Delicate and delicious: Staten Islander turns her love of French macarons into a booming business

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Danaysy Rodriguez was always a little fascinated by the delicately crisp and elegantly chewy French macaron. A sweet, meringue-based confection consisting of two round, flat cookies sandwiched with an emulsified filling, the elegant dessert captivated the South Beach resident, and she regularly sampled its extravagance at famous bakeries like Laduree and Woops. But even though she tasted and enjoyed, she never dared to re-create the temperamental treat in her own kitchen. Until now.

“I loved a good macaron, but everything I read about it described the dessert as finicky and challenging to bake,” Rodriguez said. “Every single ingredient has to be weighed and measured. The shells have to be baked for exactly 19 minutes. But then one day I started thinking: ‘How finicky could the process actually be?’”

South Beach resident turns her love of French macarons into a booming business

“I love Staten Island,” Rodriguez said. “I was raised here, and I have a deep appreciation for all of the borough’s culture and charm. We have beautiful beaches and lighthouses, great restaurants and food. I’m extremely inspired by my hometown’s history and landmarks. I think that shows in my posts and in my macarons.” (Photo courtesy of Lesly Gomez @les.talk.skin )(Photo courtesy of Lesly Gomez

Rodriguez, who describes herself as a seasoned cook but not a baker, looked up recipes and bought a mixer. She said she was pleasantly surprised when her first batch came out “kind of delicious.”

“I didn’t have the proper equipment, yet the cookies were very good,” she said. “The results inspired me to purchase a food scale, all the right piping tools and trays dedicated just to this project. Baking macarons is a precise process. If I had all the right supplies, I knew I could make them even better.”

She started baking “here and there,” bringing trays of her cookies to family events. Encouraged by the compliments and inundated with requests for specific flavor combinations and custom orders, she decided to turn her pastime into a profession.

South Beach resident turns her love of French macarons into a booming business

Special-order macarons are hand-painted to match party themes and customer requests. (Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons NYC)(Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons

“I have a full-time job, so right now I’m limited to baking on nights and weekends,” the 33-year-old baker said, describing Ay! Macarons NYC, the business she launched this past February. “I love doing this, but I am strict with my schedule, because I want it to remain fun. I have designated time for baking and filling, days when I know I have enough energy to tackle the work.”

Crafting vanilla-flavored shells with dollops of German buttercream and S’mores-inspired treats made with a chocolate exterior, marshmallow center and graham cracker crumble, Rodriguez has taken the macaron to the next level. Designing towers for events and wrapping each order in a personalized, tulle-tied box, the baker is slowly becoming recognized for her gourmet, hand-painted masterpieces that taste as delicious as they look.

South Beach resident turns her love of French macarons into a booming business

Mocha espresso-flavored macarons by Ay! Macarons NYC. (Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons NYC)(Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons

“I’ve gotten an incredible amount of feedback on the hand-painted macarons,” she said, describing cookies that are individually and painstakingly decorated with floral patterns, depictions of local landmarks and an “I heart Staten Island” logo. “Those are the posts that have drawn the biggest response.”

Circulating news of her business predominately via word-of-mouth, Rodriguez uses social media (@ay_macarons_nyc) to advertise her wares, but does not rely on Instagram and Facebook as her main form of promotion.

“This happened so organically — I really just started baking for fun — and I’d like to keep the growth and development of this business that way too,” Rodriguez said. “The reels have gotten a lot of attention, and I enjoy making them, so I plan to use that as a marketing tool going forward.”

Her central focus as a business owner? Community.

South Beach resident turns her love of French macarons into a booming business

The macaron on the left features a hand-painted rendering of the Staten Island Lighthouse, a.k.a. as Ambrose Channel Range Light, one of the tallest points in the borough. The cookie at right is an “I heart Staten Island” design. (Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons NYC)(Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons

“I love Staten Island,” she said. “I was raised here, and I have a deep appreciation for all of the borough’s culture and charm. We have beautiful beaches and lighthouses, great restaurants and food. I’m extremely inspired by my hometown’s history and landmarks. I think that shows in my posts and in my macarons.”

Rodriguez said the meticulous macaron is a deviation from her traditional Dominican heritage in which the style of cooking calls for “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” and a lot of measuring “to taste.”

“I cook the way my mom taught me, very old-school, never by recipe — letting the Sancocho stew simmer for hours on the stove,” Rodriguez said. “The empanadas and pastelitos, the potato salad and the rice and beans — you flavor as you go. But this baking is so precise. Oddly enough I have a passion for that too.”

From start to finish, it takes Rodriguez about one hour to complete one batch of macarons, and that includes the time required to prep the equipment and ingredients.

South Beach resident turns her love of French macarons into a booming business

These birthday cake macarons feature a confetti cake-filled center surrounded by birthday cake buttercream. (Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons NYC)(Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons

“All of the tools and trays have to be wiped down with vinegar or lemon, because even the slightest bit of grease can mess up a batch,” she said. “It takes a good bit to lay out all of the ingredients too, and even though the baking time is quick, it’s active because you want to carefully monitor the progress.”

Her most popular flavor? Dulce de leche.

“I have about 15 different flavors right now, but the combinations are limitless,” she said.

“I can flavor the shells or the filling, and if someone has a favorite cereal, candy or drink, I can re-create the taste and turn it into a macaron.”

South Beach resident turns her love of French macarons into a booming business

The macarons come packaged in beautiful boxes wrapped in purple tulle. (Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons NYC)(Photo courtesy of Ay! Macarons

Rodriguez is currently focused on hosting pop-up events and creating beautifully designed party trays for showers, lunches, children’s birthdays and more. In the future, she said she hopes to have her treats featured on the menu at a range of borough restaurants.

“I’d love to collaborate with locations throughout Staten Island,” she concluded. “I’m truly excited about growing this endeavor.”

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