PHOTOS: Matthew Gaulin
Meet the magnificent macaron maestro of Eustis.
Rosann Evans lives for a challenge. As a matter of fact, “I can’t” doesn’t seem to exist in her vocabulary. Therefore, when celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey told contestants on his hit television show “MasterChef” that making French macarons was one of the hardest culinary feats to master, Rosann took the famous chef’s words as a direct dare.
“And he was right,” she says with a laugh.
Even with Pinterest, YouTube, Google and library books as her teachers, Rosann discovered each recipe for macarons always slightly differed. It was a lot of trial and error before she achieved the right taste and texture.
“Many went into the garbage at first. It took about 10 batches before the whole batch was good. However, by the time I hit 30 or 40 batches, they were coming out good back to back. Now, I rarely mess them up,” she says.
A year and a half of solid practice helped build Rosann’s confidence to the point she left her full-time job as the office manager at Deaf and Hearing Services in Leesburg to launch Dolce Mattina, her home-based macarons (and more) business.
“I started out just wanting to master it, but along the way I realized I really had a knack for making macarons,” says Rosann. “It’s been fun watching things take off.”
Undoubtedly, most people are first drawn to macarons because of their distinct look. They come in an array of colors ranging from lively hues like hot pink or electric orange to more muted pastel shades. And they’re bite-sized, which makes them not only ridiculously adorable but totally irresistible. But ultimately, their versatility is what keeps people coming back for more.
Over time, Rosann has experimented with some interesting flavor profiles that leave tongues wagging.
“Most shells don’t have a flavor, but for a bride one time I made a pomegranate shell using freeze-dried pomegranate and I filled the cookies with a rose-infused ganache that was too die for,” she says. “I’ll also add cocoa to make a chocolate-flavored shell or freeze-dried carrots and spices for my carrot cake macarons. Now that my skills are pretty solid I’ve been trying to play around more with the meringue.”
The result: small treats with big tastes. And the flavors get even more daring when Rosann experiments with her fillings.
“I make my own limoncello to make my limoncello buttercream. I also make my own fruit purees and vanilla. For my pecan pie macarons, I add chopped pecans to the caramel pecan filling. I get into the creativity of making different flavors,” Rosann says, “but the biggest challenge is recreating flavors people already know like chocolate-covered cherry or tiramisu.”
Other challenges lie within the preparation of the macarons. Rosann will be the first to tell anyone Chef Ramsey wasn’t kidding when he said these delicate confectioneries are hard to create.
While the meringue only requires four ingredients — almond meal, sugar, powered sugar and egg whites — the execution has to be precise.
“The ingredients have to be weighed by the gram, not measured, and it has to be exact. That was a hard concept for me to grasp because when I cook I just add a little of this and a little of that,” says Rosann.
There’s also the added obstacle of humidity, which the Sunshine State is famous for.
“I have to check the humidity every day. If it’s in the 90s, I try not to bake because humidity requires me to adjust my oven temperature, baking time and even the ingredients,” she says.
Then there’s the consistency.
“You have to get a feel for what the mixture is supposed to feel like when you’re mixing it,” says Rosann. “Then from there you have to make the shells the right size when you’re piping them and allow them to dry for at least 20 minutes under a fan before you bake them.”
And last comes willpower, because macarons can’t be eaten the same day they’re made.
“You have to refrigerate them for at least 46 hours before serving them,” Rosann explains. “This allows the filling to permeate into the shell for the right texture.”
However, once the intricate process is finally complete, you’re left with a decadent delicacy that’s too sweet to pass up.
What are macarons?
Often confused with coconut macaroons, French macarons are meringue-based cookies made with almond flour or meal, egg whites, granulated sugar and powdered sugar, then filled with buttercream, ganache or fruit puree. A good macaron will have a crisp, eggshell-like exterior and a light-as-feather interior with a soft, chewy finish.
Rosann has already captured the attention of East Lake County in the short time Dolce Mattina has been her full-time gig. She won the Judge’s Choice Award for desserts during last year’s Taste of Golden Triangle. She was also the featured business for December in the Lake Eustis Area Chamber of Commerce’s publication. And in addition to being on the vendors’ list for weddings at Lake Receptions, she’s working on joining the vendors’ list at Mission Inn Club & Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills.
Despite the notoriety, Rosann is quick to say she wants to keep Dolce Mattina small.
“I just want to continue to do weddings, parties, business conferences and conventions — just enough to be able to support myself,” she says.
For Rosann, nothing could ever replace the satisfaction she feels when she sees someone try her macarons for the first time.
“I love when someone takes that first bite and they’re not expecting the texture — the lightness of the shell,” she says. “I enjoy watching people’s faces light up. That’s what’s fun for me. That is what truly brings me joy.”
For more information about Dolce Mattina, visit dolcemattina.com.
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
- 3 egg whites, room temperature
- 5 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2/3 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal
- Preheat oven to 285 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
- Beat egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until whites are foamy. Beat in white sugar and continue beating until egg whites are glossy, stiff peaks. Be careful not to overbeat.
- Sift confectioners’ sugar and ground almonds in a separate bowl. Then quickly fold the almond mixture into the egg whites using a silicone spatula. Make sure the batter doesn’t become runny.
- Spoon a small amount of batter into a pastry bag fitted with a plain round 0.4-inch tip. Pipe out 1-inch disks onto prepared baking sheet, leaving space between each disk.
- Rap baking sheets firmly on the counter two to three times until tops of disks are smooth.
- Let the piped cookies stand at room temperature until they form a hard skin on top, about 20 minutes.
- Bake cookies until set but not browned, about 10 minutes; let cookies cool completely before filling.
Note: To measure by weight, use these amounts: 100 grams of egg whites, 50 grams of white sugar, 200 grams of confectioners’ sugar and 110 grams of ground almonds. For colorful cookies, add gel food coloring to the meringue, and for different flavors, add dry flavorings, like cocoa, to the powedered sugar/ground almond mixture.
Basic Buttercream Filling
Adapted from “I Love Macarons” by Hisako Ogita
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cut butter into pieces, and mash with a spatula until the texture resembles mayonnaise.
- In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks, then add sugar and whisk until you can no longer see the sugar granules. Add milk, and whisk to combine.
- Pour the egg mixture into a small saucepan, and heat over low heat, whisking frequently to ensure the mixture does not curdle or burn. Cook until the mixture’s consistency becomes similar to pudding.
- Pour mixture back into its bowl, and whisk constantly until it returns to room temperature.
- Whisk in butter in three batches, add vanilla extract and stir until smooth and all ingredients are fully combined. Pipe onto one macaron half and sandwich between another.