Four years since I tied a proper tie. I haven’t worn heels in almost as long.
More than one hundred euros reluctantly spent on stationery. This I do not want to talk about.
Twenty two of us line up in rows, quickly buttoning our jackets. Piercings out. Shirts tucked in.
Despite the high school rules (mobile phones will be confiscated), pastry school feels a little like Oxford, and not only for the black and white get-up. Surrounded once again by highly motivated people keen to show off their knowledge of the finer details. History of the macaron, most influential modern chef – just a small jump from literary to culinary knowledge.
We might all be dressed the same, but everyone comes from a different education: there’s an electrician, a marketer, a girl with a master’s in IT. They all have a different kind of apprenticeship – restaurant, boutique, traditional patisserie. I am killer jealous of the boy working for Pierre Herme. But that’s it: everyone has the same sharp ambition as I do. Being good at baking cakes for friends doesn’t pass muster. Now there is extra competition. Hence the farfetched comparison to the pretty castle walls of Oxford. Cut-throat penguins.
Not even slightly relevant: cheese biscuits, easily baked in half an hour – start to finish – with no need of a culinary certificate. Skip a step and just make cheese crumble, which is less elegant to eat, but like a cheesy explosion of popcorn and crisps and I-don’t-know-what. Fantabulous scooped straight from the bowl before the television, or illegally downloaded internet soaps.
Easy cheese biscuits
(vaguely adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1 cup sharply flavoured cheese, grated – Tomme de Savoie was lovely
3/4 cup flour
50g butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
pinch of chili flakes
Preheat the oven to 180C. Rub the cubes of butter into the flour with your fingertips to make a rough breadcrumb-like mixture. Add the cheese and egg yolk and try to push it all into a ball with your hands. The pastry will be a little crumbly but rolling it out should stick it together. (If not, add some of the egg white.)
Either roll the pastry out to roughly 3mm and stamp out mini biscuits or crumble the pastry directly onto a baking sheet, creating small and large lumps. (No need to butter the baking tray, the biscuits won’t stick.) If you make biscuits, stab them with a fork several times so they don’t rise up too much.
Bake for 15-20 depending on the oven. They should be just light brown and smell irresistible.