I first found out about Maria Siragusa’s pastry business Eclairesse via Instagram. I’d interviewed her husband, Daniel about their restaurant Omaggio several months before, and as a lover of French pastries, I knew that I wanted to learn more about Maria and her business. We met for our interview at Omaggio’s (an ideal place to meet as we’d been looking forward to having another of their delicious pizzas) and we had the chance to talk with Maria about what inspired her business as well as where she sees Eclairesse going in the future.
What inspired you to create Eclairesse?
It started when I wanted to make something healthy for my daughter, Sofia’s 1st birthday. I come from a family who always loved to cook/bake, so it really came naturally. I did a lot of research online/Instagram to decide what I wanted to make for Sofia and everything turned out so well so I decided to go on from there.
When do you first become interested in the art of creating European pastries?
I’ve been in the States for 6 years now, but growing up in Ukraine, European and French pastries where something I was used to. I wanted to create something different… to fill in the gap of the typical American cakes and donuts. There can be many pastries around the world that are similar, but each country can turn that dessert into something unique and make it their own.
Did you go to culinary school or are you self-taught?
I’m purely self-taught. I’ve taken some classes in Ukraine on how to make macaroons, eclairs and mouse cakes and even took a class with French chef. I also like to go to Instagram for inspiration. You can be inspired by a recipe and then change it up with ingredients and flavors and make it your own.
Are some of the pastries that you create made from recipes that have been passed down through your family?
There are recipes from my family that I make for myself and for my family, but there isn’t much of a call of traditional Ukraine recipes here in the States. One recipe that I like to make, that my mother made for me and I could literally eat every day is Syrnyki. It’s homemade Quark Pancakes with Raisins and it can be garnished with sour cream and maple syrup. You can add pretty much anything you like instead of the raisins (for example cherries) but I like raisins the best.
What would you say is essential to creating the perfect pastry?
Precision with your ingredients. You really have to stick with the exact measurements and follow the techniques for whatever pastry you are creating. If you skip a step or getting the ratio of your ingredients off even by a little the whole pastry will turn out wrong and just end up in the trash.
I love the details that you added to your eclairs, what is the most intricate pastry you’ve ever created?
The Mousse cake (mira-glaze). The nature of the glaze is just so unpredictable. You have to add the details quickly and there are many steps to the process, some of which take 24 hours it between the steps, so you just work on another part of creating the pastry while you wait.
You create such beautiful pastries including macarons to eclairs. What is your favorite pastry to create?
Definitely Eclaires. I could eat them everyday. It’s where Eclairesse came from. I love the texture of the dough (thin & crispy) it’s a reminder of my childhood and I will never get tired of them. They are so light and you can fill them with any flavor of creme that you can think of.
Eclairesse has been at events around the Charlotte area including the Artisans Market at The Foundry. What did you enjoy most about participating in this event?
I love how people come to the table. At first they take pictures, and some comment that the pastries look so much like works of art they almost don’t want to eat them. When they finally take a bite I just love seeing the expressions on their faces. The emotions that I see when someone tries one of my pastries makes me so happy.
Do you make all the pastries yourself or do you work with a team?
I make them myself. I can come into the kitchen at Omaggio after closing and use the commercial kitchen. Daniel (my husband) really understands dough, so sometimes for the really large orders he helps me.
You currently do orders via email and your website do you have plans for a location dedicated to Eclairesse in the future?
I would love to have a shop someday. There was a coffee shop in Miami, where we moved from and they employ people with Downs Syndrome. I just loved the nice laid back atmosphere there and I would love to have a shop with this concept. One of my sisters has Downs, and I hope that someday if I were to start a physical shop that she would be able to be a part of it.
After the interview, we headed back home to take pictures of the set of eclairs and tarts that Maria brought for us to try. It was my first time trying an eclair and I absolutely loved it. It was filled with almond pastry creme and topped with Dark Chocolate and Gold Leaf. The Thyme Blueberry Tart with white chocolate mousse infused with fresh thyme from Maria’s garden and blueberries was literally the most amazing pastry I’ve ever tasted (I adore both blueberries and fresh thyme) and I know we’ll be looking to Maria for desserts for our upcoming events.
To following along with all things Eclairesse, check out Maria’s Instagram here.