Leanne Pietrasinski left a teaching credential program a few years ago to study an unusual passion: macarons.
It’s a tough recipe. It takes time to learn how to properly make the French cookies, which are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside — and are not to be confused with macaroons, which can mean biscuits and other treats.
She successfully made her first macaron in 2011, three years before she left school and decided to pursue baking.
In June 2014, Pietrasinski, 29, and her husband, Pawel Pietrasinski, 27, opened Honey & Butter, a quaint bakery specializing in macarons, inside a stainless steel Airstream trailer at The Lab Antimall in Costa Mesa. The trailer is a permanent fixture at the shopping center.
“At the beginning I wasn’t really good at it, but with more and more practice, I got better,” she said. “I never thought this business could be like this. I’m able to express myself through baking. I do what I love, and it’s really nice to have other people love what I do.”
The Huntington Beach couple make the macarons daily. Their bakery sells hundreds six days a week — from noon until there aren’t any left. Some days, the cookies, which range in price from $2 for a regular to $3 for one shaped like a character, are gone in a few hours.
Honey & Butter has become known for character-shaped confections, which started with a suggestion from a customer who wanted cat- and bear-shaped treats.
“I tried it out, and it turned out pretty cute,” Leanne said. “We had some on display, and customers would ask about them. We totally thought we could sell them.”
They now make macarons shaped as animals, sushi and, on occasion, characters from Pokemon and the TV show “Breaking Bad,” but they generally steer clear of copyrighted images.
The cookies are a challenge to prepare. The almond flour and egg whites must be of good quality. Cooking times have to be just right to ensure consistency.
Prepping, like mixing the batter and preparing the wrapping, can take three hours. Most days, the Pietrasinskis spend 12 hours baking.
“Everything has to be perfect,” Pawel said. “Precision is the key with this kind of pastry. Sometimes, if we do everything correctly, something happens, and one batch won’t bake correctly. Then we have to start over.”
The couple use real fruit for the fillings and homemade caramel.
“We don’t want our macarons to just be a sweet dessert,” Pawel said. “We want them to be nice and flavorful and interesting.”
Cookies come in flavors like french toast, cookie butter and tiramisu.
Pawel said one of the shop’s goals is to make people rethink macarons.
“It makes me really happy when people tell me that we’re changing their perspectives on macarons,” he said. “Sometimes, they’ll say they’ve had macarons before and didn’t think it was their kind of dessert. After they have our macarons, they say they like the flavor and want more.
“You won’t want to eat one and be done. You’ll want to enjoy several of them.”
IF YOU GO
What: Honey & Butter
Where: 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa
When: Tuesday through Sundays, noon to whenever the product sells out; closed Mondays
Cost: $2 to $3