Move over, whoopie pies. Lebanon County is macaron territory now.
A new bakery specializing in the French cookie known as the macaron is now open in Palmyra.
Sara Mardegain launched a Main Street storefront for Sweet Velvet Macarons on Dec. 12, offering up to a dozen varieties for walk-in customers, and with about 30 flavors available total by preorder.
Sweet Velvet Macarons got its start in Mardegain’s licensed home kitchen in Hummelstown but outgrew the space as demand for the cookies intensified.
“It served me well,” said Mardegain. “I just found my oven was on all day long, and my family was like, ‘OK, enough with the pans everywhere,’ and packaging and boxes and all that stuff.
“They don’t complain with taste testing, just all the other stuff.”
A lifelong baker, Mardegain was residing in New York when one day she “got the bug” to learn how to make macarons. The sweet confectionary proved to be a challenge to master, but eventually she ironed out all the kinks.
“It’s a finnicky cookie,” said Mardegain. “It doesn’t like the rain, it doesn’t like some other things, so you have to work around that and change the formula a little bit. Getting your oven the right temperature is I think the biggest thing.”
Mardegain began baking macarons on a regular basis, and before long, friends and family encouraged her to go into business for herself. The former marketing consultant began selling the cookies out of her home a little over a year ago.
“It grew quite fast,” said Mardegain. “More quickly than I expected, but I’m happy about that. I love to share my love of baking.”
What is a macaron, anyway?
Macarons are a meringue-based cookie made primarily from egg white, sugars and almond powder. The ingredients create a sandwich cookie – delicate yet crisp on the outside, with creamy icing in between. Food coloring is often used to alter the cookie’s appearance.
The cookie traces its origins back to eighth-century Venetian monasteries in Italy, though the present-day sandwich version was first popularized in France during the 1930s, according to Wikipedia.
While not as readily available as, say, the whoopie pie in the Lebanon Valley, macarons enjoy a strong following around the United States.
“If you haven’t tried a macaron, you need to,” said Mardegain. “It’s an interesting and delicious cookie. A lot of people know about it, but a lot of people haven’t tried it.”
What makes Sweet Velvet Macarons different?
Even if you’ve eaten macarons before, Sweet Velvet Macarons offers far more varieties than the typical bakery. Some of the more unique flavors in the rotation include red velvet, crème brulee and seasonal selections such as gingerbread.
“I like to keep it fresh and different,” said Mardegain. “Of course I have the traditionals for those that are diehard macaron fans – pistachio, chocolate, vanilla – but I like to throw in the birthday cake, too, and right now I have the Christmas cookie.”
Macarons are priced individually at $3 for one, or in boxes of up to 25 for $40. 1-inch mini macarons are also sold in cups for $5 or by the two dozen for $24. Special orders can be placed for party trays and towers as well.
Sweet Velvet Macarons is open Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon. Orders can also be taken at sweetvelvetmacarons.com.
It hasn’t taken long to make a name for Sweet Velvet Macarons in the region. The cookies are already for sale in select coffee shops outside Lebanon County, including Hershey’s Cocoa Beanery.
“Baking has always been a passion of mine, so I guess it kind of transitioned quickly because people were interested in a cookie and something different,” said Mardegain. “It’s a good niche.”
After living all over the United States, Mardegain settled in Hummelstown with her husband and children three-and-a-half years ago. Moving operations from her home kitchen to a Palmyra storefront was “a big step,” but an exciting one, too.
“We love it here and I’m happy to put more roots in with the shop in the Palmyra community and surrounding areas,” said Mardegain.
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