While switching from a career in painting conservation to macaron baking isn't exactly included in Myers Briggs-based matrices, it was a natural progression for Claire Becker. And reminds the rest of us that you never know what skills will translate seamlessly to other professions.
At least this proved to be the case for Paris-to-L.A. transplant Becker, who with her husband, Bernard, founded Les Macarons Duverger, a homegrown macaron business. (Duverger is Claire's maiden name, and the company's logo is inspired by her family's coat of arms.) Having noticed a growing demand among local fans of this French confection, along with room in the market for a stellar product that's also largely organic and entirely all natural, the Beckers are slowly increasing production of their line. This is a very lucky thing for the rest of us.
The whole operation started as "a little bit of a joke," Bernard says. During their years in Paris where he "had my macaron snack everyday," he challenged Claire, an entirely self-taught, accomplish home baker, to try her hand at the almond meringue treats with various fillings. Her versions were impressive enough that they began holding blind taste tests with family and friends, pitting Claire's cookies among the city's best macarons. Results were favorable enough (take that, Ladurée!) that when they came to Los Angeles two years ago and noticed that there's room for more great macarons in this town, Claire began seriously baking during the time she could get away from their three young children. In recent months, Bernard has scaled back on his work as a film music composer to focus on the business.
Starting with a baseline flavor assortment of lemon, chocolate, blueberry lavender, raspberry, pistachio, praline, coffee and salted caramel, Claire plans to experiment and expand to at least a dozen types. Ingredients are organic whenever possible. Finding certified dairy, chocolate and fruit products is doable. Getting the right texture of almond flour that happens to be organic, however, is more challenging. All dyes are 100% natural and plant-based.
Claire's professional training in painting conservation has helped guide her through the process of making these notoriously delicate sweets. It takes patience and an exacting eye to create those perfectly smooth crisp exteriors that yield to a firm yet soft, gooey bite, revealing a restrained amount of ganache or jam inside. Baking temperatures and times vary depending on color and the quirks of the oven. Many years spent in professional art studios also serves her well when it comes time to mix food dyes to find the precisely right shade for each flavor.
Les Macarons Duverger are currently available at the Atwater Village and Bank of America Plaza Downtown farmers' markets, and at Delilah Bakery in Echo Park, Monsieur Marcel in the Original Farmers' Market, the Oaks Gourmet, as well as by special order. And there's more to come. The Beckers have moved out from Delilah's kitchen into a commercial kitchen in Culver City. They hope to establish a brick-and-mortar Macaron Duveger retail location, too, since as Claire knows from experience, the every art studio needs a proper gallery outlet.