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Macaron Makers Experiment with Persnickety Pastry

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Helen Bradberry babysat her oven last week, making sure the temperature was just right for her macarons.

“One batch looked funky,” said Bradberry of Helen’s French Macarons. “They are finicky things.”

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Macarons are meringue-like almond cookies with a sweet filling, and not a lot of area bakers specialize in them.

When making the pastry, which comes in French, Swiss and Italian variations, everything has to be just so or they won’t turn out properly. The temperature being slightly off is enough to cause a batch to come out less than perfect, she said.

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Joey Blackwell of Mac Daddy Macarons of Graniteville, S.C. prefers the Italian brand of macarons, and he said they are just as temperamental. The differences in the French and Italian versions are subtle and have a lot to do with the techniques used.

Not only do oven temps have to be perfect, but the types of pans used and the direction they are used makes a difference. Blackwell has turned his silicone bakeware upside down to get the desired look.

Both bakers have turned to macaron-making as a side industry. Bound by cottage bakery laws, they sell direct to customers locally. Bradberry makes deliveries or offers her items in pop-up shops. Blackwell takes and fills orders from local customers.

Bradberry said she has been baking for as long as she can remember, helping her mom in the kitchen from a young age. About 10 years ago, when she was still in high school, she started making macarons — to disastrously funny results.

Helen Bradberry at a pop-up shop on June 26. Photo courtesy Helen Bradberry

“I just found pictures of them. They were so bad. It was so funny,” she said.

Blackwell has similar experiences from his earlier creations. He started making macarons during the pandemic. He’d seen them on some cooking shows and decided to try it, much to his wife’s amusement.

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“My wife is the baker. She makes cakes and cupcakes. She said ‘Do you know how hard those are?’” he said.

He was up for the challenge, though, scouring videos and websites, even reaching out to other macaron-makers. He tried and failed numerous times before finding the right recipe.

Both Blackwell and Bradberry said making the perfect macaron becomes an obsession.

Once Blackwell had gotten the recipe right, it was time to work on the appearance.

“The cookies came out lopsided,” he said. “Some looked like volcanos. It was frustrating.”

Now, he’s got it down to a science. Each month, he offers a flavor of the month; while Bradberry has a small list of flavors she makes.

Bradberry said the cookie part stays the same; it’s the filling that changes. Bradberry had a pop-up shop on June 26 during Augusta Pride and made rainbow macarons with fillings to match the colors. Red had a cherry-pie flavor, for instance.

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To learn more about macarons or order them, find Helen’s French Macarons at helensfrenchmacarons.com, on Instagram @HelensFrenchMacarons or on Facebook at facebook.com/helensfrenchmacarons. Find Mac Daddy Macarons on Facebook at facebook.com/MacDaddyMacaronsSC.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the Features Editor for The Augusta Press. Reach her at [email protected].

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