French baking and cooking has intimidated me for as long as I’ve been in the kitchen. But, since I’ve wanted to give it a try, I figured last year’s trip to France was the perfect opportunity. Mom and I were on board the Viking Buri and two of the excursions included experiences with French baking. Since Mom loves experimenting in the kitchen, I knew that baking in Provence together would be the perfect way for us to bond.
Although my Mom loves cooking, baking is not her specialty. Since we were both a bit weary about learning in France, we supported each other throughout the classes and laughed a whole lot. Seeing my mom in a different role in the kitchen was interesting, as I am always used to her being so confident. I loved that we both were beginners during the classes. Quickly, we learned that we had no reason to feel overwhelmed, especially when the results were so delicious.
Located in Avignon, Maison de Fogasses is a place you simply must visit. Not only is it a restaurant and inn, it’s also an art gallery, and just meeting with the owner is enough to inspire anyone to live the life of their dreams. Maison de Fogasses is a beautiful home in the middle of the city that feels miles away. In fact, while inside, you forget about the rest of Avignon.
We found ourselves upstairs and prepared to make a local specialty, fougasse aux olives. I don’t even like olives, but in this bread it added just the right amount of salty without the full flavor of the olives. Sitting around a big table, we were given pre-measured ingredients and were walked through the process. Of course, I was intimidated that we’d be making a bread, but the process was actually a lot easier than I anticipated.
While our bread was baking, we headed out to the backyard and enjoyed a game of pétanque with a glass of wine. Then, we made our way back upstairs for a lunch and were able to sample our creation alongside our meal. While they weren’t as pretty as the chef’s version, I was impressed with what we were able to make with some simple ingredients.
On one of our last days, we headed to InCuisine in Lyon for another chance at baking. This time, instead of bread, we’d try our hand at a french pastry – chux pasty, or pâte à choux. This was even more intimidating, especially because our instructor picked me to make the dough. Still it was good to just get right into it. This light, airy pastry can be made a variety of ways, but we stuffed ours with fresh whipped cream and caramelized bananas, then topped it with caramel.
There were several of us in the kitchen, and rather than make our own, as we did on our previous class, we all chipped in to create the dish. This was really fun because we got to test ourselves, but let loose in the kitchen and enjoy the process.
For me, the most fun was when we got to take the caramel sauce we had made and use it to decorate our plates. Our instructor made it look so easy, until we tried it and found out it was a bit more difficult than it looked. Still, it made for some pretty plating, and the pastries tasted even better than they looked.
Whether you’re traveling with Viking River Cruises or not, if you find yourself in Provence, look up a baking class and get in the kitchen, even if you are nervous. There’s no better way to learn a new skill or just have fun and bond with the people you’re traveling with than getting a bit out of your comfort zone. Luckily baking is the most delicious way to do just that!
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