Reason number 61489612 that the French family I’m working for is the best: they gave me a gift certificate to do a French cooking class…in November (for my birthday). The kicker? All classes are taught in French. After months of intimidation I finally stirred up the courage, grabbed a friend to join me and registered for the La tradition – techniques des pâtisseries traditionnelles course at L’atelier des chefs.
Feeling that all too familiar anxiety of a first date or final exam, I walked in with my friend Lee Anne to a class of nine other French students and a French chef. As the class began, I had one of those aha! moments that every expat experiences while in Paris: I understood almost everything. Oh mon dieu! Suddenly things felt natural and I could follow the chef’s demonstrations and join in with the group’s laughs.
On the menu:
- Tarte au citron meringuée (lemon meringue tart)
- Saint-Honoré classique à la vanille Bourbon (Classic French pastry filled with vanilla and Bourbon pastry cream)
- Fondant au chocolat, coeur de caramel au buerre demi-sel (Mini chocolate cake with salted caramel center)
Saint-Honoré classique à la vanille
When in Paris, you’ll find this beautiful pastry delicately lining shelves of la pâtisserie. Made up of several parts, a Saint-Honoré is essentially layers of cream-filled puff pastry, or pâte à choux. First, you create and fill the base with vanilla-infused crème Chiboust (traditional pastry cream). Then you dip the petites boules, or balls, into hot caramel and fill with cream. Assemble all parts, add some cream on top and voilà, you have a Saint-Honoré!
Tarte au citron meringuée
Since I’ve been in France, I haven’t been able to get enough of tartelettes au citron, or mini lemon tarts. I realize we have our own version back in America, but for some reason the ones I’ve had here just can’t be beat. Perhaps it’s the perfect balance between sour and sweet, full of just enough tang to tickle my tongue. And no tarte au citron is complete without a caramelized meringue topping.
Fondant au chocolat, coeur de caramel au buerre demi-sel
What’s a French pastry class without something chocolate? The grand finale of our time together was spent making this classic chocolate cake with a caramel center. It begins with a simple and traditional chocolate cake recipe filled with ooey, gooey homemade salted caramel. Bliss.
If you’re up to taking a cooking class taught in French, consider signing up for one at L’atelier des chefs. With locations all over Paris (and France) and an endless course catalogue, you’re sure to find one right for you. It was definitely one of my favorite afternoons spent in Paris, even though the class ended an hour late. Mais très français, n’est-ce pas?