Eclair, anyone? Here’s one I made earlier

Have I mentioned that one of my favourite English words is Serendipity

Serendipity is exactly what happened when I met Maria, she of Bake with Maria in South Hampstead. I was kindly invited by her lovely PR Bella to attend a Xmas party at her Baking Lab and have been a firm fan and even friend ever since. 

The Overnight Rye Buns I learnt how to do at her Healthy Bread Baking course are a regular fixture on our Sunday Breakfast table and a staple of our packed lunches. They tick all the boxes: wheat free, kiddie approved, easy, speedy. Her Seeded Crackers never fail to impress drinks guests and, cherry on the top, Maria is the kind of enthuastic teacher you just want to hang out with because you KNOW you’ll learn something and have a fab time. 

Today was a rainy grey dismal London Friday. I dragged my 3.5 year old to the Baking Lab, armed with promises of cake and iPad on tap (I know, I know). 

Maria had asked me to ‘Guinea pig’ a pastry chef for her. Tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Right? 

So for 4 hours, the young and clearly talented Andrea taught a small group of volunteers to make Eclairs, Financiers and Brownies. 

Now, I am a self-proclaimed patisserie fiasco. I can just about bake edible things that are passably visually pleasing. But French Patisserie is a whole different ball game. Ouh la la, as everyone thinks the French say. 

Tips of the trade I learnt today:

  • when filling a piping bag with a thick mixture such as choux pastry, fold the top over your hand so you open it fully and can use it to scrape off the mix from the spatula

  • place the bag on the table, and scrape towards the nozzle, like so: 

 – to get air bubbles out of your piping bag, swing it around like the proverbial cat in a small room (check the nozzle is closed. On the bag. Not the cat)

  •  when you pipe the Eclairs, keep the nozzle lifted from the surface you are piping on to, to get a nice rounded shape instead of a flat one. 

  • don’t worry about the pointy tips to your piped shapes: just wet your finger and correct any mistakes gently 

– there is a very special technical knack to dipping your Eclairs in the icing

After we had baked Eclairs, raspberry Financiers and hazelnut brownies we shared a delicious lunch while Maria’s 6 months old Astrid acted as a gorgeous table centre piece. 

And my 3.5 year old was rewarded for excellent kitchen etiquette (aka leaving Mama to concentrate on baking)

I returned home richer with knowledge and smiles, loaded with enough patisserie to spoil my daughter’s teachers, some neighbours and of course my loved ones. 

Tak, Maria!


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