An ability to make pastry is surely one the most useful skills an amateur cook can learn. With a family of expert chefs I have always loved food, enjoyed cooking but never quite possessed the skills to whip up complicated cuisine, which include puff and choux pastry in my opinion.
Attending a class at the reputable Cookery School, I felt I was in good hands. This petite cooking school just off Oxford Street hold regular day and evening classes teaching every category of cooking. I was tempted by the cupcakes class, but realising that it was probably the only recipe I knew off by heart, decided on something a little more challenging, so Pastry it was. Our teacher for the evening Ghalid, was approachable, clear and friendly. From snippets of conversation I gathered… he was born and bred in Morocco, studied cheffing in France, helped set up the original Ottolenghi in Islington with the man himself and now finds himself teaching the tricks of the trade to eager hopefuls.
We focused on puff, shortcrust and choux pastry, learning the jist of the techniques before customising the basic pastry recipes to create dishes we could use at home for dinner parties or delicious snacks. The menu for the evening consisted of choux eclairs, cheese straws, palmiers, quiches, apple pies and beef pasties all made in a mere two hours, leaving an hour for scoffing and chatting at the end.
After watching a demonstration from Ghalid, we were left to our own devices. With a few easy steps our bowls of flour, salt, butter and water had transformed into golden yellow pastry, ready to be rolled and blind cooked. Ghalid taught us all the tricks to ensure our dishes turn out perfectly, little details that make all the difference. I made a mushroom quiche, which, having now eaten it, I can say was delicious. Good homemade pastry makes an enormous difference to the taste of a dish, plus you can freeze it for up to three months to use another time.
The puff pastry was more challenging and time consuming. The process of rolling out the pastry and folding into three must be repeated until the dough has sufficient layers. Choux pastry is unique as it is created in a saucepan carefully beating the ingredients together until it drops easily off the spoon. Then it can be dolloped onto a tray, cooked and transformed into scrumptious chocolate eclairs.
Within a few hours I had learnt all the basics of pastry making, and thanks to Ghalid felt confident to go home and bake them by myself. The Cookery School is a wonderful establishment, if only I cook take every class I would be a master in the kitchen.
For more information about the Cookery School visit the website here.