Somehow I missed the memo for years that France is known for its delicious food, bread, and pastries. (I did have a vague sense that it might to be known for wine.) The first time I vacationed in Paris, I had no idea that baguettes and pain au chocolat were a big deal here. Thankfully within the first hour in Paris I happened upon some sort of bread and pastry competition taking place in front of Notre Dame. One bite of a baguette and a whole new world of baked goodness opened up to me.
The following year my husband (who had no interest in going to Paris the prior year) booked us a longer vacation to Paris. Legend has it that when we returned home after that vacation and bit into a mass-produced, store-bought croissant, we really started missing France. And proceeded to initiate a work transfer for Michael to work from Paris.
The good news is that if you too fall in love with the food and pastries that France is apparently famous for, you can learn how to replicate some of these treats. I have taken three cooking classes at La Cuisine in Paris with my mom and have loved each one. (Note - the classes are in English.)
I knew three things about macarons before going to a class. 1. They are delicious. 2. They are pricey. 3. They are difficult to make.
My mom signed us up last year to attend the Macaron Intensive Technical Class for a three hour class. Going in to the class I had never attempted to make macarons on my own. Although half the class seemed to have some baking expertise, I figured I had eaten enough macarons by that point to know a quality one when I tasted one. My taste buds did not let me down. I learned that the reason I preferred the cookie of the macarons from Pierre Hermé over Ladurée's was that the famed stores used different meringue techniques. This class teaches how to employ the French meringue technique like Ladurée and the Italian method like Pierre Hermé.
The class was packed with information and I hoped to retain all that I had learned. (La Cuisine does offer an introductory two-hour class on macaron making as well.) A few months later I tried my hand at making a batch to keep my skills sharp.
Magret de Canard, Ratatouille, and Tartelettes Amandine aux Poires
Last year Mom and I took a dinner cooking class together as well. We learned how to make duck with figs, ratatouille, and a tart filled with almond cream and topped with fresh pears. After cooking the meal with our classmates, we sat down with a glass of wine and enjoyed our hard work. The components of this meal have entered into my own repertoire.
Breakfast pastries...starring the croissant!
I am going to be honest. I never plan to make a croissant, pain au chocolat, or croissant aux amandes myself as long as I live in Paris. When they cost about one euro to buy fresh, most French people never have tried to make them either. But when the time comes to leave France I know I will certainly want to reproduce these pastries. This is where the three hour Croissant and Traditional Breakfast Pastries class came in.
The dough has to rest for six hours before it can be rolled out and used. We had the opportunity to make the dough from scratch and then use pre-made dough to learn how to roll it out and make the different pastries.
Two added bonuses to any class here - you get to eat your creations, and do very minimal cleaning!
If you enjoy cooking and/or baking, taking a class at La Cuisine on a trip to Paris may turn out to produce some of the best souvenirs from France!
Plan Your Trip:
80 Quai de l'Hôtel de ville
Telephone: +33 (0)1 40 51 78 18
Tip: Classes book up (there are small class sizes) so be sure to reserve your spot early!