I’ve never tried pastry as good as that from Rosalind’s in Little Portland Street that is, until Saturday when I produced my own. From 2pm until 6pm a group of keen cooks, birthday present recipients and those honest enough to confess their fear of the rolling-pin are all here to be shown the techniques of making good pastry. Cookery School chefs John and Martha took us from choux to short crust, puff to pate sucree and we left with a large white box containing our chosen dish. I opted for Quiche, simply because I wanted to make savoury treats as good as those Rosalind sells in her takeaway.
When you are through the School doors the room is small but compact with silver benches and bowls containing pre-weighed ingredients. Once we’ve locked away valuables and stowed bags, we’re all offered a cheese choux puff and a glass of wine or water, could things get any better? The group were asked whether they wanted to make a vegetable Quiche an apple pie or Cornish pasties? After a quick, but necessary safety briefing the course began. Hands washed and aprons on, the group watched the technique being demonstrated by John, with help from Martha. It was small enough so that everyone got to see what was taking place, it wasn’t too cramped in the cooking area, and the two-way mirror also helped to see the chef’s technique.
The last time I made choux paste was at school which, as John remarked, was a very long time ago. He made it seem a lot easier than I remember it actually being, and all that beating seemed to have a purpose now my upper arms were only just on the right side of ‘bingo wing’.
When they were in the oven the next job was to watch the technique for cheese boxes, liberally sprinkled with Parmesan and Palmiers liberally sprinkled with light brown sugar. Both use puff pastry, rolled out to the thickness of a pound coin. A pizza wheel is a great tool to use to score out a clean rectangle, after being coated with water (to stick either the cheese or the sugar) you either cut boxed rectangles or roll up for the Palmiers.
The Palmiers were a dangerous technique to learn, they are just so easy and I know they’ll taste amazing with a cinnamon sugar mix.
Groups worked on tables, dependent on dish, and Katie and Maurice were my partners in crime in the Quiche section.
We experienced the triumph and tragedy of making the perfect Quiche but with both Martha and John on hand to show us just how to get around them, we’d be able to tackle those in our own kitchen, without the need for deep-set panic. Tips like keeping pastry to use as patch material is obvious but I’ve never thought about keeping it to use just after the blind baking stage. How to make a made-to-measure lining paper for your pastry case, without the need for a compass, pen or other piece of stationery. Anyhow our pastry was as short as a short thing with a certificate of shortness from the University of Short and we were all pretty chuffed with our efforts. Without trimming, they may look like a disaster but once trimmed looked super.
I have never made a pate sucree before, or when I have, I’ve never coarsely grated the pie lid.
We were shown how to make the apple pie mixture (Bramley apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and just the right amount of sugar) and the grating technique to give it a most beautiful finish. I spent at least an hour trying to overcome Apple Pie Group envy.
The Cornish Pasty group did also did a marvellous job, just the right amount of quality ingredients and the finish on the fluted crimps were superb. One of the group members had a problem with their pastry and it was good that it was solved here on the course. Within moments of near-disaster, another batch of ingredients was weighed and we learned why the pastry just wouldn’t bind.
Finally it was the puff pastry – the technique I’d been dreading. After the lesson, it’s patently obvious that my days of buying fresh or frozen pastry are over. I am confident that I can do it on my own and I have a 16 point recipe card for back-up. You just need to set aside the time and not be worried that a block of butter is hidden inside a decent puff.
We finished on coffee and sampling the Palmiers, cheese boxes and the choux puffs which were cream-filled and dusted with icing sugar.
I left with a good understanding of the techniques along with a new-found kitchen confidence, some puff pastry that I needed to finish off with a few more ‘turns’ and some recipe cards that will prove invaluable.
If you haven’t got the cash or the inclination to do a course, then you should definitely try to eat at Rosalind’s in Little Portland Street. A stumble across her takeaway and a review of that, led her to invite me to take this class. ‘Rosalind’s Kitchen’ is takeaway only, open Monday to Friday until 4pm but if it’s a nice day Cavendish Square is just a walk across the road.
The next pastry course is on 18 May and runs from 10am until 1pm. It costs £100.
The Cookery School, 15B Little Portland Street, London W1W 8BW. 020 7631 4590