freeze. 
When I made these in a previous lifetime I would occasionally dip 1/2 of each cookie in a chocolate glaze. That is most definitely not necessary.   
When I make them this time, I will add perhaps two drops of Bergamot, or a single drop of Rose to the food processer while processing the Almond Paste, to blend it thoroughly into the dough.
Since I no longer have brown paper grocery bags to bake them on, I will probably try using baking parchment.  I can't wait to experiment!


(I'm thinking, I may also make some meringues, with ground chocolate and ground pecans. They are one of my sons' favorites. What would happen if I were to whip a drop of EO into those egg whites?)

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/8th tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1/8th tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 3/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 C mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 C finely chopped Pecans
Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, salt and Vanilla (or substitute a drop or two of an appropriate essential oil... Peppermint?... Gradually add sugar while beating, until stiff peaks form.  Fold in nuts and chocolate bits.   Drop on a baking ship lined with brown paper. (Here we go again, more brown paper. Use Parchment!)  Bake in a slow oven (325 F) until dry.  Do not brown.    I use a baby spoon to shape these because I like *little* cookies. They seem fancier, and the recipe makes more.