Kouing-amann, Half-and-Half Macarons and an Afternoon in Alencon

So in we went and out we came, kouing-amann in hand.  By the time we crossed the street, the butter was already making a little patch on the waxy bag.  But it didn’t matter because we weren’t going to need the bag for long.  We sat on a bench on the street, took a few bites and sighed and sighed.  “Go back and tell the chef how good the kouing-amann is.  Go back,” urged Michael.  Michael doesn’t speak French (although beware – he understands just about everything), but you don’t have to speak French to have the right idea and it’s always the right idea to acknowledge work really well done. 

jacky pedro and his oven.jpg

Because the shop had only just opened after the lunch break, it was the chef who’d sold us the kouing-amann and the chef who was there to accept our compliments.  Well, one thing led to another and before we all knew it we had spent an hour together.  The chef’s name is Jacky Pédro and he’s a third generation pastry chef.  If you stop by the shop, look at the pictures of young Jacky with his father and grandfather.  Here he is, in front of the oven, which, no surprise, I fell in love with immediately.  It’s the only oven in Pédro’s kitchen.

pedro's macarons.jpg

While Michael and I were in the kitchen with Chef Pédro we nibbled our way through his specialties, including his caramel au beurre salé (soft salted-butter caramel), a cookie made by piping langue du chat batter into a small ring and then filling the center with nut-caramel, and these macarons.  The macarons interested me because you can consider them a hybrid sweet.  They are part old-fashioned macarons, like the ones made in Nancy or, my favorites, the ones made by Mme. Blanchez in Saint-Emilion, and part modern, very Parisian macarons.  Like the old-time macarons, they have almond paste and are a bit chewy, and like the new macarons, they also have whipped egg whites and ground almonds and a little crunch in the shell.

Our hour together was such a lovely and unexpected interlude and another lesson in how food – and my husband’s good advice – can lead to sweet adventures.