On March 5th 2020, I posted the last in-person Petits Chefs recap (we made fresh rolls and potstickers with Chef Vanessa Yeung). A week or so later, school went online and clubs halted indefinitely. A month later, in April, I brought cooking club online and that’s where it’s stayed (we have a “community club” now which involves all members of the school community – students, their families, faculty and staff (and THEIR families) – and we cook dinner together every Wednesday. It’s a wonderful community-building space that I look forward to every week but with so much going back to ‘normal’, we felt it might be time to revive a version of the in-person club.
Since I’ve been running this club since January 2010, it should have been an easy transition – after all, with all that experience, a pivot back to ‘what was’ should have been simple. Except it wasn’t/ isn’t.
When school went back in September 2020, the physical spaces we work in looked very different – small cohorts meant we reimagined a lot of the spaces (classes in the school chapel, anyone? How about an office/teaching space in the “waiting room” where prospective parents and students would wait for their appointment/ school tour? What about “all outdoor all the time” phys. ed classes for the junior students because the gym was out of bounds for their cohorts? Yeah, it was really different). Plus, we just came to school for classes, in-person clubs were still on hold indefinitely.
In fact, the space I used to teach cooking club (and cook with my students in French class) is now a regular classroom, not a STEM lab with running water, sinks etc… which was so ideal for club. We looked around at the school spaces to see where might be a workable room for 10-12 students to cook and I realised that nowhere would be great since cooking involves the hotplates which are now stores out of the way in a different building from the one I teach in and three floors up… Hmm.. I wondered about making the club a JUST baking one. So… not Les Petits Chefs but … Les Petits Pâtissiers??? Baking generally involves less ingredients (well if you only have an hour to bake, it does!) and I KNOW I can plan classes that involve less equipment (thanks to online classes I am very good at making do with the least amount of equipment possible as I can’t assume everyone has access to the same equipment I do). We eeeked out a space in the Dining Hall (!) and voilà:
So, Baking Club was born! Yay!
We started this week with just a handful of students as my youngest students are winter camping this week. It was a nice way to ease back into old routines.
For our first session, I chose shortcrust pastry and jam tarts (recipes from In the French kitchen with kids). I made a batch of the pastry earlier in the day to use immediately but we also whipped up a batch so that the students could take home some pastry to work with independently.
I always teach students how to make pastry by hand (no food processor) the first few times as it’s good for them to learn how NOT to rely on appliances they might not always have access to.
The kids did a great job handling the ingredients gently…
We did the “hands up” test…
Basically when you are “cutting” the butter into the flour, it’s important to not overwork the butter and if you are squeezing it with your whole hand/ palms, then you most likely are. It’s also important to keep the mixture somewhat cool and squeezing it with your hands warms it up pretty fast. The group did a beautiful job though!
Then we worked with the pre-made pastry, rolling it out and cutting small circles to make the tart shells (I used cutters similar to these cutters <<< affiliate link but I swear by them!).
We didn’t have my favourite offset spatula(<<< affiliate link) though, but we managed.
Didn’t they do a beautiful job?
Next up… JAM!
Students were surprised at how little jam is used in these tarts – in fact this was even a bit much (a heaping teaspoon) and some of them bubbled over (“No less delicious though” according to one student!).
And the result?
Perfectly imperfect and I couldn’t love them more!
Stay tuned to see how our exploration of baking evolves over the next 6 weeks!
Buy my books! In the French kitchen with kids and French Food for Everyone: le goûter (after school snacks), le dîner (dinner) and le petit déjeuner (breakfast) are out now! Click here for details and how to order!
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