Would you like a strawberry macaron with the face of Hello Kitty on it? Or a bear-shaped one that tastes like horchata? At Natalie Wong’s Always Yours Bakery Cafe, even the regular macarons come in less expected flavors. Depending on the day, and on what strikes the pastry chef’s imagination, you can find her crunchy meringue desserts made with ube, pistachio, White Rabbit candy or matcha. You can also find more whimsical macarons inspired by cereals such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Fruity Pebbles.
Wong started her first baking business, Macarons by Natalie, out of her home. Initially, she tried making macarons with a French meringue. “The French method was really easy, but it would be unpredictable at times,” she said. If it was raining, she found that she couldn’t bake them. Wong moved on to, among others, an Italian meringue recipe. She found them all to be too sweet so she lowered the amount of sugar and added a little bit of salt. Instead of using fillings like a chocolate ganache, Wong substituted in a buttercream. “I’ve been told that my macarons are less sweet than other people’s, which I like.”
To make one of her original flavors, like the White Rabbit candy, Wong explained that the shell batter remains the same almond flavor for each macaron. “If you try to add stuff to the shell, it messes it up,” she said. The fillings provide a wide variety. “For making the White Rabbit, I melt down two bags of candy into heavy cream until it’s a syrup. Then I pour it into butter, add sugar and vanilla.”
When her macarons began to regularly sell out at farmers markets, she decided to pursue the idea of opening her own shop. Wong’s parents, she recalled, were shocked when she told them she was quitting her day job in real estate. But her mother was supportive every step of the way. “She saw the demand and believed in me,” Wong said. Always Yours opened in the Castro Village Shopping Center at the end of 2021. While her colorful array of macarons are the first things to catch your eye inside the cafe, Wong also serves cheesecake, cookies, cream puffs and cupcakes.
For home cooks interested in Wong’s desserts, she shared her recipe for a vanilla bean crème brûlée.
Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée (makes about 9.5 oz.)
By Natalie Wong
Our signature vanilla bean creme brulee custard is what goes into our crème brûlée boba drinks, as well as makes a great dessert on its own! The real vanilla bean flavor shines in this easy to make dessert.
2 C. heavy cream
5 egg yolks
150g granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Extra sugar for topping
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Add vanilla bean paste into the saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 mins.
- Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl until thick and pale yellow.
- Slowly drizzle the warm cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to not curdle the eggs. Mix until combined. Strain mixture.
- Divide the mixture evenly into ramekins in a roasting pan. Cover the whole sheet with foil.
- Place in a preheated oven. Pour near-boiling water into the bottom of the pan until about halfway up the ramekins.
- Bake for about 30-40 min. until set. It should wobble from side to side, but should not be liquidy.
- Remove from the oven. Let cool and chill in the fridge for 2-3 hrs. or overnight. They keep for up to four days.
- Torching: Sprinkle sugar evenly on top. Torch very close to sugar, but without direct contact. Move slowly until caramelized to a golden brown. Serve immediately.