In this week's Chef Chat we satisfy our sweet tooth by sitting down to chat with pastry chef Linda Schneider of 21 Cakes in Scottsdale.
Schneider, a classically trained chef and cupcake master, grew up baking with her grandmother and mother. Today family recipes like her grandmother's chocolate cake live on in miniature form as Schneider turns out fresh-baked, gourmet cupcakes and Parisian macrons from her charming shop located near Scottsdale Rd. and Indian Bend.
Don't know what a macron is? That's ok, neither did we. But don't worry, she'll explain the difference between a macron and a macaroon and tell us all about the three-day process required to make a traditional Parisian macron.
Just kidding; that's top-secret information. But we do have the history of 21 Cakes and Schneider's advice for novice bakers...after the jump.
"My first memory..."
My grandmother baked and my mother baked and when I was growing up there was nothing store bought. Everything was made fresh and one of the things that I always remember eating was a chocolate cake that my grandmother made. My first memory of actually doing something was that I was in the kitchen and I took a box--because I had seen my grandmother do this--I took a box of powdered sugar--and I must have been maybe seven or eight--and mixed it up with butter and milk. I started, of course, to eat it and it tasted really good to me. It was what I saw my grandmother doing. Of course I was still too little to realize there were other [ingredients!] Then I started baking more with my grandmother and learning how to really do it the right way. So I really, truly have been doing this since I was a little girl.
"And the rest is history."
When I had children for some reason I started cooking a lot but I wasn't baking as much. Then I started baking again fifteen years ago or so, just using these recipes from my grandmother and starting to change them a bit.... I went to culinary school and I started training, doing some private instruction with a very accomplished master pastry chef, however I incorporated all of this with my knowledge of baking that I grew up learning. Friends started tasting these things and...a friend of a friend asked if I would be interested in doing cupcakes for her wedding. I said of course and a light bulb went off - I might have a business here. So there rest is pretty much history. [The recipes] are all original or if not original--actually, really one of the most important things is that my signature chocolate cupcake is my grandmother's chocolate cake that I've been telling you about.
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What is a macron?
"A Parisian macron is very different from a coconut macaroon. The macaroon is of course, a confection that is made with coconut. A Parisian macron is made mostly with almond. I make my own almond flour. There are not a lot of ingredients in them but, it's a three-day process and it's a bit tricky. I can't even say it's "sweet" really.... it's a confection that has a crispy shell, a chewy inside, and then a flavorful, light filling.
More on the macron tomorrow when we share the second part of our talk with Linda.