Friday, September 25, 2009

Art and Science

Today was my highly anticipated French baking class at Whole Foods. I'm lucky enough to live close to a location that offers courses in several types of food prep. I've attended a few so far but this one was definitely the most intense. It was three hours of hands on instruction and I really enjoyed it. My friend Shannon took the class with me and we both managed to walk away with a new bag of tricks....and a bag of dough to bake at home!

Here is the write up of the class so you have an idea....

Home Boulangerie - The Art and Craft of French Baking

9 am - 12 pm $45 This is a 3-hour class; Its size is limited to 10 participants only!

SOLD OUT! Waiitng list

Chef Anne-Renee Rice-Soumeillant

Learn to prepare French baguette, sweet and savory tarts and even puff pastry in this hands-on, in-depth workshop. Chef Anne-Renee shares her extensive French training as she shows you how to apply these time-honored techniques to your busy modern life style.

We really enjoyed the presentation and the variety of methods for making dough and pastry. We learned several different building blocks that we can use to branch out into countless sweet and savory options. The process of making a good crust is as much of a science as it is an art. I've attempted a few of them but I get intimidated by some of the processes. The instructor was really approachable and helped to demystify some of the techniques behind a solid crust.

We learned how to make flour, water, salt and yeast into a baguette. There are many different tricks and elements that shape that small list of ingredients into edible bread. It won't be easy but I'm eager to try it out on my own.

We also did a sweet and a savory pastry crust. All of the doughs require time to either rise or set so it doesn't happen fast. I rolled and shaped that small crust myself and after doing it that one time, I feel like I can duplicate the effort at home! It's quite empowering looking at that gorgeous thing and thinking I made that!!!

We made a quiche inside of the savory filling that was loaded with caramelized onions.

We made a lovely dessert with the sweet crust. A pastry cream filling topped with grapes!
I normally don't think of grapes as a tart filling but this was delicious and refreshing! We were pleasantly surprised to find that the cost of the class not only covered three hours of hands on instruction but also a yummy lunch!

The final phase of our class covered puff pastry. I've honestly never even come close to considering making my own but after today, I feel like I might! The process is definitely drawn out. Making and chilling dough, folding in butter....
..."vibrating" the dough, rolling it out, folding it up, letting it chill for 30 minutes and then repeating the last three steps. Roll, fold, chill. You do this six times. Definitely not as easy as buying it in the frozen foods section but once you taste the difference between fresh and prepackaged puff pastry.... I definitely understand why people go through all of the trouble!

These guys tasted absolutely amazing.
The instructor told us that the dough could also be shaped into a croissant. The effort to make fresh puff pastry would totally be worth it for some homemade pain au chocolat!

If you live in the area, I highly recommend checking out The Whisk & the Spoon inside of Whole Foods in Princeton and seeing if there is a cooking class that interests you! The instructors are friendly and knowledgeable. The prices are also quite reasonable!

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