M. Parfait – Chapter 16

A/N:  I am grateful to purpleC305 for pre-reading and Midnight Cougar for beta-ing. Working with you is more fun than surprises from Edward. Thank you. xx

DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.

-MP-

“In a cookie cutter world, be a macaron.” – Unknown

Chapter Sixteen

(BPOV)

I follow his lead as he opens the door, holding it for me to enter, and we pass through the small courtyard garden.

We step into the cozy-warm building and a bell announces our arrival.

A woman appears from somewhere in the back of the building. “Bonjour, es-tu ici pour le course macaron?”

“Bonjour, oui. Parlez-vous anglais?” Edward asks, and I’m dazed by how sexy he sounds speaking French, as if this man can get any better.

“Yes, I am Amanda, and I will be teaching your class this afternoon. Your name?”

“Cullen. Edward Cullen.”

“Ah, yes, Mr. Cullen. You called a few days ago. Americans, correct?”

Edward nods.

Amanda turns to me. “And you are Mrs. Cullen?”

I look up at Edward who winks.

“No, I’m Bella. Bella Swan.”

“Ah, very nice to meet you both. Please follow me.” Amanda turns and leads us into a large kitchen where four others are sitting on stools sipping wine. “Can I get either of you something to drink? We have wine, champagne, and water.”

“I’ll have a glass of champagne. Merci.”

“And for you, Mr. Cullen?”

“A bottle of water, s’il vous plait.”

Amanda grins. “Bien sûr.” She pauses. “I’m sorry. I slip between French and English so easily. I mean, of course. I’ll be right back.”

Once she is busy retrieving our drinks, I look up at Edward and whisper, “What are we doing here?”

“You haven’t figured it out?”

I shake my head. “Taking some kind of cooking course?” I guess.

Edward smiles. “We are learning how to make French macarons.” His eyes stay on mine as he watches the realization settle on my face.

“Really?” I ask, hopeful I’ve understood him correctly.

“Really.” His smile widens. “I know you said you weren’t much of a cook, but maybe you are a baker, and since you love them so much, I thought you would love to learn how to make—”

He doesn’t get a chance to finish his explanation because I jump up into his arms and plant a huge kiss on his lips.

Edward continues to hold me, even though I pull away from our kiss.

“You did this for me?” I grin.

“I did,” he confirms, giving me a few more innocent pecks.

“Here we go, one bottle of water and one— Oh, sorry to interrupt,” Amanda apologizes.

Edward lowers me to the floor, and I turn to accept the glass of champagne in her hand.

“One glass of champagne.” She holds out the bottle of water for Edward. “And one bottle of water. Engaged?”

I shake my head. “No, surprised and extremely happy.”

Amanda chuckles.

I continue to explain. “This is a surprise to me and I love macarons. So I can’t wait to get started, but unfortunately, I’m not great in the kitchen.” I sip on another delicious glass of my favorite beverage.

“It will be no problem at all. If you can only make one thing in life, macarons are the perfect food,” Amanda says. “And don’t worry; I’m sure you are better than you think. You were the last two to arrive, as we have only a class of six for this afternoon.” She turns to the others and makes introductions for all of us, our names and where we’re visiting from.

Edward leans in and lowers his voice,. “Perfect, she says.”

I look up at him. “I couldn’t agree more.” However, I’m not talking about macarons at this point but the man who continues to dazzle me.

He pecks my lips and winks as we turn to listen to Amanda’s instructions.

“Let’s get started everyone.” Amanda begins by handing out aprons and encourages us to wash our hands before we start.

We gather around the kitchen prep tables as Amanda gives us a brief history of the macaron.

“Since arriving in France, you have probably all enjoyed a macaron or two.”

Edward pokes my side. “Or dozens.”

“They are even sold at McDonald’s restaurants around France, which I believe all of you are familiar with.” Amanda looks around our group of four Americans and two Canadians.

“In their simplest form, macarons are a filled, sweet, meringue-based cookie. You can find them filled with ganache, buttercream, or jam, and in a wide range of flavors from raspberry or chocolate to new flavors like foie gras or matcha. The perfect macaron has a smooth top with a ruffled bottom edge and a flat base. They are crunchy outside and soft but chewy inside.”

I glance around the table and find everyone hanging on Amanda’s every word.

She continues. “Originally, the name came from the Italian word macarone, which means meringue. You may have also heard of it being called a macaroon. Normally, both spellings refer to the same cookiehowever, it is only called that by the English, but most are adapting to the French pronunciation as the French continue to use macaron exclusively.”

“The macaron is Italian then?” Julie, an American and member of our class, questions.

Amanda nods. “Yes, but a version of the macaron probably arrived in Italy from medieval Muslims who migrated to Europe in the early 800’s. They brought with them many nut-based recipes and flavorings that weren’t widely used throughout Europe until their arrival.

“Catherine de’ Medici’s Italian pastry chefs brought them with her when she arrived in France to marry Henry II in 1533, but it is believed that Venetian monks were preparing them as early as the eighth century. Early macarons didn’t have flavors or fillings.”

Amanda points out the various items on the table in front of her. “Macarons typically use four main ingredients: egg whites, icing sugar or you might call it confectioners’ sugar, granulated sugar, and ground almonds or almond powder. There are two methods for creating macarons, ‘French’ and ‘Italian.’ The difference in the methods is how the egg whites are handled.

“The Italian method whisks the egg whites with a hot sugar syrup to create a meringue. Next, a paste is created from the sifted, blanched almond powder and confectioners’ sugar. The two are then combined to create the macaron. It is believed to be a more structurally sound cookie, which is also sweeter, but requires the use of a candy thermometer to create the sugar syrup.

“The French method, which we will be doing today, whisks the egg whites until they form a meringue with stiff peaks.”

I’m so entranced by Amanda’s instructions that I’m a bit startled when Edward mutters in my ear. “I know all about stiff peaks.”

I look up at him, blushing, to find a devious grin on his face. “Edward. Behave,” I warn quietly.

We both turn back to Amanda, and I try to focus.

“The ground almonds and icing sugar mixture is then folded slowly into the egg whites. The process of knocking out air and folding is a French term called macronage. When all of the ingredients are the consistency of shaving foam, we will pipe them onto a cooking sheet. The macarons will then sit or “age” and form a skin on their outer surface before baking. Any questions?”

I look around our group and everyone shakes their heads no.

“Great, then we are ready to get started. Let’s all gather over here by the mixer. First, we will weigh all of our ingredients. It is the most accurate way to bake, as the typical measuring cups and spoons most of you are familiar with are highly inaccurate. I would suggest purchasing a food scale if you don’t have one already, so when you get back home and try to recreate this recipe, you will find the same success as here.

“It is important to use blanched almonds if you are making your own powder by grinding them. Does anyone know what blanching means?”

Julie speaks up again. “Does it mean the red or brown skins are removed?”

Amanda smiles. “Bon! I’m sorry, good! Yes. You boil your raw almonds for no more than a minute, which softens the skins and makes it easier for you to remove them. For today, we already have almond powder, but you might try to make your own once you are home.”

I lean over to Edward and murmur, “Not a chance. I’m buying the powder ready to go.”

Julie and her friend, Connie, the other American, measure out the almond powder and sugar.

Amanda continues explaining the recipe. “We are going to use egg whites at room temperature. They will whip to a greater volume when at room temperature, so take them out about 20 to 30 minutes before you plan to begin your recipe. However, it is easier to separate the whites from the yolks when the eggs come straight from the refrigerator. So, complete this task first. In order to save time today, we have separated the eggs for you. Bella, would you like to add them to the mixer?”

“Sure. Everything?” I look at the huge container full of egg whites, lifting the heavy bowl.

“Yes,” Amanda confirms, and grabs another container for me to empty into the mixer. “The granulated sugar is next, which will stabilize the egg whites, then let’s start up the mixer.” She lowers a shield around the bowl and points to a lever on the side. “Just right there, Bella.”

I flip the switch and the mixer starts up.

“Bon, bon. While we wait for our egg whites, let’s go ahead and combine the almond powder and sugar together into this large bowl. Edward, would you please help us with that? Then go ahead and mix the two together.” Amanda hands him a spatula.

Edward nods, picks up both large containers, and adds them to the biggest bowl I’ve ever seen, second to the commercial mixer bowl we are using.

“Wonderful. Let’s check on our egg whites.” Amanda comes back over by me and looks inside the mixer. “Let’s stop the mixer and do a quick check.”

I flip the switch, then Amanda removes the guard and lowers the bowl. She detaches the whisk and holds it up to everyone.

“Do you see how the egg whites cling to the whisk? They don’t fall off.”

We all nod in agreement.

“Right now we are at a soft peak and we can tell this by the way the meringue bends or droops. We don’t want any bend, which will mean a couple of more minutes of whisking.” Amanda reattaches the whisk, raises the bowl back in place, and replaces the guard once again.

“Now, Tyler, when the egg whites are ready, I’ll have you bring them over to the table where we will then combine our two mixtures together in a process known as folding. We want to keep as much air in the egg whites as possible. In order to fold, we will use a spatula and cut down through the egg whites to the bottom of the bowl, then bring the bottom mixture to the top and around the edge over and over until everything is combined and you can no longer see a difference in the two. It is an under/over process and goes slowly. There is no need to rush.”

Amanda looks inside the mixer and gives me the nod to shut it down. When she shows us the whisk, the egg whites are indeed standing straight up with stiff peaks. I look over at Edward and already know what he’s thinking, which causes an immediate blush on my part. I try to hide my embarrassment by sipping at my almost-empty glass of champagne.

We all take turns on the folding process until Amanda claims our macarons are ready for piping. We divide our huge bowl of batter into six individual ones.

“Go ahead and select any flavoring or food coloring. You will find them in the middle of the table.” Amanda waves her hand toward the items. “We have special silicone baking mats for each of you to pipe your macarons.” She holds one up for all of us to see. “They have circles on them so you will be able to pipe a perfect-sized macaron onto each of your baking sheets.”

I decide to make a chocolate macaron with ganache filling.

Amanda encourages me to add cocoa powder to my macarons with a pinch of salt.

Edward looks my way when trying to decide on flavors. “What would you like for mine?”

“How about champagne?” I grin, as if it should be obvious.

“As you wish.”

Amanda explains a bit of yellow food coloring will be perfect for Edward’s macarons, then he can add the champagne to the filling.

When she goes to help the others with their flavors, I sneak another kiss or two with Edward. “Thank you,” I whisper. “This is amazing.”

He grins. “You’re welcome. It seemed like the perfect thing for you. It’s like the old proverb, ‘Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.’”

I giggle. “I certainly prefer macarons to fish. My dad used to fish every weekend, and I’ve had more than my fair share.”

“Bella,” Edward says, then pauses and looks into my eyes, “I wish I could have met your dad.”

I feel a lump in my throat as I try to blink away the tears starting to form. “He would have loved meeting you, Edward. I’m positive of that,” I rasp out.

Edward squeezes me closer in a hug and kisses the top of my head, putting another quick peck on my lips.

“All right,” Amanda gets our attention again. “Now that everyone has decided on colors and flavors, let’s start piping macarons.”

We load up our piping bags and learn the art of making consistent circles. It seems easy enough, but I soon find it’s not.

I am halfway through my sheet when I look over to check on Edward’s progress, only to find all of his circles the perfect size and in perfect rows.

He must feel me watching him because he looks up. “What?”

I just shake my head and marvel over how I’m so lucky to have found this man, even if it was in an unconventional way. I go back to finishing my tray of macarons, my wrist starting to feel the fatigue of holding the bag so tightly.

Once we have each piped our last cookie, we deem ourselves experts, then let them sit to “age” for about forty-five minutes and prepare the fillings.

Edward gets another bottle of water and refills my glass with champagne.

“Amanda,” I ask. “Are we going to get a copy of all of the recipes?”

She smiles as she passes each of us our needed ingredients. “Yes. You may get home and decide on a different flavor to try. So, I have a small booklet of recipes for each of you to take with you, including all of the common fillings we make here.”

At this information, I feel like I’ve just hit the jackpot and may let out a tiny squeal, and I hear Edward chuckle behind me.

I make my chocolate ganache, which is chopped bittersweet chocolate, heavy cream, and butter. I taste a bit of everything along the way, and boy, is it delicious.

My filling goes together fast, so I watch Edward as he uses egg whites, sugar, butter, and champagne for his. And who am I kidding? They’re really mine. My pinky finds its way into his bowl and I give it a taste.

“Mmmm, Edward, that’s so good.” I close my eyes, savoring the flavors on my tongue, then look up at him. “Maybe I should have made strawberry for mine, since strawberry and champagne go so well togeth—”

I’m cut off by Edward’s lips as his tongue finds its way inside my mouth, and I have to push back on his chest to break away from such an inappropriate kiss.

I pant a bit. “Edward.” I look around and notice that no one seems to be giving us much interest or concern. “Control yourself.” I wink. “Later.”

“You make it impossible.” He smirks and gives me another quick kiss on my forehead.

“All right, everyone. Time to start baking. It shouldn’t take too long, about ten minutes, then once your macarons have time to cool, you can start filling them,” Amanda explains our next steps.

The time goes by quickly, and before we know it, we are admiring over a hundred and fifty macarons on the prep tables in front of us.

Amanda walks around, appraising our finished cookies. “Bon, bon, bon! I have boxes for each of you. Please walk around the table and select samples from all six stations. Then we will put the remaining macarons on the dining table and share an afternoon service of tea and coffee together before our time here ends.”

Fortunately, our classmates made some other amazing macaron flavors. So, not only do I end up with two boxes of macarons, but the flavors are a perfect combination. In addition to our chocolate and champagne, the other students chose to make strawberry, lemon, coffee, and pistachio.

I’m in heaven.

We visit for a while, nibbling on macarons, while we learn a little more about the other classes offered at Le Foodist. They have classes where students work together preparing a three course, classic French meal, while others teach the art of making various pastries found throughout the region like croissants, tarts, and breads. Guided tours by local residents are available, sharing tips when shopping the area markets for items like cheese and wine.

I’m a little buzzed from the champagne I’ve been sipping all afternoon, which relaxes me as I settle in next to Edward with his arm draped over the back of my chair.

We glance outside and notice evening is on its way, as is the next class.

“Thank you so much, Amanda.” I lean in and give her a hug. “This has been an amazing way for me to spend the afternoon.”

“Formidable! I’m sorry, wonderful! I’m so glad you both enjoyed yourselves.” Amanda smiles.

Edward takes the bag, which holds both boxes of macarons, my booklet of recipes, and my powdered hot chocolate from Angelina, plus my other bag with my museum souvenirs.

“We did, Amanda, bonne soirée,” I tell her, as we step out into the evening.

“What’s next on your agenda, Monsieur Parfait?” I tease.

Edward grins widely. “I thought we should go back to Passerelle Debilly near the Eiffel Tower and watch the sunset. Since we started our vacation with the sunrise there, it seems appropriate we spend our last evening watching the sunset.”

“That sounds perfect. Should we take the Metro?”

He nods. “Yes, I think that’s probably the quickest way there. Let’s walk over to the Cardinal Lemoine station.”

I already have my phone out planning our path. “It looks like we should take line 10 then change to line 6.”

Edward chuckles. “Listen to us, we sound like experts at this point.”

I laugh. “You and I both know we are anything but experts.”

We find our way through another trip on the Paris Metro, and soon we are walking near the Eiffel Tower, but continue on past to the graceful Passerelle Debilly, a footbridge created for the 1900 World’s Fair. It later became known as the Bridge of Spies where spies and diplomats would come during the Cold War and trade messages, currency, and other things.

The bridge was also a rendezvous point where lovers would meet, which now seems quite romantic. Edward and I find ourselves here together watching the sun set below the horizon, while the gentle waters of the Seine sway below us.

Edward is behind me with his arms wrapped around my waist. We watch the sun fade away and the lights of the Eiffel Tower begin to twinkle as evening gives way to night.

There is a comfortable silence between us, as I snuggle in closer to him and he tightens his arms around me. I pull out my phone and take several different selfies as we move with the fading light.

Finally, I turn in his arms and look up into his captivating green eyes. “Edward, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank you enough. This trip surpassed even my wildest dreams.”

A slow smile starts to spread across his perfect lips and he holds me a little closer. “Bella, I should be thanking you. Ever since you came into my life, I’ve felt things that I never felt for anyone. At first it was anger.” He smirks. “But now, we are at a point where I find myself making plans and doing things I never would have dreamed of doing.”

He pauses and looks out over the Seine, and I watch his eyes follow up the Eiffel Tower before coming back to mine.

Edward takes a deep breath. “Bella, I love you. I’ve never said that to anyone before, but I can’t deny it. This trip has made me realize how madly I have fallen in love with you. I find my feelings for you overwhelming at times, and it is a relief to share them with you freely.”

I’m stunned.

He loves me.

He said it.

I’m feeling so many things: shock, awe, and relief. However, the most prominent feeling I have is undeniably love.

“Can you say it again?” I ask, needing to hear it again.

Edward chuckles and holds my face in his hands. “Bella, I love you.” He places a gentle kiss on my lips then pulls back, his eyes searching mine.

Okay, I wasn’t hearing things.

He did say it.

However, I’m sure my lack of an immediate response isn’t what he is expecting.

Edward drops his hands from my face, locking our fingers together, and starts to backpedal, letting me off the hook. “I know it’s a bit soon and you don’t—”

I pull a hand from his and put my fingers over his lips, stopping them moving.

“Oh, Edward. I love you too. So much.” I declare the truth of my feelings, my voice heavy with emotion.

I watch as realization at my words begins to dawn on his beautiful face. “Really?” He sounds a bit of uncertain.

I nod. “Yes, really. I love you. I’m deeply in love with you,” I say with more confidence. Then I watch a huge smile grace his face, and he leans in for another kiss.

I shriek as Edward pulls away and suddenly tosses me over his shoulder. “Edward!” I giggle.

He smacks my ass lightly, reaching down and grabbing our bags with one hand. “We’re going back to the hotel and I’m going to make love to you until it’s time to go to the airport.”

It looks like there will be no sleeping tonight.

I take in the lights of Paris as they pass me by from upside down. “Edward, you’re going to need to feed me again,” I warn. “I might need a soufflé or something. I haven’t had one of those yet.”

“Done. I’ll call room service.”

“You know, I can walk by myself,” I say, though my hands hold onto his perfect, denim-covered ass, which is right in front of my face, while my hair blows everywhere with his jostling and the night breeze.

“Not a chance. You’re too slow.”

I laugh at his impatience. “How about a final bottle of champagne?” I negotiate.

He just chuckles. “Bella, as if I could ever deny you anything.”

I feel the exact same way.