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Learn how to make French puff pastry like the experts
Who doesn’t love French pastries? I love cooking and I love just about all things French. Without a doubt, French pastries are some of my favourites. In the world according to me, there are no greater artists in the world when it comes to producing french patisserie goodies.
So, on my last trip to Paris, I decided that I needed to attend a cooking class. I didn’t really care what the class was on, it just needed to be pastry.
I considered myself to be very lucky! I looked for a class on a Monday and was able to book one for a Thursday! I wouldn’t at all recommend leaving it to the last minute, such is their popularity, but the pastry Gods were smiling down on me when I managed to score a place in the millefeuille class. Now for those who know me, and have been with me on previous trips to France, they will know that this particular pastry is one of my all time favourites.
I was joined by seven other participants from a mix of countries and our wonderful chef Francis, all waiting expectantly around the large bench in the basement of their building. The class size was perfect in terms of size as it allowed for the opportunity to receive individual attention when required, to allow us to participate 100%, and to have some fun as we went about our creation. Having been to many different cooking classes in Australia, this model was by far the best, and I really took the time to listen intently and learn as much as I could.
Frances, a British born chef who was trained in France, prepared the millefeuille out the front, carefully making each step so that we could see what she was doing, and then we copied her on our own growing creations in front of us. She made a move, we made a move until it all came together.
Making puff pastry for the first time
We learned, of course, how to make perfect puff pastry from scratch. This is a time-consuming process when doing by hand, and one that cannot be rushed. Oh, and it really does contain a lot of butter. We also learnt how to make the cream, or mousseline, as it is known in France.
We experimented with a gorgeous praline mousseline as well as the vanilla bean variety. Then we made the fondant that sits delicately on the very top of the millefeuille and decorated it with the traditional chocolate lines. It all seems fairly easy but I can assure you it is not.
Now it wouldn’t be a cooking class if we didn’t get to sample the final product. Francis had made a large one so that it could be cut up for all of us to share. It was also an exercise in showing us how difficult it is to cut this beautiful puff pastry into neat pieces. Hence why she had us make individual sized portions. It was absolutely delightful and I was hoping that mine was just as tasty.
I couldn’t speak more highly of this class and the way in which it was run. Whoever would have thought an average person, cooking millefeuille for the first time, could cobble together some butter and flour and with some great instruction turn out our masterpieces !!
And as a final parting gift, the team at La Cuisine Paris provided us with a list of some of their favourite food places in Paris. The ingredient and cookware stores caught my eyes straight away. My poor husband! Without even knowing about what had just taken place, his remaining time in Paris was surely going to involve locating them and checking them out. Luckily I know he loves that sort of thing too.
When we found these stores we were both thanking our lucky stars in a way that we had found them on our second last day in Paris. Otherwise, I think the amount of luggage we brought home would have been excessive.
We did however still manage to buy a heap of ingredients that I know I will never find at home from G.Detou, including the biggest jar of vanilla beans I have ever seen, plus a heap of cooking utensils from Mora also.
I couldn’t wait to take my millefeuille back to where we were staying in a Parisian flat in St-Germain-des-Pres. I felt very special as I left the premises of La Cuisine Paris with my little cake box and boarded the Metro. Ah, if only those on the train knew that an ordinary Aussie had mastered the craft of making one of their own specialties. Well, that’s probably getting a little ahead of myself, but I felt pretty good on that train ride home 🙂
My husband arrived shortly after I got back to the flat, along with his Mother who had joined us in Paris from London for the weekend. I showed off my creations with great pride but then taunted them by putting them in the fridge for consumption the next day.
It was early in the evening when I arrived home and we were off that night for dinner at Les Hombres in the Musée du Quai Branly and we needed to make sure there was plenty of room for a three-course meal.
The following morning, after clearly not being able to wait a moment longer, they were brought out for breakfast, proving there’s never really a bad time to eat French pastry.
When I returned home from Paris, I knew I needed to attempt to make my millefeuille as soon as possible, so that all the tips and notes still made sense. Even though not much time had passed since the class, it is amazing how much difference doing it on your own makes. You can take as many descriptive notes as possible when you’re there, but it still doesn’t beat experience and the habit of having made it more than once.
The result I have to say was very pleasing. There were a couple of aspects that I wasn’t completely sure about at the time, but through correspondence with La Cuisine, they were able to alleviate any concerns I had.
Even more exciting was advice I received from La Cuisine Paris to say that they had included some photos of my “at home” creation” in their regular photo album that they compile on Facebook. Below are the links that take you to their Facebook page and the individual links to my creations.
Kerri now travels regularly with her husband, Stirling, where eating great food, drinking quality beer and wine, and cooking international foods are integral to their adventures.