Category Archives: Workshops and classes

Review: Learning Macaron Towers from Josephine

I’ve written about Josephine and her macarons here before.  For those who have not been to Macarons by Josephine, it’s a little French tea shop on Sydney Road Brunswick that specialises in macarons and tarts, but which also does a number of beautiful savoury dishes.  The high tea I had there last year was by far the best high tea I’ve been to.  What makes Josephine’s food stand out, I think, is her precise, delicate, impeccable balance of flavours.  I haven’t tasted anything like it elsewhere.

As for her macarons – well, to be honest, I’m not a conoisseur of macarons.  While there is something almost magical about them, and some of the flavour combinations used are amazing, I find most (including, she says pretentiously, those of Pierre Hermé) far too sweet for my taste.  But Josephine’s do manage to tempt me – her macarons are small, not overwhelmingly sugary, and flavoured with beautiful things like violets or black sesame.

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So when I heard that Josephine was giving a class not just on her macarons but on how to make a macaron tower, I was intrigued.  And when I realised that it was on the first day of my holidays, I jumped at the chance.  It’s been the sort of month where overtime has been on the menu every day, and while I was theoretically off work from the morning of the 23rd, I rather suspected I’d wind up in the office regardless – unless I had a patisserie course that meant I absolutely had to be somewhere else…

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Review: Cake, Bake and Sweets Show, Melbourne

I’ve spent the last couple of days at the Cake, Bake and Sweets Show in Melbourne.  So, judging by the crowds, has most of the rest of Melbourne, but just in case anyone missed it, I thought I’d write a bit about it.

I first heard about the show about a month ago, when my Entertainment subscription offered me two for one tickets.  Of course, I took one look at the program and decided that what I really wanted was a three day ticket, but I also took the two for one deal so that I could invite a couple of friends along to hang out with me.  The show promised to be a mixture of baking and decorating demonstrations, classes, and stalls, with a few competitions thrown in.  Sort of like the Royal Melbourne Show, only all sugar, all the time.

I was a pretty easy sell, I have to say.

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Review: Hot Cross Buns (and other Easter goodies) at Gewürzhaus

I am indulging in a lot of cooking classes of late, mostly because it’s how I reward myself for surviving grants and associated work chaos.  And, coming home from this very relaxed and low-key class, I found myself reflecting on the different sorts of classes I do.  There are the ones I do through Savour or through William Angliss, which are aimed at would-be professionals (and the odd professional looking to upgrade his or her skills), and they are fast-paced, and mentally taxing, and one takes home products that look as though they were made in a professional kitchen.  One learns a lot of new techniques, but, at least in my case, one usually returns home with several things not really mastered to the level that the course aims for.  And honestly, that’s fine – these are useful courses, and I’m not by any means a professional.

Then there are the courses I do through places like Gewürzhaus or the Whimsical Cakehouse, which are aimed at people who like cooking and want to spend a few hours in a kitchen learning to do a few new things that they aren’t quite game to figure out at home – play with new spices, learn a bit of cake decorating or some traditional recipes, make enriched yeasted breads.  These are much more relaxed and sociable, and I, at least, tend to come home feeling pretty confident that I can make all those recipes in my kitchen.

Needless to say, I enjoy doing both kinds, and I enjoy even more bringing home the goodies I get to make…all2

Today’s course, ‘One a Penny, Two a Penny – Hot Cross Buns and European Easter Treats’, falls at the easy / relaxing end of the scale.  Very low key, and a lovely way to spend an afternoon at the end of another long week.  Under the guidance of Ina Low, we spent the afternoon making Hot Cross Buns, Tsoureki, and Torta Pasqualina, discussing different ways to dye eggs and how yeast works, and hearing about German Easter traditions, and how different (and disappointing) Easter is in Australia – when one hasn’t spent months and months in the cold and the dark waiting for the spring.

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We clearly need a big festival in October, though I suspect that Melbourne really doesn’t get cold enough to count.

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Review: Making Caramels at Savour Patisserie School

Having totally failed to review the last Savour School course I went to (which is a crying shame, because it was the Decadent Chocolate Biscuits course and it was *amazing* and I loved every minute of it), I thought I’d better make a point of writing about the Caramels course I went to yesterday before I forgot about it.  (My life is such that I currently have five half-written posts on various topics that I haven’t managed to find time to finish – let’s hope that this one doesn’t get added to the list).

I’ve wanted to do a proper caramels course for a while, to get a bit of theory rather than playing around blindly with all my non-dairy milks, but also just because I love caramels.

And this is good, because I now have a lot of caramels.  Oh yes, I do…

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There was actually another entire box of assorted wrapped caramels, but we had dinner guests last night, and dessert was caramels, and then we sent them home with more caramels, so this doesn’t even represent all the dozens and perhaps even hundreds of caramels I brought home after class yesterday.

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Cooking Class: Introduction to French Pastries at William Angliss

I’m going to start with an apology for my absentee ways of late.  I’ve been on leave this last week, and apparently this meant taking a holiday from my blog, too!  Turns out that I was tireder than I had realised.  I’ll try to get back into things in the next week or so… but I thought I’d better start by writing up the amazing pastry course I went to last weekend at William Angliss, not least because I went to a chocolate lollipops course today, and don’t want that to drive the pastry course out of my head!

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The course I attended was a two-day course on croissants, brioche and puff pastry, and I can honestly say it was the best cooking class of any kind that I have attended so far.  One reason for this was because of the content, which was fascinating and included a whole range of things I haven’t been game to try on my own.  A big reason was our teacher, Maria, who was absolutely lovely, very knowledgeable, and so determined that we would end up with good pastries that when one of the ovens went spare and overcooked a batch of brioches on the first day, she came in early on the second day to make us another batch, so that we would be able to taste a good product and know that it was worth the effort to make.

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A quick note…

I’m off at a two-day patisserie making course this weekend at William Angliss.  It’s absolutely brilliant, but I’m also absolutely exhausted and only halfway through, so it’s probably going to be a quiet weekend on this blog (I’m giving myself the week off from writing up the market, for example – partly because Andrew was once again my proxy, but mostly because long photographic posts are very time-consuming and exhausting to write).

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So instead you get a short photographic post showing a few of the things we made and brought home today (there are two and a half more layers in that box).

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Since tomorrow is the day we finish off the puff pastry and croissant pastry and make all the different recipes involving those, I’m a little scared of the size of the box I’m going to have to cart home tomorrow afternoon…

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Review: German Cookie Baking and Decorating at Gewürzhaus

And auf Deutsch, too. *And* I could mostly understand it!

Let’s just start by saying that this was a whole world of fun, and that if you speak some German and like spiced cookies and mulled wine, you should definitely plan to attend the course when it comes back in November or December this year.  And if you like spiced cookies but don’t speak any German, give the English language version a try, because the cookies are delicious and Ina is lovely.  Also, you should just go to Gewürzhaus, course or no course, because their spices are *amazing*.

Having said that, though, I do recommend the German conversation course if you’ve ever studied German, even if your German is patchy and out of practice, because I think you’ll be surprised by how much you can understand and follow.  I’ve hardly spoken German since high school twenty years ago, and was never remotely fluent, and I understood enough to have a ball.  True, I was uncharacteristically quiet, it being easier to listen than to form a useful sentence which had actual German words in it (my grammar, oddly, has stayed – my vocabulary, not so much), but I did manage to ask questions about the things I wanted to know, and even understand the answers.  Ina was very good about stopping periodically to make sure people could understand her, and I’d say that while half the class had German as a first language, the rest of us were definitely out of practice German speakers, there to brush up on some language skills while eating cookies.

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Cooking Class: Cake Decorating with the Whimsical Cakehouse

 A while back, I bought a Scoopon for a cake decorating class with the Whimsical Cakehouse.  The Whimsical Cakehouse is based in Sydney but does periodically run courses in Melbourne.  This one was just a two hour class, with a Marie Antoinette theme, and of course with my feelings about bling on cakes, it was pretty much irresistible.

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In which I am famous, and also have yummy cheese

Post-choir dinner tonight: Lentils with peppers, good bread, and the feta and gourmet feta I made on Sunday.  I’m really looking forward to it, actually.

Gourmet feta in oil and herbs

Greek-style feta in (too much) brine.

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Learning Petits Fours

I’m beginning to realise the flaw in this food blogging gig: I can’t actually cook and blog at the same time.  The days when I’m cooking like a maniac, or having people around for dinner, or going to cooking classes – in short, engaging in any of the activities useful for inspiring blog posts – are the very days when I don’t have the time or energy to blog.  I’m not sure there’s a solution to this problem (Cook less? Impossible! Fail to report on my culinary feats?  Highly unlikely…)

Yesterday, in any case, was one of those days.  I cooked, quite literally, from the moment I got up until the moment I went to bed, staggering out to the kitchen at 7:00am to brine my feta, draining my yoghurt, and separate my gourmet  feta curds from their whey, continuing on to attend a full day class in making petits fours, and then rushing back home to make dinner, for guests, after which I stayed up until 2am making a fiendishly complicated and time-consuming lemon meringue curd cake for a work fund-raiser.

Oh, and in between I finished a Louise Edwards romance full of people cooking things, which I plan to review here sometime soon, but you’re going to have to wait for that, and to find out how the cheese turned out, and even for the cake recipe, until I have slightly more time on my hands.

Today, I’m going to write about the Petits Fours class I went to yesterday – the third full-day class I have attended so far at the Savour Chocolate and Patisserie Cooking School.

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