Josephine Acker Tuil is a charming Parisian florist who decided to merge her passions for botany and patisserie when she moved to Australia four years ago.
“In France, if you want to thank someone you often bring a box of macaron,” says Acker Tuil, pointing out the similarities between floristry and baking.
When the rest of us were relaxedly sharing gifts in the break between Christmas and New Year’s, Josephine was adding the finishing touches to the pale timber interior of her quaint Sydney Road shopfront. By Josephine comes after building a freelance business supplying her flower-infused macarons to some of Victoria's top cafes and restaurants. Her month-old store is now filled with buckets of floral arrangements, which you can perch yourself next to as you indulge in a lavender crème brûlée. Some of her top-selling macarons are piped with cream infused with herbal teas and the essence of jasmine, rosewater or North African orange blossom, flavours that still hold the taste and aroma of their floral descendants.
Acker Tuil let us in on how to make one of her childhood delicacies, the bite-sized dessert which strikes fear in the hearts of many amateur bakers: le petite macaron.
The first step is choosing to make the shells either from a French meringue, where the egg whites have sugar folded into them, or pouring in hot syrup to make a stiffer Italian meringue. Although the latter is more work, this batch consists of flavours that are better complemented by a chewier Italian meringue, such as the salted caramel macaron and Le Robert macaron (dark chocolate infused with cardamom). To make both mixtures Acker Tuil uses the French method of tant pour tant, a mix of equal parts icing sugar and almond meal, literally translating to ‘as much as’.
"It needs to stay room temperature and firm, but not too firm," she explains, “which is very hard in Melbourne with all the changing weather.” She insists that after a lifetime of practice, she is still not perfect when it comes to predicting the texture of the dough and piping the shells evenly. Once her shells (which to anyone else look perfectly consistent) are placed in the oven to bake, Acker Tuil gets started on her ganache. The cream is infused with spices and coriander seeds to help bring out the richness of the Swiss or Belgian dark chocolate, which is carefully melted and met with the cream. When making a chocolate and raspberry ganache, Josephine uses fresh raspberries, boiled down into a coulis and then combined with chocolate.
After sliding the trays out of the oven, the protective layer of baking paper is gently peeled off to expose dozens of glistening, round little macaron shells. Any imperfect ones are removed and all others are put into pairs, matching shape and thickness. One side of the little confectionary couplets are piped with salted butter caramel or rich chocolate ganache, and then placed in the fridge to set for between 10 minutes and an hour depending on the filling.
Acker Tuil endeavours to make every element of her artisan-style desserts from scratch. If you're adverse to the commercialism of Valentine's Day, maybe you should visit her pop-up stall on February 14 and offer a romantic gesture that has had love poured into the production process. Acker Tuil and her personal florist, Paul Hyland of Richmond's Glasshaus, will be selling bunches of flowers and macarons. A bouquet of all her floral flavours will be available as well as a package of chocolate and caramel based macarons.
365 Sydney Road, Brunswick
(03) 9380 8046
Tues to Sun 9am–5pm