Our friend Linda Donahue (of Parisien Salon) had the opportunity to try out a baking class at La Cuisine Paris. Below, she recounts the mouth-watering results…
Text and Photos by Linda Donahue, Parisien Salon
Ever since Julia Child launched her famous cookbook, Paris has become a magnet for aspiring chefs. Even those not looking to make a professional foray into the culinary world find the City of Light to be the perfect place to pick up a new skill. La Cuisine Paris was created just for these people.
Tucked away in a courtyard on the boulevard St-Michel directly across from the Jardin du Luxembourg, La Cuisine Paris attracts Parisiens, expats and visitors alike with its diverse range of classes. French cuisine isn’t the only thing on the menu here. Students can learn how to make dishes from around the world, from Thai to tapas to tantalizing desserts.
I was invited to join in on a class by Jane Bertch, who along with “partner in crime” Olivier Pugliesi-Conti (a born and bred Parisien), ditched successful careers to open La Cuisine Paris. Jane, a transplanted American (who in her former life worked in the banking industry), greeted me warmly in the reception hall of La Cuisine. She led me through the dining room, with a long table where students (and teachers) sit down to eat after cooking up their feasts, to one of the two kitchen classrooms that make up La Cuisine.
Diane and our finished cheesecake.
(It was unbelievably delicious!)
Everything in the space was professional grade and thoroughly cosmopolitan, with a granite “center island” surrounded by stools, two ovens and a cook top with five gas burners. Before long, we were joined by Lisa Buros of Your Paris Experience and Diane Anthonissen, the Chicago-raised chef who was leading our class. Three more students filled the kitchen: Kimberlie and Kelsey, two American college students spending the semester in Paris, and Mag, a lovely Parisienne whose English was definitely in better shape than my French.
Diane’s mission was to teach us how to make a few delicious desserts. The pumpkin cheesecake and Chicago-style brownies were definitely American, but the Sablé au Chocolat cookies (à la Pierre Hermé) had a decidedly French twist to them. So we had an interesting mixture of ingredients (no pun intended), from Philadelphia Cream Cheese to French sugars and spices. And we all got our hands dirty (deliciously so) measuring the ingredients, mixing them up and molding them together. As we managed to get all three recipes together simultaneously, Diane shared some tips with us. For instance:
- Cookie dough rises best in the oven when it’s had the chance to “rest” in the refrigerator for at least three hours before cutting and placing on the cookie sheet. And rolling the dough into a log wrapped in plastic wrap puts it in position to be cut after it’s refrigerated.
- Melt chocolate in a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water—not directly on the flame.
- Cheesecake sets better when it’s refrigerated overnight.
- When recipes call for eggs to be added one at a time, break all the eggs into a bowl (don’t beat them), and just pour them in—one at a time.
Diane also converted all of the recipes into weight measures, thinking them far better than “cup” measures. We used bowls placed on electronic scales and poured the ingredients in gram by gram. I had assorted tasks that included measuring, crushing cookies for the pie crust, melting chocolate for the brownies and cutting the cheesecake.
What was supposed to be a two hour class stretched past three hours, but we were glad for it. Despite our diverse ages and backgrounds, our class operated more like a team. A sorority of bakers. And as we sipped our sauvignon blanc, we realized that “fun” was the best ingredient of all.
La Cuisine Paris offers both scheduled classes and private events for groups. For more information, visit their website at www.lacuisineparis.com.
Don’t forget to check out Linda Donahue’s blog, Parisien Salon.