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Making croissants and pains au chocolat at École Lenôtre (Paris)

(please note, there are videos embedded in this post so if you are reading in a Reader or via email, you will actually have to click on the post title to see the videos on the web!)

When I realised that I was going to be in Paris for 2 weeks after my conference in London and my teaching gig ended, I was pretty excited.  Two weeks in my favourite city in the world. With a little bit of “play money” put aside….  I set to work organising a few cooking and baking workshops with some wine tasting thrown in there for good measure!  After thoroughly enjoying my macaron workshop at Lenôtre in December 2009, I was pleased to see a croissant and pain au chocolat workshop that still had some space.  Whilst I love eating viennoiseries, I am not too gifted in the “working with pastry” department so I figured who better to learn from than Lenôtre.

A three hour class led by professional Chef Philippe Haller with only 7 people meant there were ample opportunities for practicing techniques. Since croissants actually take a minimum of six hours to make, Chef had organised each stage in advance so we got to practice preparing and working with the dough without all the waiting.

The class was in French, though Lenôtre offer classes in English now too.  I have not followed one of the English ones so cannot vouch for the language, though I imagine it’s well done. Lenôtre is very professional. For me, I learned a lot of baking terms that generally don’t form part of my vocabulary. It was odd though – a lot of the words I totally understood without having ever learned them. I would probably have to really think about it to use such words myself but (though it was hard work concentrating on newish vocabulary for over three hours) I totally understood what was going on.  We did receive a huge packet of notes, which helped too….

And a lot of people actually took notes through the process…

But I didn’t.  Whilst I am interested in the technique of making pastries, I am pretty sure I will never make them at home. Too many variables. Not difficult but time-consuming and requiring a lot of space in one’s fridge and a large space to roll dough. Neither of which I have at home. So I took it all in at Lenôtre and dreamed of having a huge kitchen where I might be persuaded to make fresh breakfast pastries…

Once we had made the “poolish” (like a yeast starter), we got to work rolling the pains au chocolat with a premade dough (Chef had prepared this the night before)…

When I was writing this post up, and looking at my photos (all 350+ of them!) I wondered how best to represent the experience and it seemed to make sense to make some little slideshow movies to give you a sense of what went on.  I tried to keep them short so I hope you enjoy…

And the result?

Aren’t they professional looking? I was pretty excited, though with a chef watching your ever move, it’s hard to go wrong. Oh and what are those below the pains au chocolat? Why those would be croissants au beurre. And they’re not kidding about the “au beurre” part…

35o grams of butter per approximate kilogram of dough incorporated over a series of “tours” (rolling and folding the dough) over a number of hours…  When Chef brought out the big old pot of butter and measured out 350g, I was thinking this was for all of us. But no…

I love how he scrapes up the very last little bit….. ;)

We practiced quite a bit with the “tours” of the buttered dough but by this point, the kitchen was very hot and very humid – 22C is about the hottest you would want it (in fact, if everything is refrigerated and cold, when working with pastry, it’s obviously much better) and it was way hotter than than that so it was difficult to say the least.

But Chef had some more pre-prepared dough and showed us how to roll out the croissants from triangle shapes.  Then he made a few other random pastries with the leftover dough. I mean, as you do, right?

A proper French croissant is, by the way approximately 50g (this is information I gleaned especially for Gail). Much heavier than they look but I guess it’s all that butter…

Here’s my haul (this was me being very modest – and realistic!). Some people took home two boxes of stuff!!!  I can vouch for the fact that a little zap in the microwave might not be so traditional but will do the trick if you can’t eat all your pastries in one or (even two) day/s!

Bonus about Lenôtre? The mid morning snack that just sort of appears…

Verdict? Again, impressed by this place. Professional yet not intimidating. Gorgeous kitchens, amiable Chefs and always interesting company.

Pavillon Elysée Lenôtre
10 ave des Champs Elysées
75008, Paris

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97 Responses to Making croissants and pains au chocolat at École Lenôtre (Paris)

  1. Terra July 19, 2011 at 01:23 #

    Wow, a minimum of six hours, now I understand why they are so amazing:-) What a wonderful experience. Sounds like your trip is more then memorable:-)
    Take care, Terra

  2. Victoria (District Chocoholic) July 19, 2011 at 03:10 #

    This looks amazing – what a great experience.

  3. Lindsey July 19, 2011 at 03:41 #

    mmmm!!! I was disappointed when each video came to an end! Especially the last one – what a tease! Class sounds like great value. If you have time, I’d recommend a class at La Cuisine Paris as well! I’ve done a pizza, macaron and cocktail class there and I’m dying to do their market class!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 19, 2011 at 03:45 #

      Hey Lindsey – I AM doing a class at La Cuisine Paris this Saturday – a macaron one (bien sûr!). Excited that it now comes recommended by you!

  4. Andrea July 19, 2011 at 03:57 #

    They look fantastic. I can’t believe all the effort that goes into making them. I guess the hefty price of a pain au chocolats is justified after all.

    I took a course at Lenotre once to make the Feuille d’Automne cake. It was a great experience but I never made it again. I would happily take another course though.

  5. Ken│hungry rabbit July 19, 2011 at 07:23 #

    Thanks for sharing this great experience with us. Look forward to your post on the macaron experience this coming Saturday.

  6. ping July 19, 2011 at 07:23 #

    Gosh! I’m so envious! And Whoa!! the amount of butter in the croissant?! If that’s the real amount for a good croissant … we’ve been cheated all this while by our bakeries :P

  7. Tonya - What's On My Plate July 19, 2011 at 07:57 #

    I love the idea of doing a cooking class when you travel. Next time I’m in Paris I’ll have to add this to the list.

  8. Mr. Neil July 19, 2011 at 08:30 #

    Oi!

    “Whilst I am interested in the technique of making pastries, I am pretty sure I will never make them at home.”

    :-(

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 19, 2011 at 08:38 #

      Well I *do* have a job you know! I reckon you would have to be baking 24/7 to keep a household in supply of these…

      • Mr. Neil July 19, 2011 at 15:09 #

        Harumph.

        • Mr. Neil July 20, 2011 at 09:17 #

          …and meanwhile, here I am boiling heads and feet, peeling tongues – all in the spirit of the blog.

          All I’m asking for is one lousy butter croissant.

          ;-)

  9. Gail July 19, 2011 at 08:45 #

    Mardi, I LOVE THIS! I make croissant and pain au chocolate for special brunches. I adore the process.
    A proper French croissant is a delicate beauty. The behemoths that are sold in lousy commercial American grocery stores don’t do the real pastries justice.

    Thank you so much for doing this research for me! I just checked my notes and I had 50 gms/croissant, too!

    Oh…and I once attended a croissant demo, and the secret to that chef’s croissants was not one, but two types of yeast to get the maximum lift, and thus, maximum airy flakiness!

    The only difference that would have made this post better for me is if I were there with you!!!
    xoxo

  10. thatssoron July 19, 2011 at 09:10 #

    u can’t see this. but i’m drooling

  11. RavieNomNoms July 19, 2011 at 09:28 #

    This is so neat!! Thank you so much for sharing this! I would love to take a class like that, how much fun!

  12. Kelly July 19, 2011 at 10:00 #

    WOW what a great class!!! They look fantastic, I bet you had so much fun!! :)

  13. Elyse @The Cultural Dish July 19, 2011 at 10:02 #

    I’m so jealous… I love Paris so much! Next time I go back I would love to take one of these classes!

  14. Renee - Kudos Kitchen July 19, 2011 at 10:27 #

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post! You are living out one of my life’s dreams and it may be the closest I ever get. This looks like it was such a wonderful experience Mardi. Thank you for taking me along with you. The videos were a great touch.

  15. Lauren at Keep It Sweet July 19, 2011 at 10:28 #

    What an awesome experience! There is nothing quite like a French pain au chocolat! Great photos and videos.

  16. The Mistress of Spices July 19, 2011 at 10:33 #

    Holy crap, that’s a lot of butter! I’m not surprised though :-) I’m actually not a huge fan of croissants and viennoisseries, but I imagine that it must have been really fun to learn how to make them! I love the slideshows!

  17. Viviane Bauquet Farre July 19, 2011 at 11:10 #

    Wow what a comprehensive and engaging post. Thank you – I’ll be back for more!

  18. Steph@stephsbitebybite July 19, 2011 at 12:12 #

    Wow!! What a process! So awesome that you were able to take a pastry class!!

  19. Barbara | Creative Culinary July 19, 2011 at 13:35 #

    I have made both croissants and pains au chocolat at some point but not with oh my that much butter! Maybe Paula Deen has some French blood in that southern mix? :)

  20. Brian @ A Thought For Food July 19, 2011 at 13:57 #

    Oh I’m so jealous! This looks like a wonderful class! And you did a fantastic job, my friend! And look at all of that butter!

  21. Barbara @ Barbara Bakes July 19, 2011 at 15:58 #

    What a fabulous opportunity. I may have to plan a trip to Paris. Glad you’re having fun.

  22. sippitysup July 19, 2011 at 17:55 #

    Wow! So much information. I hope you are leaving time for edible homework. GREG

  23. Ann July 19, 2011 at 20:56 #

    Wonderful! Making croissants is on my lifetime list of things to make…one day, it will happen! I have plenty of counter space and fridge room. I’ve been reading up for a while….one day….

  24. K A B L O O E Y July 19, 2011 at 21:20 #

    I’m not wishing myself ill, but should I ever fall into a coma and medical science has trouble rousing me, please instruct my doctors to play the pain au chocolat video. This is one fantastic post.

  25. jade July 19, 2011 at 21:29 #

    Agreed- six hours is totally worth it for how the taste… true, I’m not baking them but I will eat them! yum, yum yum!

  26. Erin July 19, 2011 at 21:44 #

    Wow! That is amazing! What a great experience!

  27. Happy When Not Hungry July 19, 2011 at 21:45 #

    Wow what an incredible opportunity!!! I would love to take this class and better yet, eat these amazing treats!

  28. Lora @cakeduchess July 19, 2011 at 21:54 #

    What a super class! Those croissants look fabulous! All that butter! While in Aosta I watched our Zio Antonio’s pastry chef’s make them for his bakeries. Of course, filled with Nutella:) We had them every morning for breakfast. I’m paying the price now;)

  29. Geoff July 19, 2011 at 22:15 #

    It’s not until you realise the butter load in the croissants that you come to understand the French paradox… all that food, butter and other fat and yet obesity is not a problem. Vive la France.

  30. Corinne @ Gourmantic July 20, 2011 at 02:23 #

    What an amazing experience! I can imagine you juggling notes, photos and taking it all in!

  31. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen July 20, 2011 at 03:33 #

    Oh my goodness! I so wish I could have been there, what an amazing class. I wonder if they offer them at any other locations, I’m not going to Paris :-(

  32. Milla July 20, 2011 at 06:30 #

    The butter! The rolling! The chocolate! Oh my goodness, you have inspired me to take a class! Thank you!

    So happy I found your blog”

  33. Steph @ Lick My Spoon July 20, 2011 at 09:18 #

    Au beurre…mon dieu!!! what a wonderful experience — i’d loove to do this one day :)

  34. Kate@Diethood July 20, 2011 at 13:11 #

    Ahhhh such an amazing experience…lucky you!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 29, 2011 at 15:55 #

      Thanks – as soon as I knew I would have free time, I figured out what I wanted to do and just went for it!

  35. Trix July 20, 2011 at 14:35 #

    Omg, when we made puff pastry and croissants in culinary school I remember being just … amazed at the amount of butter we were using. And I vowed to never eat the stuff again, lol. And I’m not making it at home either, I’m with you!! You definitely got more individual attention than I did, I sure could have benefited from that as my results were less … photogenic than yours to be sure!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 29, 2011 at 15:54 #

      Well let’s just say that I was taking a lot of pictures and not doing so much of the work!

  36. Stephanie - The Travel Chica July 20, 2011 at 17:29 #

    I almost just had a heart attack reading this, but it was worth it!

  37. Valerie July 20, 2011 at 17:36 #

    Lucky you! I’ve been a lot of time in Paris, but i never took a class there… I know when i’ll live there in a couple of years i’ll have all the time in the world but i envy you! I’m glad for you =))

  38. Penny July 20, 2011 at 18:08 #

    Going to Paris next Summer. Sounds like an informative course. I made croissants one time and all I can say is that they were a labor of love and took much longer than six hours. Perhaps I need this class.

  39. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction July 20, 2011 at 23:22 #

    Those pastries look just perfect, Mardi! I am just swooning over all of that beautiful butter and pastry. I suddenly have the urge to bake at 11:30pm!

  40. Pauline July 21, 2011 at 17:17 #

    Great post and interesting to know what you would get on the course. Croissants were the first French recipe I ever cooked and they certainly didn’t look that neat! I’ve got better and they are lighter but still not neater. Maybe with a chef standing over me I would have to get them all the same size and shape. The only thing that stops me making them more often is the amount of butter, delicious but so much…sigh.

  41. bridget {bake at 350} July 22, 2011 at 11:36 #

    Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!!!

  42. Joy July 22, 2011 at 18:54 #

    What a great experience.

  43. Skylar July 24, 2011 at 09:21 #

    Those certainly look incredible and delicious!

  44. penny aka jeroxie July 24, 2011 at 10:49 #

    oh wow…. 350g of butter. I stil want them all!

  45. Winnie July 27, 2011 at 15:39 #

    OMG that looks like it was tons of fun! And those pastries look incredible.

  46. Melisse September 23, 2011 at 02:32 #

    WOW, Lenotre is quite posh too, isn’t it? I will be in Paris a week from now and now inspired to take a class! I do not speak French but am wondering myself whether I can manage like you did… learning by visual observation alone. I’m scared!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite September 23, 2011 at 06:04 #

      Well I actually speak French so I had that definite advantage. They do, as I say in the post, offer English classes though you might be lucky to get a spot if you are going so soon. Good luck!

  47. Connie November 25, 2011 at 14:37 #

    Hi! I so want to take this pain au chocolat class when I am in paris next week but i can’t for the life of me figure out how to book… there doesn’t seem to be anything on their website (i had to translate it into english first). Can you tell me how I can book? Do I have to go to the school to book a class?
    Also, did you say they have the classes in english also?

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite November 25, 2011 at 14:53 #

      Here is the link (the URL seems to have changed)

      http://www.lenotre.com/FR/Sections/Ecole

      I am not sure if a week will be enough notice but yes, they do offer some classes in English. Good luck!

      • Randy January 27, 2014 at 12:38 #

        I have taken more than 15 classes at Lenôtre, including Chef Philippe’s croissant class. I have loved most of my classes, and continue to make most of the pastries and viennoiseries at home.

        Two things I would add: First, I did attend one of the so-called “English” baking classes. The only difference from the French classes was an extra copy of the recipe and instructions in English. The chef/prof spoke no English. Lenôtre recipes are always cursory and not even always accurate. They need to be annotated in class to be useful. I ended up acting as interpreter for the two anglophones in the class.

        Second, you suggest reheating croissants in a microwave. Not a good idea. It will make them soggy or rubbery. Heat them in a toaster oven or full oven. Note: This applies to classically made croissants and other pastries (danishes, etc.). You may be able to microwave supermarket croissants. They contain dozens of additives that might withstand microwaving.

        • Mardi Michels January 27, 2014 at 17:31 #

          Thanks so much for your feedback – wow – 15 classes? Amazing!

          As I said I cannot vouch for the English language classes but have since heard from friends that they really enjoyed it so perhaps it depends on the chef/ class?

          Re: microwave, well obviously that’s not how I’d choose to enjoy them (and yes, they are not the right texture but as long as you know that, it’s fine). As it was just me in Paris that summer on my own and it was hot, I didn’t want to heat the full-sized oven for one pastry, you know?

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    […] to make these at home? Stead yourself – here’s one person’s experience making croissants and pain au chocolat at a Parisian baking class. Looks fun – and […]

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