THE BLOG

Taking A French Pastry Class

17/04/2013 13:50 BST | Updated 16/06/2013 10:12 BST
Getty Images

Want to know why a financier is called a financier? And no, I don't mean that kind, I mean the cakey type.

Because the tins they are traditionally cooked in makes them look like gold bullion. There, you've learned something. It wasn't the only thing I learned on my French pastry course, held in a strange little garret on the second floor of a concrete block near Swiss Cottage, the home of Bake With Maria.

In fact, I learned lots - such as the fact there is a thing called pistachio paste and you can only buy it from trade suppliers, that uncooked choux roux (bless you!) looks like mashed potato and that I am useless at rolling out sweet pastry.

Luckily, we had the benevolent but knowledgeable hand of teacher Marianne (Maria herself was in New York teaching bread-making to Brooklynites) to guide us, a chef who has worked with greats like wedding cake impresario Peggy Porschen. I didn't know who that was before my five-hour course, but I was filled in by my co-students, a lovely all-female cohort who swapped pictures of their phenomenal amateur efforts with vanilla sponge.

The reason they were there was to supplement their skills in the pastry department - cakes obviously being no challenge anymore - and we had our pens at the ready so as to quickly add notes to the comprehensive recipe sheets we were given for choux puffs filled with crème patissière, fruit tartlets, the aforementioned financiers and sablé biscuits.

It was great fun, despite my flappy hot hands meaning I found it practically impossible to utilise my pastry without it turning into a sweating, soft mess. I longed for the help of all those exes who constantly whinged about their mitts being cold due to poor circulation and briefly cursed the successful capillaries in my fingers.

Lack of kit/space on the hob did mean we had to leave it to Marianne to make both the crème and the roux, a shame since I would have liked trying to cock that up as well.

But the results - which I took universal credit for - were pretty spectacular, at least according to colleagues who yummed them up the next day and my wife who helped me polish off the choux puffs. And it was great learning little kitchen tricks about how to easy it is to make a sauce, how to get shell pieces out of cracked eggs (use another bit of shell apparently) and how to make your goodies look shop standard with the simple addition of an apricot glaze.

Bake With Maria also does croissant courses and artisan bread tutorials, so those of you with less of a sweet tooth should be able to find something to suit.

Me? I'll be holding my hands under the cold tap.

I attended the French Pastry Class, which costs £110 and lasts from 10a.m. until just after 3p.m., depending on whether everything is cooked in time. Lunch is included. See the website: www.bakewithmaria.com