Mad About Macarons @ Tennent’s Training Academy

For my Christmas, I received a voucher for the Tennent’s Training Academy & the first class I was eager to get booked in for was the Mad About Macarons class. For those of you not familiar with Macarons, they are a French meringue-esque cake, usually in bright colours & filled with either a buttercream or ganache. They are notoriously tricky to master so I wanted to go along & get taught first hand how to create these little beauties.

The legend - Mr Floyd

The Tennent’s Training Academy is situated at the Tennent’s brewery in the East End of Glasgow, just on Duke Street. Tennent’s spent a couple of million pounds a few years ago renovating the building & turning it into a state of the art training academy. The facility boasts a professional kitchen, tasting room, classroom & fully equipped bar. They provide a multitude of professional courses for those in the hospitality business as well as leisure courses for people like me to go along & learn a new skill. Bizarrely when you arrive, you are taken in a mini bus to the academy which is literally a couple of mins walk from the main entrance but I put that down to a healthy & safety point.

Mad About Macarons

I had expected the class to be full but amazingly there were only 4 of us taking part in the class! We were greeted by Michael Kilkie (renowned chef) & introduced to the class & what we were going to be doing. Michael gave us a quick demonstration of whisking together the egg whites & sugar to get the desired consistency & we were then left to our own devices.

Demonstration

Each of us had our own work station with the ingredients already laid out in separate bowls. We were also allowed to choose which colour we wanted our macarons to be – I opted for green for the first batch. I was disappointed that we wouldn’t be making flavoured macarons but mastering the technique is the main reason I chose the class. Making macarons is a test of patience as I quickly found out! You have to wait for the eggs to be beaten just the right amount so that the macarons set correctly. When it came to piping them, I found trying to get those perfect circles that you see in pictures takes a lot of practice!

Attempt #1

Once our Macarons were ready to set, we were given a ‘light lunch’. Now I’ve put that in quotes as we were all expecting some sandwiches or something similar. Instead, Michael whipped up some spaghetti with chorizo & roasted veg in a light tomato sauce for us! We were also given the choice of wine with our lunch but I declined as I’m trying to be good (pre-holiday diet!).  Whilst we were eating, our macarons were put in the oven to bake.

Freshly baked!

We were then allowed to make a second batch & I opted for red this time, which turned out to be more of a pinky colour! Whilst these macarons were setting, we then set about making our filling. We were given so many choices for flavouring our buttercream – vanilla pods, peanut butter, passionfruit, jam & chocolate (I think I’m missing a couple). I opted for 3 fillings – chocolate for my green macarons & vanilla & passionfruit for my red/pink macarons. I did put in too much passionfruit (I love that stuff!) into my buttercream & it curdled slightly but it still tasted amazing. There were a couple of interesting combinations – peanut butter & choc buttercream & jam buttercream. I’d never thought about putting jam in the buttercream but it was really nice!

Mine at the front

Once our macarons were ready to be filled, you had to find pairs that were roughly the same size & then fill them with buttercream. It was all a case of trial & error with how you fill them & then put them together. I have to say mine were a mile off the lovely classy French patisserie cakes you see but I was quite proud of my first attempt at making them! My family also appreciated the leftovers 🙂 I have since tried to make chocolate ones but the consistency was all wrong so I think investing in a book would be a good idea!

Green Macarons & Chocolate ButtercreamSecond batch

I thoroughly enjoyed the class at the Training Acadamy especially since the chefs are willing to answer each & all of your questions, no matter how trivial. I have actually attended an Italian course soon & am booked in for a pizza making class in April! A good way to spend a Saturday afternoon in my opinion.

Cupcake Decorating with Bella’s Cake

As you may have noticed, I have started to do a lot more baking since the New Year. I decided that this year, I want to get better at it & try my hand at a lot of different things like birthday cakes, cupcakes, sweets & so on. One of my Christmas presents, that I had arranged, was tickets to cupcake decorating classes with the lovely Sydney at Bella’s Cakes  in January. For those who don’t know, Bella’s Cakes were our wedding baker of choice & created an amazing custom dessert table for us on our big day.

Wedding Dessert Table

The 2 classes were aimed at being a beginner & intermediate cupcake decorating class, with the second class expanding on what was learned in the first. They took place in Little Botanica in the southside. Little Botanica is a lovely little cafe, full of quirky decorations (most of which you can buy) & a real homely feel to it. A perfect setting for a creative class!

The first class focussed on learning how to pipe buttercream onto a cupcake (something I have really struggled with) & as it was near Burn’s night, if you wanted to, attempt to create a thistle decoration. We were each given 6 cupcakes each & there was an array of decorations & equipment. From stampers (to create fondant decorations) to coloured fondant to candy decorations & edible glitter.

Decorating EquipmentPiping attempts

I thoroughly enjoyed the first class, allowing me to try out a couple of things such as creating edible decorations that I had not been able to try previously. I also attempted a thistle which I thought was not too bad, even if I do say so myself!

ThistleWeek 1

The next class was a couple of weeks later & as some people who were not able to attend the first had come along, it meant a lot of what I had learned in the first class was repeated. It actually didn’t bother me as it was good to get a refresher & there was a new skill to learn – piping a rose design. Of course I jumped straight in & attempted to recreate the rose design. It turns out the trick to this is that the buttercream has to be cold & so my first attempt was a bit of a disaster. After a wee chill in the fridge, I was quite pleased with my second attempt.

Rose first attemptRose!

In this class, we also had edible paints to use. I struggled with these! My only attempt (which I’m too ashamed to show) ended up with a wish-washy dishwater colour looking swallow as the blue food dye I attempted to use was far too think to use. I’ll admit I was struggling with inspiration for decorating ideas that night but it’s amazing how quickly the time passed & it was soon time to take our cupcakes home.

Cupcake

I’ll admit, these classes have given me the bug & I have invested in some new decorating equipment to help practice the skills I learned. The thing I enjoyed about the classes was the laidback atmosphere & also that Sydney aims to have a theme for each class. The next class naturally being for Valentine’s. Bella’s Cakes have classes lined up for the next couple of months & I would encourage anyone who has an interest in baking to check them out!

Nucoco Chocolate Making Class

I’d heard of Nucoco Chocolate before when popping into the Good Spirits company but hadn’t tried any of their products. When I heard via Facebook that they were going to be running chocolate making classes at the store, I figured I would go along & see what it’s all about.

 

          Dark Chocolate & pistachio / Dark Chocolate & rum soaked cranberries (my fav!)

For those who haven’t heard of Nucoco, they are a Scottish company who pride themselves on making good quality chocolate. They have a few products including bars, smash bars(larger slabs, smashed up into bitesized pieces) and drinking chocolate. The mix of flavours are also quite different, including Rum soaked cranberry & tablet.

Walking into the room, each desk had a bowl, spatula, apron & printed book per person on it. At the front, there were a couple of machines along with a LOT of chocolate. Before we got our hands dirty (and they got very dirty!), Jackie told us a bit of background about Nucoco & the chocolate that they make. It was really informative & always a good to get a background into a company. Then the time came for us to get stuck in!
                             
                            Jackie prepping the chocolate

One of the larger machines on the table, we were told, was a chocolate tempering machine. What that roughly translates as is, you can melt chocolate in it without burning it or ruining the colour. We were given the choice of making a slab of chocolate or individual bars – I opted for the bars. After receiving our freshly melted chocolate, it then had to be transferred to the moulds. This was a lot messier than it seemed. After putting  the chocolate into the moulds, you then have to scrape the excess chocolate off and bang the mould to get all of the air bubbles out.

                                
There was an array of toppings for the chocolate bars. The good thing about making the bars was that you could use pretty much all of the toppings on them. However, as the room was a bit cold, one of my sets of bars had started to set so we weren’t sure if the toppings would stick. Jackie gave me a slab to make as well just in case the bars didn’t turn out ok. More chocolate is never a bad thing!
                         

Whilst the bars were cooling in the fridge, Jackie gave us some background into the world of chocolate. We were told about the origins, the different types of cocoa & the different forms it takes before you see it in the bar form you’re probably more used to. 
                                
                          Cocoa beans, cocoa plants, cocoa nibs & cocoa butter
The bars were taken out of the fridge once set & as you can see, they turned out not too bad!
                               

The class overall was a good experience, learning about what you’re making as well as being very hands on. At a bargain of £20 for the introductory class, it was very good value for money! The next class will be on the 9th of February, costing £30 per person or £50 for 2. Even if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, the class would make a good present for any chocoholic!