When these gorgeous, melt-in-your-mouth bites of delicious began showing up at BELONG HQ, our taste buds were delighted . . . and when we considered launching a series highlighting women who were pursuing their passions, Amy Vardeman’s name made everyone’s list. Event Manager by day, pastry chef by night, Amy is making her dream of becoming a professional macaron maker come true.
BELONG: Let’s start with a definition: We’re not talking about those chewy coconut cookies, right?
AMY: No, not at all. It’s French; I guess you’d define it as a meringue cookie with various fillings. They come in different colors & flavors.
BELONG: What inspired you to start making macarons in the first place?
AMY: When I first went to Paris, they were everywhere. Ladurée
BELONG: How long did that take?
AMY: It probably took six months, total, to perfect the shells. Then I just played with different fillings whenever I had the opportunity. I started researching the different kinds: Swiss meringue, buttercream . . . then I found a recipe from book called Macarons and I loved their recipe best. I would bring them to work or send to friends to taste test and let me know, “What do you like? What didn’t you like?”
BELONG: What’s your favorite flavor?
AMY: Caramel. That’s boring, but it’s so good. I’ve probably done 15 to 20 flavors altogether. I also love pumpkin, gingerbread, eggnog—the flavors of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
BELONG: How long does it take to make a macaron?
AMY: For one batch of 24 cookies it takes—start to finish, only using 1 oven—a couple of hours.
BELONG: Do you use special equipment?
AMY: I don’t have a special pan; you can just use parchment paper and pipe them out [with a pastry bag] on that. I use a silicone mat with circles printed on it so I have a guide to make them all the same size.
BELONG: When did you first think, “Hey, I could do this for money”?
AMY: When people told me my macarons were really good. They had experience with other macarons, so I didn’t think they were just saying it. Then people started requesting them for showers, birthdays, and so on. It’s fun to make a little extra cash from what you like to do.
BELONG: What have you learned about making macarons a business and not just a hobby?
AMY: It’s a specialty item and a lot of people don’t know what they are and how delicious they are—so probably not much customer awareness.
BELONG: What has been the most rewarding part?
AMY: That people enjoy them. I like the process of it. I like starting something and finishing it. There are steps and a process and I enjoy that. Macarons are fun because you can do anything with them. In Paris, they seem to be to be color-coded to the fillings but I can customize mine because I make them for special orders, birthdays, and showers.
BELONG: What came as a surprise?
AMY: The fact that I have been able to come up with different filling flavors. Going from thinking “this might sound good with this,” then trying it, and it working out!
BELONG: Where would you like to take your macaron business?
AMY: My dream right now would be to sell them to restaurants and businesses. But having my own storefront bakery would be really cool.
BELONG: What would you say to other women who are thinking about turning their hobby into a business?
AMY: Do it! Why not? If you don’t try, you’ll never know.
BELONG: If we’d rather buy macarons from you than go to the trouble of making our own, how would we go about placing an order?
AMY: Just email me! They need to be in the Dallas area, though, because I don’t ship yet. I like to keep them refrigerated so I’m still working out shipping.
Macarons: A Brief, Incomplete, Unauthorized Biography
Adapted from Wikipedia
These pastel-colored delicacies are new to most U.S. markets, but they may been around since the 8th century, when they were produced in Venetian monasteries. Yes, Venice, Italy, not France. Macarons came to France via Catherine de Medici when she married Henry II back in the Renaissance. Apparently Cathy had a sweet tooth; she brought Italian pastry chefs with her to her new home in France.
A couple hundred years later, in the Lorraine region of northeastern France (so the story goes), an abbess created an order of nuns who followed strict dietary rules. Since they were forbidden to eat meat, two nuns (Sisters Marguerite and Marie-Elisabeth) created the “Nancy macaron” named after the town where they lived.
In more recent times, macarons have spread across the globe. In the U.S. one can find flavors such as peanut butter and bacon (separately, not together). Switzerland offers multiple chocolate flavors of macarons, Korea is fond of the green tea-flavored option, and in Japan they have cell phone accessories, stickers, and cosmetics featuring “makarons.” In Australia, you can find them at McDonald’s McCafe outlets.
Wherever you happen upon a macaron, do try one. They’re delicious!