Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Baking Course at Squires Kitchen

As mentioned in my previous post I haven't been able to do much baking of late for a number of reasons so I was really pleased to have booked a place on the Squires Kitchen 5 day baking course some 6 months ago. I've been looking forward to attending since booking and this course didn't disappoint. 
Squires Kitchen is based in Farnham and caters for both baking and decorating enthusiasts and has an attached shop. Squires also produce many of their own products. The school itself is bright and modern and it is also well equipped. The maximum number of students in each class is 10 and the tutors are knowledgeable and keen to help. Our tutor for the week was Mark Tilling who was UK Chocolate Master for several years in a row and he also came 7th in the World Finals in 2007!

So what did we make on the course? Well day one was pastry so we made a shortcrust that we then used to make the Raspberry and Frangipane Tart that you can see in the first photo. This would be a perfect dessert if you had friends round for dinner.

We also made some puff pastry containing yeast...this was my least successful endeavour of the week but I'm glad to have tried it as it will give me the confidence to try again in the future. We used our puff pastry to make Croissants as well as Pain aux Raisins. We also made the pastry cream to spread inside the pain aux raisins.

In addition to the shortcrust and puff pastry we also made choux pastry to make little choux buns. Unfortunately I can't share any of the recipes from the course with you here but we did learn one major top tip on choux that I can share with's AMAZING!

When making choux buns, the traditional way is to pipe small amounts on to a baking sheet, however to get regularly sized buns you can actually pipe the mix into half-sphere silicone moulds. You then scrape the top to make it level. The whole mould is then popped in the freezer. To cook the buns you can just pop them out of the mould after about 20 minutes to half an hour and put them on your baking sheet as usual! Alternatively once frozen, turn the buns out from the mould and put them in a freezer bag and then keep in the freezer until you need them...ingenious! Although the choux will all end up an even size they still puff up differently so retain a bit of individuality without becoming too regimented. Apparently you can also buy éclair shaped silicone moulds too.
Once we'd baked our choux buns we made a filling which was a Chantilly cream, which was a combination of the pastry cream and whipping cream. The good thing about this course was that we didn't just make choux buns and then leave it at that, we also learn lots of decorating tips and different flavour combinations. So we created lemon choux buns with lemon Chantilly which were dipped in yellow fondant icing. Chocolate choux with chocolate Chantilly, these were also decorated with a square of chocolate with a chocolate transfer design, and finally strawberry choux buns with a little strawberry jam in the bottom and vanilla Chantilly cream on top, these were finished off with small slices of strawberry and dried rose petals.
Day two was cake day. We looked at how to perfect some classic recipes. We made a delicious carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, a fabulous Victoria Sandwich which was light, airy and delicious and it also had a perfectly flat, as opposed to a domed top. Inside the Victoria sandwich is a lovely Swiss meringue buttercream.
Finally, we made a fruit cake which was protected from burning with a double layer of greaseproof paper to line the tin and brown paper around the outside. We also learnt some other tricks to get a perfect finish every time. Apologies for the photos...not great on an IPhone under strip lighting! :-)
Later on in the week we had a go at perfecting the art of macaroon making. The ones you can see below are lemon macaroons with lemon Swiss meringue buttercream and homemade blackcurrant jam which was brought in by one of the other students...this was a really great flavour combination.
To add interest to the macaroons we looked at different ways of decorating them. Mark, the course tutor, showed us a speckled technique using a brush and liquid colour which is done before they go into the oven. An alternative is a brush stroke which you can see below which looks quite modern and is done after they are baked.  Mark also has a great book called Squires Kitchen's Guide to Making Macaroons which gives lots of variations on macaroon flavours and decoration.
Another rather refined treat that we were able to master is the Gateau Opera which consists of very thin layers of sponge which were brushed with a coffee syrup and layered up with coffee meringue buttercream and chocolate ganache. The finished product could happily grace any an afternoon tea. If you fancy making one you can find Eric Lanlard's recipe for one large Gateau Opera here.
The final day was bread day. We produced a classic white loaf that can easily be modified by the addition of such things as raisins or sun dried tomatoes. Some students baked their loaf in a tin whilst I opted for the plait below which was egg-washed and covered in seeds...I ate a few slices with my dinner that day and it was perfectly light and soft.
We also made granary rolls and had a go at shaping them in various different designs as you can see below. My favourite is the classic roll or the plait. Again these were finished either with egg wash, seeds or flour.
Finally, was a rye loaf. I went for the loaf tin on this one and we had a go at slashing the top with a razor blade (attached to a skewer) and I decided to flour the top. I asked when the loaf should come out of it's tin and apparently it depends on whether you want a crusty or a soft loaf. If you take it out of the tin, you will get crusty bread, if you leave it in but uncovered it will be soft on the sides and crusty on top. If you leave it in the tin and cover it with a clean tea towel immediately as it comes out of the oven it will be soft on all sides!
I really enjoyed this course at Squires, it was really nice to be baking after a little break and we produced some lovely treats and picked up some top tips along the way, so I'd highly recommend it!


  1. Looks like you had a lot of fun and made a lot of delicious food. Thanks for sharing!

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  2. This looks like an amazing course! How do you get a perfectly flat top on a victoria sponge?! My cakes always dome, even slightly.

  3. Wow, that looks like a fantastic course! Would love to try those macarons and raspberry frangipane tarts. They look delicious.

  4. Amazing !! Looks so good, makes me want to go sign up for a course!

  5. What a great course covering so many different items, everything looks so amazing.

  6. What fun! And how much to learn! I love the tip with the choux buns!

  7. Wow, your bakes look delicious and it looks like you enjoyed your baking course x

  8. What an amazing looking array of goodies. I love Squires publications but haven't done a course there.

  9. This looks awesome! :D I would love to do this!

  10. Wow Laura, that looks like a fabulous course - 5 whole days of baking. And you produced lots of scrumptious looking bakes which I'm feeling rather envious of.

  11. Those macaroon looks delicious.I would love to go for a baking class soon to learn to bake macaroon.


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