Atlantic Unbound | November 14, 2002
[From The Pleasures of Slow Food, by Corby Kummer]

Elisabeth Prueitt
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 bread.

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 cup (4 ounces) sliced almonds, toasted

2 egg whites

2/3 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

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.

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 200F and bake for another 45 minutes.

Copyright © 2002 by Corby Kummer. All rights reserved.