Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nesselrode Macarons

Nesselrode Macarons 02
When I was a kid, my father often talked about how much he loved Nesselrode Sauce, but he never did anything about it—other than repeat how delicious the mix of chestnuts, cherries, candied orange peel, and rum was.

Finally, one Christmas I made him a batch of the sauce, from a recipe in Helen Witty's 'Fancy Pantry' (now sadly out of print, but available used).  I was lucky to find the recipe. 
A Little Nesselrode Background
Nesselrode (sauce, pie, or pudding) isn’t widely known.  Back in 1988, the New York Times published ‘The Culinary Mystery of Nesselrode Pie’, in which they asked top chefs of the day about Nesselrode.  Such luminaries as Lutece’s Andre Soltner, George Lang, and Charles Palmer couldn’t come up with its main ingredient (chestnuts).

Count Nesselrode
Named for Count Nesselrode, a Russian diplomat who helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris to end the Crimean War (which apparently his foreign policies helped start in the first place), the many dishes that use the name all contain pureed chestnuts.  But the creator was Nesselrode’s chef, Monsieur Mouy. Or perhaps Monsieur Mony—both names turn up in books and articles.

Antonin Carême
And even that isn’t positive—others have credited Antonin Carême, who accused Mouy of stealing his pudding recipe.  You can read more about it over at the blog Playing with Fire and water, which recently posted about Nesselrode pie.

Witty’s recipe combines mashed and whole chestnuts cooked in vanilla syrup; cherries, citron, and candied orange peel macerated in maraschino liqueur; and raisins and currants soaked in rum.  I wish every cupboard had a jar at the ready (or at least mine--it would be wonderful spooned over ice cream, or eaten out of the jar in the dark, with a spoon and a guilty conscience).

Nesselrode Macarons 04

Last week my father visited.  I wanted to make something he’d particularly enjoy, and since I’ve been making macarons lately, Nesselrode macarons seemed the obvious solution.  Make that ‘Nesselrode macaro(o)ns’.
The Macaroon/Macaron Divide
Because if there’s one thing my family enjoys nearly as much as eating and talking about food, it’s discussing seemingly meaningless issues in often excruciating detail.  So much, that some family friends have a code word for it: TSQ, or Typical Shere Question (my maiden name).

This visit, the first TSQ had to do with the macaron/macaroon divide.  I’m Switzerland on this question.  I’m content calling them what most everyone else calls them (macarons).  But I’ve got no beef with people calling them macaroons.

It’s not just the Sheres who are wondering.  There’s plenty of discussion on the internet, at Chowhound, NPR, Kitchn.com, and Wikipedia (where they say ‘macaron’ is not to be confused with ‘macaroon’).

Nesselrode Macarons 01
Nesselrode Macarons
Again, I started with Helen Dujardin’s (of Tartelette) basic macaron shell recipe.
  • 90 grams egg whites (about 3, aged 24 hours to allow evaporation of some moisture)
  • 200 grams powdered sugar
  • 110 grams almond flour
  • 10 grams candied orange peel, plus extra to garnish
  • 30 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons orange powdered coloring (available online at sugarcraft; I bought mine here in Portland at The Decorette Shop—conveniently located across the street from Foster Burger, but that’s another story)
Combine the powdered sugar and almond flour, and then put the mixture into a food processor with the candied orange peel.  Pulse until the peel is ground (it won’t be perfectly fine).  Continue with Dujardin’s directions for beating the egg whites, combining the two mixtures, and piping out the macarons. 
Give the cookie sheets a firm rapping on the counter (it’s supposed to help them form their ‘feet’), and then, if desired, garnish half the cookies with chopped candied orange peel.  Preheat the oven to 300F degrees, and let the cookies sit 30 minutes before baking, according to Dujardin’s recipe.

Nesselrode Buttercream Filling
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 120 grams sweetened chestnut paste
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons rum
  • 10 grams chopped candied orange peel
  • 15 grams amarena cherries, chopped

With a mixer, beat the butter and chestnut paste until smooth.  Mix in the rum, then add the candied orange peel and cherries.

Next time I make these, I’m going to try making the filling without the butter--just chestnut paste, rum, orange peel, and cherries.

Nesselrode Macarons 03


lshere said...

I still think macaron is French, not English.

Charles Shere said...

And good as they were, and gratifying daughter though you be, next time I'd leave out the orange coloring. But thanks. Nesselrode is still one of my favorites.

Giovanna said...

See what I mean? To color or not to color, macaron or macaroon...plenty to discuss in this family.

I'm going with macaron, as it seems to be the most widely accepted.

On the other hand, I draw the line at pronouncing crêpe in the widely accepted manner, as if it rhymes with cape. It rhymes with Johnny Depp (and doesn't it make more sense to picture him eating a crêpe, than batman?).

And I liked the orange color--not too vibrant, but cheery. But to each his own--you'll have to make some for me without the color!

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