While originally referred to as a petit four, Sarah Bernhardts can be a cookie or a dessert, depending upon the size. I have seen the various things used as fillings, from buttercream to ganache. I have used the truffle filling I made at the bakery. Every fall, we would make these melt in your mouth Chocolate Chocolate Truffles with their rich, velvety filling, only to take them off as the weather warmed.
The History of Sarah Bernhardts
Named after the premier French actress of the day, Sarah Bernhardt was not only known for her talent, but also her eccentricity.
Here is an excerpt from the digitized version of A Macaroon Called Sarah Bernhardt from The Times’s print archive, referring to the history of Sarah Bernhardts
“At the height of her astounding career, the actress Sarah Bernhardt had received every honor and award possible, including Oscar Wilde's lasting appellation, “the Divine Sarah.” But if legend be believed, one of the most treasured rewards of her eccentric life was a small chocolate macaroon she enjoyed on her first trip to Denmark.
But her fondest memory of that grand tour was the chocolate macaroon confection she tasted in Copenhagen: a plump, chewy puff of macaroon topped with dark chocolate and hand‐dipped in melted chocolate. So vocal was she in her praise of these traditional petitsfours of Denmark that the people named them in her honor, and they are still called Sarah Bernhardts.”
The article itself decries the ability of the home baker to make these elegant confections, they are actually very easy. Each step can be completed at different times, making this an easy fit into anyone’s schedule.
Sarah Bernhardts should be stored in the refrigerator but served at room temperature. They would make an outstanding presentation to any cookie tray.
The size can be adjusted up or down, just alter the baking time of the macaroons. To keep the macaroons sized evenly, make a template by drawing 1 “circles spaced about 1 inch apart on a piece of parchment paper with a sharpie, so the outline is very dark. They should be 5 across and 7 down on a half sheet of parchment.
I finished mine with flecks of edible gold leaf that really brings these alive visually. There are various sizes of the sheets as well as how many are in a package.
⅔ cup almond flour (100 grams or 3 ½ ounces)*
¾ cup granulated sugar (150 grams or 4 ⅓ ounces)
2 large egg whites
½ teaspoon almond extract
*Almond flour makes the best macaroons, but almonds can also be used. If almonds are used, place them in the food processor with the sugar and process until the almonds are powdered. Sift them through a strainer. Process any nuts that remain in the strainer. Repeat as necessary.
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the template in a half sheet pan and cover with a plain piece of parchment paper. Set aside.
Combine the almond flour and sugar in the bowl of a processor or mixer. Process to combine. Add the egg whites and almond extract and process or mix until a paste forms.
Fit a piping bag with a ½” tip. Fill the bag with the macaroon paste and pipe it just within the edge of the circles on the template. Flatten the points. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Bake for about 20 minutes until they just start to color. Leave them on the tray and cool completely. These can be made and stored in a covered tin for a week or so before continuing on.
Chocolate Truffle Filling for the Sarah Bernhardts
For How to Pictures go here.
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (28 grams or 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons sugar (25 grams)
5 ounces semisweet chocolate (140 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Heat cream, butter and sugar until the butter is melted, and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should be very hot, but not boiling. Submerge the chocolate under the cream and let sit for 4 or 5 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth. Add vanilla.
To use at once, pour it into a rimmed baking sheet, cover the top with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature until it sets up. If it is too soft to pipe and hold a shape, refrigerate briefly until it can be piped.
If making up to a week ahead, pour into a container, cover the surface with film and chill store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature to pipe. Follow the instructions above if it gets too soft.
Fit a pastry bag with a ⅝ inch tip. Fill the bag of the truffle mixture. Pipe a kiss shaped mound in the center on top of each macaroon about 1” high and within about ¼" from the edge. Gently push the tip of the kiss down slightly.
Place in the freezer to harden. If not finishing within a day or so, place these in a covered container and keep them frozen for a month or so until time to finish.
Finishing the Sarah Bernhardts
4 ounces semisweet chocolate (114 grams)
1 tablespoon shortening* or cocoa butter
Gold Leaf, optional
*Crisco or other white plastic shortening. Do not use butter because the coating will stay soft.
Combine the chocolate and shortening in a short, wide mouth glass or other small container and microwave at 50% power for 1 minute. Stir to mix. If the chocolate isn’t completely smooth, microwave for 10 seconds at a time. Do not let it get too hot.
The short, wide glass makes it easier to dip the Sarah Bernhardts in this small amount of chocolate.
Remove the Sarah Bernhardts from the freezer. Dip the macaroons upside down to cover the kisses, just short of their bottoms. Hold the macaroon over the chocolate and let the excess chocolate drip off. The chocolate finish should cover the kiss but not touch the macaroon. The fact they are frozen will stop the chocolate from running. If the kisses start to warm, pop them back into the freezer.
Allow the chocolate finish to harden and the kisses to defrost inside. Using tweezers, take a small piece of gold leaf and lay it on the chocolate. If the gold leaf sticks to the tweezer, use a tooth pick or cake tester to lower it gently onto the chocolate.
These should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week or ten days. Serve at room temperature. They can stay at room temperature for 6 hours or so.
Yield: 35 Sarah Bernhardts
Other Cookies To Consider: