Going Behind the Sweets With Local Maker Madame Macaron

Meet Milwaukee’s mistress of meringues.

TOREN ENGSETH became “Madame Macaron” to her friends after she started offering her French meringue-based confections for special events. Just as the sweet treat “took over my life,” as she puts it, the name became a moniker for the business she started in 2017. Working out of a tiny commercial kitchen Downtown, the Madame sells her light, airy creations at Crossroads Collective food hall, some Outpost Natural Foods locations and through her website (macaronmke.com). She talks tiny, sophisticated desserts and more:

Why, of all delectable desserts, macarons?

I only like to bake really fancy things. And I hung out with top chefs in Chicago when I was younger. Those things came together with macarons. I had this certain look and taste I wanted. I also love herbal and floral influences [lemon lavender and local honey is one of her flavors], so I was able to find a niche with that.

Macarons can be made using the French or the Italian method, with the former having a lighter texture due to the egg whites whisked until stiff. Which do you use and why?

Mine are the French method – more melt-in-your-mouth texture, and they taste better. I make my own jams and lemon curd, and I make a crème patissiere [vanilla pastry cream] for the filling. I think that makes a difference. Most of the macarons you’ll find use the Italian method because it makes a sturdier meringue.

For home bakers, macarons seem so intimidating when they’re really just meringues with a cream filling. Why the daunting reputation?

Before COVID, I taught hands-on [macaron-making] classes. The engineers, doctors and nurses did the best in class – they had the most professional results. It is hard to do. There are so many variables – the humidity and your oven. You’re looking at it as more of a procedure to be performed. They’re so very delicate.

The name of your business keeps your focus very specific. No plans for expanding your scope?

The whole thing was really just an accident. I didn’t expect to go into business, but I’d make macarons and people were so happy to have them. We shall see where this business goes next – it seems to have a life of its own and I tag along and love the adventure!


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s December issue.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.