Marija, or Mary V as she is affectionately known on her facebook page moved to Malta 3 years ago after falling in love with our island a few years back during a holiday. Her regular job at the time had nothing to do with baking. Then one day, after searching high and low for a macaron that would satisfy her craving, she decided to try her hand at making her own. There was no looking back for her, but there were several hours spent experimenting, studying, trying and trying again to bake a macaron she was satisfied with. Her close friends tested her samples and soon she began to realize from the compliments and comments that she was really onto something special here. Marija was encouraged to take this up more seriously and this is when her love affair with the macaron started…
It wasn’t easy. One of the first topics we tackled, because it was the one I was most curious about, is how she handles the big humidity issue that bakers need to deal with here. Macarons are delicate creatures, she explains, they need a lot of care and focus. I watch Marija as she glides with practice and experience through the steps, always keeping an eye on all ingredients at all times. It is a dance of precision but not there is nothing mechanical about it. No two days are the same, she says. One must grow a feel for the process, learning to recognize the textures, consistencies and correct timings depending on a number of factors.
She smiles as she tells me about the research she has done, the myths and traditions surrounding this typically French delicacy. However she approaches her kitchen in a practical and methodical manner so I don’t experience any dancing or chanting aimed at softening the meringue. She explains that the step called ‘macaronage’ (creating the macaron batter by adding the dry ingredients to the egg whites) is the most crucial in creating the smooth texture of the typical macaron. Having developed an eye for it, she decides when enough whipped egg white has been added.
Keeping the charm of a homemade product is not easy. She works alone from home using a standard-size oven, so when big orders come in it means hours of work. Sometimes a batch can go wrong, for example if one of the utensils wasn’t completely dry or the humidity in the air is too high. However, I could see that she is passionate about what she does despite the difficulties and this also extends to making the macarons light and with as little artificial products or extra fats as possible. She doesn’t use butter in her ganache and when possible uses colours from natural products. The flavours in the ganache are created out of nuts, fresh fruit, chocolate and local fresh cream.
Marija decided to dedicate more time to baking and selling her macarons when last August she quit her full-time job to pursue this business. Aside from selling and delivering from home, she has also managed to start selling her creations through a few outlets already and is maybe planning to make a few more products that the Maltese are not so familiar with. The future is sweet, but let’s not reveal all..