Friday, April 08, 2011

Baking class at Coup Kitchen

Chef's demo chocolate cake
I don't usually go to baking classes in Hong Kong because I don't trust people who use portable ovens that look like toasters. But I made an exception for my dear friend and fellow foodie & vinophile @par_lor as she'd booked a private class only to be ditched last minute by the people who were supposed to go (who shall remain unnamed...).

Chef Alfred Cheung sprinkling some metallic colour powder for our chocolate thins
I rushed after work into Coup Kitchen; I already knew that I was going to be late, but when I arrived I was met with a shouty member of staff who spoke so quickly I couldn't quite understand. She must've thought I was really dumb, because it turns out she was one of the chef's assistants, and she proceeded to speak to me condescendingly throughout the class.

Pouring the tempered chocolate on the plastic sheet prepped with metallic powder
On the agenda was a "chocolate truffle cake"- a basic gateau. The chef, Alfred Cheung (who, according to the website, used to work at the Excelsior) rushed through the first parts - making the sponge. We then went back to our workbenches and followed the instructions. Our sponges then went into the (toaster) ovens, and we went back to chef's demo of the second part - the cream and assembly. Again, it was fast, but with the help of the (sometimes not-so-patient) assistants, all went well and no-one screwed anything up majorly.

Our chocolate twirls (that chef made- we weren't allowed to temper, boo)
The cakes then had to go into the freezer for the cream to set, and we returned to chef's bench to watch him and one assistant temper chocolate and make decorative pieces, as well as the demo for the chocolate glaze.

Then, our turn - the last parts - de-moulding, glazing, decorating etc. were the scariest simply because they require steady hands. It didn't help that the chef and his team were constantly shouting...

While waiting, we got to eat some of their other creations. Hmm... not very nice...
The class was an interesting experience. It makes me think I was there for a insight into a typical Chinese-ified western kitchen - the chef and his team had a way of speaking to you that just makes you feel like a 5-year-old again, which is very typical of a Chinese apprentice-master relationship. While it was pretty cool to have a Cova-like cake to take home, it certainly wasn't the kind of relaxed cooking class experience I was hoping for. After all, it's not a professional class (they did all the hard stuff and mise for us), so why the attitude?

My creation - doesn't look half bad, huh?
As the class wasn't expensive (just $220/person), I know shouldn't expect the best ingredients, but I would rather have paid more for a cake that tastes as good as it looks. I haven't eaten the cake yet, but from picking at the remaining edges of my sponge and licking a little of the cream left in the bowl, the cocoa was the sawdust variety, and the UHT cream - well, you can talk to Tom about that.

Apart from the weird attitude of the staff, I thought the chef could have answered some of our questions a little more comprehensively e.g. we asked why it's better to leave the glaze overnight - he said the colour becomes darker - but why? What's the science behind it?

Nonetheless, it was nice to have a space with decent equipment, and to know that you can (sort of) make a cake in 2.5 hours.

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  1. agreed that it could've been much more relaxing if they weren't shouting...i always thought these kind of "hobbies classes" should be relaxing and much more laid-back...perhaps a relaxing high-tea type of thing in the middle while waiting for the cake to freeze would be nice! and how the chef expects us to behave like their 5-year-old-or-at-least-behave-like-a5-year-old-apprentice is a wrong mindset...ppl come here not expecting to learn to be a cake master! y so serious ne ~_~...

    it would be more fun if we get to be more hands on for making the cake, and perhaps, decorate it more out of our own creativity instead of following the exact instructions too..haha, but yes, it's not expensive n i shouldn't be too harsh..hehe.. :)

  2. I took a cooking class from Martha Sherpa in Hong Kong last summer, and I won't lie: She intimidated me. But I learned a ton.

    As for your experience, look on the bright side: You are now trained to bake a cake in a Parisian apartment, which seem rarely to be equipped with more than a couple of hot plates and a glorified toaster oven.

  3. It's always good to play around with cakes. I didn't mention on facebook but I've been playing with Chocolate Ganache cakes too tonight - but yours look much prettier :D

    Let me explore more a little first. I think sometimes the prob with desserts in HK is that its all glammed up in appearance, but the taste is somehow amiss hey :P

  4. Great can leave comment finally~ =)

    This female assistant was new, I haven't met her yet. There was a male assistant before, he was very nice and have patient.

    For me, COUP is more like a fancy restuarnt, well equiped, great atmostphere. But the quality was so so only. I have been there once only.

    Alfred is a bit like Tony Wong, he knows marketing and how to social to get more customer. Many Yahoo blogger are his big fans!

    But, if you really wanna learn more techniques, COUP is not a good choice definitely.

    Another baking school in Jordan, doesn't have fancy decoration, and the teacher is quite δΈ² with bad temper (which I don't think he is). That's really for learning techniques. Like the choco decoration, you have to do it by your own! May be you won't have a nice cake to bring home after 1st or 2nd lessons, but sure you can bake your own after few. And like you said, if you have any questions, he would definitely try his best to explain. I haven't took any lessons from this baking school for 2 years, but it is still my best choice if I want to take any courses again.

  5. did you watch The Kings of Pastry ( Seems like you had a brush with the hyper neurosis of pro kitchens.
    I'm an advocate of discipline while cooking but agree that taste and an experience of the senses are more inspiring.
    Let's make our own HK baking courses!

  6. Thanks everyone for your comments! I did sound quite whiney - I giess what I meant was that I think for classes that are clearly aimed at amayeurs just looking to have a bit of sugary fun, it could have been more light-hearted/relaxed, and it would have been nice if we could learn more. Obviously it would be different if this were a serious pro program.

    Barbra - HK kitchens are also weeny and many people do have "toaster" ovens, so I guess it was only practical! I'm just being a snob - I had a crappy but stable oven in Australia and we were good friends; nothing can quite compare anymore haha. Oh and Martha Sherpa is one unique individual...!

    Paola - I HAVE to watch that movie!! And yes we should do our own classes/bake-offs. And I'm sure there are more leisurely, rose-in-hand classes out there. If anything, this has started me on a hunt for different types of classes :)

  7. Hi, I am new in HongKong and am looking for cake and bread class. I do bake at home but am looking for more professional ones. Could you suggest good class which will teach to make cake as well as bread professionally?

  8. Hi Vrushali, you might want to try Levain, they're the only ones I can think of that can cater to more advanced hobbyists :)