Today, I'm going to tell you the story about my macarons. The ideas I possess, the difficulties I face, the tale behind the creation of each flavour, how it all started and the possible future it might have. I first started selling macarons because I thought they were something easy to purchase off social media (my means was via Instagram) and also because I didn't want to be just known for pretty photos and leave people wondering if my pastries were actually credibly good. Hence, I decided letting a few of those who were interested to try would be a good start to letting people taste my creations. Word caught on, and I never thought that my macarons would appeal so much to the masses. Many have started coining them as "legendary" although I really highly doubt it. My style is modern French pastry. I take the classics, and I try to create or re-create and elevate them to hopefully something better and unique, whether it's in terms of my own flavour interpretation or the general aesthetics of it. Even though I'd like people to know I do so much more than just macarons, I'm now known for them and I thought I'd share my story on the beginnings of these #engnatalie treats. But before I start, I'd like to thank each and everyone one of you who has ever purchased a box from me and for your endless support! <3
When I first started making macarons, I was awful at them. I never made much of them during my time in Paris so even when I came back to Singapore after being trained for a year in the land famed for their macarons, I was still seeing cracked, uneven ones through my oven doors. I could almost break that glass every time I saw a sight like that. I never got a chance to learn how to make them from the best pastry chefs in Paris, or even make them enough to have someone guide me and tell me what I was doing wrong. It was all trial and error, lots of mistakes made, wasted ingredients and, messed up and thrown out shells that got me to this point. I don't proclaim that they're the best because I know I still have much more to go in obtaining that perfect shell but I'm pretty happy with where I've gotten myself so far, and by myself.
I used to be head of the macaron department in Antoinette 3 years ago. But their shells are much different, and they used a different method and of course recipe. I probably only got 1 masterclass with J, but that's about it. Even so, that isn't enough for me to learn entirely the secrets to a good macaron.
It all started when I created my signature flavour of Lavender and Apricot. I don't know why but I just felt like it would work. The floral notes complementing the slightly tart flavour of a stone fruit. From then on you could say I was on a roll and almost obsessed with creating something new every week. So far I've got 8 macaron flavours in my repertoire. What makes my macarons different is how I try to blend floral or earthy notes with something fruity and acidic because I hate overly sweet macarons and I always try to achieve balance in every single bite. Every macaron I've created has a slightly sour confiture in the centre, for freshness and something surprising. I love playing around with different flavour combinations and I always aim to get a perfect harmonious pairing between the ganache and the confiture.
Every macaron I've created has a story and inspiration behind it and I thought you guys might be interested to know more.
Let's start with the signature shall we? I call this Le 26.
No reason really. It was inspired by this ice-cream cake I was assigned to make with my friend Charlotte back in school in Paris. She was so incredibly reluctant to add in the lavender essence into the parfait because she hated the idea of lavender (i wasn't that keen either) in cakes. To me it always felt weird and overpowering to have lavender (which I always associated with toilet cleaning or facial/body products) in my desserts but it was subtle in the parfait and went so lovely with a peach sorbet. I thought apricot would work just as well et voilà!
Following suit, I did a lemongrass and green apple macaron. I call this Jimmy;
simply because the first time I tried this flavour pairing, it was in a form of a green apple that he created for my chef as a tasting. I was incredibly smitten and never knew it would pair so beautifully. It was light and refreshing on anyone's palate. I was worried making that green apple confiture. Jimmy was certain it would become like an apple compote, but I ran tests and it worked out quite so very nicely.
Then the Dali appeared.
That's what I called the 72% dark chocolate-cassis one because I remembered making countless of moelleux chocolats with a cassis centre for the room service. We were always sharing a piece whenever the tea time was over. Instead of the usual 70%, I opted for 72% for a more intense, bitter and rich chocolate flavor that goes so well with the acidic cassis and sweet macaron shells.
I love coconut, and I wanted to go a more local tropical route by incorporating a vanilla pineapple confiture in the centre. Toasting the coconut intensified the nutty flavour in the ganache. As for the jam, it was made using fresh pineapples. This reminded me very much of the sun, sand and sea. And also, Chinese New Year.
I had no name for the lime-yoghurt and wild strawberry macaron.
But working at barstories definitely helped me know that these two flavours would work perfectly with one another. I imported the wildest of berries called the Fraise des Bois. They're tiny strawberries that are so sweet with such an intense strawberry flavour. Imagine a normal strawberry and amplify its flavour by 10 times.
Then Sakura came about.
Quite obvious, this was Sakura and White Peach. I had some white peach purée on hand as well as Sakura essence from Japan that I had never put to use. I was wondering what to do with them and then it hit me, that would/could/might be quite a hit. I tried it, and I was very pleased. If you've never tasted Sakura before, it might appear abit odd to you at first. But have it with the white peach and I promise it marries so well.
Mother's Day is underway. Named after my mum, I decided to combined my mum's two great loves. Dried fruits and tea. I paired earl grey with the earthy flavour of figs. I also used a combination of 70% white chocolate and 30% milk chocolate for more complexity on the palate. This is one of my favourites.
I always loved the name Tonka so it's no surprise I named my other Mother's Day Special macaron that. 66% Caraïbe has a slightly acidic red fruit flavour. Tonka beans have the most wonderful aroma of vanilla, cinnamon and cherry. I was quite certain this 66% dark chocolate with freshly grated tonka beans would be a fantastic with the sour morello cherry confiture in the centre.
I know there's been quite a demand for these macarons but I would like to share my feelings about producing them at this point and I hope my supporters would understand where I'm coming from. I work from home and to produce and supply quality pastries on a professional level is extremely difficult, especially when I do not have the proper equipment, storage space and working environment. Creating and doing tests is the easy part. What I am concerned is being unable to supply to that demand. People would always expect more and want something new. I try to give them but when I do, it leads to problems with storage. I have so many macarons in all different flavours kept in a home-freezer that's shared amongst my family. It's not an industrial one and because it isn't, my macarons aren't freezing the way they should be. My shells are maturing inside the freezer which is definitely not ideal. It means my shells aren't as fresh as they should be and the last thing I would want is to compromise on the quality of my work.
With Singapore's weather, it's something I cannot control but it pains me to see my work condensing the instant I exit them from the freezer or fridges. Condensation does massive destruction to not only macaron shells but my other pastries. Until I can find a proper working space that's fully air-conditioned, this is something I cannot resolve and I really really don't want to be selling macarons that aren't top quality in terms of texture.
Those boxes. Since I'm not operating on a large scale production, it makes it difficult for me to order boxes to be made as they usually come in thousands. I spend hours making my own boxes and to work on them, and bake, and clean everything by myself, I'm lacking in manpower when my manual labour is pretty sky high.
Those are just a few of the massive challenges I'm facing as of now and I thought I'd share them with you as in the following months, I'm going to have much less flash sales for my macarons. I'm currently in the midst of working something out. Perhaps something big may happen, I don't know yet. I'm excited and scared all at the same time but if it does work out, I promise to bring you more macarons. Bigger (not literally), better and much more exciting.
Thank you all so much for your endless support once again. xxx