Inspired by chance
A few years ago, Keely Leonard tried her first macaron. She was working in Chico State’s Department of Music and Theatre at the time and she received it as a gift from a student. “I was, like, ‘What is this?’” she recalls now. When she retired months later, she wanted to bake her own. Until then, the extent of her baking experience consisted of birthday cakes she made for her children, now grown. But she was determined. Although they challenged her early on, she quickly became a master of the craft. Then she started to experiment. Her family made suggestions; she made them happen. “Pretty soon I decided I needed to start selling them or my family was going to have diabetes,” she said. Last year she launched The Macaron House, a charming little business built on—what else?—sugar, sugar, sugar and lots of love. A rich yet simple French pastry, a macaron (pronounced mah-kah-ROHN) comprises two sweet meringue-based cookies sandwiched around a filling. Leonard’s newfound fixation keeps her busy. “It’s not like baking a chocolate-chip cookie,” she said. “There’s so many varieties and ways you can do it.” Her macarons have included flavors such as pink champagne, sea-salt caramel, cookies and cream, dirty chai and mojito. The Macaron House can be found at the Wednesday farmers’ market in the North Valley Plaza parking lot, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. On social media, Leonard posts regularly on Facebook (facebook.com/keelysmacaronhouse) and on Instagram @the.macaron.house.
What is the coolest or most unusual flavor you’ve made?
The maple bacon. People are kind of like, “What?!” But they’re probably one of my most popular.
What do you use for your fillings?
All different fillings. I use jam, a variety of buttercream flavors, some cream cheese flavors, lots of ganache.
Ganache is chocolate. It could be white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate.
What are your plans for The Macaron House?
My ultimate goal—and I’m getting close to it—is to be a full-time vendor at the Saturday market. I would love it. They start you here, as like a vetting, because you don’t have a storefront. They want to see what you’re all about, what your product is, how you do.
Besides the macarons themselves, what other aspects of the business do you enjoy?
Seeing people get excited about them and people texting me saying, “What do you have going this week? What’s the flavor this week?” I think that’s my favorite part.
Your customers text you?
For sure. I have one gal that—I didn’t post, I totally forgot to post the flavors of the week—so she texted me in a panic, “Are you not having them this week?” I said, “Oh, good catch! I’ll be there.” When she showed, she was like, “Thank God! I thought you weren’t going to be here.” I thought she had an event. But she said no, she just needed some.
Any parting words?
If it’s not fun, what good is it?