La Cuizine Cookery School
When I was invited to join the first of French Chef and cookery teacher Iza Redon’s ‘Delicious Puddings’ classes at the Southville Centre, in Bristol, focusing on pastry, I arrived with a little trepidation. Pastry has never been my forte, and I have always felt that my cooking talents lie elsewehere.
Luckily others who had booked in for the session had similar horror stories: whether overly solid, crumbly or soggy, they had all had issues with pastry in the past. Many of them had seen the classes advertised locally, and were coming to Iza to regain confidence in the art of baking.
French chef Iza Redon founded cookery school La Cuizine in November 2007, offering bespoke cookery lessons, group parties and a range of workshops, all tailored to meet the needs of the individual. Our pastry class was one of a series of three classes focusing on puddings, where we would learn to make flaky pastry which would be used for a plum tart and a classic Tarte Tatin.
Telling the disbelieving faces around the table that flaky pastry was ‘quick and easy to prepare’, Iza’s lesson began. And surprisingly, it was easy. Each of us made our own batch to take home and freeze for future use, and Iza was full of useful tips. I can’t say that I’d ever considered freezing butter and grating it into the flour to make it easier to work with, but it worked. It was incorporating the other ingredients into the mix that was the crucial stage, with Iza letting us all know when we’d reached the right consistency, teaching us the right way to work the pastry without the butter becoming overheated.
For the tarts that we made on the day, we used pastry that Iza had made in advance, which had had the chance to chill in the fridge beforehand, so that the gluten was relaxed and the pastry would roll more easily without being too soft. Iza was full of useful information: the best way to roll pastry, pricking the pastry when baking blind so that the middle section does not rise, allowing a little extra pastry at the top of the edge of the tart tin in case it retracts while cooking.
As we were only making a shallow plum tart, she showed us how to blind bake the pastry case using a spiral of aluminium foil rather than baking beans, as the sides were relatively low, there was less chance of the pastry flopping over while cooking.
Halved plums and a lighter take on the frangipane almond filling, using full fat milk rather than cream, completed our plum tarts and they all looked very respectable when they came out of the oven.
Onto the Tarte Tatin, which was more of a challenge, but the preparation was punctuated by yet more useful tips from Iza. Our first task was to peel and chop mountains of apples (sweet yet tart varieties such as Cox are the best for a Tarta Tatin). We made our caramel, which was another new experience for me, in cast iron frying pans with iron handles, another important point, as these were to go in the oven. A top tip from Iza was to add a little lemon juice before heating the caramel to prevent the sugar from crystallising.
Once the caramel was made, we added the slices of apple to the pan. A layer of pastry was then placed on top of the apples and these went into the oven. I was pretty impressed with my end result. We tasted all the fruits of our labours and there was still plenty of tarts left over to take home along with the recipes from the course.
It was a wonderful evening: a great opportunity to meet foodies who were new to this part of patisserie and the chance to learn a completely new and challenging set of skills. Iza is a talented, friendly and knowledgeable teacher, exuding confidence and skill but still managing to put students at ease, making us believe that we really were capable of conquering our fear of pastry. It really isn’t that scary after all.
La Cuizine Website: www.lacuizine.co.uk
Follow Iza on Twitter: @LaCuizine
Emily Knight’s website: www.bristolbites.co.uk
Follow Emily on Twitter: @BristolBites