Back in January I went to London for a fish cookery lesson that was brought as a gift for me. Unfortunately it left my companion and I hugely disappointed. There were 20 attendees is a space more suited for 10, only one hob was used, meaning that if you weren't the person cooking at that time you just had to watch and the resulting 3 courses were shared between everyone. I didn't realise that one sea bass could comfortably feed 20 people...I was right - it didn't! There were people in this class that had paid £100 and I'm sure they left as disappointed as us.
Luckily for me, my next experience of a class completely changed my perception of group classes and made me see just how fantastic they could be. Let me introduce you to Bake with Maria.
I first met Maria Mayerhofer late last year when I was invited to her baking lab in St John's Wood, London for a Christmas party. I ate a huge amount of traditional Christmas cookies and cakes and was excited to be invited to try one of her classes. She provides a full range of classes both in the evenings and at weekends. I booked onto her Introduction to Pastry class one Wednesday evening.
When I arrived I was introduced to Marianne, who would be taking the class and we spent a little time getting to know the 5 other participants over tea and carrot cake.
Firstly we were given our recipes for the evening along with plenty of pens to take those all important notes! We were encouraged to ask lots of questions, Marianne was obviously very knowledgeable and a brilliant pastry chef. She gave us lots of tips and advice to help us easy make both sweet and savoury pastry.
We spent the evening working in pairs, there was plenty of high quality equipment to go around and more than enough space. Classes are limited to 8 people so there will always be room to work comfortably.
We learnt to make a lemon tart, peach & almond tart & a savoury galette using pastry that we had made from scratch. Marianne would take us through each stage first then we would be let loose in our pair to replicate with pretty good results! We cooked everything ourselves (except for the frangipane) and tried lots of different techniques within each recipe.
As well as Marianne, there were two other brilliant assistants making sure we had all the ingredients to hand and the equipment was quickly washed up so we could reuse them. This meant that we were always learning and doing, rather than waiting for something and the class ran smoothly and to time. We got to take everything that we had made home with us, including our batch of sweet pastry. Maria thoughtfully provides boxes so there was less chance of breakages!
As I headed back to Waterloo to get my train, carrying my two boxes of goodies I was amazed at the difference in style, content and quality of the two classes. Bake With Maria classes range in price from £85 to £145 - my Introduction to Pastry Class is £105 which I thought was really good value for the level and quality of teaching that you receive. I can't recommend this enough and after my macaron disaster this weekend I'm pretty sure what my next class will be!!
A full calendar of Maria's classes can be found here. The Baking Lab can be found at 81 Loudoun Road, London NW8 0DQ.
I was invited to try one of Maria's classes free of charge in return for an honest review.