Growing up, most Saturdays, Sophie Evanoff was busy baking with her grandmother, who lived in Warren but had emigrated from Macedonia.
“My memories as a child (were of) making cookies with my baba,” she recalls. “She made this one type of cookie that was always a special treat. It was a butter cookie we nicknamed ‘Baba’s Cookies.'”
That early passion for pastries stuck. And today, Evanoff even boasts her own signature treat: macarons. She makes these delicate goodies at Vanille Patisserie, which has three locations in Chicago. But you don’t have to travel far to try them: Her popular artisanal shop recently started shipping nationwide.
“What makes French pastries so special are the details,” says Evanoff, who earned a psychology degree at U-M Dearborn before pursuing her culinary career. “Every little thing is placed with a purpose. It all takes time.” Macarons, for example, are a three-day process. “It’s all done by hand. You can’t mix it with a machine.”
That’s a tall order for kids in the kitchen. Still, Evanoff says, there are lessons from French pastry making families can use at home. “It’s really in the detail and the decoration.” Let kids dress up desserts. “Take that extra step to put something else on chocolate cake, like rose petals or chocolate hearts to elevate it. It’s easy.”
Or, for these more-manageable French madeleines – little butter cookies – dust with powdered sugar or dip in chocolate for that final flair.
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 7 medium eggs (1 1/2 cups)
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 4 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. lemon zest
- 1 1/8 cup butter, melted and cooled
Madeleine pans or small muffin trays
- Using a mixer, whip sugar, eggs, lemon and lemon zest
- Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
- On low speed, add the flour mixture; then, stream in cooled liquid melted butter, only until just combined.
- Finish by hand until combined, be sure to scrape down bowl with spatula.
- Put batter into piping bag. Set aside
- Prep madeleine pans (or muffin trays) by brushing with melted butter and dusting with flour.
- Pipe batter into prepared molds. Freeze for five minutes.
- Bake in a 350 F oven for 10-14 minutes. Yields 36.
More about Vanille Patisserie
Sophie Evanoff’s French pastry shop now has three Chicago locations serving up to 20 macaron flavors daily, from caramel and red velvet to mango-passion and rose. She aims to someday open a shop in Detroit. Until then, a fresh order of 12 is $35 (plus tax and shipping) online.