Many French pastries have come into fashion for a time. Cronuts had their day, and now Pâte à Choux is about ready to be dubbed the new “it” pastry. None of these “upstarts” worries the always fashionable, colorful macaron that has been France’s favorite pastry for more than 100 years (beloved in Italy for 1,000-plus years, but the French want to brush that little fact right off of their shoulders). The modern macaron comprises two symmetrical, pastel-colored almond biscuit meringues held together by a thin filling of cream or jam. So, suppose that thin filling is replaced by a thick serving of America’s favorite dessert, ice cream? That’s what sisters Gwen and Christine Nguyen wondered. And now they own and operate Mavens Creamery.
The word “maven” comes from the Yiddish “meyvn,” meaning “one who understands,” but it implies much more than that. It implies a person who is an expert, who knows everything there is to know, who is an artiste. Gwen and Christine became artistes of the macaron ice cream sandwich. The two sisters were not known for their culinary skills nor for their business acumen; however, undaunted, they maxed out their credit cards, took on a few family- and friend-type investors and took over the family kitchen in their quest to create the perfect macaron ice cream sandwich. They learned how to make macarons by watching YouTube videos, and after mastering the basics, they experimented, because they wanted their sandwiches to stand out from any others, starting with the all-natural ingredients, and be as pleasing to the eye as to the palate.
Gwen and Christine found that the macarons need to be chewy to provide a stable base and top for the ice cream. Their Macaron Machine (lovingly nicknamed “Monster”) dispenses 200 macarons a minute onto trays of 20. The trick is in getting the right “pound-spin” with the tray. Pound that tray down on the counter with just the right amount of force, pick it up, spin it around quickly, and pound it down again. And so on. Until there are no air bubbles and each macaron is perfectly smooth, thin, round, as well as uniformly sized.
The trick with the ice cream is that its flavor not be overpowered by the macarons. Gwen and Christine are not telling us that secret, but the ice cream is made in small batches and is all natural—seriously all natural: not the slightest suggestion of artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives and it has no corn syrup, hydrogenated fats and bleached flour. The ice cream is made by hand, and each sandwich is assembled by hand with tender loving care.
When the Mavens test marketed their creations at a dessert shop in Northern California, the 400 sandwiches sold out in 4 hours! It wasn’t long before they had to expand operations into the garage, then to a small commercial kitchen and now they have their own full-scale manufacturing plant in San Jose that produces 30,000 ice cream sandwiches a week. You’ll find the easily recognized, cheerfully colored Mavens Creamery freezers in 100-plus dessert shops and restaurants and 50-plus supermarkets, including Whole Foods and Safeway.
Their flavors include:
- Cookies ‘n cream ice cream with blue macarons
- Sweet and tart passion fruit ice cream and mango bits with gold macarons
- Coconut ice cream and pineapple bits with lavender macarons
- Mint ice cream and dark chocolate chips with green macarons
The sandwiches come in cute tubs—with wooden spoons if you want to take a bit of the ice cream and a bit of the macaron. Or you can hold the tub with one hand and see if you can open your mouth wide enough to take a good-sized chunk out of the sandwich.
For the Instagrammers and Snapchatters among us, Maven Creamery’s macaron sandwiches are among the most photogenic foods that your followers will ever receive!