Living 706 sat down with Les Gourmands Bakery Founder and CEO Sylvain Chaillout to talk holiday dining and traditions. The award-winning bakery owner also shares his favorite recipe for French Almond Macarons, which you can try at home. Enjoy!
What special treats does Les Gourmands Bakery have for the holidays?
Sylvain Chaillout: The holiday season is very special. It reminds me of our bakery back in France, which was always busy with people who were excited to share great food with family and friends. These memories remind me of old recipes, and this year Les Gourmands is thrilled to be bringing back the brioches, bûchettes de noël, and eclairs as a special holiday treat. Plus a few more surprises that only our creative team knows about!
What were some of your favorite holiday traditions growing up?
SC: I love the start of the season when the city begins to hang all of the lights. Not only can you see the entire city changing, you can feel the atmosphere changing as well.
What is your favorite holiday meal?
SC: I like to start off with duck terrine. An elegant appetizer made of duck, bacon, pork, aromatics and spices that are carefully layered in a terrine and then baked in a water bath. You can cut the terrine into slices and display on a platter with cornichons, Dijon mustard, and slices of baguettes for a stylish start to a holiday meal.
For the main course, I enjoy a classic prime rib au jus paired with French gratin dauphinois (sliced potatoes covered in creamy garlic sauce and gruyere cheese), French spinach souffle, and mâche salad.
And for dessert, I like to finish off the meal with a bûche de noël (sponge cake layered with buttercream), marrons glacés (candied chestnuts), and homemade chocolat chaud (hot chocolate).
What’s the best dish to bring to a holiday dinner?
SC: Bring champagne! You can never go wrong with champagne. Bring it chilled so you can drink it right away.
I also recommend bringing French almond macarons, which are very popular in France. I have an easy recipe for these perfect little biscuits. Crisp on the outside, chewy-moist on the inside, they don’t require any filling to be absolutely delicious.
Les Gourmands French Almond Macarons
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites, beaten lightly
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat an oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper and very lightly grease with a little butter.
- Combine the almonds, sugar, egg whites, and vanilla extract in a food processor and pulse the mixture until it has taken on the texture of a very coarse paste. Turn the food processor on high speed and blend the paste for 2 minutes, until it is very smooth and thick.
- Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip and pipe the batter into uniform, 1-inch mounds on the parchment-lined baking sheet. You can draw a template onto the parchment paper if you want the biscuits to be precise, however, home-made biscuits do not want to look like they are made from a machine.
- Allow the batter to rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Bake the macaroons for 12 minutes. Remove the hot macaroons to a wire rack and cool to room temperature and dust with the confectioners’ sugar before serving.
The macarons are best eaten as soon as possible. If you have to store them, place into an airtight box.
Cook’s Note: Add a little flavor and flair to these macarons with a few drops of food coloring and your favorite flavoring!