Last Sunday instead of the usual sleeping-in, we woke up early and full of anticipation for the morning baking class at TOTT, the one-stop Tool-of-The-Trade baking, dining, cooking and hosting hub in Singapore. I was more than honoured when they approached me a while back to be one of their ‘Chef-intructors’ ( yes, I did mention that my expertise is in medicine and not pastry!), where I also contribute monthly recipes for their newsletter and also few tips for their FB wall.
We began brainstorming ideas for monthly baking classes and given the current ‘new love’ for choux pastry, I thought it would be a fitting theme for the class. I wanted the participants to be creative, and learn arrays of fillings, frostings as well as piping different shapes of choux. Profiteroles, eclairs, custard puffs, swans and Paris Brest were filled with either chantilly or vanilla and chocolate pastry cream and completed with a good drizzle of pure chocolate ganache.
With an eclectic mix of a Belgian banker, a couple of friends, mother and daughter, a lad and an experienced baker, we began the class with basic demo on how to make choux dough from scratch. The mood was initially serious for a Sunday morning until someone said ‘everyone looked so serious, as if watching an operation‘, that somehow broke the ice and I guessed everyone had fun especially as each participant was given a Bosch mixer, induction stove and personal utentils for their own hands-on.
Each student was given measured ingredients for 2 batches of choux pastry that they needed to cook and pipe into various shapes. I stuck to the traditional shapes and threw in some techniques on piping swans, or more like goose in terms of their size! The initial plan was to make a croquembouche as well, which is a stack of profiteroles glued together with hot caramel, alas with time constraint of just 3 hours it was not possible. I like the idea of baking as a family, so I am impressed that the mother-daughter couple worked effortlessly together, and prepare each set of choux pastries.
‘My daughter is making dragons, instead of swans! ‘ says one of the participants. It was fun seeing the end results!
I brought some good quality Madagascan vanilla pods, and let them experiment with it, scraping the good vanilla beans from the pods! We made creme pattiserie/ pastry cream which was flavoured with these vanilla beans, and half of the cream was mixed with melted 56% dark chocolate for variation. Whilst the students were busy piping away their choux, I prepared a huge batch of chantilly cream so they could use as filling. It was fun to see how creativity was unleashed and those who were squeamish about using piping bags initially were then piping with such grace. Sabine, one the participants who is a Belgian previously living in London, was quite taken with the choux and I was glad to re-acquaint her back to this European pastry.
Amidst all the fun, the only disappointment is that one student’s batch of choux was too runny, which resulted in flat pastry. It was very late when we discovered this and as I did not see how the mixing was done, it was difficult to gauge what went wrong especially since all the measurement of ingredients for all participants were uniform. It would have been quicker to just start all over again, but we were also finishing up the class. This has somewhat prompted me to research on troubleshooting choux pastry, as I have never encountered runny dough before.
All in all, everyone had fun and based on the overwhelming good feedback that they gave, I was delighted that they enjoyed the class and I hope that since everyone brought back their gorgeous creations, their family would have been impressed with what we did in that 3 hours. The studio was smelling wonderful with aroma of vanilla, melted chocolate and butter, the perfect place to be on a Sunday morning.
Cousy, my daughter did a cameo appearance at the end of the class, as I wanted her to see what goes on..I must say she looked quite puzzled and at the same time, enchanted, seeing those dozens of mixers, ovens and cupboards full of utensils! I can’t wait for the classes next month on Middle Eastern flavours followed by another on meringue and pavlova.
The recipe and tips on choux pastry will be in the new baking book, which is in the making now. All this fun is obviously not possible without the help from darling Hubby, who not only agreed to do the babysitting, but also came very early to the studio with me, to prepare and measure the ingredients..you are a darling!
I will be back tomorrow with part of a recipe that I am developing for TOTT, stay tuned!