I have always considered myself as quite the baker. I enjoy baking and have taught myself a few tricks in the last few years. Perhaps the tricks were picked up when my mum asked me to fold in some flour whenever she bakes. One of my favourites is tart au citron. Making both the pastry shell and curd from scratch gives me a lot of satisfaction.
When Cookery School at little Portland Street mentioned their advanced pastry course, I knew I had to go. The other half of Dishpiglets, Celia, had previously raved about her time there when she took up one of their intermediate cooking course. This was my first ever experience at a cooking class outside of school. The last time I was 13 and being taught how to cook during Home Economics class back in Singapore.
When I arrived at the Cookery School, there was a plate of delicious smelling gruyere cheese puffs waiting for the attendees. The gruyere puffs were light and had a slight tinge of saltiness to them. We were definitely off to a great start!
The advanced pastry class was about exploring the use of puff pastry in both sweet and savoury recipes. Our tutor for the day was Ghalid, a pastry chef who was trained in France and has worked at many famous kitchens before deciding to switch to teaching. We were shown how to make a sweet short crust pastry to start with. The technique he taught was very different to the ‘shortcut‘ way which I normally used to make a lemon tart base. The key to a good sweet short crust pastry was the handling technique. There were many great tips given along the way and you could see all the students writing down ‘secrets of the trade‘.
What intrigued me most was the making of puff pastry. Ghalid showed us the massive chunk of butter used in the making of a delicious puff pastry from scratch. Puff pastry is essentially BUTTER. The amount of time and strength used to roll the layers of butter and dough together to create all the layers requires patience and tenacity.
There were a lot of hands on sessions with guidance from Ghalid when we were split into two groups of 3 to execute the provencal tomato tart and apple tarte tartin. As I was in quite the savoury mood, I headed to the provencal tomato tart group and tried to roll out a pre-prepared puff pastry. The handling of the puff pastry needs to be quick and precise. Manoeuvring of the pastry is crucial, with flour being regularly dusted onto both sides as you slowly roll it out. Ghalid gave a few pointers and we managed to roll out a decent length of puff pastry ready for our provencal tomato tart toppings.
The other group prepared their apple tarte tartan and we were shown by the chef how to put it together. He then proceeded to show us other uses for puff pastry including the making of chicken sausage rolls and parmesan cheese straws.
At the end of the class, we sat down together to enjoy our 3 hours of hard work, paired with wine. It was a ‘pastry’ themed dinner where we devoured our fruits of labour. The tomato provencal tart, apple tarte tartan and the parmesan cheese straws were the stand outs. This was a truly enjoyable class and I went away with a determination to make my own puff pastry soon! It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon, learning how to make pastry.
*The Cookery School participates in the Sustainable Restaurant Association Sustainability Rating and was rated as a Three Star Sustainability Champion in March 2012. They “have implemented numerous commendable sustainability practices, not only sourcing much produce locally and purchasing high welfare, organic food, but also sourcing most seafood from UK fisheries and stocking UK organic craft beers and some UK wines.”
15b Little Portland Street
London W1W 8BW
Tel: 0207 631 4590
*Disclaimer: I attended the advanced pastry class as a guest of the Cookery School. All views are my own.