This will be my contribution to our ongoing Saint Emilion series. This post is about food, so it naturally belongs to my expertise “department”.
So, picture it: Saint Emilion, July 2013. We were sitting in Patrick’s wine store, Stefano’s newest “wine friend” (more on Patrick and his wonderful wine store on Stefano’s future posts in this series) and, of course, we were tasting some wine. Getting slightly drunk and jumping from one subject to another, I ended up talking about food. Patrick asked me how I liked Saint Emilion’s macarons. I thought he was talking about those French round mini-cakes with a creamy filling, that the entire world has learned to know and love (by the way, I talked about “those” macarons on a previous post about Ladurée). It turned out I was mistaken, because Saint Emilion’s macarons have nothing to do with those paradisiac sweet sandwiches…
The recipe for Saint Emilion’s macarons was created by the nuns of a religious community founded in 1620. The recipe, which apparently is more secret than that of Coca Cola, has been passed on over the following centuries, eventually ending up in the hands of Madame Blanchez. Today, the only place where your can taste and buy “real” Saint Emilion macarons made according the nuns’ recipe is the Fabrique de Macarons, a store owned by Madame Nadia Fermigier, who is the “successor” of Madame Blanchez. And that store is exactly the place where I was heading to five minutes after Patrick told me the story of Madame Fermigier.
The store is small, yet incredibly charming. There was even a video showing how macarons are made. But what really struck me when I first got there was the smell. The smell was so outrageously good and inebriating that I had the impression to have stepped into a magical world where everything is alive. And then I saw them: the famous macarons. How can I describe their taste? That’s a tough one. They are delicious beyond words. Just to give you an idea, they reminded us of Italian amaretti – I beg our French readers not to get mad at me for this comparison!
I searched the Web and I saw that there are some Saint Emilion macaron recipes out there. I doubt that you will find the original one, however. I’m pretty sure Madame Fermigier protects her recipe at all cost and swore all her employees to the utmost secrecy. Anyway, if you decide to go for one of the Internet recipes or you are lucky enough to buy the original macarons from Madame Fermigier, you can either taste these small pieces of heaven by themselves or use them to make a gorgeous chocolate-based dessert known as “Saint-Émilion au Chocolat“, the recipe for which has been kindly published by our lovely friend and fellow blogger B on her blog.
But this is not all: the other sweet masterpiece that Patrick unveiled to me is the cannelés.
Cannelés are little French cakes with a dark, thick caramelized crust and a moist custard inside. There exist a few different legends about their creation. Of course, one of those legends has the nuns of a convent as its main characters – these French nuns were a hell of a baker, I say!!! ;-) Anyway, the only sure thing is that the recipe was created in the French region of Bordeaux. Indeed, according to some, the Bordeaux winemakers used to clarify their wine with egg whites (Stefano tells me that some still use egg whites as a fining agent today!) and the cannelés were created as a way to utilize the egg yolks.
When I was in Madame Fermigier’s store, I bought (for a small fortune, I might add…) the gorgeous copper molds the French bakers use to make cannelés. The only thing I’m missing now is the right recipe! I searched the Web and I went through a few of the recipes that I found. However, I would prefer to first try a recipe coming from a “friendly source”. So if any of you, dear readers, has a recipe for cannelés and is willing to share it or has already made a post about it, I would love to hear from you!
Well, that’s all for today: I hope you enjoyed this Saint Emilion pastry excursion! Back to you Stefano for the rest of the series and… à bientôt!