Week 1 of an Introduction to Pastry at Leiths…

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Pastry is a tricky skill to master. Unlike baking which is arguably simpler – and always rectifiable with extra frosting – pastry requires patience and precision but it’s worth having a go. Sure, you might not always thereafter want to spend hours – yes literally hours – folding and refolding puff pastry but to know you could if you wanted to? That’s a great accomplishment to have.

This was a class I was really looking forward to. I’ve made pastry before but it’s never been something I can whip up easily or without many, many, many references to the cookbook in front of me so I was excited to hopefully find more confidence in myself in mastering these techniques. Well, a basic understanding would also be good…

So off we went with choux pastry to begin with. Choux is not actually as difficult to produce as you might imagine although i t is every bit as delicious. As long as you have everything prepared first so that when the time comes to combine and mix quickly, you can actually do that, there shouldn’t be any major problems.

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Our choux pastry here became an aubergine and prosciutto gougere – pastry spooned around the edge of a loaf tin, baked and then filled with aubergine, prosciutto, creme fraiche and herbs…completely delicious when served with a simple green salad, fresh bread and a glass of red wine and not as heavy and filling as you may expect when looking at such a large volume of pastry.

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Next up was cream cheese pastry which has a slightly richer flavour compared to shortcrust which would be the usual choice for these individual pecan pies…amazing served with creme fraiche to cut through the syrupy sweetness.

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Regular shortcrust pastry turned into a smoked salmon and dill quiche…rich, decadent and perfect for a picnic dining.

It’s quite easy to get slightly obsessive here, pushing down each part of the base to get beautifully straight edges and sides which create a case just waiting to be filled with fresh salmon, creme fraiche, cream and sprigs of fragrant dill…

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The quiche turned out so much better than I was expecting and it was literally melt-in-the-mouth delicious; taken on a picnic and enjoyed with sweet, sticky, red onion jam in the sunshine, it was totally addictive…

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This was a great class especially after the slight disappointment experienced with the baking sessions and I definitely left feeling that this was something I’d want to practice and improve on going forward.

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