Petites Bouchees Reloaded … (plus a book giveaway)

A couple of months ago, during a foodie potluck to celebrate Piet’s awesome grill, I got to know fellow Daring Baker, Sketchy of Sketchy’s Kitchen and his wife Jen. They asked me how the business was going and I said I was looking for a web-designer who could overhaul my site and make it ecommerce-enabled.

It turns out Jen has just started her own web-design business, Jennifer Brown Design! Talk about coincidence! Their company’s aim is to help small companies establish a web presence. Jen does a lot of the front-end stuff/content and Sketchy takes care of the backend like the database and the online store setups, but both can backup each other. What a team, huh!

We agreed to touch base the following week.

 After the initial meeting, Jen sent me a couple of designs. I immediately fell in love with them and it was hard to pick just one. Anyway, I settled on a design, picking elements from one and styles from another. What followed were a contract, project commencement and development until finally it went live this weekend!

The original logo concepts are designed by the talented Ximena Maier of Lobstersquad.  Jen deftly integrated them into the website and even created the front of a cute little store with the logo.

So go visit my virtual patisserie already! There are some links and content that still need to be added but the store is open for business! And don’t forget to check out the new version of “How to eat a Macaron.”

But come back here because I have a book to give away.

 

 

Well, what do you all think?

To celebrate the website’s launch, I am giving away a copy of “Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé.”

All you have to do is to leave a comment between now and October 12, that you would like to join in the giveaway.

My thanks goes to Jen and Sketchy for designing my website that has captured my personality so well down to the pink polka dots!

A Pierre Hermé Giveaway…

Newmacflavors

I’m slowly getting back into the groove of the business again. I did not realize how hard it was to get back into the swing of things after a long break. I was afraid I would lose my macaron mojo as I have not made these cuties in three weeks – quite unheard of in the Test Kitchen.

The “Hungry” Hubby reminded me that I was supposed to be creating new flavors for the fall. It’s not that I was lazy…well there was the umm…Olympics. Also, a little reality hit me along the way. Even if I could stand in the kitchen for eight hours straight, I was quite out of breath walking a mile. Truth is, I needed to get into shape – so I put time into my health first before the business. This is still my priority – quite hard but I’ve been hitting the treadmill or the exercise video before I even begin to whisk any eggs. And you know what, it feels good!

Anyway, I’ve already determined which flavors I wanted to add to my macaron line-up right after I took Pierre Herme’s class in Chicago. All I had to do was to put the recipes to work – with a bit of tweaking.

My first experiment with passion fruit and milk chocolate ganache was not too successful. The ganache remained hard even after the macaron sat at room temperature. There was also a slight catch in the throat after you ate it. This was not my memory of PH’s version. His was melt in your mouth delicious. So, I poured over the recipe again and tried to remember what his technique was when making ganache. He partly melts his chocolate and does not dump the heated liquid on it (most recipes have you boil the liquid and pour it over the chocolate) – he slowly emulsifies the liquid into the partly melted chocolate. Prevents graininess he said and makes for a smoother ganache. The softened butter also needed to be incorporated at 104F. My second attempt this past weekend was a success! Melt in your mouth ganache with a smooth marriage of passion fruit and milk chocolate.

One of my favorite fillings from all my experiments was cream cheese buttercream. Yep you read it right: cream cheese and buttercream. And boy is it the lightest filling ever! I’m still looking to streamline the process because it is very involved to produce. You have to make an English cream and beat it into the softened butter. And then you make Italian Meringue and then mix it into your English cream-butter mixture. Then you beat your cream cheese and then incorporate your Italian Meringue-English cream butter cream. See what I mean…whew! But what you get is an extremely silky filling that could hold up pretty well in hot and humid conditions.

Lastly, I had to include the rose-litchi and raspberry creation known as the Ispahan fetish of Monsieur Herme. I think I’m going to make my own litchi puree because the ones I got online were a bit watery making for a runnier ganache.

Macgelee

I’ve also ventured into the world of gelee-filled macarons. For example, the cream cheese buttercream definitely needs the tartness lent by the passion fruit gelee to throw the flavor over the top. And although the rose litchi ganache could stand alone, its flavor gets elevated to a higher level when you include the raspberry gelee.

So let me present my new macaron flavors for the fall:

  • Milk Chocolate and Passion Fruit Macaron
  • Cream Cheese Buttercream Macaron with passion fruit gelee
  • Rose-Litchi Ganache Macaron with raspberry gelee

As a tribute to the Picasso of Pastry for giving me so much inspiration with Petites Bouchees, I am giving away two full sets of the Pierre Herme miniature collection (these do not come assembled.) All you have to do is to leave a comment between now and August 31st stating what is your favorite Pierre Herme recipe or creation .

My good friend Helen has assembled this beautifully, check it out here. And the best part is, they are calorie free

Richmond Magazine’s 50 Fantastic Food Finds

In their May issue, Richmond Magazine has assembled a list of little-known food treats that they thought should get more exposure. I am very tickled that my macarons made the list! And their photographer took such a great picture of my sweet litte bites.

Richmac_2

photos by steve hedberg

Oh, the top left picture happens to be a favorite – roast-duck noodle soup from the only authentic (hate using that word but in this case it is appropriate) Chinese Restaurant in Richmond, Full Kee. And I’m happy to see Chef Nate of Louisiana Flair 's hot sauce make the cut too!

Okay,  I’m a wus! It looks like it might rain this weekend so I will not be at the Farmer's Market . And next weekend is shot too because my brother and his family are in town and we’re having a kebob party and I’m afraid of making macarons because they might get thrown on the grill by mistake ! ;)

I'm planning to do a post on how to make and eat Persian kebabs – specifically the barg and kubideh. So watch out for some mouthwathering skewered fare!

Some Business changes

I realize when you start a new business , some areas are moving targets and you really cannot second guess all of your customers buying habits. I know there are companies that do this survey and statistical analysis but at this point I cannot afford them ;). Anyway, I thought Saturdays are when most orders are needed but I guess it could be just any day of the week. I’ll still keep my availability calendar for smaller and local orders on Saturday, but for orders of 10 dozen or more if you give me a two week notice, I can accomodate the order and deliver it for free on most days of the week (Richmond,VA only ). So go ahead and have that tea party!

    For more information check :

   

Cupcakes now available at Petites Bouchees

Cupcakes3a 

After the successful debut of this cupcake trio at a friend’s chili-cookoff, I thought it best to kick my ass into gear and get my business site updated with this new offering. I was not able to take a picture of the boxed cupcakes but they come in a hot pink box. Each cupcake is held in place by an insert specifically made for these. More than one of my friend’s guests remarked that these would be perfect to take to parties. I agree.

Getting into the food business …

Blogbusiness

What’s that?! What was that I said?

Yes, my dear friends, I am pleased to announce that I have taken a leap of faith. This food blog has turned a non-baker who couldn’t whip egg whites if her life depended on it a few years ago into someone willing to take a chance in the pastry business today!

Though it would be exciting to open a full blown boutique patisserie, I opted instead to start a home baking business called Petites Bouchées (boo-chay) which means “little bites” in French.  For now I am offering macarons and financiers with limited flavors since I don’t intend to quit my day job anytime soon. I’m also limiting my orders locally (Richmond, VA) until I figure out a cost-effective way to ship my products without deterioration in quality. Of course, the plan is to make money at some point so I can do this full-time.

If this venture does take off (and I’m crossing my fingers that it would) – what would this mean? A lot of late nights, early mornings (or maybe a combination of both), no weekends, and probably a lot of dvr’d shows I would never have the chance to watch (goodbye Grey’s Anatomy, goodbye Chuck). But I’m determined to give this idea a try rather than let it fester and wonder “what if?” many years down the road.

I had my doubts, believe me. Like the times when I come home after a full day of work wanting to just kick back and relax and wondered what if I had trays of macarons to make. I can’t just call my customers and say “Sorry, I’m too tired to fulfill your order”? Actually, I think my worst nightmare would be when the macarons refuse to cooperate and decide to just remain as flat as pancakes: is this when I tell my customers “The macarons have a mind of their own, they take shape in whatever form they please” ?

Those are the times when sweeping the entire idea under the rug become the most attractive route.

But the “Hungry” hubby was my pillar of strength. He totally believed in me much more than I believed in myself. But it was the little things he would do. On the weekends when I’m madly experimenting in the kitchen, he would do the laundry, water my orchids (actually they are mostly his now more than they are mine), take care of errands like pick-up and drop-off the dry cleaning or pick up lunch for me when I have no time to fix my own because I’m covered in confectioner’s sugar. Of course, he does encourage me to catch a breath of fresh air every now and then especially if I’ve been holed up in the kitchen for two days in a row.

And all he asks in return is his own batch of biscotti. ;)

Now, I am teaching him how to beat egg whites and to pipe macarons. And I must say, he is eager to learn and I have no doubt I can appoint him sous pastry chef pretty soon he..he.

Seriously though, I owe HH a lot for what I am able to do now.

And then there’s Helen, the Daring Bakers’ guru who gave me the proper translation for “little bites” in French when I was kicking around the idea of starting a food business. She is currently my great resource for baking or business tips plus this woman knows where to find great pastry supplies! How I wish she lived closer so I can have her tame those finicky macarons whenever they start to stomp their frilly feet! She said she would move to Richmond in a heartbeat , but what was she going to do with the husband?

So how did I get started? I started with product identity. I wanted everything to be cute. I was torn between brown/robin’s egg blue and brown/pink. The latter won and I immediately contacted the one person I know who can make me a kick-ass logo: Ximena of Lobstersquad. And so it started in late October through early November of last year, we exchanged emails until finally:

Logo_wp_2

She made some round labels for me too which I simply adore. Check out my business website right here.

Then there was product research and development which included sourcing high-quality ingredients and experimenting with different baking sheets. I’m also going organic as much as possible. I have found a great supplier for organic almonds from California and I use organic eggs from the local supermarket. But if any Richmond area blogger/reader can hook me up with a local certified organic farm that can provide me free–range organic eggs at a reasonable price – that would be fantastic! I’m also going to use as little food coloring as possible – enough only to identify one macaron from the other. And packaging – you all can’t believe how many yards and rolls of ribbons I have ordered or the boxes I have tried. It can get expensive and hard to keep tidy – but it was fun. To be honest I never knew how to tie a ribbon properly until I came across Martha Stewart’s craft site.

It was not all fun and tears in the kitchen though. Visits to a lawyer for business advice, accountant for financial advice and county offices were all part of the process. I officially start Feb 1st.

I told HH, that I felt like I was walking in my parent’s footsteps because they did not start our restaurant business until later in life and now my brother has taken over the reins and it was still going strong.  Now whether I inherited their business and cooking genes … that remains to be seen.

And I’m not abandoning my Test Kitchen blog. Why would I, this is what got me started and inspired! In fact, I would like to do more experiments like I did with Pie Crusts . I learned a lot about my ingredients from that project. I’m thinking of one to do with chocolate right now… in what shape or form, you all have to check back later ;).