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La Belle Miette: “Beautiful small things”

Diane Leow

Wed Oct 19 2011

La Belle Miette

AFTER the successes of their flagship macaron shop in Hardware Lane, the owners of La Belle Miette have opened a second, this time in Richmond. Meld reporter Diane Leow talks to Maylynn and Hugh about the sweet life. 

Meet Maylynn and Hugh. Owners of Melbourne’s newest macaron empire, La Belle Miette.

Maylynn is a half-Italian baker who has a Master of Arts degree in one hand and a whisk in another. She’s happy and comfortable in a bright orange sundress with a little bit of almond flour on her fringe. A smile is etched on her face and she gets excited talking about a passion that’s become her work.

Then meet Hugh. He’s tall and lanky. His eyes are framed in trendy black-framed glasses, and he’s rather soft-spoken. An ex-lawyer who decided he wanted to do something of his own, Hugh found the answer to some of life’s questions baking macarons, or as he likes to call them, tiny little morsels of delight.

Together, Maylynn and Hugh are the ‘parents’ of La Belle Miette, a small patisserie specialising in the small patisserie that is the macaron. The couple have just recently opened their second store in Richmond, and business is booming.

Maylynn and Hugh’s flagship store on Melbourne’s Hardware Lane looks like something straight out of Champs D’Elysee, the famed Parisian shopping street, with its gorgeous pastel-themed storefront and colourful curtains. Step inside and you’ll find brightly-hued macarons calling out to you. The flavours are endless, from Moet et Chandon with a Cassis centre and Earl Grey with a bergamot shell to traditional flavours like raspberry and chocolate.

Each macaron is handmade using the highest quality ingredients. Maylynn believes this is one of the most important things to making a good macaron. She uses a 72 per cent single-origin chocolate made of Venezuelan beans and handcrafted by a French chocolatier for their chocolate macarons.

As for their best-seller, the salted caramel, their not-so-secret ingredients are fleur de sel, a hand-harvested salt, and really smooth butter. Combined, these make for a silk-smooth caramel ganache with that slight hint of salt. It’s not at all cloying and super addictive.

An endless variety of macarons to choose from at La Belle Miette. You only wish you could eat them all.

Maylynn and Hugh’s journey to macaron success started with a dream. From a young age, Maylynn saw herself owning her own patisserie. But she didn’t know how to, so she decided to do things on a smaller scale.

“We thought, ‘What if we just focus on a small product and just do that?’ That means we can have a small store and everything can be little!” she says.

Soon, she was asked to cater for events, which meant she would spend almost every holiday baking. Then she had a revelation.

“I just thought, ‘Why does your work have to be separate from what you love doing?’.”

So Maylynn and Hugh packed up their stuff and moved to France to learn the art of making the macaron from the French masters.

They were taught by the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOFs), who hold the highest accolades in patisserie and the culinary arts. When recalling her time in France, the sparkle in Maylynn’s eyes is evident.

“Even just to talk in the room and see those guys up close… that was just incredible for me,” she says.

The learning process wasn’t always smooth though. While Hugh is fluent in French, Maylynn’s command of the language is good for reading recipes, but not as helpful when someone gets angry at her. The French take their patisserie seriously, which Maylynn and Hugh think is a good thing.

Back in Melbourne, a highlight of La Belle Miette is its signature boxes. These have been specially designed with a classic French brocade, which is reminiscent of all things girly and pretty.

The next time you get hold of some of these decadent treats, take a moment to admire the pretty macaron-inspired designs on the box.

Their designer has incorporated little macaron-related symbols into the design. If you look closely, there’s a little boot representing the ‘foot’ of the macaron, a little sugar urn, an almond blossom (for the almond meal used to make macaron shells) and a timer, as timing is an incredibly important part of making a good macaron.

An eye for detail is definitely something Maylynn has. Everything in the store is personally sourced, from the little card holders that explain the various flavours to the delicate French teas they stock.

In a world where bigger is almost always better, La Belle Miette shows us that being small may not be a bad thing. The humble macaron may be a typical biscuit to some, but for Maylynn and Hugh, it’s what they’re passionate about. And most foodies are passionate about them too.

As for the macaron bakers at home, Maylynn has a few tips to share:

  1. Always use good quality ingredients. People will be able to taste the difference.
  2. If the recipe calls for the almond meal to be sifted three times, do what it says. The idea is to have a really fine almond meal that should be dry and light.
  3. Create your own test to gauge the viscosity of the macaron mixture. One thing you could do is to drop bits of the mixture from the same height every time and count to see how long it takes to settle back in. Work out what’s best for you.

La Belle Miette on UrbanspoonLa Belle Miette is located at 30 Hardware Lane, Melbourne. It’s open everyday except Sunday from 10am-6pm.

La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon You may also wish to visit La Belle Miette’sRichmond store, at 432 Church St.