Laura Hurter is a French pastry chef from Provence who has been living in Munich for the past six years. She runs French pastry classes (in both English and German!) across the city – ranging from fun, laid back parent-child baking afternoons, to focused choux pastry classes, brioche workshops and make-your-own macarons evenings.
I had the chance to speak to her about her passion and talent, and find out what being a pastry chef entails, and what you can expect from a class given by a professional.
Tell us a little about your background…
“I come from Provence, France. People often ask me if I miss my home region, but after six years of being here, I feel pretty lucky and find myself quite happy here. I had just got a work & travel visa for Canada and was preparing to head to Vancouver when I met my husband in early 2013. He was about to move to Germany. For me that was a whole new plan which I would never ever have thought of, but I’ve always liked the idea that you have to embrace the surprises that come along in your life. It’s not British Columbia but it suits me very well as I love the outdoors and the mountains.
“I had the opportunity to attend a public international high-school near Aix-en-Provence, where I acquired a good level of English – I’m still thankful for this. After graduating, I started working in consultancy in Paris. The job matched the goals I had set myself as a student, but I found myself unsatisfied and worried about the future.
“I soon considered doing something in the field of food/cooking/baking, but it took a while. I took the plunge and signed up to train as a chef. I went back to Lyon, then moved to Chamonix (where I met my husband, who was on holiday there), spent time in the Netherlands, then moved to Munich. At that stage, I was working as a pastry chef at the Platzl Hotel. Then I moved to Paris, and worked at Meilleur Ouvrier de France Laurent Duchêne. I’ll be forever grateful for that experience.”
What happened next?
“I moved back to Munich, and now I am freelance, teaching pastry classes in English, German & French in different locations in Munich.”
And what can we learn from you?
“My focus is mainly French pastry – éclairs, macarons, tartelettes, opera, brioches, croissants, petits gâteaux… – but further than that, I like to bring the emphasis on the foods we’re using when baking. I have for instance a “Küchenkräuter in der Pâtisserie” (herbs used in pâtisserie) workshop where we learn how to use herbs when baking. The workshop starts with a theoretical introduction, and then we prepare different recipes, highlighting why we chose each method.
In July I’m also giving a workshop on pavlova alongside the owners of ice cream shop True & 12, which is a good opportunity to 1) use a plentiful of egg whites that always come as a by-product when I’m baking, 2) demonstrate True & 12’s philosophy and artisan methods to produce ice cream.”
What are your favourite pastries?
“Such a hard question! When it comes to tasting, I love anything with chocolate (as long as it tastes like chocolate…). Among French pastries, I definitely love the softness of choux pastry (so chocolate éclairs would be among my favourite), and the crispness of puff pastry – millefeuilles and alike. Also, I appreciate brioches & croissants much more since living abroad, as it is so difficult to find good viennoiseries here. So I’ve been baking more yeast dough products lately, and find myself enjoying that a lot. I just can’t help being fascinated by the kneading and proofing process, and I find it fun to try out different shapes. I also like baking “entremets cakes”, what the Germans call “Torten”, as I think it’s one of the most creative parts of pastry art – combining taste, textures and aesthetics…”
Now for practicalities – how much do the workshops cost?
“As I rent the locations, and they all have different fees, the prices of the workshops vary. There’s a huge gap between the classes that I teach at the MVHS, as these are subsidised, and the classes take place with 14 participants, and the rest of the classes, for which prices range between €100 and €150. So far I’ve always considered it important not to compromise on anything, and take as much time as is needed to show and explain professional methods.”
Find out more about upcoming events on Laura’s Facebook page – I am particularly interested in joining for the ice cream pavlova afternoon! The next workshop planned is a very reasonably priced Volkshochschule course on choux pastry – perfect for trying out before you splash the cash on a more intense, individually-tailored class.