[UPDATED: PRODUCTION HAS ENDED FOR NOW. SEE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT] Some people are organised enough to document a project and then tell their readers all about it, blow by blow. Not me. All good intentions of snapping photos evaporated as I juggled the eccentricities of an induction stove, the buttons and dial of a fancy Rational oven (it does almost anything, except tell me why it's not doing what I want!), and the largest macaron batter I've ever made! You see, on Monday I stepped into the kitchen of the new food venture, EARL Canteen, by Jackie and Simon.
You probably all know that I expect a lot of the macarons (one-O, not macaroons) of the world, and Jackie finally persuaded me to try my hand at commercial production late last year (abetted by another long-time nagger who is largely anonymous). I understand the baking challenges that confront the home cook, and have never understood why professionals in Australia don't do a better job. I also understand the pressures and limitations of business (my dream of gold-leaf initials on my macarons will have to wait… hehehe), but a professional should manage demands of mass production and cost and time, right?
I hadn't been at the practical end of a commercial kitchen until about three weeks ago, and my first production run was, well, last Monday. I went from home batches of at most eighty macarons to 250 in one fell swoop. And you know what, despite everything (including batter up my armprints and ganache down my front), I'm pretty happy with the final product. There are some things that I think could have gone better (no way I'm telling you what, hehe), and I'm sure I'll be more satisfied as I get more into the groove. And my piping technique has improved:)
Of course, I hope that customers of EARL Canteen enjoy my macarons and that they meet expectations at least most of the time (hey, I'm aiming for all the time, but nothing can be perfect).
Choosing launch flavours was fun. By pure chance, I saw finger limes at my local Coles supermarket (apparently they bought almost the entire supply for this season… I hate to think how much of the fruit went unsold in the stores). I liked finger lime immediately. Funny little "capsules" (actually "vesicles") of tart, slightly peppery/musty juice. They're quite robust, and I immediately thought of mixing them into a ganache. Pop! Pop! Fun. Indeed, someone has already described this macaron as "like a sour warhead going off in your mouth"!
Despite this fun, in macaron mass production I found the fruits are an utter bugger to de-capsulate, so to speak, as the vesicles are a bit sticky, and there are quite a few pips in there too! Grrrr.
The second launch flavour had to be passionfruit. Why? Well, Pierre Hermé (the Parisian super-master-macaron-deity) has a delicious, popular passionfruit+milkchoc macaron named Mogador, and everyone seems to love it (including Sarah, who indicated dire consequences if passionfruit didn't make a rapid appearance in my repertoire). I wanted something fresher, brighter than the Mogador, as passionfruits are in season right now, so a white chocolate ganache was ideal. Add a few pips for cosmetic value and surprise crunch, and there you go…
I've agonised over branding for my macarons, and eventually settled on simple, clear Macarons by Duncan. I guess it's as honest as can be! I hope you like the logo. Was fun and fiddly to get that far. Every Macaron by Duncan will bear a small, colourful dot on one shell… it seemed a fun way to "brand" the product. What's more, every flavour has a name. Sometimes there might be a reason, sometimes it'll be a whim. Finger lime is CLANCY dark. Passionfruit is ZARA white.
A third flavour is on the way, quite possibly this week. I've set up some subscription options on the Macarons by Duncan page, so that people can keep up with new flavours (and a small amount of trivia (if you subscribe via Twitter) relating to Syrup & Tang, The Gastronomer's Bookshelf or food in general).
For the moment, I have an enormous list of ideas for new flavours, but if you've got a reallllly special request, you can always message me… maybe sometime in the next year I'll squeeze it in! (Honestly.)
Thanks to all who have encouraged me to make the macarons happen, especially Jackie for making it possible, and Harry, Mittens, Josh, Sarah and Thanh. And thanks to Mark, Y-C and Matevz for their technical advice. I hope everyone enjoys them (if you live nearby or are visiting).