Paris – Baking Memories

I ended up finding this book for free on Amazon: How to Travel the World on a Budget: These Tips Will Save You Thousands of Dollars! which had some interesting points, but the most important one I remember is that the author talks about how a lot of people go on a holiday to Europe with the goal of “doing Europe” – i.e. seeing all the typical sights, taking photos, and going from tour to tour. They usually end up exhausted afterwards, and while they are able to brag about having seen X sights in Y countries, and have a thousand photos to show for it, they can’t remember really doing anything, because it was just a whirlwind of travel trying to pack all the sights into a short period of time. While I did want to see a lot of the sights, and I bought a Lonely Planet guide and made huge lists of things to see, MrFodder and I ultimately decided to take this vacation as an opportunity to actually have a vacation. Especially as we are both using all of our work leave that we have saved up, so it’ll be a long time until we get another holiday. Plus, as the book pointed out, any photos we take are not going to be as good as those taken by a professional with a much better camera, and can be found with Google.

Though I have to say that this photo that MrFodder took of the Eiffel Tower was very nice.

As a sudden idea while in Paris, I thought I might try to take a baking class, and since seeing that episode of Yakitate Japan! where he bakes a 324 layer croissant! (if you haven’t seen the show before, prepare yourself for large amounts of ham – it’s a great show though, if you don’t take it too seriously). Unfortunately, I clicked the wrong class, and ended up booking myself into a pastry and dessert class, and I emailed the instructor asking to change, but the croissant class was at the same time as our train to Berlin, so I couldn’t make it anyway.
I went to the class and ended up having a fantastic time, we made:

Florentines:

Layer cake (and ladyfingers out of the leftover cake batter):

Crème caramel:

To be honest, I’m still in shock that I made those (even though it was under the supervision of an experienced pastry chef, so that helped a lot). But it was a great experience, and gave me a much better appreciation of French cuisine. The instructor was incredibly knowledgeable. The class I did was the French Pastry class at Pâtisserie à la carte (she changes up the desserts she makes in the class, so you may not get the same ones I did). I learned lots of tips, and I’m not sure if it’s OK to post them all, but I guess since they’re probably not super secret things if all chefs are doing it, here they are:

  • when making caramel, don’t stir it, otherwise the sugar will crystalise on the spoon – if it is cooking unevenly, just mix it around by shaking the pot. However, if the caramel includes honey or glucose, then it’s OK to stir. For non-glucose caramel, you know it’s done when the bubbles are really small, and the surface starts looking smooth – it’ll happen, just have faith!
  • egg whites don’t like to be beaten too fast, so start beating them slowly, and increase speed over time
  • when working with vanilla beans, cut in half and boil the seeds and the beans with the milk. Once the milk starts to boil, remove the beans, and squeeze them out to get the vanilla oil into the mixture and discard the beans (super important, as the vanilla oil is only released when heated, and that is what gives it a lot of flavour).
  • when putting Crème caramel in the water bath, put a sheet of baking paper in the tray first, so that when the water starts bubbling, it will bubble into the paper and is less likely to bubble into your dessert.
  • when making the custard for the Crème caramel, and mixing the hot milk with the beaten eggs, keep stirring the eggs as you pour the hot milk in, otherwise the hot milk will cook the eggs
  • use skim milk for the Crème caramel, as the lower fat content is good for helping it keep its light texture

I enjoyed it so much that after returning, I ended up booking two more classes for when we’re in Florence – a pasta making class, and a pizza and gelati making class (which MrFodder is also interested in, so he will be joining me this time).

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