You’ll never guess?! I was back in San Francisco! 🙂 After finding the baking class of my dreams, Croissants and Other Laminated Doughs, with renowned Pastry Chef Nicole Plue at the San Francisco Cooking School, I knew we had to go back. Other highlights included the botanical gardens, bakeries I had to try (b.Patisserie and Boudin), China Town, and some adorable shops in Hayes Valley (Miette and Chantal Guillon) providing lots of baking and decorating inspiration.
The class exceeded my expectations in every way. The description warned that the days would be physically exhausting and that was true. After pounding butter blocks and rolling out three different stiff doughs multiple times each day I was sore, using muscles I thought I had previously developed. There were so many neat people in the class, from various areas of the food industry in the city.
Chef Nicole walked us through all the steps and was available for all sorts of questions from: my butter is leaking out of the dough to whether or not we needed to refrigerate or freeze a specific dough. We received information packets with the recipes as well as all the tips and techniques covered. We made three different doughs: croissant dough from which we cut croissants and pieces to roll pain au chocolat, Kouigh Aman dough which was a concept similar to croissant dough but easier to work with and happily included the addition of vast amounts of sugar in addition to all that luscious butter, and finally, puff pastry dough which we were to bring back “home” to use.
The culinary students and teachers at the school made us wonderful lunches each day and champagne was flowing for our “bake off”, as well as snacks: an apple tart that usually only occurs in my dreams and a puff pastry tart with a mascarpone cream base topped with macerated berries. I attempted the apple tart at the home I was staying at for the week and it was good; just not AS good as Chef Nicole’s :). And, I used the following recipe from Fork Knife Spoon, Macerated Strawberries with Mascarpone Whipped Cream, to attempt to duplicate the extreme deliciousness of the fruit tart. This recipe hit the mark!
The key tip with laminated doughs is keeping them very, very cold. So, the plan is to attempt them once the weather cools a bit. The temperature gauge in my car today read 97 and it’s already September! Looks like my plans will be delayed!
In addition to the baking class, I had a nice little visit to the Botanical Gardens in the Golden Gate Park vicinity. There were a number of things in bloom (this should be obvious given the year-round mild weather but being from the seasonal east coast it still happily surprises me time after time). After taking a break to sit down on a bench to take a phone call, I noticed multiple hummingbirds, zipping this way and that and occasionally chasing each other away from the central foliage they were attracted to.
I was very much looking forward to visiting various bakeries I had missed the last time I was here. As luck would have it, I managed to try the Kouigh Aman at b.Patisserie the day before I tasted the one I made in class. This is THE location to have your first experience, so I’ve been told. You can see the difference in the photographs; mine is quite dark – singed really. When I commented on the color of my pastries to Chef Nicole, she said that the color means it has more “flavah”. Very kind and very true! She also said that we needed to listen to our doughs. Sometimes, they will require that we treat them gently and let them stretch on their own; other times we need to show them who is boss 🙂 How true this is for life situations as well. I won’t soon forget these words of wisdom.
On the weekend, after the busyness of the week including Jeff’s travels, Jeff, Taryn (our friend we stayed with), and I were able to unwind with a relaxing brunch at Café de la Presse before heading to a musical performance later in the afternoon. It is a quaint place with lots of wood detailing, café tables, potted plants, and French newspapers for sale and is only steps away from China Town. The food was delicious, but the company was best of all.
After walking back from Saint Mary’s Cathedral on Nob Hill for the performance, we found Miette in Hayes Valley. What a real treat! From the lovely wallpaper in the store (that according to their website, everyone inquires of), the individual treat signs and arrangements, to the packaging, there was a lot to appreciate. They even have a station for packaging up the candy that you select housed on a vintage furniture piece. Their packaging is everything that I want Peachie’s Treats’ to be: simple, fun, lovely, and detailed. I tried the mini meringues (so adorable!) and the tiny shortbread discs. The meringues were sweet and fun and the shortbread was much lighter than I expected – the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea.
And speaking of tea, also conveniently in Hayes Valley, we encountered a very French Macaron & Tea shop called Chantal Guillon. Taryn placed our order in French. Thankfully, she is fluent and, of course, I’m no help on that score 🙂 While she talked with the proprietor in French, I was able to take my time and gawk and soak in the whole experience. Apparently, they carry tea from the longest-running company in France, Mariage, as well as the PRETTIEST macarons imaginable. Which is so ironic; the macarons are what drew us in, but we ended up only buying the tea! I purchased the Vert Provence with lavender and rose; I cannot wait to try it. And, the vintage desk in the window with one green leg, decorated with macarons with flags. Yes, I will be hanging on the memory of this place for a while 🙂
On our last day, I was able to get a sourdough bear (with bowtie!) from Boudin. He is so much like the ones that Peachie and I made a couple years ago. We should do that again! And, I got macaroons for the first time! They are truly delicious; chewy, sweet (but not overly so), with a touch of chocolate. The recipe is simple, and based on how good they are, will definitely try making before the year end, maybe right around Christmas.
I think that’s all for now…..anxiously awaiting the next adventure!
corrie @ Peachie’s Treats