On Tuesday I had one of the most fun days in a very long time. I was lucky enough to be invited to an ‘Art of Patisserie Course’ at Miele, Abingdon. This course is from the Miele Creative Living range of cookery courses and was taught by Mother and Daughter team Annemarie and Rebecca Barrett.
I don’t know that I can possibly do this wonderful course justice on my blog, but I shall try my very best. I became so engaged by the tasks, I almost forgot to take any pictures, which wouldn’t have been good for this post.
The best thing about this course is that it’s advanced enough so someone wanting to learn patisserie won’t be disappointed and a beginner won’t be overwhelmed. The course followed the format of a demonstration by either Rebecca or Annemarie and then we set to work on our own, or in pairs, whilst they came and offered us some much needed assistance.
We each had our own workstation complete with an array of Miele equipment, I came away with a list of patisserie tools I want to buy. This was also the first time I’ve ever used an induction hob, the heat is almost instant, I couldn’t believe how quickly items came up to the boil. I really want an induction hob when I next do my kitchen!
The day started with the patisserie classic that is the Opera, recipes were provided for all of the items made on the day and I shall definitely be repeating them and adding my own touches. Expect to see something in the recipes section soon.
In the past on this blog I have created an Opera, and you can look there for more information about the history behind the cake. The cake is made up of five layers of biscuit sponge sandwiched between alternate layers of coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache.
When making this cake I picked up a huge number of tips and tricks from Rebecca. For example they use Bird‘s custard powder to make their creme patissiere as they think it is less harsh that using just cornflour. They also used Camp Coffee in the ganache and the buttercream inside the Opera, this is much simpler than brewing a pot of espresso every time you cook and it keeps for a very long time.
This cake is then wrapped up like a cling-film mummy and frozen, so that it can later be glazed and cut into portions. After the cake has frozen, a glaze of chocolate and cream is made and poured over the top of the cake.
Then using a knife that is dipped in warm water and wiped before using, the cake is cut into portions. It’s very important that you slice the cake downwards and then pull the slices away from the cake. Do not making a sawing motion with the cake, or pull the knife through when you’ve finished cutting. If you do all this, you’ll be left with perfect layers.
When I first saw my frozen cake, I really didn’t think it could be redeemed, but it’s amazing what a glaze and some strategic cutting can do. I was also left with two pots of cake ‘off cuts’.
From talking to both Annemarie and Rebecca, it was clear they had a wealth of knowledge having worked with staff at Le Manoir and Bertinet Kitchen to name but a few. I felt like I was hounding them a bit with my questions, but I was so eager to glean as much information as I could from them. They really know their stuff.
The next recipe up, was a Fraise et Mousse au Chocolat Blanc (Strawberry Mousse with a white chocolate glaze), this recipe used the same biscuit sponge as the Opera. we made a strawberry mousse and I learnt a very useful tip that cocoa butter can be used instead of gelatine to set a mousse. I don’t have an issue with gelatine, but where possible I do like to avoid using it. Not only does it make a dessert vegetarian friendly, gelatine can be temperamental, I’ve had issues with it not setting before or being grainy in my mousse etc.
Another tip I learnt, which might be common to others, but as I don’t have any children, or make a habit of buying baby food for my own consumption, this was a revelation to me. You can buy ready made 100% fruit puree if you buy the pureed fruit in the baby food aisle. No more cooking fruit and sieving it to remove the seeds for me. It will also have a much longer shelf-life than buying the fresh fruit.
The mousse is piped into silicone moulds and then layers of sponge are sandwiched together with strawberry jam and added to the mould, the cake is topped off with more mousse. These are then left to freeze. The mousse is later topped with a white chocolate glaze, but the great thing about these recipes is that the mousse can be left in the freezer for up to a month and the glaze can be frozen also. This means they would make a great dinner party dish. They look very special, but can be prepared well in advance.
Today, we completed the whole process, freezing them, glazing them and then decorating with either freeze dried strawberries or chopped pistachios.
Learning how to apply the glaze and knowing when to remove the mousse from the rack was very useful, as this is something I’ve wanted to do at home. The glaze was already prepared for us due to time constraints, but we were provided with the recipe and after glazing 6 of the mousses, there was still plenty to take home with us.
The secret to glazing the domes is to ensure the domes are frozen and the glaze is around 30-35ºC, pour this over the mousse and wait until the droplets of glaze stop dripping from the mousse. This means they are ready to be moved onto the card serving trays, or a piece of pastry or atop a cake.
The visible edge and in my case, the spot where you used the knife to relocate them can be covered with the pistachios or freeze dried strawberries. The leftover glaze that falls off the mousses can also be scooped up and used again to glaze more items.
The last thing we made on the day were some mini Tartes Éxotique, this was a little bit of a cheat, as we only had to make the pastry. The mango creme patissiere and fresh fruit had already been prepared for us. This was one of the best things about the course, our washing up was done for us and we didn’t have to weigh out a single ingredient. It was amazing!
Now as readers of this blog will know, I really struggle with pastry. After this course I realised I can’t blame it all on my hot hands. Most of it was down to my technique (or lack of). I always had problems with my pastry shrinking from the sides of the pan, after a chat with Annemarie she highlighted where I was going wrong.
In short, I had to change the entire way I make, roll out and rest my pastry, so not too much to change then!
The first tip was so obvious, yet it had never occurred to me, once you’ve made your pastry instead of leaving it in a ball and wrapping it in cling-film to rest, you should firstly shape into into a neat flat rectangle to make rolling out easier.
Also the best place in the fridge to place your pastry to rest is near the bottom on a glass shelf as the glass retains the cold best.
Flour your surface and apply light pressure to the pastry, you don’t want the edges to crack, keep moving the pastry around and re-applying flour to the surface and your rolling pin.
I always rested my pastry, for a couple of hours or even overnight, however I never rested it in the tin(s) once I had cut it to size, apparently 20 mins is usually enough for small tarts, probably 30 mins for a larger tart, this should help it stop shrinking from the sides.
Another tip is that when you cut out your pastry you should stamp the cutter down, don’t turn it or twist it, this can cause the pastry to stretch and then shrink in the tin. I always do this, so I was very conscious of not doing it this time. I also have a bad habit of rolling my pastry out too thin and applying too much pressure.
After taking all of these tips on board and trying them out, I’m pleased to report that my pastry did not shrink from the sides of the pan.
Another fantastic tip that you will see from the pictures below is to use cake cases to contain your baking beans, this is so much easier than cutting paper to size or using clingilm, this also gives a lovely crimped effect to the inside of your pastry and the cases can be used again and again for baking blind.
The empty pastry cases are filled with mango creme patissiere and topped with chopped fruit, to make the shiny glaze some smooth apricot jam is heated with a little water and then brushed onto the fruit with a pastry brush.
I had such an amazing day at Miele with Rebecca and Annemarie, if you’re interested in doing a cookery course, I really would recommend the Miele Creative Living courses. The Miele ovens, hobs and microwaves are so intuitive and easy to use, not to mention high quality, so you don’t need to have any anxiety about using the appliances and the chefs are on hand to provide guidance at all times.
The lunch we were served was delicious, although we were all so pre-occupied with our baking we didn’t get around to eating until almost 2pm. I think working with all that food, made me feel like I’d eaten my body weight in cake, I did manage to make room for the delicious meats, cheese and breads though. It’s a tough life!
By the end of the day, I had a massive haul of cakes, tarts and mousses to take home, along with a lovely jute bag, thank goodness I had a lift, I really didn’t fancy my chances of getting these back on the bus!
Finally I want to thank Annemarie Barrett, Rebecca Barrett and all the staff at Miele for making my day so wonderful and to thank Hannah Warder for inviting me on the course, which I was lucky enough to attend for free.
I cannot wait to put into practice all of the things that I learnt, there was also a rumour that a two day patisserie course might soon be in the offering. I will definitely be putting my name down for that one.
Have you been on any cookery courses that you’d recommend to others? Were the tips I’ve shared old news to you? Do you have any baking tips that you think are invaluable?
Thanks for reading.