I learned just how critically important the letter “o” is after sitting down recently with Tucson businesswoman Ellie Lippel, particularly when it comes to her livelihood as a purveyor of French macarons.
Not macaroons, mind you. Macarons.
To suddenly realize that I’ve been blurring the distinction between these two European confections all my life was slightly embarrassing from my otherwise credentialed perspective as a food and beverage writer. Luckily, Lippel exhibited grace as she walked me through the frequently misunderstood story of the macaron.
“There are so many things to clarify about the French macaron,” said Lippel, co-owner of Woops Bakeshop, 845 E. University Blvd. in Main Gate Square. “The macaroon…is shredded coconut mixed with egg whites. We like to call it the ugly cousin of the French macaron. The macaron, with one ‘o,’ is what we specialize in.”
Woops’ macarons start with shells made from almond flour, egg whites, and sugar, whipped together to create what she calls “a meringue lightness.” The shells are then filled with a ganache, a mixture of chocolate and heavy cream, infused with other flavors that bring a distinct color and taste to each macaron.
“The macaron has this duality of the soft crispness of the shells and the creaminess of the ganache, which makes it more of a pastry than a cookie,” she said.
Another “o”-distinction between one and two is that macarons lend themselves to a seemingly endless array of flavor opportunities.
“We’re starting to offer some brighter summer flavors for the season, including a mojito macaron, a margarita macaron, and a blueberry cheesecake macaron,” Lippel said. “And what’s great about the macaron is that it’s known to be true to flavor, which means when you taste a blueberry cheesecake macaron, it takes you away to having a cheesecake.”
I wonder if a margarita macaron will have me searching for my lost shaker of salt. And just imagine a mojito macaron with no need for muddling!
Take that, macaroon.
There are more than 20 flavors in Lippel’s current macaron line-up, from lemon tart to red velvet to honey lavender (or her top-selling selection—Nutella). Starting at $2.50, they’re available in single servings, small favor boxes, and larger gift boxes, as well as in a “macaron tower,” or what I call the Macaron Matterhorn, for parties and special events.
I’m also told that the setting is just as important as the sweets themselves when selling goods like these, and Lippel takes personal pride in the design of her shop.
She calls it an “aesthetic feel” which she says makes it a special trip in and of itself, whether you’re buying something or not.
“The best part about my job is seeing how people react to the macaron,” she said. “They come into the shop and instantly get smiles on their faces; they’re mesmerized by the colors and flavors.”
In addition to the French macarons, Woops sells other baked goods such as muffins, cookies, three-chocolate brownie bites and Alfajores, which are Argentinian sugar cookies filled with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut.
Consider yourselves equipped for success the next time you’re craving a French-inspired sweet. Just remember to leave the extra “o” at home when you head to Woops.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.