French pastry and baking cooking near Bordeaux – day one

DSC00285Our Marketing and PR Manager Sally recently went to France for our French baking and bread holiday near Bordeaux, see what her first day of baking emcompassed here…

After our continental breakfast we headed down to the pretty village Casteljaloux where our delightful host Marlene took us to a popular patisserie.

“You’ll see these pastries are so beautiful, they are intricate and look perfect, but don’t be fooled,” she warned us. “While they looked great the pastries were not made on site, instead imported from factories sometimes as far afield as China!”

“It’s great if they look pretty, but the taste is what really matters,” she continued.DSC00269

After dissecting a tarte de cirton, milluefulle, éclair, and tarte de framboisse we were surprised how quickly we spotted their flaws (far from hearing ears of course).

The lemon tart tasted artificial, the éclair was soggy and flavourless. The millefuielle pastry was hard and the crème patisserie looked like scrambled eggs.

It was agreed that we could all definitely be food critics.

Marlene then took us into a smaller local patisserie, no funny business here. The pastries weren’t uniform, some were rough around the edges, but one look at them made your mouth water and your stomach rumble. The difference in taste was astonishing. Needless to say these were finished promptly and we headed back to attempt to create our very own pastries equipped with the knowledge of what was good and what wasn’t.

DSC00361We started with sweet short crust pastry and crème patissierie.

Marlene’s top tip: Always use cold butter when making pastry so it can crumble into the flower rather than melt. And never put pastry in the oven at room temperature, it shrinks as the butter melts too fast.

The pastry was surprisingly fast and easy, once we’d rolled it out we put it in the fridge to rest before starting on the creme pat.DSC00387

While Marlene showed us the technique of mixing the egg and sugar for the crème patisserie she explained how the egg cooks the sugar, something I’d never realised before.

We pulled the pastry back out and rolled it into the tart dishes – and into the oven.

“No soggy bottoms hDSC00317ere!” Jacqui and I were thrilled to see when the tarts came out golden brown.

We then rolled out our cooked puff pastry and made millefeulle. To make the design across the top we dragged a knife through the piped chocolate and white icing. None of us could believe it was so simple and looked so professional!

We ended the day with another delicious three course dinner, but this time we dug into our own desserts!