A macaron-topped treat from Comptoir Gourmand
The most typical of January Fridays: it’s pouring with rain, your feet are wet, your brolly is broken, and you’ve a definite cold coming on. You want something failsafe—something sweet enough to perk you up, but light enough that your eyes will stay open till the end of the day. With that in mind, to Comptoir Gourmand we head, sure to find something among the delicious spread of fine French patisserie.
The chocolate and pear tarts were tempting, but today it was the meringues that caught our eye—which, were it not for the perfectly sculpted finish and an understanding of just how difficult it is to make good meringue, look like something an excited child might make: they’re huge, for a start, and covered with a generous sprinkling of Comptoir’s famous macarons, yet another culinary marvel we owe to the alchemy of eggs.
As ever, Comptoir nails it: it’s light and airy on the outside, gooey and marshmallowy at the centre, and literally melts in the mouth. “We started the meringues a couple of years ago. We make pastries every day using fresh eggs, but we only use the yolks, so we found ourselves with a lot of egg whites that we didn’t particularly know what to do with,” explains Tony. “One of our chefs suggested we make the meringues.”
Egg whites, sugar and finesse
Made simply with egg whites, sugar and finesse, there are “absolutely no preservatives. They are made fresh every day. The trick to making the meringue so light is the chef’s secret—they are blasted very quickly in the hot oven, then they lower the temperature just to bake it through. The inside remains all sticky, while the outside gets its crunch.”
The macaron element came about by happy accident. “One day one of our chefs accidentally dropped the crumbs of a box of macarons on to the meringues—and our meringues with crushed macarons were born! We pay such attention to detail with all our products, that if they are not to standard we usually discard them, now we use them for our meringues.
“It’s not a particularly romantic story, but it does mean we not only have a nice product out of it, but we are making the most of fantastic ingredients which otherwise would have gone to waste, which I am very happy about. Every bit is used—which of course, is what Borough Market’s about.”