Advanced Pastry: Val McArthur Delivers the Dish

Chef and food styling assistang Val McArthur recently attended our Advanced Pastry class and sent us this write-up of her experience which we’re sharing with her permission. Thanks, Val! And per Val’s suggestions, we’ve changed the format of the class, now called Understanding Puff Pastry, to include more hands-on experience. The next session is 13th July 2013. 

Pushing my way through the throng of Saturday shoppers, I find Cookery School at Little Portland Street tucked away down a quiet side street just a stone’s throw away from Oxford Street. By comparison, the school is an oasis of calm and I’m greeted by a delicious smell of freshly baked Gruyere puffs wafting from the kitchen. It’s a good start, as I’m here for the advance pastry class and gets me excited about what pastry delights I will be making.

The class is held in a small but perfectly well equipped space in the basement of the building. Although a group of six attended this relatively new class, the room could comfortably handle 12+ people, which is apparently the norm for most of their classes. It’s a very relaxed and informal environment and people from all abilities are welcomed into the classes.

The class was taught by an experienced French pastry chef [Ghalid Assyb], who has worked with inspiring chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, and artisan bakery, Baker & Spice. The main focus of the class was to make ‘proper’ puff pastry, which would be used to make a variety of savoury and sweet dishes, as well as dessert pastry that was destined for a scrumptious strawberry tart with crème patisserie. Chef demonstrated how to make both types of pastry with some involvement from the group as part of the practical process. Questions were encouraged and we soaked up his fountain of knowledge and many tips and tricks along the way. 

The group assisted in some prep for the toppings and fillings for the various pastry dishes, which was fun, but I wanted more hands-on with the pastry. I would have liked to have at least made some sweet pastry and perhaps done one roll, fold and turn on the puff pastry in order to cement what I’d learned by watching chef. Perhaps make less pastry dishes to make the time to do this? Nevertheless, it was a hugely enjoyable class, which was finished by the group sharing a glass of wine and tucking into pastry heaven. I went away from Cookery School at Little Portland Street with lots of inspiration, tips and a rather bulging, but satisfied, belly. 

You can read more of Val’s work on her beautiful blog, Hearty Food, “simple food, big on taste”!