For me, there could be no better way to spend a week than learning all about the magical art of patisserie at one of Ireland’s top cookery schools.
It’s a glorious sunny Monday morning at the end of May and I have just arrived at Lynda Booth’s Dublin Cookery School where, over the course of the following five days, I will learn how to recreate a range of delectable treats in my own home. Along the way, I will also gain an insight into what life working as a pastry chef in two of the country’s top restaurants is like.
The week long Patisserie Masterclass is one of a large number of a courses offered at the Dublin Cookery School. Along with various other week-long courses there are one-day and evening classes. The wide ranging courses include subjects as diverse as Bread Making, Seafood Cookery and Tapas. For those keen to pursue a career in cooking, there are also the intensive one-month and three-month Certificate Course options. Most of the courses are made up of demonstrations and practical, hands on cookery.
The school, which is located in Blackrock, County Dublin was first set up by Lynda Booth in 2007. Extensive work was carried out on the original building – a disused warehouse – and it was converted into a modern and spacious school. Inside, a demonstration kitchen sits beside the well equipped main kitchen and a dining area where participants take their refreshments/meal breaks. The school’s Supper Club meals are also held here.
Lynda has worked hard to foster close relationships with the restaurant industry and many top chefs have taught at the school. She feels that this reaps benefits for the students and also the in house tutors as the visiting chefs bring new ideas and offer a fresh perspective on cooking. On the Patisserie Masterclass, we were lucky to have classes during the week with two of the top pastry chefs in Ireland; Aoife Noonan from Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and Darren Hogarty from Chapter One. Both restaurants have long held Michelin stars, so to get a chance to learn from their Head Pastry Chefs was an opportunity not to be missed.
The week kicked off with a day-long class with Aoife who showed us in step-by-step detail how to create and plate a number of desserts, using her own recipes. Aoife is a wonderful teacher with a calm and methodical approach. We watched, totally captivated, as she quickly made a panna cotta and sorbet for the Rose & Vanilla Panna Cotta, Raspberry Tuile, Raspberry & Rose Sorbet dessert that she plates up later in the morning. After watching her work and explaining the processes involved, I genuinely felt that this was something that I would be able to make at home. During the day I was surprised but hugely relieved to see that most of her recipes didn’t include obscure ingredients or require specialist (and often expensive to buy) equipment.
Aoife then made an Earl Grey Ganache and an Orange Blossom Crème Patissière to fill the Macarons that she makes later. We were guided through all the processes involved and we busily took notes as we watched, wanting to ensure that we documented everything that was involved. In one respect, there was no need for us to do this as detailed recipes and instructions are handed out at the start of each day, but throughout the week we learned many variations to the basic recipes and other tricks of the trade and none of us wants to miss anything.
By the end of the day we had been shown how to make a number of spectacular plated desserts including a Pear & Praline Parfait with Arlette Pastry & Poire William Sorbet, a Mango & Yoghurt Tart and – my favourite – a Strawberry Tart with Vanilla Crème Patissière & Lime Leaf Ice-Cream, each of which we had the pleasure of sampling. This was one of the most informative and enjoyable cookery classes that I have ever taken part in.
Over the next two days we were shown many patisserie techniques by the knowledgeable and highly skilled in-house tutors and also by Lynda herself. Following short but detailed demonstrations we were let loose in the impressive kitchens and given the chance to make the dishes ourselves. On each day we left laden down with the spoils of our labour.
I loved the Lime & Coconut Friands and the Salted Rye Cookies and I thought that Lynda’s Passion Fruit Brûlée Tart was truly outstanding and surprisingly easy to make. Also of particular note was the fabulous Robert de Niro’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cake. This cake was first made by Lynda a number of years ago when the movie star booked a table at a restaurant where she was working. It was de Niro’s birthday and he had requested a Birthday Cake. This is the cake that Lynda made for him and he must have liked it because he took the leftovers home!
The penultimate day of the course – a class with Darren Hogarty – was another highlight of the week. I was surprised to learn that this was the first class that he had ever given as he was a natural born teacher with an easy, engaging manner and a refreshing no nonsense attitude.
The focus of the class was on chocolate and in addition to making a Chocolate Espresso Mousse Cake with Orange Purée & Tarragon Gel, Chocolate Crumb & Carmel Ice-Cream, Darren also made a Chocolate Soufflé and – moving away from the chocolate theme – a Caramelised Apple & Molasses Sponge with Spiced Pumpkin Ice-Cream. All were delicious.
To finish, Darren demonstrated the principles behind tempering chocolate and how to make filled chocolate sweets. At one stage it seemed like there was chocolate everywhere, but in his capable hands we soon had an array of chocolates in front of us, filled with a variety of ganache and gel fillings including a fantastic Buttermilk & Malted Barley Ganache. I felt ready to take on some of these recipes and techniques at home.
On the final day of the course we made Macarons using the Italian meringue method. Macarons are notoriously tricky to perfect, despite the fact that they only contain three ingredients, and for a first attempt most of us didn’t do too badly. We also tempered our own chocolate and made sweets, which was great fun.
I really enjoyed the Patisserie Masterclass Course and would recommend it without hesitation to anyone who wants to perfect their pastry skills or is new to the subject and wants to learn more. From start to finish classes are professionally run and well structured. The classes are kept deliberately small to ensure that participants get the chance to do a lot of hands-on cooking which I found helped us to immediately put into practice what we had learnt. Lynda and her team are wonderful and really know their stuff. Getting the chance to sit and learn from chefs of the calibre of Aoife Noonan and Darren Hogarty was a real honour and a truly inspirational experience. This course is one that I think I will always remember and at €650, it represents phenomenal value for money.
Further information about all the courses on offer can be found at the Dublin Cookery School’s website at www.dublincookery school.ie.
Niamh believes Ireland produces some of the best food in the world, and travels around the country; seeking out the best food producers, and places to eat.
An accomplished cook and baker, Niamh is also a previous MasterChef Ireland finalist. During the competition she had the opportunity to cook in some of Ireland’s top restaurants and experience life on the other side of the kitchen pass.
Working with TheTaste allows Niamh to write about her experiences and to share her passion for food and cooking with a wide audience.
Visit Niamh’s blog The Game Bird Food Chronicles.