FEATURE: A morsel of affordable luxury at Sheffield bakery
'It's like adult pick and mix', said Kathryn Broughton, as she pondered the appeal of macarons.
“I think people like the colours. They buy them for all kinds of reasons, as a gift or if they’ve had a bad day, or if they have a dinner party and want to bring out something special.”
Kathryn is demonstrating how to make macarons - the meringue based treat that Joni, on South Road in Walkley, is founded on.
The 27-year-old and partner Luke, 28, launched the business almost two years ago.
As baker Kathryn makes around 600 macarons a week, more at peak times and Christmas, as well as doughnuts, eclairs and other items.
Her hobby turned to a profession when, inspired by the Great British Bake Off’s technical challenge, she tried to master macarons.
“Macarons were always something I wanted to have a go at”, she said, while whisking the egg whites and sugar until stiff and glossy, and advising of exact measurements down to the gramme.
“I couldn’t master them to save my life - one day I finally did, and I was bragging about it to my Women’s Institute group.
“One of the speakers had dropped out of the next WI meeting so they asked me to do it on macarons instead.
“I had to make 200 in a week - then I swore I would never make one again!”
We add vegetarian pink colouring to the mixture, before sieving in almond flour and icing sugar.
Combining and beating air out of the mixture comes next, a technique that takes it out of the biceps but produces a thick mixture to pipe.
Apparently ‘this is the beat where it can all go wrong’ but it seems to pass safely with no overwhipping of the mixture.
Ground pistachios or hazlenuts can be added to make different flavours too - there are many to choose from.
In under two seconds Kathryn expertly pipes a macaron half, then another, and another, with a deft twist of the wrist, on to two trays.
My own versions are far less regular, but then this takes time to master.
After taking the plunge and quitting work, Kathryn and Liam named the bakery Joni, in a tribute to his grandmother.
She added: “At first we had an extension on the house we were using to bake in.
“But then we decided we wanted a contant base, we lived in Walkley and love it here, so we thought why not do it here.
“We named it after Liam’s grandmother, she’s very creative and has got this spirit about her which is all about ‘go and get it, because you’ll never try if you don’t know.”
The macarons - or in my case, blobs - go in the oven at exactly 148 degrees for 15 minutes after being dusted in freeze dried raspberry powder.
They emerge with a dome like cover, the shell, and crisp bottom, apparently called the ‘feet.’ It’s quite something to see them develop through the glass door.
Kathryn refrigarates her macarons for 48 hours to prevent moisture getting in, before filling with grenache or caramel based middles.
And then they are packaged and sent off, whether it be to weddings or to cheer up woeful faces.
“I do still like macarons”, said Kathryn,
“I’ve still got favourites that I can’t get enough of.”