SPRING HILL — With a few whirls of the beaters on her countertop mixer, Alexandra Adams has managed to hit two niche markets with her year-old, home-based business, Magnificent Macarons & More.
Having met the requirements of the state's cottage food law, the 27-year-old Adams serves up from her oven trays of French macarons, a sweet treat on the front line of foodie fads and a crowd pleaser for the health conscious who've embraced gluten-free.
"Regularly, macarons are coconut puffy things. French macarons are an almond sandwich cookie," Adams explains. "They're just light and soft and chewy, like nothing you've ever had before."
The delicate nuttiness comes from the flour, almond flour that she grinds from the fresh nuts. She blanches the almonds, chops, then pulps in a food processer.
"It takes time, grinding and scraping, grinding and scraping; otherwise, you get almond paste," Adams said.
Then there's the beating of egg whites to just the right peak — not too soft, not too dry. Three cups of finished egg white, or meringue, are required per cup of almond flour.
Formed to French standards, the cookies are small and perfectly circular — think finger sandwich in relation to a conventional sliced-bread sandwich.
Adams says she's seen the specialty macaron baking trays, with their little round cups, that have come on the market in the wake of the fad. But they're not yet in Adams' kitchen.
"I just do them the old-fashioned way," she said. "I use a paper template under parchment to make them the same (size) every time.
"I love the detail."
Ranging far beyond coconut, Adams whips up such flavors as vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, lemon, raspberry, strawberry, green tea and chai tea. She sandwiches them with delicate frosting nuances that add depth or contrast to the baked embrasures — fresh lemon frosting tucked between green tea rounds, for instance.
The "& More" in her business' name refers to fancifully decorated sugar cookies, cupcakes and three-layer cakes worthy of celebration.
In fact, a celebration launched Adams' business.
"When I made my daughter's christening cake, everybody sort of freaked out over it," she said. "Then came the (state) cottage food law in 2012, and I started after that."
She particularly enjoys personalizing baked goods for the buyer — for example, a company logo frosted onto a batch of sugar cookies.
Holidays provide an opportunity to showcase her creativity.
For Valentine's Day, Adams is offering raspberry-vanilla macarons, sugar cookies in heart or scalloped-circle shapes frosting-striped in red and white, love messages piped on cookies and cakes, sprinkles and candy pearl adornments, "any color of pink or red, as liked."
Word of mouth and referrals have kept Adams bustling in the kitchen while she also studies finance at Hernando-Pasco State College. Already applying business principles, Adams has established prices for her baked goods according to a food industry economic equation. Her macarons start at $24 a dozen; 9-inch cakes at $30.
Everything is made to order to ensure freshness. Orders are requested three to five days in advance. Goods may be picked up at her Spring Hill home, or she will deliver.
Adams is aiming to enroll at the Notter School of Pastry Arts in Orlando.
So, beyond macarons, who knows?
She says she wants to be prepared.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.