I would consider myself a pastry novice having never even attempted to make pastry at home. I was therefore very excited to learn some tips and tricks from the school's chefs, John and Lucy.
The morning started with freshly baked lemon cakes and coffee to warm up and get to know everybody. We then gathered round and watched John demonstrate how to make choux pastry buns. Something that seemed a little daunting, but is surprisingly easy.
During this demonstration, John passed around the pan of dough for everyone to get a feel of the correct consistency; a spoon should not stand up in the pan, it should sink. Once cooled, the buns were filled with freshly whipped cream and finished with a dusting of icing sugar. Alternatively, eclairs or profiteroles can be made with this.
Next, we all took our places ready to be guided through the process of making shortcrust pastry. We had a choice of making apple pie, vegetable quiche or Cornish pasties. Most opted for a challenge and chose to make Cornish pasties, including myself.
As the name suggests, shortcrust pastry is short, and this meant that I struggled forming the first of my pasties. It stuck to the work surface and crumbled over the steak filling. Getting the balance between a short dough and the amount of water used in the dough to help bind the pasties together is tricky. But, for my next pasties I just added a tiny drizzle of water and it made all the difference.
Whilst the pasties were baking, we watched John demonstrate how to make puff pastry by making palmiers and cheese straws.
Everyone dispersed onto their own tables to give the puff pastry a go. Puff pastry should have 6-8 folds and it is important that it is chilled between each to ensure that the butter remains firm. We all managed to squeeze 3 folds in before packing up our pastry dough to take home for baking.
We then enjoyed all of the morning's bakes for lunch.
I enjoyed the palmiers so much I used my dough to make some more...
225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
225g unsalted butter, chilled
225ml cold water
squeeze lemon juice
- Add the flour and salt into a large bowl. Squeeze a dash of lemon juice into the water and add the flour. Mix and knead for a minute or two until a firm dough is formed.
- Wrap the dough in greaseproof paper and chill for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, beat the butter on a floured work surface with a rolling pin until it forms a 1/2" deep rectangle.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and roll on a floured work surface until 3 times the length of the butter. Place the butter on the dough and wrap ensuring that the butter is fully encased.
- Roll into a long rectangle with the shorter ends towards you. Fold into 3. Repeat, rolling and folding into 3, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for 10-15 minutes.
- Roll and fold into 3. Repeat. Chill for 10-15 minutes. Continue until the dough has been rolled and folded a total of 6 times.
- Heat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Roll out the dough and sprinkle with a thin layer of golden caster sugar over the entire surface. Roll each end towards each other so that they meet in the middle. Squeeze gently together.
- Using a sharp knife, cut thin slices. On a floured palm, press down each slice to spread it before placing on a lined baking tray.
- Sprinkle with water and sugar and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden and firm.
I enjoyed the class and now feel confident to make my own pastry at home. I may even make a large batch to freeze down and keep for rainy days.
The Cookery School can be found on Little Portland Street, just behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. They offer a range of courses and individual classes for all skills and interests. The classes like the pastry one I attended, are an ideal way to learn the techniques and ingredients used for anything from bread and baking, to tapas and Italian antipasti. Visit their website for more information www.cookeryschool.co.uk.