From banker to baker, a sweet tale
In summer of 2009, when Carolyn Wendler of Tiburon was planning a Fourth of July party, she decided to add a patriotic twist to the table. “I took my mother’s recipe for green mint meringues and decided to make them red, white and blue.” Not only did they look great, they were the hit of the party. Not long afterward, she realized meringues’ flavor could be played around with as well. “From there I began having some fun in the kitchen, thought about my longtime desire to be an entrepreneur and decided it’s now or never!” Look for her offering samples of MeringeOs this holiday season at a grocery store near you.
How long have you lived in Marin? I was transferred to San Francisco by Citibank from New York in 1991. After living in the city for two years, I moved to Marin in 1993 and never looked back.
How long were you a banker? I have 30 years’ experience in the corporate world, having worked for an airline, a computer company and New York money-center banks. Most recently I spent 17 years at Citi, both in New York and San Francisco.
Have you always liked to bake? No, and that is the funny part. I have never been super-handy in the kitchen. As a student I was much more interested in science. So I decided to rename our kitchen “the lab,” at which point I became fascinated with food chemistry. Now I find it more fun and challenging than ever.
What made you decide to transition from banker to baker? A long time ago I sat down and listed all the things I wanted to do in my life. One of them was to be an entrepreneur. As is usually the case, the first step was the hardest, but once I got serious it all seemed so natural. My corporate experience taught me how to make decisions and build and run a business, so I don’t want to diminish its importance. But it really is wonderful not having to write executive memos!
What has been the hardest part about starting the business? I knew I had a delicious product but for me the biggest challenge was figuring out how I was going to stand out from the sea of tasty items that are brought to market regularly. Getting professional help on packaging, branding and my website have made a big difference.
What has the response been so far? I love doing store demos and watching and listening to consumer reactions. The feedback on the product, the packaging and the branding has been beyond my wildest expectations. But, also in response to feedback from consumers and retailers, I am revising the line to make it “all natural.” You will see some all-natural versions in stores immediately, with more to follow over the next several months.
Any insider tips for making meringues? Don’t even think about making meringue on rainy days! Moisture in the air or humidity makes them go flat.
How long do they last? Meringues have quite a good shelf life. Like everything that comes out of the oven, they are best fresh, but they will be delicious for weeks if you keep the container lid closed or put them in an airtight tin. They freeze beautifully too.
Do you have a favorite flavor? Chocolate mint is the best seller but I’m partial to the lemon. I don’t limit myself to just eating them as cookies; I also like to break them up into tiny pieces and serve them over ice cream or gelato as they do in Europe.
These cookies can be frozen, so you can make them well in advance of an event.
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup mint chocolate chips
Green or red food coloring
Preheat oven to 375° for at least 15 minutes. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until stiff. Add sugar one tablespoon at a time, beating constantly. Beat until glossy. Add the balance of ingredients.
Drop on a greased cookie sheet. Place in the oven, turn off heat, and leave cookies inside (without peeking) for at least 5 hours.
For another holiday accent, replace the chocolate chips with colorful M&M’s.
Tip: Bring egg whites to room temperature, and beat them in a metal bowl.