KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Move Over, Pierre Hermé!
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Thursday, October 11, 2007
Move Over, Pierre Hermé!

Rose, lavender, and vanilla bean macaroons

I didn't like macaroons until I met Danielle Chong. She's the founder of Macarune, a one-woman baking operation, and macaroons are the specialty of the house.

A co-worker introduced me to Macarune's light as air creations, and even through the deadened fog of a headcold, I could taste the freshness of the buttercream and feel the juxtaposition of textures -- crisp, then soft and chewy -- on my tongue. I was intrigued. So I called Danielle up, and we met for coffee to talk about her budding bakery.

"I've always baked," explained the petite Malaysian. "I used to pore over mom's cookbooks. A lot of friends back home know me for my cheesecake with peaches on top."

Strawberry macaroons. Photo by Danielle Chong.

During a trip to Europe, Danielle tasted her first macaron from Parisian legend Pierre Hermé. "We'd buy a box with strawberry and pistachio and we'd eat them like Krispy Kremes."

When her boyfriend bought her a KitchenAid mixer two years ago, she started baking in earnest, gifting the sugary excesses to friends. Macaroons were a particular challenge.

"They're a pain in the butt to make," she says with a rueful smile. "I've thrown trays and trays away. I failed the first time and I failed the second time and it worked the third time. But I've failed many times after."

Danielle bakes her macaroons in a variety of flavors. My favorite is rose, which is made with rose water; each one is distinctly and intoxicatingly floral. There is also pistachio, vanilla bean, coffee, hibiscus, coconut, hazelnut, caramel fleur de sel, lychee, lavender, raspberry, black sesame, green tea -- and many, many more. She's currently playing around with cardamom, orange blossom, and elderflower. "Traveling has opened my eyes to a lot of different flavors," she says.

Lavender macaroons. Photo by Danielle Chong.

Danielle makes her macaroons in the French style, meaning that the buttercream sandwiched in the middle is made by pouring sugar syrup over egg yolks and whipping it to peaks. She prefers this method for most of the flavors because of the velvety texture it imparts. For the honey buttercream in her lavender macaroons, however, she switches to the Italian method, which uses egg whites in place of yolks.

The provenance of her ingredients varies. "I am pro-local," she admits. "I go to the Ferry Plaza farmer's market almost every week." But some things are better abroad, and she prefers Valhrona chocolate and culinary lavender imported from France.

She is equally fastidious about how she presents her dainty cookies. Strawberry macaroons come in a green plastic pint basket, just as they would at the market, and each order is festooned with a polka dotted ribbon.

Black sesame and pistachio macaroons. Photo by Danielle Chong.

Right now, Danielle bakes only to order -- one reason her macaroons are so unbeatably fresh tasting. (In comparison, the macaroons sold at everyone's favorite boulangerie look and taste like limp imitations.) In addition to macaroons, Macarune also offers custom cupcakes -- my favorite is the intensely fudgey chocolate soufflé -- as well as celebration cakes, shortbread and cookies.

Orders: $26 for 16 (1 flavor) or $42 for 32 (2 flavors). 72 hours notice required, not including weekends. Pick-up is in North Beach. For more information or to place an order, contact daniellechong@gmail.com

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Blogger M said...

I've been (digitally) drooling over Danielle's creations for months ever since I discovered her blog. How lucky you are to taste those lovely looking (and I'm sure tasting) macaroons. Her presentation is impeccable, and I'm sure the flavor is as wonderful as the sweets she bakes look.

I think it's pretty clear she will go really far in the world of baking and pastry. And I bet your coverage here is just the start of what will likely be plenty of public praise and recognition.

Now, I just need to find a way to get my hands on some of those coconut cupcakes I spotted on her site not long ago!

10/11/2007 1:24 PM

Anonymous Rachel Thomas said...

My taste buds have been fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of experiencing many of Chong's *delish* creations!! Her macarune's are nothing short of out-of-this-world, and her many other goodies are just as dreamy! From first hand experience, I must say this *yummy* little business, including owner and all, is sweet through and through!

10/11/2007 4:14 PM

Anonymous Jennifer Jeffrey said...

I can't stomach the macroons from "everyone's favorite boulangerie" - they're so disappointing that I wish they just wouldn't sell them at all.

I'm so glad to know about Danielle - not nearly expensive as a flight to Paris!

10/12/2007 10:48 AM

Blogger Jennifer Maiser said...

I read this early yesterday and spent the rest of the day thinking about them. I'm going to have to get some very soon.

10/12/2007 11:02 AM

Blogger nicky said...

when i was tiny i lived on the small mediterranean island of Malta. After church we would stop to buy the wonderfully chewy macaroons being sold at the foot of the church steps. Except for visits back to my homeland i have never found any macaroons to satisfy this early memory. However while googling lavender (my favourite super substance) i came across Danielle's fairy tale creations and want some???

But.... i live in windy england far across the sea! How can i get my hands on them? Would they travel overseas or would Ms Chong be so kind as to share her recipe with me, a fellow macaroon nut, who has taken to baking to mend a broken heart.xx


3/30/2008 1:42 AM


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