It was a cookie to share at a time when community was hoped for but rarely possible.
When I was in Paris this summer, I went to Le Comptoir and bought a long, slender, rectangular croissant arranged in a box that could have held a skinny hot dog. It was a new reading of the morning staple and, because the shape was radically different, so was the sensation — there was more crust to crumb, and I loved it. I bought five madeleines, all different colors and all filled with different flavors, and I loved them too, especially the one with caramel. And I bought a cookie — a small, just-for-me cookie — and the fascination began.
Perret’s cookie was sweet, tender and caramel-flavored, with an undertone of hazelnuts. On top, paving the cookie’s surface, were chunks of hazelnuts, their skins colored mahogany in the oven’s heat, and pieces of dark chocolate. There were small dollops of caramel and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. Every bite was interesting, crunchy from the toppings and chewy from the base.
When I talked to the chef about his cookie, he told me that he first made it at home for his children, a diversion and a treat during the severe pandemic lockdowns in Paris in 2020, and that, instead of making a batch, he baked one cookie as large as a cake. It struck me as perfect that it was a cookie to share at a time when community was hoped for but rarely possible.
The recipe Perret generously gave me included cassonade, a coarse brown sugar that’s not refined in the same way as American brown sugar, and a thin hazelnut purée from Italy’s Piedmont region. It was baked in a cake ring, a low metal ring placed directly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I made it in Paris to get the bones of the recipe down, and then, when I returned to America, I remade it, coming as close as I could to the original using ingredients I could find locally. Turbinado sugar stood in for the cassonade. Almonds and almond butter (the kind made with just nuts) replaced the hazelnuts and purée. A springform pan, minus the bottom, did the job of a cake ring. And when I’d scraped the last bit of homemade caramel sauce from the jar, I topped the cookie with dabs of caramel bought from the supermarket.