Macaron Magic

Confections to Sweeten Your Holiday Table

BY KIM HASTY, November 2021

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TONY WOOTEN

A stint in Japan about 10 years ago introduced Betty and John Peterson to a variety of new culinary delights, including a different take on a dessert typically associated with France.

The Petersons’ stay at Yokota Air Force Base coincided nicely with a boom in popularity in macarons, the light and airy confection that starts with a base of almond flour, egg whites and sugar. In Japan, the Petersons found them with ingredients such as red bean paste and matcha, a powdered form of green tea.

“You go and shop there and they make them fresh and box them with an ice pack,” Betty Peterson said.

When the Petersons returned to the United States, their love of macarons was, well, marooned. Until that is, they discovered that their friend Mindy Song Harlander is a baker of macarons who recently started her home-based business, Avant-Garde Macaron.

If rainbows had flavors, surely you could find them in Mindy’s Haymount kitchen. Her macarons are tiny, delicate concoctions of blueberry-lemon, red velvet, strawberry cheesecake and, most recently, pumpkin spice latte that offer pleasing pops of color with a yummy taste to match.

Not to mention regular batches of macarons that incorporate red beans and matcha.

“They’re awesome,” said Betty Peterson, who has become a regular customer who enjoys nibbling a macaron or two with her morning coffee. “I would say Mindy’s macarons rival the ones we had in Japan.”

Mindy started her business last spring out of a love for all things French and a penchant for creativity. In fact, she came up with the name of her business in hope of helping people pronounce her favorite confection correctly. Macarons are pronounced such that the last syllable is the same as the first name of the famed actor and director who played Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Ron Howard. Or former Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Ron Cey.

Or, hey, macaron sort of rhymes with Peloton.

In other words, macaRON, instead of macaROON. A macaroon refers to the lumpy little cookie made of shredded coconut and sweetened condensed milk. Macaroons also have their devotees, but people seeking macarons are likely not among them.

And people were obviously seeking macarons when they approached the vendor booth of another home macaron baker at last month’s Dogwood Fall Festival.

“Both days I was sold out,” said Enisa Ray, owner of Macarons by NINA. She started her business as a way of trying to thank her friends for their kindness.

“It was over Christmastime and I wanted to think of something to give them,” she said. “So it was like, let me bake something. When I gave them to them, my friends said, ‘You have to sell those.’”

Perhaps some loaves of banana bread or a pie or two might have been simpler. Both Mindy and Enisa said it took a little trial and error to perfect their technique for producing a smooth, crispy shell and a fluffy filling. Many of their customers also appreciate the variety of flavors and colors they offer that change with the seasons, and some of which aren’t overpoweringly sweet.

“When I started baking them, my first batches didn’t turn out right,” Enisa said.

“They are sometimes finicky. But I got a feeling for them.”

Looking for just the right finishing touch for your holiday table? You can find both home macaron bakers on Facebook and Instagram, or email avantgardemacaron@gmail.com or enisa1981@gmail.com.