Butter and sugar. Almonds and whipped cream. Raspberries and pears. If your mouth is watering, don’t miss our next French Pastry Class happening on Saturday 9 December.
Chef Guillemette, the creator of L Ecole Gourmande (The Gourmet School), has a familiar story. In 2015 her family relocated to the Bay Area for her husband’s tech job. As a new mom, and a recent expat, she was tasked with finding a new path for herself, in a new country. For so many women, a move to the Bay Area often results in putting their own career on hold, but fortunately for us, Guillemette figured out a way to maintain her career, that also gave her the flexibility to spend time with her young son.
Guillemette, a global citizen, was born in France and grew up the Netherlands, Italy, and Tunisia. Her time abroad inspired her interest in different cultures, and particularly the meaning of food within a culture.
(Gita discusses the importance of food in her culture here: Eat, Bay, Love: Missing Indonesian Food.)
She found a common thread, across these cultures, noticing that food and particularly sweet treats were used in each place to bring people together, to celebrate, to create community.
This observation led her to become a pastry chef, studying in the famous Ferrandi Culinary School in Paris in 2007, and even going back to school to study Tourism and Gastronomy.
Guillemette spent 5 years teaching in Paris and is now bringing her passion to kitchens across the Bay Area.
On a recent morning, Guillemette took over our own kitchen and taught us to make fruit tarts. Six of us learned how to make the pastry, almond cream, poached pears and whipped cream, all from scratch, with only the best ingredients. Oh, how I wish that we could include a scratch and sniff element to this article. The house smells amazing!
Here is what we learned in our French pastry class:
- European butter has a higher fat content and therefore is better for baking. Chef recommends Trader Joe’s own butter, or Kerrygold, if, you can find it.
- Adding a bit of mascarpone ‘cheese’ to your whip cream makes it more firm, and allows it to be piped onto a dessert. Shhh…it’s a secret.
- Baking is a science, and as such ingredients should be weighed, not measured. Did you know that a measured ‘cup’ of flour can vary in weight from 113g to 170g? That’s a pretty big difference!
I have to admit, cooking scales scare me. All my time in the UK, I never considered converting to scales. I would buy British cookbooks and translate all the ingredients into ‘cups’. The scales reminded me of science class, which I hated. I never understood the ‘tare’, and it all seems a bit too precise for me. I’m more of a ‘throw a few things together and see how it comes out’ kind of cook. However, seeing and tasting the beautiful results of precise baking might have persuaded me to at least try baking by weight instead of volume. If you need more reasons to consider baking with scales, check out this great article: ‘Dear Americans, I’m fed up with your stupid cup measurements.’
So, if you’re looking for something different to do with a group of friends, or kids, we highly recommend getting in touch with L Ecole Gourmande to arrange your own French pastry class.
If you’ve just arrived, and want to meet a lovely bunch of expats and locals, consider joining us for our next French pastry class being held in San Bruno on Saturday 9 December. We’ll be creating some fabulous holiday treats topped off with scrumptious European chocolate!
Buy tickets now via Eventbrite!
After a few months of living stateside I felt like I’d mastered the San Francisco ‘grocery store’, but one aisle still gave me trouble: the baking aisle.