Mar. 28, 2012 - Issue #858: Norwegian Wood
Tiny treats, big flavour
Mirabelle Macarons takes on a French classic
Macarons are Lilliputian French sandwich cookies. They are created from almond flour, egg whites, and buttercream filling infused with a remarkable array of flavours that range from the recognizable, like berry or milk chocolate, to the exotic and enticing, like passionfruit and green tea. Edmonton entrepreneur Connie Nelson first sampled macarons at a farmers' market in Calgary. At first glance, she was unimpressed. "I thought they would be hard," she admits, "but after sampling them, eating one turned into eating the whole bag." These tiny treats piqued her curiosity, and Nelson set out on an online quest to master the art of macarons.
Trial and error propelled Nelson to try countless recipes, determined to discover a successful formula for macaron mastery.
"It probably would have shortened the learning curve had I taken a class," she laughs. She adds, "I was obsessed for a solid year! It was frustrating because when batches didn't turn out, it was hard to know why. It's hard to troubleshoot when you're learning."
Nelson baked macarons nearly every day and discovered that macarons require a surgeon's precision. "You can't cut corners with them. They are very finicky and that's why they are special," she notes. Despite her tribulations, Nelson persevered and admits, "It was a good process and a good year."
Family and friends encouraged Nelson, who is a stay-at-home mom to a young daughter, to start a business.
"I wondered if it was possible," she recalls. She named her business after her daughter. "The name 'Mirabelle' has a nice ring to it and it is also the name of a French variety of peach or apricot," she explains. She laughs and adds, "Some people still think my name is Mirabelle, though!"
Nelson found a warm response to her miniature morsels at the City Centre Farmers' Market and discovered that social media like Twitter and blogging were a huge source of traffic.
"I really enjoy market days, and blogs have been a big boost. Thanks to blogging and the market, I am meeting people with common interests—people that I wouldn't have met otherwise. It's fun and they show so much support for my business," she notes with gratitude.
Reading blogs provides Nelson with significant inspiration, particularly with respect to flavour development.
"I've noticed that other people who bake macarons tend to stick to common flavours, and that pushes me to tweak them and add something to elevate them," she states. "Milk chocolate passionfruit is probably my favourite flavour and salted caramel is one of my best sellers."
French baker Pierre Hermé, who is credited with inventing the macaron, is an additional inspiration for Nelson's creative endeavours.
"His philosophy is to concentrate on the filling, rather than the shell. Shells usually aren't flavoured and the flavour of a macaron comes from the filling and permeates the whole cookie," she explains.
For now, Nelson is content to introduce Edmonton to macarons at the farmers' market and through catering private functions like weddings, but she continues to dream of a grander future.
"It has been a fantasy of mine to open a store. I would love to have a permanent store front, but I'm not sure Edmonton is ready for such a specialized place," she remarks. "I think people like the 'smallish' feel of the macaron and the market," observes Nelson. Indeed, small is beautiful in respect both to macarons and to Nelson's business. vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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