Have you ever wanted to know how to make baguettes? Honestly, it hasn't been high on my list of things to do. But when I got the opportunity to take the French Baguettes and 'Boulangerie' class at La Cuisine, a cooking school in the Marais, I jumped at the chance.
Maybe it's because I live in Paris and wonderful baguettes are available all the time within a few meters walk for €1 – I don’t have the need to make my own. But I must admit, when I've been home to see my family in Australia, I miss les baguettes a lot. The bakeries down under just doesn't match up.
So, I arrived to a warm welcome by the staff at La Cuisine. We headed downstairs to meet Chef Eric, wash our hands, and enter the kitchen. The kitchens aren't commercial kitchens, which is perfect because most of us won't ever be cooking in a big industrial kitchen. They're well equipped and intimate, allowing easy interaction with the teacher and the rest of the class.
I thought I had a good idea about how to make bread. Boy was I wrong. We began the class with a little introduction and history to the breads we were going to make. Did you know that the baguette is subject to French law?! I didn't. But it is. The ingredients and the size have to meet strict rules or it can’t be sold as a baguette. You can change the name, but then it's not a true baguette.
We started making the dough. Eric guided us the whole way. The key rule? Measure everything. The real secret is in the kneading process. It's not just knuckles in the dough on the bench top. There is a specific way to pick it up, throw, twist, and repeat – all things you learn to do in the class. Once we'd properly kneaded the dough we left it to proof and made the dough for fougasse (a French type of focaccia topped with deliciousness).
After proofing, it was time to make bread. We rolled out 2 baguettes and made some dinner rolls. It's not the hardest thing in the world but it's not as easy as you'd think. We all made our creations, or at least attempted to, then put them on trays ready for baking. We also made the fougasse in the traditional leaf shape and topped with garlic, onion, bacon, olives and tomatoes.
Now for the good bit, EATING! As Chef Eric had made the same breads, he cut his up for all of us to sample. Simply divine. Before I knew it, my 3 hours were up and it was time to take home my breads and show off my new skills.
[La Cuisine offers a range of baking classes (baguette, macaron, croissant), cooking classes (market, bistrot, soiree), and food tours (pastry, cheese and wine). All classes are offered in English.]