Welcome to my Cooking with Friends series! This spring, as I work on cookbook projects that keep me very busy, I’ve invited some of my favorite blogger friends to share recipes with you. I hope you’ll have just as much fun cooking and baking with them as I do.
Today, I’m welcoming Mardi Michels from eat. live. travel. write. Mardi is an incredibly accomplished woman: she’s a full-time French teacher, long-time blogger, and soon to be published author. She’s lived around the world, including France and Hong Kong, and now calls Toronto her home. She excels at teaching baking techniques too and today, she’s making a case to show that you, too, can make pastry from scratch. Enjoy!
When I look back on my blogging journey over the past eight years, one thing that strikes me is how much I have learned about food, cooking and especially baking. If you had asked me eight years ago if I was a cook or a baker, I’d have most definitely said “cook”. These days, whilst I enjoy both, I’d say more people would identify me as a baker. Which somewhat surprises me simply because pre-blogging I was a store-bought pastry kinda girl. I was afraid of pastry and bread, I just thought it was too hard to make my own.
My “lightbulb moment” for pastry came I think when I watched Kate Hill of The Kitchen at Camont in Gascony make an apricot tart from scratch, very casually, in the summer of 2012. It was then I realised that pastry is not so difficult to make at home and… it’s even fun! When you tell people that you made pastry *from scratch* it’s guaranteed to impress everyone. That summer, after I watched I watched Kate make that tart, I made pastry a number of times. A pie, a galette, a rustic quiche – I was hooked… Kate let me video her making the recipe too which proves it’s not magic or difficult at all!
There’s something genuinely relaxing about taking a few simple ingredients, working them with your hands and creating a true blank slate for all things – both savoury and sweet. Pastry’s my favourite thing to make these days! And hey, don’t get me wrong – my freezer always has a couple of rolls of all-butter puff pastry in it which is great for emergencies. But for the most part, I make my own.
Yet so many people still fear pastry – like I used to. In the adult cooking classes I teach, it’s consistently the one item everyone tells me they buy, then when they see how easy it is, they can’t quite believe it! In the kids’ classes I teach, the parents are amazed to hear we make pastry from scratch, not thinking it’s possible. Well I’m here to tell you that it absolutely is possible – look at some of the beautiful pastry items my boys’ cooking club has made over the years:
The boys in my cooking club even helped me test and perfect recipes for my upcoming cookbook (In the French Kitchen with Kids, Appetite by Random House, Summer 2018), including a lot of the pastry recipes. I mean, I know they can succeed with me guiding them but what about with just a recipe and not much guidance at all? I spent an entire term of club watching them cook from my recipes, taking notes and adjusting my instructions based on how they interpreted what I’d written. As a recipe writer, it was eye-opening but it also showed me that beyond a doubt, kids can make pastry from scratch (and not just tart dough – choux pastry and rough puff pastry too!).
Want to try your hand at an easy pastry recipe with a definite “wow” factor? These classic blueberry galettes are just the thing for the upcoming blueberry season!
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write – a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. She has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia (where she was born), Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home. She has spent every summer over the past decade in France, honing her cooking and baking skills, touring different wine producing regions and in 2014 she and her husband purchased an historic home in South West France which they operate as a vacation rental property, maison de la fontaine. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-14 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. Mardi is a Food Revolution Ambassador for Canada, and in her spare time teaches cooking and baking classes around Toronto. She is currently working on her first cookbook (In the French Kitchen with Kids, Appetite by Random House, Summer ’18)!
Make sure to follow Mardi through her blog and on social media:
- Blog: http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eatlivtravwrite/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eatlivtravwrite/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/eatlivtravwrite/
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/eatlivtravwrite/
- Maison de la fontaine (a holiday home in the heart of Southwest France): www.neracvacationrental.com
All photos above this point: © Mardi Michels.