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The Sweet Life

August 16, 2010

It’s not the taste of sweets so much that I adore, it’s really their beauty that makes me drool. I’ve been sneaking peeks at too many baking blogs lately — you know, the ones that highlight a treat a day with photographs of pastries stacked on glass plates, cookies sitting next to cool glasses of milk with condensation dripping down the side and cupcakes wrapped in a soft glow. These pictures always get to me, and as a result I set out to the kitchen to try to make something beautiful to match.

I’ve tried my hand at the simple things like cookies, cupcakes and pies with tasty, yet visually lacking results. Now I’ve become fascinated with some of the other treats that abound. The Parisian style treats. Ones that are dainty and colors of soft pastels. The ones that look at home in a sweet bakery box, not a Tupperware container. I wanted to start giving some new treats a try, and decided to start with the easiest of them — the French method of making crispy, featherweight meringue.

I tried, but with disappointing results.

I mean, they look fine and all (but for the cracking). And, frankly, I think they taste the way a meringue should. But they just aren’t my style. Too much sugar, which is too bad because I love so much about them.

I love that two tiny egg whites can build to accommodate over a cup of sugar. I love the science that it takes to get them just right — that balance of the ingredients, the heat and humidity and how these two factors play together to get a perfectly delicate center. I also love that they bake slowly for hours with a wooden spoon set in the oven door to take a bit of the heat edge off. With two ingredients, these are so simple, yet kind of complicated. For that reason I really want to be head over heels for them and make batches for my friends. But I’ve tried a bite here and there and they just taste like lightly warmed sugar. I know. I know. Anything that tastes like warmed sugar seems like it should be amazing, but I think warmed butter might be more my style. Maybe some galletes should be my next attempt at something new?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. maryannk permalink
    August 16, 2010 7:55 pm

    Ooohhh,I love those little meringues and I’ll bet yours are just great. We eat them a lot here with berries and cream… sorta takes the edge off the sweetness. But I could probably eat them on their own!

    I love French pastries as well, sigh, probably partly because they all look so impossible. I mean, do you actually know anyone who can do their own puff pastry danishes and croissants? When we were in Paris, I saw loads of these gorgeous little cookies called Macaroons, which confused me because of the standard coconut kind I was used to. WEll, I’m sorry to say I didn’t even TRY one while I was there and I’m a bit afraid to try making them because I’ve never tasted one… so if you feel adventurous, I think you should bake these!

    http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/french-macaroons

    • Claire permalink
      August 16, 2010 8:18 pm

      Oh! I’ve been looking at that exact recipe. So delicate and lovely. You’ve convinced me. That’s next up! Also, I have a bowl full of berries in the fridge I might have to use to take the edge off the meringue. Mmm. This might just work. Thanks, Maryann.

  2. Patti permalink
    August 17, 2010 3:56 am

    I was just going to comment on how you should make French Macaroons, because those are my favorites cookies ever on this planet! I too am hypnotized by the beauty of pastries (especially French ones) and that is why I have dessert books only in French just to gaze at the pictures. I tried to make French Macaroons once and they turned out not to be very airy but flat, but then again I suck at things like yeast and egg whites. Send a batch my way! PS. try Madelines as those are very buttery!

  3. maryannk permalink
    August 17, 2010 8:36 pm

    If you’re serious, I found these links and recipes on one of my favorite blogs…http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/09/making_french_macarons.html

    The Madelines are a good idea too. 🙂

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