Not Your Cookie-Cutter Bakery

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culture [ etc.] Not Your Cookie-Cutter Bakery Christina Ha, head baker and co-founder of Macaron Parlour in New York City, is putting a fun, modern spin on the traditional French cookie. story by MICHELLE LEE photographs by VICTOR CHU

In New York City’s East Village, Christina Ha’s candied bacon and maple macarons are enjoying something of a cult following. As head baker at Macaron Parlour, a patisserie that she co-owns with husband Simon Tung, Ha is bringing bold American flavors and unique twists to the classic French cookies. Typically composed of two almond meringue shells coating a tasty buttercream or ganache, macarons (not to be mistaken with macaroons) are colorful, bite-sized cookies that have only recently become popular in the Macaron Parlour States. And while 111 St. Marks Pl. standard flavors New York, N.Y.


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food and fillings like pistachio and lemon are among Macaron Parlour’s offerings, the more daring might try Ha’s honey and cognac macaron, the peanut butter and caramelized banana rendition affectionately named the “Elvis,” or the store’s sweet-and-salty top seller: the candied bacon macaron with maple cream cheese filling (yes, with real bacon). “Our macarons are traditional in

ald’s,” said a grinning Ha, who also studied in Paris at La Haute Patisserie Pierre Herme. Both sharing a passion for food, she partnered with Tung both personally and professionally in 2009. “I’d never thought we would make it past the first date,” Ha said, laughing. “But it only took him four weeks to convince me to be his girlfriend, and a few weeks Macaron Parlour founders Christina Ha and Simon Tung

“Our macarons are traditional in technique, but nontraditional in flavor.”

technique, but nontraditional in flavor,” said Ha. “We have a lot of fun in the [kitchen], and we want to bring that sort of experience.” While preserving the macaron’s delicacy, Ha, a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, manages to tap into the American sweet tooth and elevate familiar childhood guilty pleasures in creations like her S’Mores, Peanut Butter Cup and Halloween-inspired Cheetos macarons. “Growing up, I ate a lot of American junk food, like Twinkies and McDon-

—Christina Ha

longer to open a business together.” The duo first tested their macarons at the Hester Street Fair, a popular New York City outdoor market founded by MTV and Daily Candy correspondent SuChin Pak. With Ha experimenting with recipes and Tung creating a fun, inviting storefront, Macaron Parlour quickly attracted a strong following. After success also at the Union Square Holiday market and Madison Square Eats, Ha and Tung opened their brickand-mortar store this past October at St. Mark’s Place in New York City’s


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East Village. The store’s opening was not without obstacles, however, and did force some soul-searching. “It was tough starting out and being new, still working on the recipe, and having foodies critique you,” admitted Ha, who was juggling a full-time desk job and pastry school at the time. “Some French people would come and be appalled that I wasn’t French. But I say, ‘Hey, it’s different, but we still have classics and classic techniques. Calm down and have a bite.’” Notoriously difficult to master for even experienced pastry chefs, macarons need precise temperatures and low humidity for the smooth shell and curled circumference to form properly. After a great deal of experimentation— including an initial six-month marathon of daily macaron recipe tinkering—Ha came up with what she believes is a winning formula, though she still tries new flavor combinations in the kitchen. “Party Time,” for instance, was recently created for her sister’s birthday, as well as for her and Tung’s sixmonth-anniversary in October. With a charmingly speckled shell to mimic funfetti, it has a salted milk chocolate and dulce de leche filling to represent the trio’s favorites. Ha, a New Jersey native, joked that the extra studying she had to do as a child has come in handy these days. “They made me do Kumon every day for, like, 10 years,” she said of her parents, who have been supportive of her new venture. “And it really helps in the kitchen with things like multiplying large batches.” Though Ha is open to infusing Korean flavors in her cookies in the future, she added, “I have to really do it well, in a way that my parents would be proud of.” Later this year, she plans to launch a Macaron Parlour online shopping cart for customers to place orders from afar. Eventually, she also wants to teach classes on-site for people who want to tackle the upscale cookie, while introducing the macaron as something “less intimidating, less fancy-schmancy, and not something you can’t do at home.”

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