What? Make Puff Pastry from Scratch? It's Easier Than You Think

Make your own puff pastry—then transform it into this stunning Brie en Croute.

Greetings, mes amis. Today, I’m really happy to host a guest post from Beeta Hashempour, a charming SoCal baker who has recently rolled out some French baking classes via video. In this compelling story, she talks about her “a-ha” moment when she first discovered la difference between American and French breads … and how she turned this newfound love into a career. Best of all, she’s offering everyone a free video tutorial on how to make beautiful puff pastry, from scratch. Check it out.

Beeta Hashempour, baking instructor extraordinaire

My French-Bread Epiphany
by Beeta Hashempour

When people ask me how I’ve found my way into the culinary arts and teaching French bread and pastry classes, I tell them about my first trip to Paris.

Growing up, I had never been a real Francophile. Sure, I enjoyed a good croissant, French fashion, and hoped to see the Eiffel Tower one day, but that was the extent of my knowledge and passion for France. If anything, as someone who grew up in Southern California, I was more acquainted with the Mexican culture than French. It wasn’t until college, when my best friend decided to study abroad in Paris, that I prioritized France on my bucket list and actually booked a ticket to the City of Lights.

On my first morning in the city, I had decided to take a stroll in search of some coffee and breakfast. I passed by a man carrying 3 or 4 baguettes in his arms, and thought to myself, “Jeeze, that’s a whole lot of baguettes!” Back home in the States, I was not accustomed to buying French bread that often. The bread back home was nothing special, so you wouldn’t have found me eagerly carrying home more than 1 loaf or baguette like this man in Paris had.

I decided to continue walking in the direction the man had just come from until I stumbled upon a bakery. As I stepped into the quaint and cozy boulangerie, I immediately felt my senses invaded by the delicious scent of yeast and butter. It was positively intoxicating. I had a pretty good feeling that I was about to have a life-changing experience. If nothing else, I would forever remember that bakery for the heavenly aroma that had enveloped my senses.

I decided to order a croissant for breakfast and a baguette to-go. The croissant was pure perfection. The perfectly golden flakes were already falling off the croissant as the cashier slipped one into a paper bag and handed it over to me. After one buttery taste, I quickly realized that this truly French croissant put all the coffee shop ones back home to shame.

Simply irresistible. And accessible, thanks to Beeta’s cooking classes.

Later that day, as I sat around my friend’s dining table for lunch, I cut into the baguette I had brought home for us. I literally found myself having an a-ha moment as I ate the bread. So this is what real bread tastes like!

The baguette wasn’t just good; it was excellent in every meaning of the word. My friend and I easily polished off that baguette with our meal, and I suddenly realized exactly why that passerby with the arm full of baguettes was so eager to take home more than one.

Coming back home to California, I felt like I’d been changed. My eyes had been opened and I could never look at bread and pastries the same way. The selection at my local markets and coffee shops just seemed so disappointing after having experienced the real deal.

So that’s when I decided that making my own bread and pastries was the next best thing after enjoying them in Paris. I started buying staple French cookbooks from Jacques Pepin, Le Cordon Bleu, and Julia Child, trying my hand at a variety of recipes. I practiced the recipes over and over until I was able to perfect them. Since then, I’ve been making my own crusty baguettes and flaky croissants at home, sharing my homemade creations with family and friends.

The positive feedback from my loved ones was not just great to hear, but inspiring as well. People were constantly asking me for my recipes. I’d hear, “How do you make your croissants so flaky?” or “How did you get this loaf of brioche so fluffy?”

I realized that I wasn’t the only one who loved a really good loaf of French bread or tantalizing pastry, so I decided I would host classes teaching others exactly how they can create French staples at home. I began enrolling in bread and pastry classes at home and abroad when I was visiting France, trying to learn what routines and formats worked best for instructing classes and what students enjoyed the most. One day, I finally felt enough confidence to host a French bread and pastry class in my own kitchen, and I’ve been happily instructing ever since!

I love working with students, but more than that, I love showing just how gratifying it can be to create your own homemade baked goods. There’s nothing like a freshly baked pastry to go alongside your morning cup of coffee or tea, and I love when my students not only realize that but feel capable enough to make it happen. That said, I suggest you don’t just take my word for it, but instead go ahead and try your own hand at homemade pastry.

Right now, I’m hosting a completely free puff pastry challenge where I will show you how to make your own homemade puff pastry in less than 10 minutes. The lesson provides exclusive content from my master French bread and pastry course, including step-by-step instructions and video so you can see exactly how easy it is to make your own pastry at home!

Learn more about the challenge here.






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Brussels Sprouts, Prosciutto, and Manchego Salad

Here’s the recipe for the best brussels sprouts salad, including how to keep the vibrant-green color of this veggie intact.

The best Brussels sprouts salad I’ve ever tasted comes via Chef Lynn Pritchard of Table 128 Bistro + Bar in Des Moines, Iowa. And I snagged the recipe.

As many of you know, when I’m not in France, I’m in the great state of Iowa, where I’ve been writing about food for 20 years, for both local and national publications. One of my favorite assignments is covering the ever-advancing Des Moines dining scene for dsm magazine.

A while back, I started a new feature called “I Snagged the Recipe,” in which I sweet-talk our best local chefs into sharing one of their signature recipes with me. I absolutely insist on going into their kitchen with them and watching them make it. Tips and tricks that come naturally to them are the type of things they’ll omit when they just bang out a recipe’s ingredients and method (which, by the way, most of them hate to do). I watch and I ask questions.

One of my absolute favorite recipes of all time is this Brussels Sprouts, Prosciutto, and Manchego salad, by one of our city’s top chefs, Lynn Pritchard of Table 128. It’s a fabulous fall recipe–hearty and interesting, yet super-fresh, because we’re smack-dab in the middle of the harvest, after all.

PS: At dinner, Chef Pritchard serves this with a fried or poached egg on top as a first course. For me, that would constitute a light supper.


Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 12 ounces Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, wilted outer leaves removed, and cut into quarters (about 3 cups)
  • ¼ cup Marcona almonds
  • ¼ cup diced La Quercia prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Champagne vinaigrette (see recipe, step 3)
  • Shaved Manchego cheese
  1. In a large saucepan bring 2 to 3 quarts salted water to boiling. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook about 2½ minutes or until tender-crisp. Immediately plunge into an ice-water bath. Let stand until Brussels sprouts are cool. Drain well.
  2. In a large bowl, combine Brussels sprouts, almonds, prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the sea salt. Stir in the vinaigrette until combined. To serve, arrange salad on 4 serving plates; top each with shaved manchego.
  3. Champagne Vinaigrette:
  4. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons grapeseed or sunflower oil,
  5. tablespoon champagne vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk to combine.

Table 128 chef-owner Lynn Pritchard shared these tips:

• The better the Brussels sprouts, the better the salad. Table 128 buys from local producers during the growing season
• Salt the cooking water well. “It should be salty like the sea,” Pritchard advises
• Use plenty of water and don’t overcrowd the pan—the water should return to boil quickly after adding the Brussels sprouts. Keep in mind the “boil-and-shock” method (that is, the quick cooking/quick cooling technique) is the key to the bright green color of the salad
• “Drain the Brussels sprouts aggressively,” Pritchard emphasizes. “They want to hold on to moisture.
• Do not be tempted to use extra-virgin olive oil. “It will add too much of its own flavor to the dish,” says Pritchard. A neutral oil, such as grapeseed or sunflower, will let the other ingredients star.





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Time for Late-Summer French Salad Recipes

French Corn and Radish Salad Recipe

French Corn and Radish Salad Recipe

Recipes for easy French Summer Salads! Head to your city’s best market, come home, and make one of these great fresh French salads recipes. I’ve provided either the recipe itself or links with each so you can make them today.

1. French Corn and Radish Salad Recipe

The French don’t eat sweet corn-on-the-cob with the love and gusto that we do, but they do enjoy sweet corn now and then. Here it is in a French Corn and Radish Salad–perfect for the season.

Serves 4.

3 fresh ears corn
1 garlic clove
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon mustard
3 dashes hot red pepper sauce
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups torn fresh baby lettuces, including some spicy greens such as frisée and arugula
3/4 cup sliced radishes, preferably mild-flavored radishes
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped pitted imported black olives, such as Niçoise or Kalamata
1/4 cup snipped fines herbes, or 1/4 cup snipped parsley and chives and 1 teaspoon crushed dried tarragon.

1. Place corn in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil; cover. Turn off the burner and let corn cook in the hot water for 10 minutes. Prepare a large bowl of ice water for cooling cooked corn.

2. While corn is cooking, make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl mash the garlic clove and the salt and pepper to taste with the back of a spoon. Whisk in the vinegar and stir until salt is dissolved. Whisk in the mustard and pepper sauce, then whisk in the olive oil until incorporated. Set vinaigrette aside.

3. Plunge cooked corn into the ice water, allowing it to stand for 2 to 3 minutes or until kernels are cool. Remove ears from water, pat them dry, and scrape kernels off the cobs using a sharp knife.

4. In a medium bowl, toss the lettuces, radishes, sweet pepper, olives, herbs, and corn. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss again to serve.

Shave prep time off this easy French salad recipe by purchasing pre-cooked beets in the produce aisle of the supermarket. Photo by Richard Swearinger.

Shave prep time off this easy French salad recipe by purchasing pre-cooked beets in the produce aisle of the supermarket. Photo by Richard Swearinger.

2. French Roasted Beet Salad Recipe

Makes 4 servings.

1 1/2 pounds beets (4 to 5 medium)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons walnut or olive oil
1 cup arugula, baby greens or small, tender lettuces
1/2 cup thin slices purple onion (optional)
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
Snipped fresh chives (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Trim stems and roots from beets; peel beets. Cut beets into 1-inch pieces and place in a 13×9-inch baking pan. Toss with the olive oil; spread in pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove foil and roast for 10 to 15 minutes more or until beets are tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. In a serving bowl, whisk together garlic, salt and pepper, mustard, vinegar, and oil. Add warm beets and, if desired, sliced purple onion; toss to coat. Allow to cool to room temperature (about 20 minutes). Add baby greens; toss again. Sprinkle with blue cheese and, if you like, snipped fresh chives to serve.

3. French Chèvre Salad with Peaches, Pine Nuts, and Arugula

Goat cheese, peaches, and arugula star in this easy French Chevre salad. Photo courtesy of Goat Cheeses of France.

Goat cheese, peaches, and arugula star in this easy French Chevre salad. Photo courtesy of Goat Cheeses of France.

It’s peach (and nectarine!) season–and both can be used in this lovely salad. Just be sure to find the freshest-best arugula you can find.

The recipe and photo are courtesy of the Goat Cheeses of France. It stars a bloomy-rind style of goat cheese, sometimes referred to as Goat Cheese Camembert or Goat Cheese Brie. You can also use French goat brique, goat chabichou or another aged goat cheese.

Serves 4.

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 ounces arugula
2 peaches, peeled and sliced or 2 nectarines, sliced
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon thinly sliced red onion
3 1/2 ounces French goat camembert or brie

In a large bowl, add vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, whisking to combine. Add arugula, tossing to coat greens with dressing. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Add peaches, pine nuts, and onion, tossing again to combine. Divide onto 4 plates. Divide the cheese into four quarters. Slice each quarter of cheese, and place on top of each salad serving.

4. Swiss Chard Salad with Pistachios, Apples, and Roquefort

An unexpected delight for a French lunch. Photo by Richard Swearinger

Swiss Chard Salad: An unexpected delight for a French lunch. Photo by Richard Swearinger

Chard is totally in season right now at the farmers market. Take advantage.

FAQ: What does Swiss Chard taste like? Will I like it?

Answer: Do you like beets? Do you like spinach? If so, you’ll love Swiss Chard–the stems taste beet-like, while the leaves taste spinach-like, but with a depth of flavor all its own. Try it in this recipe, with some of those local apples that are just now making their way into the market.

FAQ: What do the French call Swiss Chard?

Answer: They call these lovely leaves blettes.

Here’s the link to the recipe for French Swiss Chard Salad.

One of France’s favorite ways with Swiss Chard is in a Tourte de Blettes (Swiss Chard Pie). See my recipe for Tourte de Blettes on my friend Richard Nahem’s site, EyePreferParis.com.

5. French Tomato and Green Bean Salad

Yes! This is even better with cute little haricot-verts. But you also can't go wrong with some great locally grown green beans.

Yes! This is even better with cute little haricot-verts. But you also can’t go wrong with some great locally grown green beans.

I recently posted five easy French recipes for tomatoes, and judging from the number of times that this easy French salad recipe was pinned, I think this was the winner!

6. French Green Bean Salad Recipe with Caprese

French Green Bean Salad Recipe with Caprese (or, if you flavor it with French herbs, call it Caprice!)

French Green Bean Salad Recipe with Caprese (or, if you flavor it with French herbs, call it Caprice!)

At first glance, this is similar to #5, but while #5 is perfect side to a grilled or roasted meat, the Caprese could make salad No. 6 into a main dish. Simply add some bread and maybe cured meats, and call it dinner.

For four servings:

1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped green onions
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the green beans in boiling salted water for 5 to 10 minutes or until barely tender. Drain well, then sauté the beans in 2 tablespoons olive oil with the garlic and green onions until crisp tender. Serve with Caprese salad, and season all to taste.

Note: You probably don’t need a recipe for Caprese salad, but allow me to remind you that it’s all about the best ingredients you can find. Layer heirloom tomatoes withfresh mozzarella. Drizzle with a great olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh herbs (basil is traditional, though I also enjoy any fines herbes (tarragon, parsley, chives) on this as well).

Enjoy the late-summer bounty!

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