While the owner is away, the baker will, perhaps, flavor a macaron with tomato and pesto.
"Michael says it tastes like Cheez-Its," Robert Lillegard said of his brother, with whom he owns the Lincoln Park bakery Duluth's Best Bread.
It was Michael Lillegard who was on vacation when baker Kayla Shanda decided to see what would happen if she made a savory macaron — not a wholly unique idea, but definitely not a common flavor direction for the confection.
"I had a little more leeway because I was getting more feedback from my coworkers than from (Michael)," she said.
She started with an azuki sesame cookie, which isn't that out-of-the-box, according to Robert Lillegard, making the comparison that if peanut butter is used in sweets, why not sesame? While typically the macaron's flavor comes from its filling, Shanda added the seed to the almond flour, and it has a speckled egg aesthetic. Azuki also plays as a dessert, whether it's in brownies or ice cream.
"They put all these ingredients in the pantry, and they're staring at me," Shanda said. "There's a jar of tomato pesto that's been staring at me since I started."
Her rosemary-olive oil macaron is the sweetest of non-sweet treats, and it's the tomato-pesto that turns a sometimes food into something that feels like dessert but tastes like dinner. With the maple bacon macaron, Shanda said, she was asked to go heavier on maple than bacon.
"I've always liked weird things," Shanda said. "If it's weird, I want to try it. And I know there are other people like that."
Macarons have a light and smooth exterior that sandwiches a creamy, flavored center, maybe buttercream or ganache. There are different methods for making them, and Shanda recommends the Italian method, which deviates from the French way of treating the meringue for the cookie exterior.
It's the more traditional dessert flavors that sell better, Robert Lillegard said. But the savory snacks have a niche. Among them: The bakery's staff maybe, he hypothesized, because they already have so much access to sweets. Also:
"Our trendiest hipster customers loved it," he said.
On a recent weekday, the bakery had 11 options for macarons, ranging from tomato pesto to peach cobbler to champagne and honey chamomile. Shanda said she knows the bakery caters to people who like chocolate, caramel and honey. But she's got her eye on a pineapple rambutan combination.