Bookhouse Pub’s chef masters the cookie du jour

A macaron (the fancy Parisian sandwich cookie popularized by pastry shops like Ladurée and Pierre Hermé) is not a macaroon (the more familiar coconut confection). Jonesboro-born William Silbernagel, who runs pop-up bakeshop Bookie Macarons, doesn’t flinch anymore when people mispronounce his pastel-colored masterpieces. The full-time chef at the Bookhouse Pub on Ponce de Leon Avenue, Silbernagel tasted his first macaron six years ago when he was doing an externship at Trois, Concentrics’ short-lived French restaurant in Midtown. He fell for its delicate texture and delighted in the challenge of mastering the meringue wafers that form the cookie’s base.

Macarons are the sweet treat du jour across America. But unlike many pastry chefs who cater to thrill seekers with exotic flavors and brilliant artificial colors, Silbernagel uses his background in savory foods to set his macarons apart with subtler taste combinations. He dazzled me with a single cookie: a delicately herbal, pale green fennel macaron with a layer of caramelized Granny Smith apples and orange zest buttercream. He flavors meringues made with almond flour (or sometimes pistachio or hazelnut) with ingredients such as yerba maté, malt, hibiscus, buttermilk, green tea, and passion fruit. For the filling, a ginger-apple jam or yuzu-honey buttercream is as likely as a classic ganache based on chocolate and cream.

Silbernagel fashions his cookies in the kitchen of the Bookhouse Pub, with the blessing of owners Ben Rhoades and Ryan Murphy. He saves his more high-minded ideas for his side business; at the Bookhouse he cooks fried pulled pork shoulder sandwiches and other crowd-pleasing bar foods. On Saturday mornings, Silbernagel and his business partner Linda Cho set up a table at Aurora Coffee in Little Five Points. On Saturday afternoons, the business moves to the Young Blood Gallery and Boutique in Poncey-Highland. Every week, Twitter, Facebook, and email blasts update fans on new flavors—perhaps pistachio with cherry-mascarpone mousse or buttermilk vanilla paired with Virgil’s root beer buttercream.

Don’t look for a stand-alone Bookie Macarons retail shop anytime soon. Even with special orders for weddings and birthday parties, Silbernagel rarely bakes more than 500 macarons a month. Yet when he becomes the chef at Argosy, the East Atlanta gastropub from Rhoades (among other partners) opening this fall, he has no intention of letting his cookie gig slide. For his growing number of fans who have found no better macarons and who anticipate his newest creations every weekend, that’s a relief.

Photograph by Zac Henderson