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MANILA, Philippines – Even as someone who isn’t much of sweet tooth, I’m always looking to widen my palate and gain a better appreciation for desserts. What better way to do that than through a hands-on culinary pastry class?
With only a recipe on my phone and zero guidance, I first tried my hand at baking with homemade adobo chocolate cookies (and half-succeeding). As an inexperienced home cook, I thought it was time to turn to the experts at Enderun Extension, an arm of culinary and hospitality school Enderun Colleges, which became home to the Manila campus of École Ducasse, a culinary school founded by Michelin-decorated chef Alain Ducasse.
Aside from certification programs, Enderun Extension also offers on-site culinary and pastry short courses for newbies that teach students how to make a variety of dishes and desserts. École Ducasse Manila’s Executive Chef, Marc Chalopin, takes inspiration from different regions around the world with classes like Aperitifs of the Orient, Mediterranean Medley, and French Bistro Bites, which ran in November and December 2023. His next class is Wholesome Street Treats, to be held on January 20, 2024.
Each slot in a short course at Enderun Extension costs a whopping P10,000, inclusive of equipment and ingredients – but is a cooking class really worth that much?
With the holidays in mind, I decided to attend the Tangy Temptations pastry class, led by École Ducasse Manila’s Executive Pastry Chef, Etienne Irazoqui.
Aside from his extensive knowledge in pastry and chocolate, Chef Etienne is also an expert in hospitality, having written a pastry book for Intercontinental Hotels in China and training pastry chefs for hospitality groups such as Hyatt, Peninsula, and Shangri-La, to name a few.
Let them cook!
Big thanks to the traffic along Shaw Boulevard, I was around 10 minutes late to class – so it’s good to plan your commute ahead of time. Fortunately, Enderun Coworking at Estancia isn’t hard to find.
The kitchen is located at the very front of the co-working space, wide wall-to-wall windows exposing chic marbled countertops and some of the most expensive, high-quality equipment I’ve ever seen (they had at least four KitchenAid stand mixers). Upon entry, I apologized for my tardiness, but Chef Etienne told me that it was alright, and that he intended for this pastry class to be a fun one.
I got to my station and wasted no time putting on the apron and cap that were provided (yay, merch!), then followed my classmates in measuring out the ingredients that we needed for the very first dessert we were going to make, the Lemon Meringue Tart.
We gathered at Chef Etienne’s station to watch his demonstration for making the dough, scribbling notes on the recipe as he explained how to achieve the creamy texture needed for the sweet pastry.
Throughout the class, Chef Etienne would crack jokes about his French temperament and give us tips to remedy minor mistakes we made in the process. For example, when I thought I had mistakenly put the eggs into the mixer too early, he assured me that it wouldn’t change the way the dough turned out.
When it was ready, I rolled out the dough just like he’d taught us, sealed it in cling wrap, and put it in the refrigerator. The class then proceeded with making the lemon cream.
Here, I had another mishap: because I didn’t beat the eggs well enough, the whites started cooking. Thankfully, the recipe calls for straining the cream, which makes it less lumpy and a lot smoother. All I had to do was pour the cream over a strainer and mix it around. Then, like the dough, we popped our lemon cream in the fridge.
Before moving on with the class, we took a quick break, having a little chat over crepes and white wine. And then it was time to make the Lemon Pound Cake!
The recipe involved a lot of zest, so Chef Etienne taught us how to properly hold the lemon and the grater to get the zest without hurting our hands. After following his instructions for making the batter, the last step was to put a line of softened butter down the middle using a piping bag. As Chef Etienne said, this would open up the loaf and really let everything cook inside.
While we were busy making the lemon cream earlier, Chef Etienne had already put our sweet pastry dough into tart rings and baked them. The next steps for the lemon meringue tart were to pour the lemon cream in and make the meringue, but as we were already way behind the scheduled dismissal of 5 pm, Chef Etienne made the meringue for us instead. All we had to do was put the meringue in piping bags and decorate our tarts.
In his demonstration, Chef Etienne taught us the three kinds of meringue: French, Swiss, and Italian. For this class, he made us Italian meringue, which involves boiling a mixture of sugar and water as the egg whites are being whisked (a stand mixer is helpful here), and then pouring the hot sugar in to stabilize and cook the eggs. When the meringue was just the right amount of soft and stiff, he showed us how to create geometric and swirling patterns.
And then it was my turn to pipe my meringue. At first, I struggled, as I wasn’t sure how I even wanted to decorate my own tart, but Chef Etienne showed me how to hold the piping bag properly and create a wavy pattern. He also taught me how to use a blowtorch to give the meringue some color.
Just as we finished with the lemon meringue tart, it was time to take the lemon pound cakes out of the oven and drizzle them with a few spoonfuls of pure lemon juice.
We ended the class with class pictures and a quick ceremony where we were all handed a certificate of completion. It felt fulfilling to see everything finally come together after a few hours of watching Chef Etienne expertly craft these desserts and trying to follow along, but it was time to brave the Shaw traffic once more and head home for the taste test.
The final verdict
When I got home over an hour later, I was surprised to find the lemon meringue tart still intact, with the meringue unmoved. Despite holding the shape well, it was very soft, creamy, and light, perfectly complimenting the sweet tang of the lemon cream and the firm tart crust. Saving the rest of the tart for later after my siblings had their share, I learned that putting meringue in the refrigerator makes it watery, so I do recommend having more people to share this delightful tart with!
The lemon pound cake was also just the right amount of sweet, with the first bite surprising the palate with the tang of the lemon. The lemon zest also shines here, blessing the cake with a citrusy flavor that didn’t overwhelm. Like every other pound cake, it was dense, but with a velvety sort of crumbiness to it. I brought half the loaf with me to class that week for my classmates and professor to try, earning a “That’s good!” from them.
Overall, despite my little mistakes here and there, the cooking class was a success! Hands-on short culinary or pastry courses like the ones offered by Enderun Extension are a great way to ensure that everything you learn is translated into execution, and that you get to enjoy what you accomplish.
This experience is definitely worth P10,000, as it not only comes with equipment, ingredients, and Enderun merch, but also the wisdom and guidance of an industry master, a new set of skills to take with you and hone, and of course, not one but two tangy desserts to indulge in and share with your friends and family. I might even make the lemon meringue tart and lemon pound cake again for the coming holidays! – Rappler.com
Enderun Extension’s Culinary Short Courses and Pastry Short Courses are held at the Enderun Design & Innovation Campus, located on the 2nd floor, South Wing, Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons, Pasig City. For future cooking classes and other course offerings, you can check out their website.