Ginger Elizabeth’s french desserts

Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, owner of Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, taught two sold-out classes Saturday to more than 70 students on how to prepare "French Desserts from the Orchard."

The classes were held in the L Street Lofts penthouse across the street from Hahn’s store. The students learned how to make four different desserts, all focused on fruits available to the Sacramento region. Hahn said this time of year is always good for fruit desserts, and this year especially.

"This is the best plum season we’ve had in four or five years," she said.

The first dessert was a cherry clafoutis, a cherry and flan-like batter dessert. Infusing vanilla bean into the cream, pitting cherries, and achieving the right consistency for the dough were just some of the techniques Hahn passed on to her pupils.

"This one’s a very easy recipe," Hahn said. "It’s very hard to mess this one up. I liked doing dough and fruit, it’s so simple and it’s really easy for people to understand and relate with."

Simplicity was a theme for the classes. Hahn wanted to help the students realize that they are capable of making really good desserts without spending hours in the kitchen. "Accentuating" fruit is at the core of all four recipes, she said.

The second dessert was a plum galette. Think of a pie, minus the tin, shaped into a sack. Hahn piled a mixture of plums and sugar onto the center of a circle of dough, and pulled the sides up and over the plums, leaving a slight opening at the top.

"This is the most simple, beautiful thing you’ll ever eat," Hahn said.

Hahn then moved onto a peach tart tatin, the most complicated recipe of the class. She encouraged the students to allow the dessert to bake fully, saying that a lot of American desserts look "blond" when served.

"A lot of us might look at a (French dessert) and think it’s burnt," she said. "It’s not. It’s perfect."

The classes were very interactive. Students asked questions about the right equipment to use and if there were acceptable substitutes for some of the ingredients. They took notes in a folder with all of the recipe sheets.

Hahn reminded the students that she was professionally trained and encouraged them to ask even the simplest questions to make sure she was going over the basics.

The last dessert she demonstrated was an apricot jam. Hahn and her assistant sterilized jars dung the class and showed how you can jar a jam without sealing equipment. The change in pressure from the boiling jam will self-seal the jar if done properly.

Samples of all of the desserts were passed out to the attendees.

Kristel Herrera, 37, is a regular Ginger Elizabeth customer and was impressed with the class.

"It was a lot of fun and informative," she said. "They were fancy kind of desserts that you can go home and make quite easily."

Her favorite recipe was the peach tart.

"I liked it because it has the cream cheese (and) pastry dough," she said. "It’s rustic but fancy at the same time. I’m definitely going to try and make that."

Craig Amazeen, 41, is also a regular customer of Hahn’s and attended his first Ginger Elizabeth class on Saturday.

"It’s a whole different level," he said. "Food with Ginger is not something you eat — it’s something you experience."

He was most impressed with the jam.

"If you were ever to offer me something apricot I would just say, ‘no,’" he said. "To have that apricot jam and be wowed like that was awesome. You find out that it’s a lot more fun to make the food than to go to the grocery store and buy it."

Hahn has held several classes like this and said the response from the community has been great. She said they have had to turn 70 people away from a class because of its popularity. They won’t be holding larger classes.

"This is the only size I would feel comfortable doing," she said. "It’s very impersonal if it gets larger."

She said that sharing her passions with people in the region has been rewarding.

"There are people that don’t cook at all and they want to learn how to do these things," she said. "Some people feel lost in the kitchen. If you don’t grow up in a household where they cooked a lot, you’re probably not going to pick up on a lot of these skills."

Hahn will be holding more classes in October and November, which you can read about here.

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