9/4/2011: An Introduction
Hello, dear readers and (hopefully) macaron fans! Welcome to my macaron blog. Over the next few months I will be sharing several macaron-related things with you with the end goal being owning and operating my own macaron stand in a Chicago farmers market. Because it’s surprisingly hard to write some sort of straight introduction, I decided to do it in Q & A format. Forgive me; I hope that’s not too annoying.
Who are you and what kind of training do you have?
I’m Lindsey Becker, and I have no formal culinary training whatsoever! Everything I know related to food, cooking, and baking has come from either the Food Network or online, and a good amount of what I’ve learned online has come from seriouseats.com
, which is my absolute favorite way to kill time. Some people have wikipedia; I have Serious Eats.
Have you ever made a macaron before? No. In fact, as of this writing, I’ve probably only ever tried about six macarons from three different places in my whole life.
What? Then why are you going to start a macaron stand? Excellent question, self. Let me break it down. Why a stand? Well the simple answer is that I love to bake, I would like to be able to share what I bake with more people without paying for expensive pastry classes/a degree (I already have a degree in something else…more on that later), and the best way that I can think of to do that is through a farmers market stand since it requires the least amount of money to start up and because I believe in community. Why macarons specifically? I think they’re beautiful, delicious, and have a sublime texture unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. They are well-known for their unpredictability and the high level of skill required to make them. I would like to prove that a completely untrained humanities major with a passion for baking can create something typically thought of as a food only trained pastry chefs, and specifically French-trained pastry chefs, can make.
Where did you get this hairbrained idea? Well. A few serendipitous things happened one right after the other and suddenly I thought, “umm…macaron stand!” Really. It was that specific. The first thing that happened (and it didn’t so much happen, as develop) was that I majored in something (psychology) that I shouldn’t have majored in. What I should have done is really thought hard about what I wanted to do with my life back in high school. I should have realized or it would have been great if someone had told me that I didn’t have to go the traditional route of 4-year college, humanities major, random job. If I had done that, I might have realized I really liked cooking and especially baking and hey, culinary school might be a great alternative route, but you know, hindsight and all that…
So one day while I was bemoaning my fate as an administrative assistant with no great career prospects in sight as I was wont to do in the years after graduating from NYU, a coworker mentioned that her sister owned a cakery. Yes, a bakery devoted exclusively to cakes, and no, I had never heard of such a thing. As we talked more about it, she referred me to her sister’s website, complete with pictures of adorable reindeer cake pops and baby shower cakes with fondant pacifiers. They looked professional, so I offhandedly said, “so she went to pastry school?” in a sort of wistful way as I would love to attend pastry school if it weren’t for those pesky student loans I have from already attending school. “No,” she said, “she actually has exactly the same degree I have [which is something financial].”
“Wait,” I said. “So she just started a bakery with no training?”
“Yep. Well, actually it’s a cakery.”
And thus the radical idea was planted in my head that you don’t need a silly degree! But alas, I would never have the kind of money you need to start your own business…or so I thought.
A few days later I found myself browsing my local farmers market with my mom. There was a caramel stand that I had never seen before offering samples. What I realized as I stood there eating my pea-sized sample of caramel (delicious, by the way) was that this little caramel stand was staffed my one woman who presumably made all of these delicious caramels (“completely free of high fructose corn syrup and preservatives!”), and I didn’t care if she had any caramel-making training. I didn’t care that her storefront, so to speak, was in a farmers market, in fact, I kind of liked the variety she added. I also thought her sample idea was great as I ended up buying a few caramels. That’s when the bell went off. I could do this, I thought. That’s when the idea started to percolate in the back of my mind. But what would I sell? If I wanted to work at this local farmers market I wouldn’t be able to make caramels.
I returned home with my caramels and fruits and mother. Sitting on my counter was a box containing two macarons I had gotten the night before on a whim at a bakery. As I broke their delicate outer shell with my front two teeth, marveling that they still held that glorious texture even though I had bought them the day before, that’s when the final bell went off. MACARONS! STAND! MACARON STAND!
What are you going to call your macaron stand? My boyfriend and I have come up with some great ideas, but I think once I work on this blog for a while and hopefully build some sort of reader base, I will put it to a vote. So stay tuned for that!
When are you going to open your macaron stand? Probably around April of 2012, which is when the first farmers markets open.
Where will you offer your macarons? That remains to be seen. There are dozens of farmers markets around Chicago, and I have a few in mind. From what little research I’ve done, there seem to be a surprising amount of differences among markets in admission requirements, space, and price of setting up a stand. I would love to profile a few markets over the next few months as I decide where to apply.
What’s going to make your macarons different from every other macaron in Chicago? I have a few ideas, but to be sure that they are unlike the other macarons Chicago has to offer, I’ll be tasting my way across the macarons of Chicago and detailing my thoughts in future posts.
I would like to make untraditionally-flavored macarons in the traditional way (or one of the traditional ways…either French or Italian). There are plenty of raspberry and pistachio and vanilla macarons out there. I’m thinking s’mores, pineapple macadamia, and even some kind of honey/pickle combo. Experimenting with flavors will certainly be a big part of this blog in the future.
I’m also playing around with the idea of making them completely organic. It would be difficult and would most certainly make the end product more expensive, however I think it is definitely something I will seriously consider in future posts.
I hope that gives you some kind of background on me and even more hopefully, a reason to come back. I’d love to have you again! Feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions for future posts, macaron stand names, or even some tips and tricks of macaron-making…I’ve gathered there are approximately 2,593,429 out there.