L’Academie, Weeks 4,5 and 6 – Brioche, Puff Pastry, and Laminated Doughs

by moderndomestic on September 2, 2010

LAcademie 4-6 Lemon Meringe Tart

My lemon meringue mini tart, which I made in pastry class at L'Academie De Cuisine. My fellow students are in the background torching their meringues.

Wow. It’s September. Imagine that. I was so busy this August, what with the DC State Fair, wedding cake, and full days at Treet, I’ve barely had time to update you on my L’Academie pastry class. I’ve still trekked to Gaithersburg every Tuesday night – and the class is well worth the three hours of commuting it takes to get there and back.

LAcademie 4-6 Paris Brest

Paris Brest - a dessert traditionally served on the train from Paris to Brest. It's a puff shell filled with praline pastry cream and served with chocolate sauce.I didn't make this one - our chef instructor, Mark Ramsdell did.

I wish I could have blogged during the week we made brioche because it’s one of my favorite breads. Brioche has a lot going for it – it’s a rich, eggy bread whose crumb is stuffed with butter. It’s also a very satisfying bread to make – as you beat the butter into the dough it goes from rough and hard to silky and smooth. In fact, brioche sizzles when you toast it from all the butter in the crumb.

LAcademie 4-6 Brioche

My mini brioche loaf. God, I could eat brioche all day. In fact, I devoured this one over the course of an evening.

We spent the last three classes doing laminated doughs – puff pastry, croissants, and Danish. Laminated doughs get their name from the sheets of butter than run through them. Puff pastry, for instance, is literally sheets of dough and sheets of butter stacked on top of each other. When you bake it, the moisture from the butter evaporates and the steam causes the dough to puff up.

LAcademie 4-6 Apple Turnover

An apple turnover made with puff pastry.

The butter sheets also give laminated doughs their characteristic flaky textures. They’re why, when you eat an apple turnover made with puff pastry, the dough flakes away and gets all over you. Not all laminated doughs puff up perfectly. “Rough” puff pastry, which has sheets of butter that don’t run the entire length of the dough, won’t get the rise of traditional puff pastry. But it still has the deliciously flaky texture, which is my favorite party anyway.

LAcademie 4-6 Cheese Straws

Cheese straws, made with "rough puff," which Chef Mark baked up for the class. You can use rough puff anytime you need something to be flaky, but you don't need it to puff up dramatically. I seriously want to make these for my next dinner party, whenever that will be.

I won’t share pictures of the croissants I made this week because, well, they were hideous. I cut my pieces of dough way too small, and I couldn’t shape them properly. I’m considering making them again during this Treet break – if they turn out pretty then I’ll share pictures.

Instead, I’ll leave you with a photo of one of my favorite things we’ve made- a frangipane tart. Frangipane is an almond filling that can be used for just about anything – you can line tart shells with it, cut it into petit fours, or eat it on its own. Here, it’s baked in a sweet tart shell and the simple combination is delicious. It’s one of those classic, traditional desserts that gets overlooked in these days of cocktail flavored cupcakes and prosciutto ice cream. But after the first bite, you realize why this is a classic. It’s so delicious, it doesn’t need any sexing up.

LAcademie 4-6 Frangipane Tart

Sometimes, simple is better. Ignore the little bits of cake that pulled away from the plastic I wrapped this in.

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January 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm

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Lis September 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Everything looks so pretty and so delicious. Love that golden buttery hue! How great to be able to say you made it all–well done!

Lis

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mary September 3, 2010 at 8:20 am

Wow. I’m so impressed. Glad to hear (and see) your class is paying off.

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Bri September 3, 2010 at 8:22 am

Everything you made looks so delicious! I agree, Brioche is fantastic. I made a Brioche once a few years ago, and vowed never to do that again because I ate practically the whole damn thing myself.

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danielle February 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Just discovered your blog and love it! What did you think of the pastry classes at l’Académie? I had my own debacle with danish dough (http://hausaufgoblin.blogspot.com/search?q=bear+claws), and though i persevered until i succeeded, i thought perhaps it was time to take a class. Were they hands on classes or just observation?

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