Macarons are among the most delicate, tasty gems of the pastry world — certainly not something you can knock up at home without hours of practice and an intuitive grasp of the techniques required to create these delectable little treats. It took the talented Spanish-born Sara Balmaseda some considerable time before she finally began to come up batches of perfect macarons which were crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy in the centre.

Finally, after much trial and error, Sara, who now lives in Eynsham, became confident enough to share her attempts at perfecting these classic French delicacies with friends. They declared them delicious and it wasn’t long before she was persuaded to take up macaron-making professionally.

Now she makes them for private parties and farmers’ markets, spending every morning filling her kitchen with trays of raw macaron shells waiting to be baked and then filled with ganache and sandwiched together. She has been making them every day for more than three years and frequently sells out at farmers’ markets.

She says it was their beautiful bright colours that first attracted her to them. When lined up together they look like a delicious edible rainbow. People who have never tasted them are seduced by their appearance and can’t resist buying them because they are curious. She loves it when a person buying them for the first time returns the next week to buy more and then becomes a regular customer. Her customers like the fact that her macarons are home-made and with the finest ingredients. The base of a macaron is egg white, sugar and ground almonds, to which flavours and colours are added.

The first thing Sara learned was that liquid colouring agents don’t work with macarons, as they dilute the egg white and change the consistency of the basic batter. Powdered colours work well enough, but she has now discovered that the paste colourings which she is able to buy at The Emporium, in Eynsham, are best.

Flavours are added by using cocoa powder, ground pistachio nuts and dried coffee granules without spoiling the properties of the basic mix.

The ganache fillings used to sandwich the macaron shells together are made from a mix of cream and white or dark chocolate, to which she adds flavourings such as lemon, pistachio and even raspberries. At first Sara purchased her chocolate, ground almonds and egg whites, from a local supermarket; now she is making so many macarons each day that she uses a catering supplier to maintain her stock level.

One of the tricks to making these fragile little gems is to weigh the ingredients meticulously and constantly check the temperature of the oven with a thermometer — a few degrees can make all the difference to the finished result. Surgical precision when mixing the ground almonds, sugar and egg whites is required at all times.

“Leaving them to sit for a couple of hours before cooking is really important too,” she said, pointing to the trays of uncooked macarons laid out on her kitchen benches waiting to go in the oven once a skin has formed on their surface. This is necessary to obtain that fragile, crisp surface that surrounds a macaron’s moist and slightly chewy interior. The flavours she produces include vanilla and chocolate, pistachio, blueberry, raspberry and chocolate, Earl Grey tea, lemon, coffee and salted butter.

A mother of two, Sara accepts that her family must come first, which is why she only works in her kitchen in the morning, leaving the rest of the day free for her husband and children.

The two markets she attends both open from 10am to 1pm at the weekend, so she can maintain this rule on Saturday and Sunday too. The East Oxford Farmers’ and Community Market is on Saturdays in the East Oxford Primary School, behind Tesco off the Cowley Road. The Wolvercote Farmers’ Market is on Sundays at the Wolvercote Primary School, First Turn.

As a consequence of her baking, Sara is now turning her back on her original career as a lawyer. She says she has never been happier. Seeing her efforts lined up ready to sell gives her great satisfaction. Indeed the sense of fulfilment she now gets is second to none. She knows she is creating something quite sublime. And so do her happy customers.