Made in Plano: Chelles Macarons

“No one is ever sad eating a macaron,” says Chelsea Flaming, a pastry chef who bakes them daily. That’s the magic behind Chelles Macarons — every macaron is made into a memento, to save and to share with the ones you love.

Chelles Macarons // photos Esther Huynh

Chelles Macarons, based in Plano’s Craft Kitchen since 2014, moved recently when the Craft Kitchen also relocated. The new location is four times as big and a blessing to work in, Chelsea says. It is in a commercial kitchen, intended for production and pickups, while Chelles’ second space in Dallas is a sit-down spot. Owner Jonathan King rotates his time between the two, and pastry chefs Chelsea Flaming and Joseph Gonzalez bake at the Plano location. “We run the kitchen, but Jonathan’s like our dad and has to make sure we’re doing it right,” Chelsea says, laughing.

Jonathan King (center) with pastry chefs Joseph Gonzalez and Chelsea Flaming

The French macaron, an almond and meringue-based pastry, is sold at Chelles in nine regular flavors and three seasonal. The vanilla bean, chocolate, salted caramel, lemon, fruity pebbles, coffee, pistachio, red velvet and strawberry cheesecake are there to stay, with three new flavors stopping by every month. White chocolate cranberry (with a splash of orange), gingerbread and mint chocolate entices with every enjoyable bite. Don’t confuse the macaron with the macaroon, which is a flourless cookie with coconut and not part of this menu.

Jonathan gives his chefs the freedom to create anything that appeals to them. Joseph connects with the classics while Chelsea finds herself wondering, “What if we put a pie inside the macaron?” She tries to push the boundaries. She and Jonathan started playing around with the seasonal flavors, trying to create something one-of-a-kind that someone would just go crazy for. Jonathan, who comes from an Asian background, inspired a black sesame macaron, a flavor he cherished from his childhood.

Pecan pie — a Chelsea creation — is made with pecan pie filling just like a pie without the crust. It’s the pie bite we’ve all been craving. She also took her favorite cookie, cranberry white chocolate, and turned it into a macaron. Still, she can never pick her favorite. “They’re all like my children. It’s like asking who is your favorite kid,” she jokes.

Both chefs confess that macarons are challenging to make. The fragility of the meringue base that makes it tricky also gives it the light and airy texture we long for. “The thing with baking is it’s so exact, and with macarons, every element and every variable can change based on the weather, or temperature inside the building,” she explains.

Chelles Macarons are not too high in sugar, and that sets them apart. With macarons, the base is all the same — almond meal and powdered sugar. It’s the filling that makes each macaron its own, according to Chelsea. The macaron cost at Chelles is a little less than competitive markets and the size is more generous, allowing people to take three to four bites of macaron instead of just one.

Macarons are a start, but Jonathan and Joseph (a connoisseur of chocolate) are working on creating a chocolate line at Chelles. Right now, Joseph is working on perfecting bonbons — he toughest chocolates to bake. He came up with flavors like white chocolate raspberry, mint dark chocolate, white chocolate black sesame and peanut butter milk chocolate. He loves the preciseness of it all, like when the chocolate has a perfect snap to it and the filling is as smooth as it should be. “Once you do it right, it’s so satisfying,” he says. Chelsea’s specialty is cakes, and she hopes to one day bring in a macaron cake as well as teach macaron classes.

The name comes from Jonathan’s original business partner, Rochelle Jante. “Chelles” was her nickname, and owning this bakery was her dream. She brought macarons to Jonathan’s birthday one year. He didn’t know what they were, but as soon as he tried them, he asked her if they could start selling some. And they did.

Before Chelles Macarons, Jonathan had been an engineer for 10 years with Texas Instruments, but he discovered his true passion in entrepreneurship and stuck with it. “You just have to focus on the possibility of what it could be in the future and why you’re doing it, and that keeps you going,” Jonathan reminds us.

Desserts are full of fun and always come with celebrating; those are the feelings Jonathan wants to create with Chelles. Eventually, he may even change the name from Chelles or add tea to the menu. He’ll definitely have three new or rotating flavors for us this month, and we can’t wait to fall in love with them all over again.

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