That very unique time of year is upon us once again—yes, holiday season prep time. If you’re looking to kick it up a notch this holiday season I would highly recommend choosing one of the delectable morsels from French pastry chef François Payard’s new cookbook “Payard Cookies.”
These are not just your run-of-mill recipes—these are Old World recipes steeped in family and cultural traditions, many learned from Payard’s father and grandfather.
Payard, the owner of FP Pâtisserie and François Payard Bakery, was pastry chef at Le Bernardin and Daniel.
“Payard Cookies” has just over 100 recipes, and about two-thirds are accompanied by photos—a good ratio. And there are extensive tips not only in the recipe instructions but also in the preamble to each recipe, so they should be read carefully.
The introduction gives a lot of information about the utensils for baking desserts—everything from why you should have silicone spatulas, to tips on piping cookie dough, and making use of offset metal spatulas.
In the section on ingredients, Payard discusses shopping for the best, as well as making your own, like homemade candied citrus peel. Two huge pluses are the shortlist of easy-to-find ingredients and the simplicity of the instructions. Most recipes have no more than five or six steps.
The book also has a Resources section listing businesses that offer ingredients and equipment that might not be at your local supermarket. Not many cookbooks offer this feature.
One of the few places where the book falls short is in not offering alternative methods to using appliances. Many home cooks and bakers do not have food processors or stand mixers, and it would be a good idea to offer alternative methods to mixing ingredients.
Another feature this book doesn’t have is prep and baking times for each recipe. You’ll have to read carefully to find out how much time you’ll need before you start. Take the Mini Cannelé recipe—once the batter is ready it needs to sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours before you can start baking.
The first recipe I tested was the Mini Cannelés. This was a huge hit with my friend. He loved the rich custard-like filling and the crunchy exterior. My next-door neighbor and his wife couldn’t get enough. His brother-in-law liked how sweet they were without being over-the-top and really liked the soft centers.
The other recipe I tested was the Bâton Maréchaux (“marshals’ batons” in French). These were as light as air and yet crunchy at the same time, due to the almond and sugar topping and the almond slices mixed into the cookie dough. My friend’s first comment was, “They’re not buttery.” He was expecting a buttery taste, since in his experience cookies are buttery. But this did not stop him from having another, and once he got over the no-butter issue, he said they were really good. He liked the chocolate coating and the added crunch from the almond and sugar topping.
These are two recipes I am happy to say will now become part of my own repertoire for entertaining and for whenever I feel like a treat.
Over the coming weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and the holidays, I will be featuring other delectables from the book for you to try.
Mini Cannelés Recipe
It’s easy to become obsessed with cannelés. They have a very unique texture, with a thick and crispy crust and a chewy, almost custardy inside, and an unparalleled flavor, thanks in no small part to a healthy dose of rum in the batter. They are traditionally made in copper molds coated with beeswax, which also contributes to their mystique, since they require specialty equipment. But I’ve found that they also work well made in silicone molds, which are less expensive and often more convenient, so feel free to use those here instead. They won’t be quite as crunchy, but will be close enough. The batter needs to rest overnight so that the flour can relax, so plan ahead, while the finished cannelés are best eaten the day they are made. When you look for cannelé molds, buy the mini size (which are about 1 3/4 inches wide). If you make them full size, which are two and half to three times bigger, bake them for 60 to 75 minutes. If your mold is too small to bake all of the batter at once, don’t worry; it can stay refrigerated for up to a week.
Makes about 40 mini cannelés
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 grams) whole milk
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons (45 grams) dark rum, such as Myers’s
2 tablespoons (30 grams) pure vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the milk, bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn off the heat.
Whisk together the sugar and flour in a large bowl. Whisk the egg and egg yolks into the sugar mixture, then whisk in the milk mixture until everything is well combined. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, whisk in the rum and vanilla, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
If using copper molds, heat them in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they are hot. This step is not necessary with silicone molds. Liberally grease the molds with butter, cooking spray, or food-grade beeswax, doing so more generously if using copper molds. Arrange the molds on a baking sheet.
Stir the batter and transfer it to a large measuring cup or pitcher, which will make it easier to pour into the molds. Fill the molds three-quarters full, then let the batter rest in the molds for 1 hour at room temperature. This will allow the flour to settle at the bottom so that the cannelés don’t rise too much when baking, giving them their cake-like, spongy texture.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the cannelés reach a deep golden brown color. Remove the molds from the oven and turn them over onto a wire cooling rack. Let the cannelés cool in the molds upside down on the rack, which keeps them from sinking and becoming dense. When cool, unmold them. Serve immediately, or store them in an airtight container for up to 1 day.
Bâtons Maréchaux Recipe
These were my dad’s favorite cookies because they are so full of flavor and texture, between the almonds inside and the crunch of almonds, sugar, and chocolate that covers them. And of course based on his preferred way to eat cookies, because they are perfect with ice cream. Their name means “marshals’ batons,” probably because a maréchal de France receives a baton when being singled out for exceptional military distinction. It’s a classic cookie, sometimes made just with almonds, but my dad mixed his with raw sugar for additional crunch in the coating. The cookie dough itself also contains almonds. You can coat them with dark or milk chocolate.
Makes about 100 cookies
3/4 cup (60 grams) sliced almonds
5 tablespoons (60 grams) plus 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon (4 grams) cream of tartar or 2 teaspoons (10 grams) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon (10 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (140 grams) coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup (100 grams) turbinado sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw
8 ounces (240 grams) chocolate, melted
Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor, mix the sliced almonds with 5 tablespoons (60 grams) of the granulated sugar.
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar or lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk on medium speed until medium to firm peaks form. Slowly sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar over the egg whites and continue whisking until they form stiff peaks. (To ensure you have reached stiff peaks, stop the mixer and lift the whisk from the bowl; if the peaks that form stay pointed, the whites are ready.) Remove the bowl from the mixer and, with a silicone spatula, fold in the flour and the almond-sugar mixture.
Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round pastry tip. You can also just cut a 1/4-inch opening into the tip of the pastry bag.
Pipe the mixture onto the lined baking sheets in 3-inch strips, not pressing down too much so that the cookies stay as close to 1/4 inch wide as possible. They will spread a bit when baking. Sprinkle the tops with the chopped almonds and turbinado sugar. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies turn a light golden brown color.
Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on the baking sheet. Turn them upside down so that the almonds are on the bottom, and with a small offset spatula or a spoon, spread a thin layer of melted chocolate onto the backs of the cookies. Leave them on the baking sheet in a cool, dry place until the chocolate is completely firm, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week, with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper in between each layer.
“Payard Cookies” by François Payard, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30. Recipes & Photography from PAYARD COOKIES by Francois Payard. Copyright © 2015 by Francois Payard. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.