POWELL — There’s a perfectionist energy that Brynn Hillman pours into every order of baked goods she fills.
Hillman, a sophomore at Powell High School, is an outstanding runner on the school track team. This makes her business, Brynn’s Bakery, one of the many businesses she is involved in. From the dedication she has to her baked goods, it may come as a surprise that this is just a side gig.
One of Hillman’s most popular items are its macaroons. They come in dozens of varieties, including fruity pebbles, peanut butter and jelly, pumpkin spice cheesecake, and creme brulee. As sweet and fun as the treats are, she knows what she’s doing and takes it seriously.
“Macarons are really finicky,” Hillman explained as he separated the yolks from the eggs. “You have to make sure the egg whites are at the right temperature.”
She wipes down her baking mats with vinegar because, she says, even a thin film of soap during the wash causes gourmet cookies to rise outwards rather than upwards. She said making the perfect macaroon — a fancy term for cookie dough — requires a precision technique in which you fold whipped eggs into properly sifted dry ingredients.
“You have to get all the air out. So you have to work backwards. You get all the air in the dough and then you have to get all the air out again,” Brynn said.
Even the consistency must be perfect to pass the adolescent grade test. It should stay stiff when scooped into the bowl, then it should fall off the spoon just right.
Adding the food coloring to get the right color leads to another round of tinkering.
Halfway through the mix, she stops when a customer comes by to take an order of strawberry cheesecake cookies. The items are arranged in a bakery box that looks so professional it’s hard to tell a teenager to put it together.
When Brynn returns to the kitchen, she presses the macaroon batter onto the baking mat with a piping bag. She then watches carefully as the cookies rise in the oven.
Brynn learned everything she knows about making macarons from YouTube videos. She has her own recipes that she developed by experimenting with variations on recipes she found online. Sometimes experiments don’t go well, and sometimes she makes a mistake that ruins a lot. It’s not that they don’t taste good. They just don’t quite meet his standards of perfection.
“I just give them to my friends, and they love them,” she said.
Before making macaroons, baking was just a fun hobby.
She baked a salted caramel apple pie for a church fundraiser. The pie was a big hit with devotees, and someone offered to pay for it to make another one.
Last year, when Brynn wanted to earn money for Black Friday shopping, she saw the perfect way to get spending money.
Amy Hillman, Brynn’s mother, remembers lying on the couch trying to recover from an illness when her daughter came into the living room and asked if she could start a Facebook page to sell her baked goods. Hazily, Amy gave Brynn the green light.
Brynn then migrated to Instagram, where she posts her own marketing photos. She displays her macaroons with crisp, bright photos that look like they were made in a restoration studio.
“She did all of this on her own,” Amy said.
Brynn’s father, Jason Hillman, recalls the day a new tool for Brynn’s business unexpectedly showed up on the doorstep. The teenager wanted to toast the tops of her s’more and crème brûlée macaroons.
“It was a bit alarming when a blowtorch showed up at the house,” Jason said.
In addition to taking online orders, Brynn has provided baked goods for birthday parties and recently a baby shower. She also fulfills a weekly order of macaroons and cake pops — a piece of chocolate-dipped cake on a stick — at Heart Mountain Mudd, a coffee shack owned by Dana and Zack Thorington.
Dana said people were riding for their caffeine fix and the kids wanted a little treat. Dana asked Brynn if she could make cake pops.
After tweaking the recipe and size, Brynn produced a popular snack that people can take with their coffee order. Later, Brynn asked if Dana wanted to give away some of her macaroons.
Everything went well and now Brynn is supplying the company with a weekly order.
Dana said Brynn adds decorations to items, making them look different every week.
“I sell every week. It’s pretty awesome,” Dana said.
Although Brynn has had great success in her bakery, she doesn’t know if it will turn into a career. She flirts with the idea of going to medical school to become a medical assistant, but admits that running her own bakery could be fun. She has a few years to decide.
At the Hillmans, Brynn has become a staple in the family kitchen.
“Every night she’s in the kitchen until 10 p.m.,” Amy said.
Brynn’s older sister, Jenna, is about to graduate, and there’s family arriving. Brynn herself has final exams coming up, and it’s going to be a busy time. So her parents told her to suspend cooking for a while. Brynn insists it was her idea to take a baking break.
Either way, it will resume taking orders at the end of May.
Anyone interested in seeing her photos, browsing her menu and placing an order can find her on her Instagram account, Brynns_Bakery307.