I’d been looking forward to taking a class at the King Arthur Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vermont for a long time, so when I saw the description on this class for a quick and easy puff pastry, I knew I had to make time to get there… and yesterday was the day.
Norwich, Vermont is a great day trip from Peterborough. It is just about an hour and a half away, with plenty to explore when you get there. First of all, there’s the King Arthur Store. The size of the store is deceptively small, but for the baking enthusiast, it is packed with tools, products, ideas, and inspiration, not to mention the on-site bakery to tease your senses. Back across the river is Hanover, New Hampshire and Dartmouth College. Nearby, you’ll also find the towns of Quechee and Woodstock, Vermont with covered bridges, Quechee Gorge for hiking, shops, antique stores, and the home of Simon Pearce Glass workshop, store, & restaurant.
This time however, we headed straight for the King Arthur Store in Norwich, stopping only at the nearby Allechante, a small bakery and café, for a sandwich to-go. Allechante is a bright and cheery space with beautiful pastries, gourmet salads, prepared entrees and side dishes, and a nice selection of sandwiches. If we had more time, we would have liked to explore some of the other shops in Norwich, but we were on a mission and I needed to get to the King Arthur Store with enough time to take care of business (in other words… shop) before my class started. At the store, I got to “work”. Because there are so many products in the store, I’ve developed a system. I walk the aisles in the forward direction, then turn around and walk back the opposite way. It may seem a little silly, but I never fail to find something interesting that I “missed” the first time.
The three-hour class was attended by eleven students, with some coming from as far away as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York. The focus of the class was a quick and easy puff pastry dough that could be transformed into appetizers, desserts, rustic tarts, and much more. In class, we each made our own pastry dough, then transformed it into a maple-glazed apple galette as well as sweet (demerara sugar) and savory (pesto) palmiers. Granted, it isn’t a classic puff pastry, but we never could have achieved that in three hours. Instead, we learned a delicious, versatile recipe… and got to take home our yummy creations. As a bonus for the geek in me, I got to talk with the instructor about the differences between bleached and unbleached flours, salted and unsalted butters, and other baking-related things. I can’t wait to put some of my new-found knowledge to work at the B&B!
As some of our guests were departing yesterday morning, I mentioned to one of them that I was taking a class at the King Arthur Baking Center that evening. Her response was something to the effect of “you must really enjoy baking”. My answer: “Yes, I do!” Baking really feeds so many parts of my soul… the geeky, former-chemist part that enjoys understanding how all the ingredients work together… the more-creative craftsperson that likes making beautiful and delicious creations… and, well, the basic human part that likes to eat good food. The class at King Arthur really met all of my expectations! Now, I just need to figure out how to add some chocolate!