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François Payard leans against the pastry counter of FP Patisserie (1293 Third Avenue; 212-717-5252), his temple of sugar and spice, surrounded by artfully arranged towers of cookies, in honor of his new book, Payard Cookies.
Packed with Payard’s signature “Paris-meets–Upper East Side” recipes, the book includes some of the bakery’s most popular creations, including financiers, shortbreads, biscotti, and, of course, the much-lauded macarons, “all the things I most love to grab when I’m passing through the kitchen,” Payard confesses. “We sell hundreds and hundreds of these cookies in our shops every day, and I’ve been making most of them for longer than I can remember, so you can trust that the recipes will work,” he laughs.
Like at Payard’s bakeries, the recipes — many of which have been in the family for generations — focus on traditional French patisserie. Some, such as the classic rolled puff pastry parmentier, are unchanged from the versions at Payard’s grandfather’s famed Riviera pastry shop, Au Nid des Friandises.
“Cookies are often the first thing you learn to cook as a child,” says Payard. “For me, my love of baking started with cookies. They’re the first thing I learned to bake with my dad. I wrote the book to be as simple as possible — so a child could learn too, just like I did. The flourless chocolate cookies are one of my favorites to make. They’re simple — you mix cocoa, sugar, walnuts, and salt, beat in vanilla and egg whites until the mixture slightly thickens, then you scoop and bake. It’s amazing to see the ingredients transform into these shiny, crackled cookies.”
Fittingly, the book is dedicated to Payard’s father, who passed away during its development.
“We would bake together all the time, in the shop, at home, and a lot of the recipes are ones he taught me when I was a child. I’ve been making these macarons it feels like all my life.They remind me of home, and they connect me to home. So this book is very special and personal to me.”
Payard will be signing books and talking about his passion for all things patisserie in a discussion with I.C.E. creative director and fellow pastry aficionado Michael Laiskonis at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday, November 3, starting at 7 p.m. (get tickets here).
“I loved writing this book and tasting all the recipes over and over,” says Payard. “What can I say, I love to eat cookies! Who doesn’t?”