Rachel Grenville-Hunt runs Rachel’s Apron, a cookery school with classes that focus on bread, cakes and patisserie. We ran a competition recently to give away tickets to a class, but were also invited along to try one for ourselves. On this occasion, an afternoon tea class with The Real Macaron Company that ran for four hours on a Monday afternoon.
The class costs £75 per person and teaches how to make each item while also having a go yourself. The day finished up with a cup of tea and a tasting of everything we’d made, as well as a box full of treats to take home.
The venue was The Real Macaron Company in Newbury, which is a small, cute shop which works really well as a small group cookery school. There were only three of us on the day I attended – me and two women who had previously taken a macaron class and had come back for more. The maximum class size is still only five though, so no matter how many people book you can be assured that there’ll be someone there to supervise your piping technique. Or point out you’ve missed out a fairly crucial ingredient in your madeleines because you haven’t read the recipe properly. Oops.
There were two teachers (Rachel and also Gaye, who runs the Real Macaron Company where the class was based). I was slightly torn about whether I liked this. On the one hand, it’s good to get exposed to different techniques and opinions, so it’s nice to be taught by people with different specialities. On the other hand, for quite a short afternoon it felt like the rapport was a little interrupted by changing teachers. But this combined with the small class size meant that there was a huge amount of attention and help available.
The menu we cooked was very well chosen, in that all of them were things that I’d found a bit intimidating (macarons, Viennese whirls) or previously had slightly disappointing results with (madeleines, scones). They went together to make a nice finished plate of treats, but also covered a broad range of skills.
Piping was a technique we returned to three times, but each time built on the last, which I found really helpful as I’m VERY intimidated by piping. There were enough things covered to help me feel smug because I’d properly learnt and achieved some things (my favourite feeling) but not so many I go frazzled and forgot everything.
There were lots of helpful tips along the way, with almost every recipe. Madeleines only puff up like that if you leave the batter sitting in the fridge for ages! Never roll scone dough, just pat it into shape! Butter doesn’t burn until you can’t hear it boiling anymore! I found this useful and pleasing.
My favourite recipe (and that of my tasters) was an orange and honey madeleine. It was made with a browned butter which gave it a much more professional and interesting flavour than I’d ever been able to achieve with just determination and a BBC Good Food recipe. I was also delighted to make pretty much the best scones I’d ever had (I’d been overworking the dough, it turns out).
I really enjoyed the afternoon and left the course feeling like I wanted to bake more. The whole experience was easy and fun, and I increased in confidence. It was incredibly satisfying to live out a Bake Off fantasy of making something outside my usual skill level, and the luxury of being able to spend a whole afternoon baking but not have to do any of the washing up was incredible.
Overall, this was a really lovely course, put together with real care and love. There is so much attention on you, and the whole experience feels at once luxurious and cosy. The teaching was straightforward and direct, and materials were emailed out after the class to follow up. A great afternoon out, it would make a fun low-key hen do or special treat for an adventurous-but-not-super-experienced baker (like me!).
I left happy and excited to bake more, with a box of food to give to a friend who’d just had a baby.