Monday, July 22, 2013

Catching Up...

I must be the worst blogger on earth!  This past month has been challenging and I haven't been able to sit down and reflect on pretty much anything.  We hosted a French teenager at home for a full month and the whole experience was just short of a disaster.  I have also been busy juggling my business while having the kids at home, and while the kids are being extremely good about, I feel guilty we aren't spending more time outside enjoying the Summer.  Enough whining, I have a ton of stuff to talk about.

Macarons in their sleeves en route to The Pantry
The first and most important news is that MacArons has found a distributor right in the heart of Fairfield!!!!!  You can now find macaron Tiffany blue sleeves containing lemon, chocolate, raspberry, salted caramel and pistachio at The Pantry.  The store is located at 1580 Post Road and offers a wide range of fine products:  top quality butchered meats & seafood, award winning desserts and pastries, restaurant quality prepared foods & catering services, a full deli and salad bar as well as groceries, produce & floral and gift baskets.  If you have never checked the place out, it's time to go.  I stopped there this morning and came back home with a paper bag full of goodies!

Bisous Ciao Mac Store
We recently took a trip to New York City with the kids and after going through Grand Central, Times Square, seeing the recently finished Freedom Tower, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street; we ended up in the Village.  It just happened that we ran into two macaron shops within a couple block of each other.  I couldn't resist the temptation and check out what they were offering.  My first stop was at Bisous Ciao Macarons, located on 235 Bleecker Street.  I opted for my favorites, flower macs, au menu: rose, poppy, honey-lavender and bitter cherry (Jérémie wanted that one).  The cookie was thin and crispy, quite different from mine, but the butter cream fillings were exquisite!!!!  The macarons were delicious and will have to be in my list of favorite in New York.  

Sugar & Plumm.
The taste of rose was still lingering in my mouth, I was happy but then "bam" we ran into Sugar & Plumm (on 257 Bleeker Street).  Huge dilemma, should I go in?  Am I overdoing it?  I had run 12 miles in the morning, so indulging wasn't a concern, I went for it encouraged by my husband who was reminding me that I didn't do these sort of things everyday!  The store was super cute from the outside and even cuter once I stepped in.  I didn't want to compare this shop with Bisous even though I was tempted to try flower macarons again.  Instead, I picked licorice & cassis-violet macs.  I was super happy to discover that their texture was very similar to my cookies.  The licorice macaron was very good, even though I would have liked to taste its flavor a bit more.  The cassis mac was lovely, I always enjoy the tart taste of the fruit, this time complimented with the lovely violet aroma.  I would have to recommend this store too, it is the cutest store I've come across so far the macs are beautiful, colorful, nicely texturized, check them out.  
Cassis-violet mac... and a cab!

Goofing off in New York :)

 Finally a few shots of my latest creations. The first picture displays extra large macarons, the second shows vanilla and lavender macs.  They were ordered by a caterer in upstate Connecticut for a wedding, hydrangeas were the flowers and colors of choice for the event.




Stay cool!!!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

30 Macarons in 5 Days

Yes, that's right, I have once again proven that I am very "gourmande"(translation: adjective, who is fond of good food).  My husband Chris came back from France with my special package of thirty different macarons flavors.

30 flavors baby!

Close-up.

Cassis macaron.
The macarons came from Christian Michel, an accomplished pastry chef from La Maison du Macaron located in Broglie (Normandy).  His palette of macarons was truly exceptional, I got to sample: Cointreau, violet-wild berries, Tibet tea, apple, cherry, orange-cinnamon, rose, pineapple, coconut, licorice, to name a few...  To my surprise, I particularly liked the banana, vanilla, cassis (always one of my favorite), coconut and violet-myrtilles (no translation for "myrtilles", just to give you a visual, it is a sort of a wild mountain blueberry).  All the fillings for the macarons were made of a rich buttercream.  I limited myself to six macarons on the first day, you can get an idea of what I ate after that :)

I also got to get in touch and have a conversation with Chef Patissier Christian Michel.  It was nice to see how he started and how his business evolved.  He built his own kitchen, or lab (as he calls it) in his home garage (can you imagine, an impossible option here in Connecticut!) and supplies renowned pastry shops and restaurants in Paris.  I found out (this is for Cherie) that he uses egg whites in bricks (same packaging as Parmalat milk).  The eggs are pasteurized and work very well according to him.  This came as a huge surprise as I always read to use fresh eggs only, I guess I'll have to give it a try and see if it works for me.  So far, I wasn't able to find suppliers in the US; Australia had some cool stuff but it is a bit too far...  Should I give the supermarket product a try?

Canelé molds.
I took advantage of my hubbys' business trip (once again, moohoohaha!) to order some products that are difficult to find in the United States: fancy essences, special thermometer, flower syrups and some copper molds for canelés.  These little cakes have become very popular in France and many boulangeries carry them.  Many recipes don't carry a tale; the canelé carries many. One of the oldest refers to a convent in Bordeaux, where, before the French Revolution, the nuns prepared cakes called canalize made with donated egg yolks from local winemakers, who used only the whites to clarify their wines. Any records that might verify this were lost in the turbulent revolution, thus relegating the convent story to legend.  But the alternative tale may be even better: residents of Bordeaux, who lived along the docks, gleaned spilled low-protein flour from the loading areas, then used it to make sweets for poor children. The small canelé molds, fluted and made of copper or brass, were nestled in embers to be baked.  I've never had a canelé in my life!  I left France in 1994 and it's always amazing to go back and discover how some pastries are "à la mode"!  My first try wasn't a total success; at first, canelés need to be cooked at a very high temperature (530°F) for a short period of time, then the oven's temperature is lowered (480°F) and the cakes bake for half an hour to 45 minutes .  Unfortunately, my home oven doesn't seem to go pass 500°F.  My canelés were either burnt or undercooked.  This will definitively something to work on in the commercial kitchen I use with a professional oven... Oh well, when I have time!

Finished product - still needs some work...
 A couple of customers also asked me about "madeleines".  Ohhhhhh, I love them, especially in the morning when you can dunk one in your coffee!!!  I ordered a special mold from France (quite pricey at $80) and will attempt a recipe.  I'll keep you posted on that.

Spilled!




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New Flavors


With the arrival of spring, I felt inspired by the vivid colors of the season and different smells associated with it.  After being injured for a year and a half, I am finally able to go out and run again.  I ran the New York City marathon in 2011 and was training for the NYC half when injuries struck and prevented me from jogging.  It was devastating!  Thankfully, my patience paid off and I am finally back on the roads/trails again!  It's during my long runs, that endorphins kick in, allowing my senses to be intensified.  On my route, I'll pass that dog who loves to bark at me, anticipate the smell of the flower garden up the street and enjoy the view of the trees in bloom next to the farmhouse I love so much.  Doesn't spring make you happy?  I feel like a new person at this time of the year and once again, it motivated me to try some new macarons.

I first started with the black currant mac.  It is a staple on the macaron menu and I have been wanting to try the recipe since my day in New York on Macaron Day.  I don't know if you are aware,  but black currants are not easy to find on the market!  The closest thing I came accross was a black currant purée from l'Epicerie.  Since I wasn't familiar with this fruit, I decided to play it safe and make a white chocolate ganache with it.  The result was disappointing, the taste of the berry was too subtle for my liking, I didn't want to play it safe...  So even thought the macarons looked good (and people liked them), I wasn't happy with my performance.  I, since then, purchased some freeze dried "cassis" and next time, I'll include a fruit in the macaron to see how things turn out.  

Next, I gave a try to a passion-fruit macaron.  At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go with a milk chocolate or couverture ivoire (white chocolate) ganache.  Pierre Hermé's Mogador uses chocolate milk, actually he is one of the first patisser to have introduced the use of milk chocolate with macarons.  Most chef prefer dark chocolate for they desserts and once again Mr. Hermé broke barriers and came up with something unique and delicious!  I was almost sold on this idea until, I remembered the macaron from l'Epicerie Boulud.  It was passion-fruit and hazelnuts, fantastic!!  I was successful with that one on the first run, definitively a keeper!!!!

Passion-fruit and lavender macs.

The last macaron I wanted to give a shot to was the lavender one!!!  I purchased lavender from Williams Sonoma to incorporate to the almond-powdered sugar mixture.  I blended the whole thing and the fragrance coming from my tant pour tant was amazing.  For the filling, I opted for a butter-cream, which I had never truly mastered before.  My first attempt was a failure, lumpy, runny, truly hideous.  Luckily, I was able to figure out (thanks to the internet) what I was doing wrong and the second attempt was a success.  I used the lavender essence brought back from France by my hubby to kick the butter-cream up a notch.  It took a couple days for the macarons to mature completely, but, boy oh boy, was it worth it!!!  I never thought I would like a macaron so much.  I always tend to be a little pessimistic when I try to make flower flavored macarons, but so far, I have always been really happy with the results.  I am now thinking of trying hydrangeas and poppies macarons :)

Things have been a little bit slow for me lately, it is not easy to sell cookies when you don't have a storefront!  I am exploring the idea of having a gourmet truck; it would provide a kitchen for me and only me (I am sharing one right now), allow me to be flexible on my selling hours and provide a store on wheels, able to go from location to the other.  There already is such a truck in Philadelphia, if you are inthe area check out Sugar Philly, http://www.sugarphillytruck.com/.  I am also about to approach a few restaurants and coffee shops, I hope something will stick :)

I am planning to have another blog entry very soon!  My husband is in Paris (again!) and one of his co-worker has gotten me in touch with a macaron chef who works and supplies Ladurée. So hubby is supposed to bring back 30 different flavors from his store for me to sample.  I better start increasing my runs in distance real fast to avoid some major weight gain!!!

Would it be too much to ask Chris to bring me back this display from France?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Finally Spring!

Vanilla, blackberry-violet and cassis macarons.


I want to start my blog sharing some very exciting news and pictures as  I finally got to fulfill one of my dreams: taste Pierre Hermé's macarons.  As you know, I was able to sample some of Ladurée's macarons in New York as well as other bakeries within the city.  I was impressed by some and let down by others and although it was a really fun experiment to take part of, my ultimate goal was to try one  of Pierre Hermé unique creation.  

Pierre is considered to be the pastry chef rock and roll star.  His patisseries are so unique, he's almost a cross between a genius and a mad scientist. Just to give you an idea, French Vogue magazine dubbed him "The Picasso of Pastry".  Pierre Hermé uses sugar like salt, in other words, as a seasoning to heighten other shades of flavor.  His most famous macaron is the Ispahan, made with rose, lychee, and raspberry; but some of his other macarons might contain green olives, basalmic vinegar or truffles!  

I was always very intrigued and fascinated by his creativity and trying one of his macs was a must!  Unfortunately, none of his bakeries are in the United States and I had to accept the fact that this will have to wait until my next visit to France (Noël? 2014?).  Luckily, my husband Chris had another business trip to Paris scheduled at the last minute.  I handed him the list of products I needed from G. Detou and carefully picked a few macarons to get from Pierre Hermé. My list was limited to five, you see, Pierre's macarons are quite pricey and I wanted to make sure I had the best ones!  Chris came back with a box of TWENTY!!!!!!

Pierre Hermé Round Box
Now, look at this!!!!!  I got to sample:  chocolate-honey, hazelnut, rose, cassis, pistachio, chocolate-passion fruit, vanilla, salted caramel, vanilla-olive oil, matcha green tea with black sesame paste!!!!  I absolutely loved the rose macaron but was chocked by my two other favorite flavors.  The idea of a vanilla and olive oil mac was not appealing to me, I knew the macaron contained half a green olive and I was not attracted by the combo.  When the box was literally empty, I reluctantly picked the white and green macaron, bit into it and was amazed by the information passed onto my taste buds!!!!  The same happened with the matcha green tea/black sesame paste macaron.  I had tried one of these in NYC and after one bite I actually put my macaron in a trashcan...  Once again, Pierre Hermé took on a challenge and delivered a macaron that is intricate, unique and absolutely delicious (my mouth is watering just reminiscing of the encounter!).  It took me less than three days to eat my gorgeous round box of goodies... $75 worth of macarons gone :)

Rose, honey-chocolate, strawberry-rhubarb and cassis (black currant) macarons.
I was inspired to try new flavors after trying all these fantastic macs.  So my goal is to come up with a few more "parfums" to offer my customers.  With some of the ingredients purchased from G. Detou, I was able to reproduce the rose macaron.  I aslo found a store within the tri-state area where I can purchase cassis and passion fruit purees.  I am excited to work on these as I consider them staples to the usual macaron menu in famour tea salons.  Finally, I want to take a shot at making a lavender-vanilla macaron.  My goal would be to blend the lavender within the macaron shell and probably make a vanilla ganache montée to go with it...  I will keep you posted on that.  

Lemon-raspberry macs.
I am including two more photos in this blog, one of the lemon-raspberry macarons that my son Matthieu ask me to create.  It is filled with lemon curd and a freeze dry raspberry, it is quite good and who know, he might have a future as a pastry chef like Pierre Hermé some day!!!
And finally the latest pictures of my macaron towers, one on a tiered display and the other on a pyramid.  I am quite satisfied with the latter!  I decided to affix the macarons with royal icing instead of toothpicks (I hated that technique) and the finished product looked very professional. 

Macarons assortment on tiered tray.

Mac pyramid.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20th, Macaron Day!!!!

I am literally just back from New York where I spent a few hours for Macaron Day.  Every March 20th, participating locations in New York City offer a free macaron sample to customers for the day.  A portion of the day's macaron sales is donated to City Harvest, the world's first food rescue organization, dedicated to feeding the city’s hungry men, women, and children. This year, City Harvest will collect more than 42 million pounds of excess food from all segments of the food industry, including restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms. This food is then delivered free of charge to some 600 community food programs throughout New York City by a fleet of trucks and bikes. City Harvest helps feed the more than one million New Yorkers that face hunger each year. Since I had only visited Ladurée in the city, this was a no brainer, I had to go.

Twenty two stores were participating today, but I had to narrow it down to four (I couldn't find the fifth one!) since I only had a couple of hours to walk around the city and also because of the Artic temperatures outside!  Where is Spring?  My first stop was at MadMac.  They had a small display inside Bernardaud on Park Avenue.  I got to sample a pumpkin macaron only.  I would have liked to purchase more flavors, but they only offered standard boxes of 12, 24 or 36 macarons.  I was not super impressed by the product offered, the macaron was small compared to all the ones I sampled today, it also lacked, let's say... some tooth!  In other words, it was a tiny bit too mushy for me.  The ganache on the other hand was really good. 

My second stop was at MacarOn Café on 44th Street and 49th.  I was super excited to visit their location, I had been familiar with this company for a while, they have a very neat online store that I have visited on many occasions and  I was eager to try some of their fancy macarons.  The store is really cool, lots of flavors and bright colors.  I settled for a passion fruit, cassis, violet and green tea.  I got my little baggie (1 mac offered, 3 @ $2.50), headed out and took a picture of my cute little package.  As I started to walk, it was brought to my attention that I was dropping cookies.  "Oh non!!!!!", all my macarons were on the dirty NYC ground.  I applied the 5 seconds rule (or should it be less in the city??) and picked up my poor babies... I put them back in the bag and "poof" they all fell out again, the bag had ripped and there was a giant hole at the bottom of it.  This time, the violet macaron ended on the road, the cassis in a puddle and I was able to rescue the two other ones.  As a true macaron lover, I decided to eat them anyway (if I die of some sort of weird disease you'll know why), it was also worth five buck and I came all the way from Connecticut for them!!  The passion fruit was very good, but the green tea was awful; hard and I could not stomach the taste of it, after one bite, I put it in the trash.



Next, Francois Payard Bakery (on 1775 Broadway at 58th), I knew that was a popular one.  Francois Payard is actually responsible for organizing the first annual Macaron Day in NYC. Macaron Day NYC is inspired by and coincides annually with the Jour du Macaron in Paris, created by la Maison Pierre Hermé Paris (my idol!) in association with the Relais Desserts. I got a cassis macaron sample (since I didn't get to eat the one @ MacarOn Café) and bought a 3-macs sampler with chocolate, salted caramel and passion fruit (again).  I was disppointed  I could only buy pre-made boxes, picking your own flavors is so much fun...  Well, let me tell you, the cassis macaron was to DIE FOR!  It definitively was the winner of the day, filled with buttercream and some cassis in the middle of it.  A fantastic combo, try it if you can!


I finished my adventure with l'Epicerie Bouloud on Broadway.  Very nice store, the selection of macarons is not huge, but you can pick out what you want! I tried a hazelnut-passion-fruit macaron (again!), a pistachio and chocolate.  The consistency of the macs was nice, I was especially impressed with the hazelnut-passio-fruit one; the hazelnut cookie was very flavorful and worked well with the passion-fruit filling.  The chocolate was delicious, soft and rich, and the pistachio was quite nice too.  My only complaint would be the lack of consistency in size... don't judge me ;)


So despite the fact that I almost lost an ear due to frostbite and that I had to eat some of my macarons off the ground,  it was a fun experience!  It made me realize that my macarons are very similar to the ones offered in the city at $2.50 a pop (and actually better than some there too!!!).  I was inspired by some of the flavors, colors and combinations created.  I should try to be a little more adventurous with what I make, there is nothing to lose and so much to gain!  I guess I should say, see you in 2014 Macaron Day, hopefully with much warmer temperatures and more time to spare.  Special thanks to my in-laws to watch my little Julien while I was out :)

Only in New York!  I ran into a few Easter Bunnies.
 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Something New.

I have been wanting to try something new for a while now.  As previously mentioned in my blog, this winter season has not left me much time to myself.  The baking I have been doing has mostly been for my orders and I have been sticking to my usual flavors.  

This afternoon,  I was home with my youngest son (one out of three boys, not bad!), the entire laundry was done, ironed and put away, the house was clean, bills paid and there really wasn't much for me to do.  It was the perfect setting to put my apron on and make some macarons!

Since it was an unplanned thing, I had to create something with what I had on hand.  I had recently purchased Valrhona Jivara Lactée milk chocolate and was dying to open the package that was sitting in my MacArons pantry.  Luckily, I also had some candied ginger available; with the weather outside, I was looking to create something a little exotic.  

The final product looks nice, unfortunately, as you may, or may not know, I'll have to wait tomorrow to try the macarons and see how good they are.  Macarons need to rest one or two nights before they are ready to eat.  An osmose between the ganache and the macaron needs to take place and you have to be patient if you really want to taste the cookie at its full potential!  Okay... I did cheat a little bit, I tasted the ganache and it was absolutely divine.  The Valrhona chocolate is pricey, but spending a a few more dollars is well worth it! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February...

I have been settling in the new year and dealing with some personal health issues.  Today, I think I can finally put all my headaches behind and focus on being an entrepreneur once again...  Of course, that would be a lot easier if my children could go back to school (husband is in Japan, that doesn't help)!  With the 30 inches of snow that fell on Huntington recently, school has been cancelled for 3 days straight... plus the weekend in between...  All this equals to five days stuck at home with the kiddos!!!  I need some me time... some macaron time!

I am a little disappointed because with all that has been happening, I have not pushed the "Valentine's Day" themed macarons.  I gave it a quick shot today at home, but I wasn't exactly in the perfect conditions to bake and the results were disappointing.  One of my favorite chef and blogger, Mercotte, says that you need to be organized in the kitchen in order to be efficient.  I truly believe that it is a fundamental tool to success when it comes to making macarons.  I can guaranty that things will go awry if you are messy and not perfectly in tune with what you are doing.  I am hoping to give it another shot tonight once the boys are in bed, failure is not an option ;)

I am patiently waiting for a delivery from UPS today (hopefully!).  I have decided to order my almond flour from another vendor this time.  If you read my blog, you know that I have been struggling with the physical appearance of my cookies for a couple months.  I have attributed it to: my "macaronage", the weather, my oven, bad mojo, etc...  Things are almost perfect at this point, but I am bothered by the fact that only 85% of the macarons come out of the oven perfect.  Somehow, a small amount are tilted or misshaped.  I read once that this occurrences can be the result of the quality of the almond itself, which is too fatty.  So even though I have been happy with my vendor, I am giving a shot to another one that is not only pricier but also take longer to deliver.  Let's see if my theory is valid!

Finally, a picture of my "Hello Kitty" macarons.  A client in Arizona placed a special request for her daughter's birthday last week.  I was at first very nervous on taking such a project, I don't consider myself crafty, I love making the macarons, but the other stuff is another story.  Perhaps, I should stop doubting myself,  I am actually stoked by my product, what do you think?