June 11, 2019
Macarons are the epitome of French pastry, a real labor of love. These adorable meringue sandwiches have an ever so slight, almost soft, crunch on the exterior, a chewy center, and a filling that is bursting with flavor. Their smooth, puffy shells, ruffled feet and variety of colors make them a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
Macaron making is truly an art. It takes lots of trial and error and even when you think you’ve mastered it, try making them on a day when there’s a hint of humidity and you’ll really want to pull your hair out, but please don’t because lose hair in a kitchen cannot lead to anything good. If you see a recipe that says “fool proof” macaron recipe…it’s a lie, ALL LIES I TELL YOU! There is no such thing as a fool proof macaron recipe. It all depends on your equipment, weather, environment, and altitude. I was making the same macaron recipe for years and all of a sudden, I open a bakery with a new oven I’ve never used and I couldn’t get that recipe to work for the life of me! I threw away hundreds of macarons, as well as pieces of my soul, while trying to figure out the problem. I had to completely change my recipe to work with my new environment and new equipment. I have now dubbed myself Guru Macaron, jk, I still hate those b*%@#$.
Now, what is the process of making these little cherubs?
Macarons are made with almond flour and powdered sugar, finely ground and sifted together. A portion of egg whites are folded into the dry mixture to create a thick paste. A separate portion of egg whites, best aged for 3 days, and sugar are whipped together to create a meringue. This meringue will determine the stability of the macarons. It can be made either French or Italian style. French is heating the sugar and egg whites together over a double boiler, then whipped until stiff and glossy. The Italian method is making a sugar syrup, cooked to the proper temperature, that is then slowly poured into the egg whites while they are being whipped. The Italian method creates meringue that is more stable but it is also a little bit trickier. The meringue, once stiff and glossy, is folded into the almond flour paste mixture. This mixture is referred to as a macaronage. The fluidity of your macaronage is the key to properly piped macarons. One-fold to many and you have a soupy mess. One-fold too little and you get little pimples on your macarons that just won’t settle to create that smooth surface. So, being very careful when folding your meringue into the almond flour paste is of utmost importance.
What did I say? B*#$%@#, right?
Now, some people will say to rest the shells before baking to create a firm skin on top but we pop ours right in the oven after they’re piped, so you see what works best for you and do that. Now, you have your perfectly piped macarons in the oven, you’re eagerly watching them bake, but wait! Some of them are starting to crack or rising all lopsided! Deep breaths everyone, it’s going to be okay! Actually, no, there is no salvaging those shells but I think you’ll survive. You can use the pretty ones to wow friends, family and coworkers at your artistry. The ugly ones can be used to stuff your face as you wallow about all the costly almond flour and time that you wasted on them.
In the last year since I opened my patisserie, I have made around 30,000 shells. You’d think after making that many they would come out perfect every single time…. only in my dreams does that happen. I have yet to have one batch that doesn’t have a dud or two, or ten, but I’ve made my peace with it and am happy with my 98% success rate at this point. As my mother always said, “don’t cry over cracked shells”. Actually my mother never said that but if I become a mother that will be my saying, because spilt milk ain’t got nothin’ on cracked macaron shells.
So, next time you go to a bakery or pastry shop and wonder why those little cookies cost what they do, just think of the frustrating process, the costly ingredients and labor involved in their creation. Savor every last morsel of those gems because it would be a sin to let any of that go to waste.
Learning Our Espresso
March 25, 2019
Over a century ago, espresso burst onto the beverage scene by Angelo Moriondo (cue round of
applause). A lot of improvement to the espresso machine, the brewing process and determining what makes the perfect shot and we are left with the beautifully rich espresso we know and love. It’s the perfect balance of acidity, bitterness, with a hint of sweetness from that gorgeous layer of silky crema on top. Whether you like your espresso straight up, with a dollop of foam or just a hint of espresso with lots of perfectly steamed silky milk, there is room for all, so come join us! Since the Starbucksification of espresso, we are left with a muddled idea of what true espresso beverages should look like. While we at Greige love to be creative with unique desserts, we also like to stick to tradition when tradition doesn’t need to be improved upon such as the macaron, with its soft crunchy exterior, chewy center, and bevy of amazing fillings and colors to delight both the eye and the palate.
Now, let’s all bow our heads for a moment of silence for this heavenly pastry……….
Okay, moments over. You’ll just have to wait for our next post which will be about this delightful treat.
The tradition of the espresso is one we will not be altering. Although we are all familiar with the terms latte, macchiato, cappuccino, we most often are not served with the traditional form of these beverages. As with most American alterations, we have super-sized and sweetened these delicious beverages to death.
When looking at the espresso beverage menu at Greige, it may seem small. You won’t see a menu that will take an afternoon to read, but a short list of the classics. We serve the classic espresso drinks in their original form. You also won’t see a bevy of over processed syrups behind our counter because we make our syrups in house, vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, and caramel. We use real, high quality ingredients, so those specs you’ll see in your vanilla latte are not unidentified contaminants but real vanilla beans. Our chocolate syrup uses high quality Cacao Barry cocoa powder. We make our hazelnut syrup by roasting the raw hazelnuts and steeping all the luscious oils and flavors out. Our caramel syrup is two ingredients, sugar and water, the essence of caramel. Now we won’t be milking our own cows or roasting our own beans, as we leave that to our great WI farmers and local coffee connoisseur comrades at Anodyne, but whatever we can make ourselves, we will.
To prepare and inform you for what to expect when ordering espresso at Greige here is a little information about each beverage and how it will be served.
Do we really need to explain?
A latte is simply espresso with steamed milk. The ratio of espresso and milk can vary from café to café. Starbucks makes their grande and venti both with 2 shots of espresso but just more milk in a venti. We think that if you’re getting a bigger size, you should be getting more espresso. So, our twelve ounce has two shots espresso, sixteen ounce has three shots and a twenty ounce has four. So, if you wonder why our prices may be a little higher, you are getting more beans for your buck.
Macchiato literally translates to “stained” or “marked”, is a shot of espresso “stained” with a dot of milk, usually one to two teaspoons per shot, and a dollop of foam. At Greige you won’t find this served in the common twelve, sixteen, and twenty-ounce portions but a serving that is just under three ounces, two ounces of espresso with one tablespoon steamed milk and a dollop of milk foam.
Cappuccino is named because the color is similar to the gradation of color on the Capuchin Friars robes at the time of its creation, is 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foam. The cappuccino served at Greige will be two ounces espresso, two ounces steamed milk and equal volume of milk foam.
An Americano is simply espresso with hot water (or cold if you’re an icy individual). Most often if you ask for coffee in Europe this is what will be presented.
Embrace the Unique
Greige is unique and a place all its own so our espresso menu will follow suit. We love the simplicity of our espresso beverage offerings and hope you do as well. As Leonardo da Vince said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” These simple beverages will be the perfect complement to your morning breakfast pastry or evening dessert. So come on in and enjoy espresso the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
*Although the traditional beverages are served with milk or cream, we want to be as accommodating as possible for those of our friends who need allergy substitutions so we will be offering oat milk, almond milk, and soy milk substitutions for an additional charge.