Confident. Knowledgeable. Precise. That about sums up Lorraine Godsmark, a recognised pastry maestro in Australia, from Lorraine’s Patisserie. I’m here with a friend at the Accoutrement cooking school in Mosman for Lorraine’s pastry class. One of Accoutrement’s most popular classes, it sells out months in advance.
Pastry has always been a bit of a nemesis of mine. I can whip up a cake or a batch of biscotti with reasonable ease these days, and although I’ve tried a few tarts, I can never be confident about the outcome, and if my effort will result in a ball of unmalleable flour and butter ending up in the bin. So who better to learn from? There are fourteen of us in the class, nice and intimate, one of whom is a very entertaining Lorraine Groupie who has followed her from shop to shop over the years.
The evening is peppered with lots of great tips, anecdotes from her time at Rockpool where it all began, and how she learned over the years from her mistakes – so she encourages us to all watch each other’s pastry making, pointing out what we need to be aware of and helping us individually with our technique . Mildly critical of modern cookbooks, she thinks recipes are often shortened by publishers to appear simple and doable for the home cook, often leading to disasters in things like pastry where precision is a must – she takes account of the fact, for example, that an egg shell weighs approximately 5 grams. For that reason Lorraine is a big fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s books, which are very exact in their instructions.
That night, over the course of the three hours, we go through making three pastries, and have plenty of opportunities to ask questions. We only have time to make the pastry – which we get to take home – not the fillings, but the cooked final result is given to us to try (“and here’s one we prepared earlier”).
The first is a cream cheese pastry, which, as it contains no sugar, can be used for sweet or savoury. She gives us plenty useful tips
* Take your butter out of the fridge about half an hour before so that it is still hard, but not rock solid
* For this pastry she likes butter with high water content, such as Western Star, as this creates steam during the cooking process which leads to flaky pastry
* Don’t knead pastry dough. Always use a pastry cutter (which the lovely Sue from Accoutrement gave us to take home). For almost all her pastries, she uses a French technique called fresage, which involves pushing the pastry mixture in long streaks with the heal of your hand – she is very anti brining your pastry to a crumb in a food processor like in most recipes
* Another common mistake is making our dough into a ball before we refrigerate it, which means it needs to be worked more when it comes to rolling time. She prefers to shape it into a flattish circle
* “Relax” your dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight before you roll it out to put into your tart tins
* If you are making a big batch of pastry, after it has been relaxed it can be frozen. The best thing for frozen dough is to defrost it in the fridge overnight before use. Uncooked pastry freezes very well.
* Most recipes tell you to line your baking tin with baking paper for blind baking. She always chooses foil (spray it with a bit of canola first) as it is easy to shape right into the tin crevices, and make sure it is full to the brim with baking beads. Often we think our pastry shrinks, but it’s actually the lack of support while it is baking that causes it to lose shape rather than shrink
This pastry is used for pear and ginger brown butter tarts, that have a brown butter topping. Words can’t describe how devine these are!
The second pastry is called a Pate Sucre. She says its as close as she’ll get to giving away the date tart pastry recipe. Again for this a butter with a high water content is best. She describes this as a much “fattier” pastry, as unlike the first one it contains sugar, eggs and milk in addition to the butter. This one is also made using the fresage technique. Lorraine believes in minimising machine use for pastry. Other than literally 10 seconds of pulsing in a food processor – it is all handworked, and when I see for myself what goes into it I fully appreciate why a slice of the date tart is $15. We try a quince franjipane tart made with this pastry. It is soooooooooooo flaky. Oh, she recommends cutting tarts with a hot knife – apparently at the bakery they heat up the knives before slicing.
The final pastry is a shortbread pastry, and for this one she recommends cultured butter. This has a different technique and involves whipping sugar and egg yolks to begin with. Its more of a biscuit type base, and I definitely prefer the first two. We try a salted caramel with a macadamia tart made with it, just gorgeous. “You’ll have to wait for the book to come out to get the filling recipe for that one”, Lorraine says, laughing (nudge nudge wink wink to publishers).
Such a wonderful evening! Stay tuned, I’ll be trying the complete recipes at home myself.
Accoutrement, 611 Military Rd, Mosman Ph (02) 9969 4911
Lorraine’s Patisserie, Shop 5, Palings Lane, Sydney, Ph (02) 9254 8009