Handcraft through the stomach as well as to the heart – Artisan baking class with Brasserie Bread

A year ago, believing in ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’, I had my  first attempt on pastry baking and all sorts of other things. My first tray of biscuits looked like something serious before it was sent to the oven. Under the heat I saw my biscuits swelled up and turned into soft mini buns floury taste… However the recipient of those biscuits ate all of them … I wonder if he had indigestion afterwards …
To improve my pastry baking, I bought an electronic mixer and other tools. After all the money spent I guess those tools did improve my later attempt on mini cheese cakes. [My second attempt on peanut butter biscuits – much better!]

A year later, having learnt that everybody should get hold of his/her own heart, I decided to take an artisan baking class and learn the craft through the stomach as well as to the heart together, by hand. :)

The class I chose is ” cakes and tarts” of Brasserie Bread (click here for its official website), which is an artisan bakery famous for its sourdough baking. It also offers other classes like “Gluten free baking of daily bread”, “the home baker”, “the art of sourdough” and “artisan baking with seeds and grains”. The classes are quite popular, and usually booking in advance of a few weeks is required.
In the class we started everything from basics by hand. Things like:

  1. Beat chunks of butter with sugar together till the mixture is soft, even and creamy.
  2. Pour a whole egg little by little into the mixture and beat it evenly.
  3. Add flour and almond meal into the mixtures and beat it evenly.

–> A dough finished.
The beating really required arm strength. I could only beat the mixture for at most one minute, then my partner would take over and continue the beating. I would take over the job when my partner was tired, and so on. I guess for many home bakers this part is done by an electronic mixer.
Since nowadays machines do most of the jobs and do better job than human hands, why is making a cake by hand necessary? I think for anybody who wants to learn and sustain the skill in baking, it is essential to remember and understand the craft by hand and by heart. After the class I felt that making cakes by hand helped me understand the mechanisms better, such as why I need this amount of butter or sugar, what the purpose of this step is, what kind of colour and texture I’m looking for, and so on.

In the end, I made my best cakes and tarts ever!
[sweet pastries]
[savoury pastries – seafood tarts filled with trouts and goat cheese] After class with other students we sat down for dinner, enjoying our own hand-made seafood tarts. From the look and taste of the seafood tart below, I guess I don’t have to worry about my stomach from now on … lol

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