Atlantic Unbound | November 14, 2002
[From The Pleasures of Slow Food, by Corby Kummer]
San Francisco, California
lisabeth Prueitt is a
marvelously talented pastry chef. Together with her husband, Chad
Robertson, the attractive couple runs what many people—people
like Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli, whose opinions are
revered—consider to be the best bakery in the Bay Area. It has
the kind of loaf that can inspire cross-country pilgrimages by people
already persuaded that the Bay Area has the country's best
Chad Robertson fusses over his sourdough starters and seven kinds of
custom-milled flour for his superb, not-too-sour country bread, with
its infinitely flavorful crust born of the wood-fired oven he built
and lovingly tends. It was Alan Scott, the guru of building
wood-fired ovens in America, who first brought the Texas-born Chad to
California. Chad had met Elisabeth, who began as an acting student,
in a pastry class at the Culinary Institute of America; their names
followed each other on the class roster, so they worked at the same
wooden board. Dustings of flour led to showerings of rice, though it
took a while.
Elisabeth fusses over pastry, experimenting constantly with new
techniques and ingredients. She has June Taylor's love of craft and
dedication to absolutely fresh, organically raised fruit, and Paul
Bertolli's desire to study and surpass European traditions.
Completely addictive, these crisp and crunchy almond meringues are
also very easy to make. Once you taste them, you'll want to have a
supply on hand at all times, but it's something of a challenge to
make enough to last longer than, say, an evening and the next morning.
Makes 28 to 30 cookies
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a food processor, pulse the
almonds to a coarse grind, or use a rolling pin to break them into
1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.
1 cup (4 ounces) sliced almonds, toasted
2 egg whites
2/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2. In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Beat
until frothy. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar until stiff,
glossy peaks form. Fold in the almonds until blended.
3. Immediately put the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a No. 6
or No. 7 plain round pastry tip.
4. On a baking sheet, pipe out "kisses" about 1 1/4 inches at the
base, with a peak about 2 inches high. Leave a 1/2-inch space between
each cookie. If you don't have a pastry bag, make small rounds by
dropping spoonfuls of the meringue onto the baking sheet.
5. Put the rochers in the oven, leaving the oven door slightly ajar.
Bake until slightly puffed but still moist inside, about 15 minutes.
If the tops start to brown too much, put a sheet of parchment paper
or aluminum foil on top.
NOTE: Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. If kept
longer, they will dry out completely, but they will still be
delicious, and some people prefer them crunchy. To make dry rochers,
reduce the oven temperature to 200°F and bake for another 45
Copyright © 2002 by Corby Kummer. All rights reserved.