Last weekend I finally got to go and take a cooking class with one of my favourite Sydney Patisserie schools, Patisse (located in Chippendale)! I have ALWAYS wanted to do more cooking classes, especially those for the sweeter things in life, so I was so excited when I was given this as a gift for Christmas. My class was called “High Tea Treats” which I selected specifically because I love high tea and also because I felt that this class would allow me to learn a wide variety of new techniques. That being said I am already planning another class, the only problem being that I can not decide which one! Prior to arriving, I felt a little nervous; I was going to a class, alone, where I had no idea really what would be expected of me or what the other members of my class may already know. To be honest, I was afraid of making some monumental mistake, to which my peers would probably think “gosh, what’s she doing here” but I could not have been more far from the truth!!
When I arrived I was greeted warmly by Aren (our teacher) and the other members. We sat down at a set table and were offered fresh coffee and beautiful teas, accompanied by delicious mini chocolate Eclair (a hint of whats to come perhaps!). Once we had all introduced ourselves to eat other, donned our aprons and washed our hands we got straight into the good bit..cooking! I was really surprised because I had anticipated that we would be broken into smaller groups to complete sections of recipes that would be combined at the end of the class. However, Aren explained that each of us would make every component to every recipe that we would then each get to take home with us at the end of the day! In front of us then was a booklet (a very fat booklet I might add) of the day’s recipes, a small portable stove (which was shared with the person standing opposite you) and the measured out ingredients for the first recipe (if only cooking was this easy all the time!). Our recipes included Gougeres a la bechamel (bechamel filled profiteroles), peanut brittle chocolate tartlet, lemon meringue tartlet and mini chocolate eclair. By this stage, I was bursting with excitement!
First up we needed to tackle our pastries which included a sweet shortcrust dough and a choux pastry. Aren first demonstrated the recipes, one at a time before allowing us to have a try. It was also helpful because there were two additional pastry chefs who would wander around to give you tips and check on your progress. Honestly, I haven’t felt that relaxed in a kitchen in a long time! Despite the fact that I have made both types of pastry before, I picked up so many fantastic tips and techniques! The choux recipe that we were given was also slightly different from the one I used to make my Croquembouche at Christmas time (where the buns went soggy), however this recipe produced beautiful, firm buns that were cooked completely through! I can’t believe I’m going to say this (let alone write it on the internet!) but I really cant wait to give that Croquembouche another go! Aren also explained that overcrowding the oven can cause the buns to go soggy and debunked the old myth that the pastry needs to cool down before beating in your eggs. Fantastic! Once our pastries were finished, piped, placed into tart cases and in the oven we moved onto the chocolate creme patissiere (chocolate custard). Again, Aren demonstrated first before allowing us to make the recipe with our partner. Again, I’ve tried this one before at home but I was so pleased to see and produce a beautiful, shiny, thick, chocolatey patissiere! So yummy I actually can not describe it!
After this it was time to stop for lunch, which I did not realise was also provided for us. Aren and his team had cooked us a beautiful ham, spinach and gruyere cheese quiche, served with a green salad and a glass of wine! Yum yum yum! best quiche I have ever eaten in my life, hands down (sorry mum!). For dessert, Aren used the leftover choux pastry to make us donuts which were light and fluffy and just plain yummy! And then it was straight back to the kitchen to finish off!
We moved onto lemon curd next, which I have always wanted to try at home but was too afraid to waste all those eggs! The beauty of this class I think was that it really showed me just how simple baking can be, when you use a logical and methodical approach. Within about 5 minutes I had made a rich, glossy lemon curd, and not one person in the class curdled theirs either! This went into the fridge to chill and it was onto bechamel. Aren made a large batch of peanut brittle (the best brittle I’ve ever sampled) and chocolate ganache for us all to use as well as the italian meringue for our lemon meringue tarts.
The final stage of the class was assembly time! We received all of the bits and bobs that we had created throughout the 4 hour class (yep we made all that in under 4 hours!) and were instructed on how to put it all together to get a beautiful finished product. Aren and his assistants were really fantastic, putting all the mixtures into piping bags for us and assisting wherever needed. They tempered chocolate for us to then dip our chocolate eclairs into which we later topped with crushed pistachios and freeze dried raspberries. I had a few extra choux buns which I made into chocolate profiteroles! And finally, when I looked down, I was done! I actually can not believe the end result that I saw on my bench in front of me. It was like something out of a Patisserie, most definitely not something that I had made by myself! We each received a box to put all our goodies into and then sadly we were off!
Overall, I had such a fantastic day and I can not wait to go back again and try out some more courses! Would highly recommend giving it a go. A fantastic, friendly approach to baking that is suitable for all skill levels. On top of that I met some lovely fellow bakers who all had a passion for food, cooking and eating! Totally exceeded my expectations and I had a wonderful day!