mastering the macaron

December 2019 View more

By Annemarie Mannion 

With an elegant, sun-lit retail space fronting an immaculate production facility in Naperville, A La Folie is making its sweet mark in the area. The confection business is operated by Jerome Landrieu and his wife, Alexis Karter, who are turning out French macarons (pronounced “mac-a-rohn”), a delicious sandwich-style cookie in 12 flavors—including cassis, salted caramel, chocolate, pistachio, hazelnut, and mango.

Why macarons? The answer lies in Landrieu’s European roots in France, where the delicate, meringue-based confections are as popular as cupcakes are here in the U.S.

“Macarons became a big trend 10 years ago in France,” Landrieu says. “Chefs said it wouldn’t last, but it has become a staple.”

Landrieu knows his way around making macarons. He hails from the southwest of France and trained there as a pastry chef. About the same time that the macaron craze was hitting France, he decided that he wanted to see the world.

“I was a teacher for other pastry chefs,” he says. “I met these French chefs living everywhere in the world, and I decided that was something I wanted to experience.”

His craving for an adventure led him to Chicago, where he worked for a gourmet chocolate wholesale company—that’s where he met Karter. Eventually the two married, moved to Naperville, had two children, and decided to launch their own manufacturing facility. The company’s name stems from their relationship.

“[A la folie] is what you say when you love someone,” he says. “But it’s not enough. It’s that you’re crazy about someone. That’s what I used to say to my wife.”

While Landrieu oversees the kitchen, Karter is in charge of the retail and wholesale arm of the business. “I really like the retail part,” she says. “I like to meet customers and talk about our products.”

The company’s main focus is selling macarons to wholesalers that supply them to hotels, restaurants, retail shops, and other high-end entities. “A lot of people were asking for macarons,” Karter says. “They couldn’t find the quality they wanted.”

Making a good macaron isn’t easy; it takes two days. “You can’t rush it,” says Landrieu. “If you rush it, then you have a bad macaron that’s very dry. We source the very best ingredients and we don’t take short cuts.”

The recipes for the shells and fillings also need to be adjusted to changes in weather. “If its summer and it’s humid, it’s very challenging to get them smooth on top,” Landrieu says.

A La Folie’s macarons are packaged in elegant boxes and come in boxes of eight for $20, or a box of 16 for $38. The company also is venturing into display-style products, including one that looks like a tree festooned with macarons (shown at left) that would be a focal point at a wedding reception or other party. The cookies can even be sprayed with gold leaf or silver for a festive event, or printed with the Chicago Bears logo, or other images. “I’m from Wisconsin,” says Karter with a laugh. “It was really hard for me to print that Chicago Bears logo.”

While macarons are their focus now, the couple wants to expand into other areas, including chocolate confections by the middle of 2020. They also have plans to make pastries, including Buche de Noel for Christmas, and to eventually offer cooking classes.

For now, the couple are excited to produce high-quality macarons that many Americans may not have had the chance to enjoy previously. Alyssa Haskins, head chocolatier of Infusion Chocolates, which has been handcrafting chocolates in the Madison, Wisconsin, area since 2008, is pleased to be selling A La Folie’s macarons. 

Alexis Karter and Jerome Landrieu

“While all of our chocolates are made onsite, our large retail area has allowed us to bring in some fantastic specialty food items,” says Haskins.  “We know our client base will fall in love with A La Folie’s macaron, just as we have.” 

She says A La Folie’s macarons are special because of the care and expertise with which they are made. “Chef Jerome is an expert in his craft, and his team’s attention to detail shines,” says Haskins. “From the perfect shells to the elegant, balanced flavors, each one is an edible work of art.” 

Photos Courtesy A La Folie