A few years ago, there was a cupcake frenzy rampaging throughout Melbourne. No one seemed to be able to get enough of a little cake that is covered with swirls of frosting and decorated with little red heart candies/sprinkles/other sugary goodness. This observation is evidently well-supported if you were to google “melbourne cupcake stores” – which I did do; since googling is a favourite, frivolous pastime of mine. 639,000 results appeared in an instant, or 0.48 seconds to be exact. There were the usual suspects such as the Cupcake Bakery, Little Cupcakes, the Cupcake Queens, Cupcake Central, and The Cupcake Family. Outside of Melbourne, someone by the name of Paolo (or who likes the name of Paolo) had opened his very own cupcake store, affectionately called Cupcakes by Paolo.
With so many stores located just within the Melbourne Central radius, I started to view cupcakes as sneaky little things. It did not help when someone in my lab stuck up a funny Weight Watchers poster that showed a pink cupcake holding up a white flag with the words: “I come in peace”. Whilst it amused me, the poster didn’t quite convince me of the cupcake’s innocence. To paraphrase from Shakespeare, that cupcake doth protest too much. Whilst I did try a few cupcakes from different stores, I didn’t understand the fascination surrounding them. Suffice to say, I wasn’t a cupcake kind of person, and I didn’t score well in the “what cupcake flavour are you?” quiz in my honours lab either.
So, imagine my panic when macarons started to gain popularity in Melbourne, boosted possibly due to its guest appearance in MasterChef. I termed it the macaron movement. Oh no! I thought, soon there will be macaron stores sprouting the streets just like those cupcakes. It turns out that I was half right. There wasn’t an overwhelming increase in the number of stores that specialised in macarons. Rather, there was an increase in the number of existing stores that started to sell their own macarons. For a period of time, there was heated debate between friends as to what constituted a macaron, and what size it should be. This was largely based on confusion between macarons and macaroons – and how to pronounce each one correctly. For a small little round biscuit, it sure courted quite a bit of controversy.
The first macaron that I bought was the black and white macaron from the chocolate store, Shocolate, which had apparently won an award. It looked good in a zen kind of way, and it tasted very good. Long story short, I was hooked on macarons. That’s when I created the macaron expedition which involved creative logistics such as how-long-can-I-disappear-to-cover-all-these-shops-without-anyone-missing-me? In reality, the macaron expedition took place over several weeks as experiments and reports joustled successfully for my attention. Slowly, my friend and I ate our way from Shocolate to Cacao to Ganache Chocolate to LuxBite and macarons by someone else called Duncan. Apart from one very disappointing experience which sent me on a macaron hiatus, I enjoyed the sugary expedition.
It was by chance that I came across La Belle Miette. Some would even say it’s fate. One day, a friend and I had trooped off to Hardware Lane to eat the crepes at Le Triskel as we were in our francophile mood. That’s when we notice a cute little shop that sold macarons. Naturally, we detoured and popped in to have a closer look. Round little perfections sitting atop a marbled table gleamed happily behind a glass barrier. They were all pastel shades ranging from a light lemony yellow to intense raspberry red. I was sold, and when I looked at the pretty boxes, I was smitten. The design of those boxes tell a beautiful story which you can read on La Belle Miette’s website. This is very similar to a thesis, which is meant to relay a story too, albeit a less tasty one.
How many should we get? 2 or 3? In the end, we got 6……….That is to say, 6 utterly scrumptious macarons that should individually win macaron the year award. We devoured in no particular order:
- 72% Cocoa Single Origin Chocolate (Venezuela)
- Caramel a la Fleur de Sel
- Hazelnut Belle Miette
- Pimm’s & Pomegranate
- Strawberry & Vanilla
I loved them all, no matter what flavour they were, all had a wonderful egg-shell crunch when you first bit into them. Then your teeth sinks into the the sweet moistness of an impeccably rich ganache that can only leave you in an exuberant sugar-high mood. The single origin chocolate macaron is sin in a box, and the delightful chewiness of the salted caramel macaron has caused my mind to wander many a time during lab meetings. I noticed that La Belle Miette also dabbles in cheeky flavours such as Pimm’s & Pomegranate. Although I have not tasted Pimm’s before, I can assure you that people who prefer tart flavours would very much enjoy it. Although some might consider lemon or strawberry and vanilla fairly boring , their lightness provides a welcome contrast after eating the heavier flavours. Sometimes, the best things are the simplest.
With the spectrum of flavours like theirs, La Belle Miette captures a range of clientele – those who like to play it safe and conventional, as well as who are adventurous enough to try exotic combinations. What La Belle Miette does even better is her ability to strike the right balance between textures and sweetness. One does not overwhelm but complements the other. Within the patisserie circle, it is safe to declare that Pierre Hermé and Ladurée are giants in the field of macaron creation. Melbourne may not have either of these outlets, but we have our own giant in the making – La Belle Miette.