“There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.” - Ernest Hemingway
Dear Ernest was right. But it all depends on your definition of "happy". If "happy" means dense, velvety, luscious, melted chocolate, or airy, frosty, fluffy creams, or crumbly, flaky, crusty doughs, then yes Paris is a place where you can live happy.
At the end of September, I hopped on a plane to Paris hoping to bring some of that "happy" back home with me. And indeed I did.
Paris is known for its exquisite french patisserie, which made me eager to go there and learn from the best. My stay was meant to last for only 5 days as work was piling up back in Beirut and I could not afford to leave it behind for much longer; I had to make the best out of that time, alternating between baking lessons, sightseeing, and of course indulging in ever-so mesmerizing, taste-awakening cuisines.
Through my research, I came across a couple of baking "schools" that offer short themed classes, lasting a couple of hours to half a day. Later I realized these classes were mostly taken on by tourists looking to learn a few baking tips and tricks, while enjoying a great time. Indeed, the classes were fun, enlightening and definitely sense-awakening. I chose 3 themes for my classes, each of which taught me various techniques to producing a final outcome:
1- Eclairs and Choux Pastry 2- Mille Feuille and Puff Pastry 3- Macarons
Some fun facts and tips I learned through these courses:
After placing the choux pastry in the oven, make sure not to open the oven at all the first 20 minutes. Leave the pastry in there until it becomes rock hard (not burned though) before taking it out.
Creating the "pâte d'amande" which is the basis of the macaron shell is a very delicate and unpredictable process. In fact, the success of the macaron shell depends not only on the accuracy of the measured ingredients, but also on the working of the "dough" which in french is called "macaronage". The dough must be worked until it has a smooth and shiny consistency otherwise the shells will either crack in the oven or not inflate.
Puff pastry is constituted of many thin layers of pastry separated from each other by layers of air. This is due to the fact that puff pastry is made by having a layer of butter separating each layer of dough, making the dough rise and become airy when placed in the oven.