Tuesday, October 04, 2011


For years I would have classified myself as not much of a baker. Don't get me wrong. I love sweets.  But the savory side of the culinary world has always had a stronger pull on my palate, which may be, in part, due to the kitchen in which I was raised. Growing up our family had a kick-ass muffin recipe which everyone loved, cheese cakes appeared from time to time, and chocolate cookie batter rarely made it in scoops to a sheet pan. Brownies were always made from a box, pancakes from a mix, and cakes, hum, cakes were bought. Preferably from Alden Merrell. But my mother was known for her curry dishes, lemon garlic salad dressing, and something our family affectionately calls chicken and peaches. There just simply wasn't much baking going on.

Spending our first summer in Paris sparked an interest in me to bake. After all, who can resist all the yeasty and sugary creations this city produces on every corner and several places in between. No other country can top France in a competition to produce incredible baked goods. In fact, rarely have I had even a simple baguette outside of France that rivals the delights of it's skinny loaf. This was especially puzzling to me  when we returned home after 3-months of Parisian pain and I could not find a single breadmaker who could pump out a baguette that was simple, tasty, fresh and not weapon-like. Well except in Fairfield, CT where there is a wonderful pair of French bakers at Isabelle et Vincent. But these bakers, and I assume their ingredients as well as their secrets, are imported. Why though can't we replicate the french baguette, I wondered. The challenge started to consume me and I realized that if I was ever going to tackle a good loaf of bread, I should first become a baker. So I've spent quite a bit of time baking more than I ever have and have enjoyed every minute of it.

When we arrived back in Paris for our second summer, I was on a mission to take as many baking classes as I could. Who else could teach me better than the French? Last year I never found a place that was offering the kinds of classes I was looking for, at a time that was convenient for me, and in an environment I liked. I prefer classes that are less about a recipe and more about technique. There is always a nuance to creating something that books just can't convey. It is rewarding to learn the basics of something and then be able to tweek and change it to suit your desire.

The Macaron class at La Cuisine Paris was so fabulous that I decided to see if I could attend another class. Luckily, I was able to find a sitter and signed up for an afternoon Eclair class. I dropped my kids off with their new sitter at the playground in Le Jardin du Luxembourg and I scooted over to a 3-5 pm class just up the street. It could not have been more convenient.

We learned the basics of Pâte á Choux and I had a great revision on Crème Patissière. We learned the technique of piping the dough and then filling these delicious creations. A few people dropped out of the class at the last minute so we were fortunate enough to be just three students. As a result, I really made a batch of these goodies all by myself. It was a fabulous hands on experience. We made chocolate filled éclairs with a chocolate Glacage topping and apple flavored ones with a caramel topping. I also asked the chef if I could make a few round ones just to see how they'd turn out.

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