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As Full Nesters, we need to always be filling our nests with new adventures and experiences. I did just that last week when I took cooking classes at Sur La Table. If you’re not familiar with them, Sur La Table is a wonderful store that sells kitchen products and offers cooking classes. They are similar to a Williams-Sonoma.
My husband and daughter gave me the cooking classes for Christmas and I was so excited! I guess I could be insulted to be given cooking classes as a gift or some kind of hint, but I’m not. 🙂 I choose to believe this gift is a win-win, because I get to learn to make new stuff and my husband and daughter get to eat my results.
I’m an adequate cook, but I feel like I’m really good at baking. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a “rules” girl, so baking makes sense to my brain. It is an exact science. None of that “pinch of this, toss some of this” stuff. It says “one cup” of something, and that is exactly what you do. I love the structure of it all.
I think I’m right about being a good baker because I’m always tasked with bringing desserts wherever we go. For years, I was told to bring the same chocolate cake to school functions and was literally begged for the recipe. I finally relented to two beggars, but only because they were moving out of town and I felt there was no danger of us bringing the same dessert to a party. I have a reputation to protect. 🙂
So I signed up for some baking classes at Sur La Table. I wanted to learn to make croissants from scratch, and also macarons. You can sign up and pay for your classes on line once you choose your location. I showed up and was instantly happy.
Browsing aisles that look like this is my idea of a day well spent. 🙂
First up, croissants. We were greeted by a lovely young chef and told to don our aprons. We were shown how to operate the Jura coffee machine so that we could help ourselves to freshly brewed coffee during class.
We were put in groups of three and the chef told us that because of time constraints, we were going to work backwards. The dough process takes a long time so we would be using dough the class the day before us had made.
While our croissants were baking, we would make the dough for the next day’s class to use. So we learned how to incorporate a LOT of butter 🙂 into the layers of dough, and how to cut it into pieces and roll it to give it that classic croissant shape. We also used half of it to make “morning buns,” which were really wonderful cinnamon rolls. We made those first.
We learned all kinds of techniques and tips. One thing I learned about making cinnamon rolls was that I had been baking them wrong all these years by putting them all in a round cake pan with the sides touching. This causes the outside ring to bake properly but the ones on the inside of the circle don’t always bake all the way through and the dough is raw. The chef showed us how to bake them as muffins in muffin tins.
These things were so delicious. Especially with a cup of coffee.
So flaky and sugary and cinnamon-y. 🙂
And yes, they tasted as good as you think. 🙂
We then made our croissants. The process wasn’t hard, really, just lots of resting and rising and folding and that’s why they take so long. The main thing I learned is that if you want warm homemade croissants for breakfast on Saturday morning, you should probably start on Wednesday. 🙂
Again, SO. GOOD.
The chef told us these were best eaten right away. We got to take home some of the extra croissants and morning buns, and she was right. I had one the next morning for breakfast and it wasn’t nearly as good. But still pretty fantastic after a short warm up in the microwave. So all I heard is eat all of these the day you make them. You just have to. 🙂
Look at my flaky layers!
So that was a good day’s work. A few days later, I went back to learn how to make macarons. Not macaroons, but macarons, that delicate meringue based French confection that is like eating a fluffy little pillow.
These are finicky little things, and we were shown techniques for making the meringue and incorporating the batter and piping the macarons to make sure they turn out right. These are best made on a dry day. It was raining the day we made them but we still had pretty good success.
As with the croissant class, we were divided into groups and we all took turns mixing and piping and filling.
We learned tips like how to get rid of that little “tip” on top so that they bake flat and properly. You ever so slightly wet your finger, shaking the water off, and gently press the top of the macaron to make the tip disappear.
Then into the oven.
While the macarons were baking, we learned how to make Salted Caramel Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache. YES. 🙂 These were for filling the cookies.
First we made caramel.
Then we turned it into buttercream.
It’s very important to taste as you go along. 🙂
Then we made the chocolate ganache.
Our macarons turned out really pretty, with the proper “feet.” We also had some that weren’t quite so pretty, but we just ate those. 🙂 But these were some of the good ones.
We filled some with the Salted Caramel Buttercream.
There were two young girls in our class that really wanted to decorate the plates artistically. I think they did a great job!
We also got to take the extras home. So my husband had a good dessert week. 🙂
This was such a fun experience. I felt like I was on Chopped on the Food Network. Only no one got eliminated. It was so educational, and it was fun meeting other people who wanted to learn to make these delicious treats. Except for maybe the lady in the croissant class that kept asking after each step, “Now how would I make this vegan?” The chef was gracious but kept looking at her like, “Um, do you SEE how much butter goes into these?” 🙂
As I said, you can sign up and pay for classes online. There are so many different cooking classes from which to choose. They have Date Night cooking, brunch recipes, pasta classes, and regionally themed classes like Thai cooking, Tuscan cooking, and so much more.
Sometimes you even get a cooking implement as part of your class, like a cake stand or a skillet. And as a bonus, if you sign up for another class while you are there for your class, you get a discount on the upcoming class. You also get a discount on anything you buy in the store the day of your class. I got this nifty little kit to help with making the macarons. I don’t like messing with pastry bags so I’m anxious to use this.
When class was over, we got a gift bag with all the recipes and tips we had learned that day, and we could also put our take-home food in there. Just a note, you can’t take most food that you make home with you. If it can be stored at room temperature, like the croissants and macarons, you can take it with you. If the food you made cannot be stored at room temperature, you can’t take it home with you. Food safety rules. But that just means you have to eat up while you’re there! 🙂
I would really encourage you to try out the cooking classes at Sur La Table. They are really fun and educational! And, if you’re maybe looking for a part-time job, check out the jobs they may have listed in the classroom. There was a wonderful lady working in our classes as a Kitchen Assistant. She just kept everything running smoothly by cleaning the countertops after we messed them up, washed pans and bowls and utensils, and kept the coffee maker full of fresh beans.
She told me one day she was shopping at Sur La Table and saw they had an opening for a Kitchen Assistant and she decided to apply. She said the schedule is great for her and gives her something to do and she gets a great store discount! I should stay away from that because my whole paycheck would go toward buying every kitchen gadget and baking pan in sight. 🙂
If you don’t have a Sur La Table where you live, I’ll bet there is still someone offering cooking classes.
So look up Sur La Table in your area and go cook something wonderful!
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