Over the summer, we visited Normandy in northern France in order to check a big to-do off Tex’s bucket list. Meanwhile, I found one of my favorite European towns—Bayeux. We stayed in an Airbnb right smack in the center of town, a few minutes’ walk from the stunning cathedral (built during the time of William the Conqueror).
Another highlight was getting to examine the 70 meter-long Bayeux Tapestry, which is actually an embroidery depicting scenes from William the Conqueror’s life and the Battle of Hastings. We learned that it was commissioned by the bishop of Bayeux (a Norman), but was most likely stitched by Saxons. So there are a few discrete jabs throughout the images at the Saxons’ Norman captors. It was a bit like reading the Sunday funnies! The tapestry is quite a beautiful work of art, one I could have studied for days.
Oh, and I also found one of my favorite sweet treats—the Saint Eve pastry. This pastry is a Bayeux specialty, and we were only able to find it at one bakery in town, which also happened to be quite established and popular with locals. Recipes for these things don’t exist online, or at least not that I could find. But I’ve been determined for some time to try making them. I was shocked at how delicious these turned out… They are ridiculously rich and sweet, but somehow I always feel like I want another, ha! The smooth, melt-in-your-mouth macaron in combination with the silky, cool buttercream and toffee-like crunch of the nougatine— it’s just too much goodness!
There are lots of steps and several particular instructions… So set aside a morning, turn up some bardcore, and start baking!
There are three different parts to this pastry: the macaron shell, the vanilla buttercream, and the nougatine for the buttercream and dusting. Below, you’ll find some notes regarding the trickier parts of the recipe and then the full recipe at the end.
Only 4 ingredients make up the actual macaron part. So as long as you follow the directions closely, they are not as difficult as you might think. For example, I almost opted to put the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture straight from the food processor into the batter, but I decided to go the extra mile and sift it. This made a big difference in the smoothness of the batter. From what I’ve read, the mixing of the dry mixture into the egg whites is the most precarious part. All I did was use a rubber spatula to gently fold the flour into the egg whites, by scraping the edge of the bowl and folding the egg whites up and over the flour, until the flour was fully incorporated. And one last note for the baking of these macarons—if the shells are still somewhat stuck to the parchment paper, they probably need to cook a bit longer.
The nougatine is fairly easy, and is also the one part you might be most inclined to skip… Please don’t! This brittle almond candy is what takes the St. Eve from being just another macaron to a truly gourmet French dessert. I had never tried a recipe where you cook dry sugar over the stove, but I was interested to try out this method. Sure enough, the sugar will eventually liquefy and become a thick dark syrup. It does take a bit of patience though. When you have rolled out the syrup between two sheets of parchment paper, give it just a minute to cool so that the top parchment paper peels easily off; but if you are going to cut it, try to do so while it is still warm and somewhat pliable. Finally, when grinding up the nougatine in the food processor, make it fine crumbles. It will be somewhat powdery, but you still want some small chunks to add texture.
And lastly, the buttercream! I chose to make a French buttercream for this recipe, which I’d never done before. And I was a bit surprised that it worked so well the first time. I highly recommend using a candy thermometer to determine when your sugar syrup is hot enough… something I didn’t have this time. So I eyeballed it and got lucky! Also, for whipping the eggs, I used my Kitchenaid whisk attachment and then switched to the beater attachment when I began adding butter. Do note that this recipe will make more nougatine and buttercream than you actually need for the macarons. But my philosophy is that I would always rather have too much filling/frosting/topping than too little!
Well, I think those are all my notes. I hope the pictures help provide a little more clarity about some of the specific instructions. With Valentine’s Day coming up, I’m thinking this would be the perfect treat for the one you love!
This recipe makes about 10 Saint Eve treats.
For the macarons:
- 3 egg whites (room temp)
- 1/3 c. granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
- 1 c. almond flour
For the nougatine:
- 1 1/4 c. white sugar
- Approx. 2/3 c. sliced or slivered almonds
For the buttercream:
- 1 c. white sugar
- 1/3 c. water
- 4 large egg yolks plus
- 2 large whole eggs
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 lb. unsalted butter (4 sticks)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean
1) Prepare a piping bag with a round tip, or snip a corner off a gallon Ziploc bag. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2) In a food processor or in a blender, combine the powdered sugar and almond flour and process on low until the mixture is fine. Sift the almond flour mixture through a sieve into a bowl.
3) Add room temperature egg whites into a separate bowl. Then on high speed beat until the eggs begin to foam. Continually beating, slowly add half the granulated sugar. And then, when soft peaks begin to form, add the rest of the sugar. Continue to beat just until stiff peaks form.
4) Add about half of the sifted mixture into the egg white mixture and gently fold in with a spatula. Once incorporated, add remaining flour mixture and continue to gently fold until well the mixture flows like honey.
5) Transfer the batter to the preparing piping bag. Pipe the batter into snail-like swirls forming about 2½ inch circles. Space the macarons about an inch apart.
6) Pick up the baking sheet and drop onto a flat surface. Repeat 3-4 times to release all air bubbles rotating the baking sheet.
7) Let the macaron shells sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the macarons shells form a glossy layer. (You will be able to run your finger along the top of the macaron smoothly and the batter won’t stick to your hand.) Preheat the oven to 325F.
8) Bake the macarons for about 15 minutes, until the macarons form feet and the shells don’t stick to the parchment paper.
9) Allow the macarons to cool before removing them from the parchment paper for easier removal. Transfer the macarons to a cooling rack to completely cool.
1) While the macarons are glossing over, line a metal baking sheet with parchment paper. Measure a second sheet of paper the same size and set aside along with a wooden rolling pin.
2) Heat sugar in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, and stir with a wooden spoon until it dissolves and turns a golden caramel color. As soon as there are no lumps, the syrup is ready.
3) Remove from heat and stir in almonds until combined.
4) Working quickly, pour the mixture onto the prepared tray using the wooden spoon to spread it out a little.
5) Place the second sheet of baking paper on top and use the rolling pin to roll the mixture out quickly into a thin sheet before it hardens. Remove the top parchment paper, and cut into approximately 1.5 inch squares while still hot.
6) Once cool, place 15-20 of the nougatine squares into a food processor, and pulse until no large pieces remain.
1) Allow all ingredients to reach room temperature (you could do this before you even make your macarons). Cut the butter into cubes. Prepare the eggs by separating 4 yolks from the whites and keep two whole.
2) To make the sugar syrup, heat sugar and water over medium heat. Place a candy thermometer inside. Continue to boil until the sugar syrup reaches about 238° F on the candy thermometer (soft boil stage). Keep a close eye so you don’t caramelize it.
3) Meanwhile, whip the eggs and egg yolks together with salt in a stand mixer bowl, using medium speed. After about 2 minutes, your eggs should be at soft peak consistency. Turn the mixer off to avoid over-mixing.
4) As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 238° F, pour the hot syrup slowly into the egg mixture. There is no need to rush this. With the mixer on medium, start pouring the hot sugar syrup into the mixer bowl with the mixer on medium speed. The syrup should stream between the whisk and the edge of the bowl.
5) Once all the syrup is in, turn the mixer on high and whisk for about 3 minutes. The outside of the bowl will be hot at first and then be barely warm. Your meringue should look shiny with soft peaks.
6) Let the mixer run on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Using the beater attachment, begin adding in the butter—one cube at a time. Once all the butter is in, whip the mixture for another minute or two until you have a smooth and satin-like buttercream that is light and fluffy.
7) Scrape the seeds out from inside the vanilla bean. Mix in the seeds and vanilla extract. Finally, add about half of the ground nougatine (equivalent to 8-10 squares) to the buttercream and mix well.
1) Lay out your macaron shells with the flat sides facing up. Using a piping bag or large Ziploc bag with a hole cut in it, pipe the buttercream generously onto half of the macaron shells. My buttercream probably ended out being about an inch thick.
2) Place the remaining macaron shells on top of the piped buttercream, forming a sandwich. For each Saint Eve, turn it on its side and roll in a plate of the remaining nougatine crumbles. You want the buttercream to be completely covered in a layer of ground nougatine.
3) These treats can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. They can be served cold or after coming to room temperature.