Baking Bonanza chez Bertinet
Just back from four heavenly days at the Bertinet Kitchen in Bath (http://www.thebertinetkitchen.com). Once elaborate plans were in place for making sure Missy B didn’t go feral in my absence, I headed to Paddington, JUST got to my train in time thanks to the queues at the ticket collection machine, and then headed west dreaming of bread and cakes. Richard Bertinet is a great teacher – very entertaining and informative. And he made us work hard. Just hope I can remember everything he taught me.
Day one was bread. Richard assured us that there was no shame in using a Kitchenaid or similar for the kneading, but that it wasn’t actually difficult to do it by hand. The method he taught us was indeed not exhausting, so I will be trying it at home before even considering reverting to the machine. We made fougasse – it looks very fancy but is, as Richard said, an instant gratification recipe, as it only rests for an hour, with no need for proving. My fougasse was a bit misshapen, but it’s early days. We also made olive and pecorino breadsticks – ate far too many of those – and a good old-fashioned tin loaf. Richard made us wait till about 3.30 for our lunch – great idea. Who can concentrate after a large lunch?? It was a real feast – as well as all the breads we had made, we had salads, beef stew, flamiche (a quiche on a bread base – lovely), an aubergine dip, homemade mayonnaise, rillettes, salami, cheese. I wanted every recipe. It’s a shame I was learning all this in Bath, so I couldn’t bring the fruits of my labours straight home. But I built up a stockpile in the Bertinet freezer and pondered who to invite round when I get home.
Day two was a pastry masterclass. We made some impressive but very easy apple tarts – all you need is some puff pastry (homemade or not) and some apples. But now I have let the cat out of the bag – if you come to dinner and get one of these you’ll know I was in a hurry… Lunch was some of the delicious quiches we made with another magnificent selection of dishes, made by the lovely staff at the school. I LOVED the little fruit tarts – so pretty. Maybe it was cruel sending pics to Mr and Missy B while they were at work/school?
Check out those retros choux swans… I thought this would be my favourite day. Until day 3. This was croissants and viennoiserie day. It is a bit of a protracted process, but the results were amazing: croissant, pain au chocolate, pain aux raisins, apricot and pear pastries. And then, when it seemed unlikely it could get any better, we made some sweet dough for doughnuts. I have never been a huge fan, but these were so light and tasty that I had to have several to make sure I really did like them. More pics for Missy B to drool over.
And I now know that you can make these pastries, freeze them, de-frost them, take them on a train, tube and bus journey, put them in the oven briefly and impress the family at breakfast time the next day. So I thought this would be my favourite day. Then day 4 came along. A new teacher for this one, the lovely Ghalid Assyb, who was there to teach us classic patisserie. We packed a lot in. We started with millefeuille and discovered how careful you have to be when making puff pastry. Results were varied, but I was quite pleased with mine. Ghalid made the fillings for us, but we made light sponge cakes for a passion fruit gateau and a raspberry charlotte. My ladies fingers were not slim and dainty, but once assembled, the raspberry charlotte did look pretty impressive.
Ghalid also showed us how to make chocolate financier cakes, which you can make in advance and then pop them briefly in the oven should a little petits fours opportunity arise. They all got eaten over coffee before I got the camera out.
So I really don’t know which was my favourite day – I learnt loads, met some lovely people, ate an astonishing amount of fine food. I want to try it all again, so I have been studying the Battenburg diary to look for opportunities to lure people over here for dinner. Friends, you have been warned.