I’m back with another recap from one of our many adventures! I’m really excited to share more about this. I think it’s one of those bucket list travel experiences (at least for me)! I spent a week at pastry school in Paris where I took class from 9:00-3:00 every day. It was one of the more challenging cooking classes I’ve taken, simply because of how technical baking can be. However, it was also incredibly rewarding. At the end of the week, I could look at my pastries and know that I made these!
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How I Ended Up at a French Pastry School
You probably have noticed that I’m not a professional pastry chef. I’m not a full-time travel blogger. And, my day-to-day career has nothing do with cooking, baking, or pastry-making. I, however, love French pastries. I’ve been following the Ritz Paris pastry chef, Francois Perret, since December 2019. I read about his Buche de Noel in a magazine and insisted that we try it. (It’s a bit of a tradition now!) In 2021, I bought his French Pastry cookbook, and subsequently realized that I did NOT have the technical baking skills to complete most of the recipes. In February 2022, I took a one-day Introduction to French Pastries class at the Ritz Escoffier. It was an incredible way to spend a day in Paris, especially since we’ve spent over 60 nights in Paris since 2019.
However, it’s a bit more complicated than that. I try not to dwell on negativity, especially in this space. At the end of 2021, I experienced a couple of professional challenges that caused me to question my self-worth for a long time. With so many things in flux in my professional life, I decided to spend a week doing something that had absolutely nothing to do with my career. I chose to enroll in the Ritz Paris Escoffier summer course focused on cakes and traditional regional desserts.
About the Ritz Paris Escoffier
The Ritz Paris Escoffier is a cooking school located in the kitchens of the famous Ritz Paris hotel. Not only do they offer culinary workshops for people like me who want to learn, but they also have professional training courses for aspiring chefs. Our kitchen overlooked the professional kitchens, and it was incredible to see how the kitchen at the Ritz Paris runs. It’s an exercise in precision to be sure. In addition to offering pastry courses, the Ritz Escoffier also offers courses focused on French cuisine, a market tour and cooking class, and additional classes for adults and children. I’ve really enjoyed taking classes here because they really do teach you how to make recipes that are served in the hotel restaurants!
One of the cool things about the escoffier is that they host high school students for shadowing at certain times of the year. This allows students to see the different career opportunities and determine whether or not they want to move forward with a particular path. Students who are completing translation training can also be placed at the school as well.
About Our Pastry Class
One thing to know about this pastry class in Paris is that it is not a recreational pastry class. It’s certainly a class for amateurs (hi, that’s me!) and it is a serious class. Of the four us, two of my classmates are professional pastry chefs with their own bakeries, and one was looking to transition her career towards becoming a pastry chef. They are legitimately some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. My fellow students were from Argentina, Belgium, and the United States, which was incredibly entertaining at times. It was neat learning more about everyone’s experiences, and there was a certain familial atmosphere that I really enjoyed. When I’ve taken one-day class at the Ritz Escoffier, I’ve struggled to connect with my classmates and having a week together really made a difference.
Our class was taught by Antoine Jardin, one of the professional pastry chefs at the Ritz Paris. I LOVE Antoine. He is patient, kind and super helpful. I never felt like an imposition, and I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. Antoine is truly dedicated to sharing his knowledge of French pastries and baking techniques.
The course is taught in French, though a translator is provided. I tried to follow in French, and I certainly felt my French skills getting stronger throughout the week. My pronunciation is atrocious, but I’m learning. However, my classmates were very kind and patient with me, which made the experience even better.
Classic French Pastry Course
Of all the pâtisserie courses I’ve taken in France, I found this one to be the most logical to follow. Again, we spent a week together, so there was quite a bit more time. We started our week off with some of the more easy recipes and built up to a more advanced repertoire. I really appreciated this, as it allowed me to get more comfortable in the kitchen before taking on the more advanced recipes and techniques. While I won’t be sharing the recipes on the blog, I’m excited to share a recap of how the week went for us. You do get a recipe book that you can take notes at every course!) At the end of each class, I had something to take home to Tom, who spent his days wandering the streets of Paris while I was in class!
Note: there are no cameras allowed in the kitchens of the Ritz Paris Escoffier, but you can use your phone. This was very helpful in capturing notes about the various techniques and the specifics of each recipe.
Pastry Class – Day One
As I mentioned above, we started off the week with an easy recipe. Our first recipe was to make the hazelnut-chocolate-caramel cookies that I love so much. You can buy these at the Ritz Comptoir, and they are one of my favorite treats to take for the flight home. We learned how to make caramel from scratch, which was a bit intimidating at first. (There’s nothing better. Change my mind.)
My cookies were not as aesthetically pleasing as the ones at Le Comptoir, but they were just as tasty. I’m pretty sure I didn’t share too many of my cookies with Tom that night.
Pastry Class – Day Two
The second day of my pastry school in Paris brought about the famous marble cake! This is one of the things I was most excited to learn how to make, as it’s one of the things I always order at Bar Vendome. This recipe was slightly different, as it was comprised of vanilla and chocolate cakes, rather than a mousse. It’s also one of the things I was most nervous about, as it required us to full immerse the cake into a chocolate ganache for finishing. It’s really tough being left-handed, but I made it work!! My piping needs some work, but overall, I was thrilled with how my mini marble cakes turned out!
Pastry Class – Day Three
The third day of pastry school was a little rocky for all of us. We were all a little tired and cranky with each other. (I’m telling you – we were a delightful little family!) Thankfully, most of our activities were relatively solitary so we could focus on our own projects. We started the day off with making the pastry shells for oversized raspberry macarons and for a vanilla-orange flan. The pastry shell for the flan was very similar to one we made for the pear-almond tart in the February class. We made fresh vanilla cream filling for the macarons and stuffed them with fresh raspberries.
Tom has always been dubious about macarons, but he enjoyed these a lot.
Pastry Class – Day Four
With our crankiness out of our system, our pastry school family came together on Thursday for a lot of hard work. We started off the morning by finishing our vanilla-orange flan. This flan is more like a cheesecake than a traditional flan, and it was gorgeous. It’s heavy, dense, and Filip (my favorite classmate) loved the flan. His wife loved the flan so much that she started advertising that they would be selling the flan in their bakery the following week. Hearing him retell this story was one of my favorite moments of the week.
Once our flan was in the oven, we started making choux pastry for our cream puffs. This is something that I had learned to make in the previous pastry class at the Ritz, so I was feeling fairly confident. I am completely fascinated by choux pastry. It’s incredible how you use a frozen disk to get them to bake perfectly and completely hollow – perfect for filling with Chantilly cream and fruit filling. Making Chantilly cream is hard work. (Maybe that’s how I could end up with arm muscles.) We filled our choux with cream and fresh cherry filling and garnished them with fresh cherries. The last thing we did on Thursday was start preparing the gateaux Basque, as it would need to chill overnight.
In a surprise to no one, the choux pastries did not make it through the evening, as Tom and I both enjoyed them. We definitely did not finish the flan in a single evening.
Pastry Class – Day Five
Our last day of pastry school was another busy one. With our gateaux Basque ready to go into the oven, it was time to move to our final cake of the week. We made the sponge cake that would be required for our Fraiser strawberry cake. From there, we prepped our fresh strawberries and made the cream for the filling. Our sponge was done shortly after and we started assembling the Frasier. Once that was done, into the freezer it went.
When we returned from lunch, we finished the Frasier cake by using marzipan (which was surprisingly delicious), piping more cream, and decorating the cake with more fresh strawberries and pistachios. I was very pleased with how mine turned out.
At the end of our final day of pastry school, we enjoyed a glass of champagne and Antoine presented each of us our diploma. We sampled our Gateaux Basque and the Strawberry Fraiser, which made me really happy. We were headed to Alsace for a few days on Friday night, so I left my gateaux Basque and my Fraiser cake for the hotel staff. I knew they wouldn’t survive the train to Strasbourg the drive to Eguisheim.
Hotel Near Ritz Paris Escoffier
One of the things that I was worried about when I booked a week-long pastry course in Paris was where to stay. Since I knew that I would be in class for most of the day, it didn’t seem wise to spend a lot of money on the Park Hyatt Paris or the Hotel du Louvre, although I did miss Le Spa after being on my feet all day! And, because the course started at 9:00am and had an hour break for lunch, I knew I wanted a hotel close to the Ritz. I found the Hotel Dress Code, which is a five minute walk from the Ritz Escoffier. (The Hyatt Paris Etoile is a 10-15 minute metro ride away. It’s a straight shot on the 1 if you’re looking for a place to use those Category 1-4 certificates!)
I have a full review of the Hotel Dress Code and we have stayed here four times since I took the pastry class, including trips with both of our parents. It’s a great option with modern rooms and bathrooms that is very reasonably priced. It’s right around the corner from the Madeleine metro stop, and it is easy to get around for sightseeing. I can’t recommend it enough!
Final Thoughts: My Week at the Ritz Paris Escoffier Pastry School
I was going through a bit of a professional crisis prior to taking this pastry class. For a number of reasons, this ended up being one of the best things I could do to get through it. For 5 hours every day, I learned the technical skills beyond French cakes. I worked to improve my French, and my classmates and instructor showed me a lot of patience and grace as I did. I met some incredible people, most of which I still keep in contact with through instagram! These people made me laugh, made me think, and made appreciate the beauty of the world a little bit more.
For a week I existed in a space where I could make mistakes and it was okay. Everyone was there to learn. I didn’t have to be the best, and I definitely would not be, but as long as I showed up ready to work and willing to ask questions, I could get as much out of the pastry classes as I wanted. For those 25 hours, I was completely present for the tasks in front of me.
We made a lot of amazing French pastries. I found an unexpected love for Gateau Basque, learned how to make the perfect choux pastries for filling with cream, caramel, or cherry. I made a lot of things that I thought I couldn’t.
And, I suppose that is the best comparison for what transpired in 2022: I did a lot of things that people thought I couldn’t.