Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.


Champagne and Choux

School of Pastry and Chef Amanda’s lemon meringue eclair

Chef Amanda Perez of The White Apron Pastry Co. in Naramata is a pastry sorceress. She used her magic to teach 20 home cooks of varying skill how to make four different choux pastry creations with fillings and toppings with voluptous names: Pate a choux, vanilla, raspberry and chocolate chantilly cream, chocolate ganache glaze, lemon curd (OK, not sexy but tastes pretty zippy), Swiss meringue and chocolate creme chibout.


The cooking class series was organized under the auspices of the blog and this class was a sweet success participants tell me because of Chef Amanda’s knowledge, organization, and enthusiasm, the fun group of participants and the tasty bubbles from Bella Wines in Naramata.

Charlie goes a bit off piste with her take on the St. Honore.

Chef Amanda is happy to share with all you chibouts three of the recipes from the class that miraculously combine to make lemon meringue eclairs.

Pâte à choux

Pâte à choux, or choux paste, is a paste made of flour, water, butter, and eggs — it’s slightly thicker than a batter, but not quite as thick as a dough. It’s pronounced “pat a shoe”. “Pâte” means paste and “choux” means cabbage — the name comes from the resemblance to little cabbages when the puffs come out of the oven.


The paste is thick enough that it can be scooped or piped into almost any shape you can think of, from puffs to éclair shells to thin straws. It contains no yeast or other leavening; instead, as the liquids in the paste evaporate in the oven, they puff up the pastry, creating a hard outer shell and a nearly hollow interior perfect for piping in creamy bursts of flavour.

The goal, according to Chef Amanda, is a light, crispy delicious pastry.


  • Water  500 ml
  • Butter  225 g
  • Salt       5 g
  • Bread flour  275 g
  • Large eggs  9


Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit a baking sheet. Fit a star-shapped piping tip into a disposable piping bag. Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium pot. Once boiling add the flour all at once and stir vigorously to remove all the lumps. The goal here is to cook some of the starch out and remove a good amount of the moisture through steam so the dough won’t result in a soggy pastry. Keep stirring until the paste comes away from the sides of the pot and there is a bit of a film on the pot’s bottom.

Transfer the paste to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat for about 30 seconds or so to release more moisture. (Don’t skip this first step and add the eggs too early or they will scramble in the hot mixture.)

Add the eggs one by one until the paste comes together smoothly.

Fill a pastry bag with the paste and begin by piping four small dots of choux paste on the corners of your baking sheet under the parchment paper to adhere your paper to the tray.

Using the star-shapped piping tip, pipe 4-inch lines of dough onto your parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Wet down a finger in a bowl of water and smooth out the end tip once piped. (Amanda tells us that the pastry tip makes lines that bring more space for the eclairs to rise and open. If you don’t have a star tip…use a fork to make the lines.)

Bake in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool on a rack while making your lemon curd and Swiss meringue.



Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is similar to pie filling but the texture is smoother and the flavor more intense. Pie filling is thickened with flour or cornstarch while lemon curd uses egg yolks and natural pectin in the zest and juice of the lemon. The secret to the smooth texture in lemon curd is butter unlike the commercial pie fillings.

Chef Amanda gift to us – her super secret lemon curd recipe.



  • Lemon juice & zest   500 ml (about 9 lemons)
  • Large eggs   6
  • Large egg yolks   12
  • Sugar 400 g
  • Butter (cold)  340 g


Combine the lemon juice & zest, eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a bain marie (a non-reactive metal bowl set on top of a pot of gently boiling water or double boiler). Cook until thick and foamy. Remove from heat and add the butter in chunks stirring well until all the butter is incorporated. Strain the curd and chill well before use either over an ice bath or in the fridge.

Locked and loaded…ready for filling.
Champagne doesn’t hurt or more precisely, sparkling rose Orchard House Gamay from Bella Wines in Naramata.

Swiss Meringue


  • Egg white to sugar ratio by weight 1:2


Whisk over bain marie (double boiler) until sugar is dissolved. Whisk on high with the whisk attachment in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form.

Some assembly required

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Using a wooden skewer, poke a hole near each end of the top of the eclair.

Fill a pastry bag with a round tip with lemon curd and squeeze the curd into both holes in the eclair moving the bag around to fill as much of the hollow choux pastry eclair as possible. Wipe off any excess on the top of the eclair.

Fire up the torch!

Using a star tip pipe overlapping dollops of the Swiss meringue onto the filled eclairs. Use a kitchen torch to give the meringue its signature caramelized topping.


Some suggested resources from Chef Amanda

Local (Penticton)
Bulk Barn – cake boxes and boards, gel food colourings, bulk Callebaut chocolate,
Wholesale Club – plastic deli cups, large bags of flour and sugar

Gourmet Warehouse – pastry tools and molds galore, some specialty ingredients
Williams Sonoma  offset spatulas, Chicago Metallic brand good quality baking sheets, Silpats, the blowtorch that I use
Ming Wo — only the Chinatown location (Vancouver restauranteur secret – the Chinatown Ming Wo has every tool and gadget that a professional chef could need)

Online – Canada’s leading online resource for specialty pastry and decorating tools. – the most complete tool catalog for pastry chefs. Every specialty product and tool imaginable can be found here! – a great Canadian website for Valrhona and Cacao Barry chocolate, Neilsen Massey extracts, and also quite a good selection of tools.

Five great things you can learn from a baking class

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1. Mise en place is a MUST

Mise en place, a French culinary term which means “setting your ingredients in place prior to cooking”. Even before the mise en place, the first task is to read the recipe from start to finish…twice. At our Naramata-Blend cooking class Chef Dana went over the recipes with us explaining terms, discussing ingredients and explaining why the steps are necessary and even some of the chemistry and history behind what we are doing. At home, the mise en place step helps make sure you have all the ingredients and that they are carefully weighed before beginning.

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2. Know your ingredients

It sounds obvious but how often do we take time to really know our ingredients? Chef Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering was passionate and knowledgable about the ingredients we were using, which was very inspiring. She suggested fresh yeast as apposed to dry, organic high-fat content butter, farm fresh eggs, Dutch cocoa powder… It seems like a pretty basic concept but your finished product is made up of your ingredients. Try using margarine instead of butter in a brioche and you will soon learn about the importance of high quality ingredients. It’s like adding vinegar to milk to create a buttermilk substitute…it really is not anywhere near the creamy buttermilk flavour you are really after. Ask your instructor where they source their ingredients.



3. Learn what tools you need and how to use them

A cooking class is the perfect time to try out new tools – dough scrapers, stand mixers, food processors, different types of knives, pastry bags and tips, molds and pans, silplats, zesters, scales, French rolling pins and on it goes. You can then go right to the nearest kitchen store and keep your local economy rolling. Instructors will also give you tips about which gizmos and gadgets you really need, which are nice to have and which will gather dust. I need a bigger kitchen… six brioche molds now added to the collection.

IMG_1540.JPG4. Stretch yourself

A baking class is the perfect opportunity to try something you have been too intimidated to try at home. Step-by-step instructions, hands-on practice and help from the Chef will give you the confidence to try more complicated recipes at home. I’m hoping to finally get some help with my sad piping skills at the eclairs and profiteroles class in February.

5. Revel in the age-old joy of cooking together

There is nothing like a baking class to bring a room of people together. As the class progresses notice how the chatter becomes louder and how often you hear people laughing. Maybe it’s because you show up in a room that has the recipe and all the ingredients on hand and organized, the room warms up and starts to smell like a bakery  and you leave before the dishes are done.


FullSizeRender 2.jpgIMG_3567.GIFThe next Naramata-Blend cooking class is all about choux pastry and how this light and airy pastry can be turned into a vessel to hold creamy fillings before being dipped in chocolate. Amanda Perez of The White Apron will be teaching us how to make fancy eclairs and profiteroles at the February 11 class just in time for Valentine’s Day. We will drink some bubbly from Bella Wines and chat, laugh and leave the kitchen a big mess.

Come and join us if you live in the area. Tickets are available through eventbrite for the Saturday afternoon class.


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