Cookie Decorator of Gingerbread Corner (www.gingerbreadcorner.com.au) | Felt creator of Born To Be Felt (borntobefelt.com)| Yoga Teacher | Blogger | A firm believer in choosing your own life
Published April 8th 2018
Is French butter the secret ingredients to delicious pastry?
On a Monday evening after a long day at work, you could plunk yourself on the couch and catch up on some Netflix or maybe be good and head off to the gym. But maybe there is a third option, something a little bit different and guaranteed to be delicious!
Recently on a warm Monday evening, I had the pleasure of doing something fun, unique and culturally enlightening. I attended Mon Petit Biscuit's 'Cooking and Speaking French' culinary class hosted by the ever enchanting and super cool Eve Garault. The cooking class was located at the serene Elwood Sailing Club, where the backdrop of the night faced the stunning view of Elwood beach, and at 7pm when the class begin, the sun was just about to descend, creating a picturesque background for the night.
On arrival, myself and my friend were greeted by Eve's two delightful helpers who handed us a copy of the program, then offered us a cup of tea and a Tuiles Aux Amandes to nibble on while we wait for the class to begin. Now for those of you who are not yet fluent in the language of French pastry, let me translate for you a Tuiles Aux Amandes is an Almond Biscuit (slightly sounding less exotic in the English language, but that in no way affects the taste), perfectly rustic in nature, with a crusty edge and soft chewable middle. These little delights were the perfect starter for the evening, a little teaser for the buttery goodness that will eventually appear like magic later on.
Chef Eva, originally from France and now residing and cooking up a storm in Australia, has many years of experience cooking her signature rustic homemade French food. Having worked at Domaine des Hauts de Loire, a 2 Star Michelin restaurant, you know you are in the presence of a pro and her love of cooking shines through the night. From the way she talks about using fresh products free of preservatives and having great equipment, you will quickly realise that here is a person who has found her passion in life. The dish that was demonstrated on the night was the Tarte Aux Pommes or as the non-french would say, Apple Tart, in a couple of variations.
The thing about watching a professional do what they do best is that they make their art form look simply easy. So as I watched Eve shift the flour, mix in the French butter and sugar and then create the perfect crumbly base pastry I thought to myself, yes, I can do that, easy enough. In reality, when I tried to repeat the process, most people would agree more practice is required and it is much too early for me to quit my day job and work in a French patisserie, but I digress.
Whilst Eve is making the pastry, she gave out a lot of handy hints on how to make the perfect crumbly base, where a novice cook can buy their very own stick of French butter, why dough needs to be kept for a time in the fridge and how the professionals do it. of course, she gives you a list of the quantity and ingredients that go into each element of the Apple Tart, in both English and French.
I would say on the night, the base seemed to be the trickiest part of the process. Once you have that mastered, things are a bit more smoother with the filing. Once the Tarte Aux Pommes was done, it went into the oven. Whilst we waited, the group was entertained by a slideshow of mouth-watering homemade French delicatessen, along with the scenery, demonstrating where the dish originated from in France.
Once we finished, we swivelled our chairs back and four large Tarte Aux Pommes magically appeared, along a serving table like a well-rehearsed TV cooking show. Cleary here were some desserts Eve had prepared earlier ready for us to sample. Now, I have to admit that while I expected to be able to taste test the finished product on the night, what exceeded my expectation was the generosity of the serving sizes. There were two variations of the Tarte Aux Pommes and yes, I sampled both, not small delicate little slices, but large enough to probably feed three persons. The crust was certainly my favourite part of the Tart. It was nice and crispy on the edge and a perfect balance of the butter and sugar with a moreish softer centre.
As we ate our slice or in my case slices of tart we played a little game of trivia in French, and I have to say maybe I was distracted by the food in front of me but my limitation of the French language means I could only make out the words like 'Brie' and 'Fromage', but I am certainly culturally more informed of the origin of these French delicatessens.
As our evening came to a conclusion, we did not leave empty-handed. On our way out, we were handed what most people would say a lolly bag of treats, but instead of lollies, we were given more French desserts. A mini Apple Tart and a pack full of Madeleines which I would love to say lasted me for a couple of days, but let's not lie to each other - I ate all the very next day.
So even if you are not a proficient baker and like me, you do sometimes need to buy a pre-made pastry base, it is always great to learn a new skill from a real passionate professional and don't forget all the cakes you will get to sample and take away from the night. That alone should be enough to book in for a class.