Being able to create beautiful pastries for friends and family is something many cooks would love to do. There is nothing quite like taking warm croissants straight from your oven and eating them immediately.
I never thought I would be able to do that. But, I can now – Dominique Ansel showed me how, and a lot more besides. This magical masterclass has taken my cooking skills to a new level. Way beyond what I thought I was capable of. Much like Thomas Keller’s course, Dominique teaches skills, not just recipes.
Below, I explain why it is well worth any chef, foodie or home cook taking this course.
Far more than just a French pastry masterclass
The first thing I should say is that this masterclass course is not at all what I was expecting. It is called Dominique Ansel’s Pastry Masterclass, so I thought it was about making different kinds of pastry. You know, shortcrust, flaky, rough puff, filo – that kind of thing.
That was kind of silly of me because this masterclass is all about French pastries. Those delicious cakes, biscuits and creamy concoctions you see on sale in every French patisserie.
Eclairs, macaroons, croissants, Mille-Feuille, Kouign Amann and Madeleines. Beautiful cakes and desserts that look stunning and taste like heaven. The kind you can never just leave on the plate.
During the course, you learn to make lots of these French favorites. But, the way Dominique breaks each recipe down into its component parts, which means that you can actually do a lot more with what you have learned. For example, you can use the chocolate cake base for all kinds of other desserts.
Dominique Ansel’s French pastry recipes
Dominique was born and raised in Northern France. From an early age, he worked in a traditional French bakery. So, it is only natural that he focuses on showing you how to make some of the classic French pastries, including :
- Mini Madeleines – these only take 4 minutes to bake. They are wonderful with coffee or as a relatively light dessert. The batter Dominique shows you how to make can be kept in the fridge for several days. So, you can enjoy these at a moment’s notice. I make them when friends pop in for a coffee.
- French-style fruit tarts – Dominique shows you how to prepare the perfect pastry shell, French pastry cream, and glazed fruit to produce beautiful French patisserie fruit tarts. The way he teaches this part of the course enables you to create a huge range of different fruit-based dessert tarts.
- A modern Ombre apple tart – A classic French apple tart with a couple of modern decorative touches. His tip about leaving the skin on to add color and texture was a great one, although you do need to slice the fruit really thinly for it to look good. Keep an eye out for his neat drill driven apple-peeler. I am a bit clumsy, so I can’t see me using one, but it is nonetheless very clever.
- A classic French glazed strawberry tart – I have always loved the way French strawberry tarts look but never knew how to cut and arrange the fruit to get that classic decorative finish. Now, I do and it is easier than you think.
- A gluten-free sponge base – This super thin sponge base is nice on its own, but even better when used the way Dominique suggests. It takes a while to make, so I can’t see me using it much, but I know some cooks will use it to create all kinds of desserts. Keep an eye out for Dominique’s tip on how to use the cut-offs, it is a delicious and simple suggestion.
- A stunning chocolate mouse cake – By far my favorite recipe, this stunning glossy cake is a fantastic way to finish off a meal. It caused a bit of a stir when I made it for a friend’s wedding anniversary brunch.
- Swiss mini meringues – I am not a meringue fan at all, but I loved these glossy, oddly gooey gems. They are currently my go-to decorative finish.
- Classic chocolate bonbons – Making your own chocolates is the perfect way to make sure you are not left with a pile of coffee creams. Dominique shows you all of the tips and tricks of the trade. I have already made a couple of sets and given them as gifts. It is a lot easier than you think if a little time-consuming.
- Perfect light and flaky croissants – This is something I am sadly yet to master 100%. But with Dominique’s help, I have already produced some passable croissants. They taste a lot better than shop brought ones but are not perfect, yet. However, as Dominique explains at the end of his video getting good at making croissants takes quite a bit of practice.
Learn how to create desserts the Dominique Ansel way
So, that just about covers the dishes you are going to learn to cook, but you are going to learn so much more. As you go through the videos, you are going to pick up a lot of new skills. Tips and techniques that you will end up using on a daily basis. I certainly did.
Here is just a taste of what you are going to learn while taking his course. It is far from an exhaustive list, just my highlights:
- How to make a vanilla sablé shell – This versatile sweet pastry case can be used for all kinds of dishes.
- How to make pastry cream tart filling – I have never been able to make good pastry cream. Mine always used to come out a bit gloopy and slippery. It doesn’t anymore. Using Dominique’s method I get perfect results, every time.
- A quick strawberry jam for fruit tarts – This was a handy lesson. Being able to make jam quickly is useful for more than just desserts. I used this technique to create a jammy cranberry sauce to go with a turkey dinner I cooked.
- How to make the perfect French chocolate mousse – This is one of the longer lessons in the course because Dominique shares so many extra tips as he explains this recipe. For example, flavoring the milk before making the ganache.
- How to temper chocolate – If you want to make your own bonbons, you have to know how to temper chocolate properly. After watching his video on chocolate I finally understood that even one single drop of water seizes the chocolate.
- How to laminate dough – The key to making the perfect croissants is proper lamination. Once you have learned how to do it the right way you will be able to use that knowledge to make all kinds of layered pastry doughs, including Mille-feuille, sfogliatella, and Kouign Amann
- How to cook the “Mise en Place” way – I am an untidy cook, to say the least. Dominique reminded me of the benefits of cooking the French way, which has helped me to be far more organized and get better results.
- How to pipe – Piping is a skill I have never really mastered. On rare occasions, I did it, I usually made a terrible mess of things. So, for me, Dominique’s piping tips were essential. During the course, he explains how to put the tip in the bag at the right point, as well as how to hold it so that you have maximum control.
- Creating a French pastry glaze that keeps – Glazing everything properly is key when it comes to making French pastries. If you do not get this part of the procedure right, any fruit you have used will quickly discolor. Dominique shows you how to make and use a glaze that can be kept and used for several days.
- Learn the secret of the famous CRONUT® – Dominique has always been a creative chef, and he wants his students to be too. Throughout his masterclass, he offers guidance on how to think outside the box and come up with your own unique flavor and texture combinations. In short, he wants you to create your own masterpieces as he did. I was fascinated to learn how his famous CRONUT® came to be.
Let Dominique turn you into a more creative cook
“There’s always more we can bring to the world of food, by thinking out of the box.” – Dominique Ansel – French Pastry Masterclass Course
Dominique encourages his students to tap into their own cooking culture and experiences to create new and interesting pastries. I’ve not come up with a finished product yet. But I am working on a honey, orange and cinnamon tart inspired by the way people in Southern Spain serve freshly picked naval oranges.
Dominique Ansel’s masterclass workbook
As is normal with masterclass.com courses, you get a workbook as part of the deal. Unfortunately, Dominique’s workbook is not the best. At least not in my opinion. I have taken several of the other masterclass.com cooking classes and have found that most of the other chefs included a lot more extra information in their’s than Dominique does.
The other thing I was disappointed with is the fact that the videos for this course have no bookmarks. This makes finding something you need to review quite tricky. For example, I needed to go back over how to cap off my sweets. It took me a while to find the point in the video where that is explained.
This omission is especially odd because Dominique has taken the extra step of adding little pop-up boxes to his videos. At important points little text boxes open, which makes you look and absorb the important points contained within them.
Learn to make more of your ingredients
However, those are the only two slight criticisms I have about this course. There was so much more I liked about it.
For example, throughout his videos, Dominique offers you little tips and tricks, including ways to use every bit of what can be expensive ingredients.
I have already used what he taught me to create vanilla powder using pods I would have otherwise thrown away.
Why take Dominique Ansel’s masterclass
I can highly recommend this course. For $90 it is a bargain. You will learn how to make some stunning desserts and be able to dip in and out of this course again and again. It is a particularly good buy if you switch from buying your French pastries to making your own.
If you want to take more of the masterclass.com courses, I recommend that you do what I did and buy the $180 all-access pass. You only have to take 3 courses for the pass to save you money. The more courses you take the more you save.
There are already more than 50 courses available on masterclass.com, so finding several that you want to take is not hard. You can find out more about the courses and what you get for your money by clicking through and reading my masterclass.com overview article. There, I tell you all about the extras you get, for example, the forum and the chance to get your questions answered directly by the course tutors.