One million macarons a year. That’s a lot of macarons.
That’s what the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group’s bakeries made last year.
The local Bouchon Bakery in Yountville was responsible for 300,000, a task pastry chef Janine Weismann admits is daunting. “We make them every day but Monday, and we have to rotate the task so the cooks don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome,” she said.
Let’s get one thing straight right away: A macaroon (mac a rune) is a “haystack” moist coconut candy. A macaron (mac a rone) is a confection of two light meringue cookies made with almond flour forming a sandwich with a butter cream or other filling.
They come in a wide and rotating variety of flavors, some seasonal. The cookies themselves may be tinted or flavored, and the filling can be a ganache, butter cream, caramel, curd, jam or other concoction — even hazelnut like Nutella.
The most popular flavor here is a green pistachio, she said, although almonds challenge that flavor in New York.
The cookies are made from egg whites, sugar and almond flour, so are gluten-free. You can buy almond flour in some local markets like Whole Foods, but Bouchon buys its almond flour from Napa Nuts, a Napa company that sells products to the public at attractive prices. It also sells online at NapaNuts.com. “It’s wonderful store,” Weismann said.
The almond meal sold at Trader Joe’s is coarser, but you can grind it with the powdered sugar in a food processor to make it finer.
Bouchon makes its cookies using the Italian method of preparing meringue, which calls for heating sugar syrup and adding it to whipped egg whites. It makes a more consistent and stable product. The French method whips sugar into egg whites.
Cocoa powder or pistachio flower is added to the cookie dough. The raspberry cookies are only tinted pink with the flavor coming from raspberry jam that Bouchon makes. It’s surrounded by their raspberry cream. The hazelnut version is flavored with Bouchon’s take on Nutella.
A few drops of lemon oil flavor the lemon macarons, while the caramel flavoring comes from Italian Gelato Co. “Everything is natural,” emphasizes Weismann.
The staff members pipe the batter onto parchment sheets over a template for uniformity; they make so many in New York that they have a dedicated machine to form the cookies. The cookies don’t expand or rise very much.
Bouchon will also make special flavors, colors and decorations, which are especially popular for weddings, Weismann said. “We can even airbrush and decorate them.”
It even makes towers for holidays to special order.
The bakery bakes special flavors for major holidays, including Valentine macarons with sayings on them and yellow eggs with confetti on them for Easter. Those, however, contain cake so they aren’t gluten-free.
Weismann manages the Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Her title, “chef,” means “chief,” not “cook.”
She celebrates five years at Bouchon Bakery in April; she previously was at the French Laundry, Vidalia restaurant and the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C. She graduated from Johnson & Wales, the famed culinary school, studying both in Providence, R.I., and Miami.
Bouchon makes the delectable confections in two sizes, one at 2.6 inches in diameter, which sells for $3.50 each, and one a mini macaron sold in boxes of six for $16.