The French have managed to master a few areas, and the art of pâtisserie is surely one. It is no surprise that Texan Molly J. Wilkinson went all the way to Le Cordon Bleu (the culinary church of Paris) to learn the craft. She, however, has personalized it with her own brand of individual understanding, liveliness, and a certain joie de vivre.
So often, French cooking shows can seem somewhat strict and robotic, at least when dealing with the old guard. But Molly is a little bit different. For one, she is American. Two, she is always happy and always smiling. Her methods allow viewers to break down complicated recipes and achieve yummy results while still having fun.
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Confession: I’m a massive Julia Child fan, but I don’t own any of her cookbooks! Why? Well I feel like it’s going to be such a special purchase for me that I want to find and buy a really special copy from a used bookstore. So every one I go into, I take a peek in the cooking section wondering if today is the day ❤️❤️ Photo by @claireephotos ❤️
Before the pandemic, Wilkinson used to teach in-person classes on macarons, tarte au citron, etc., at her apartment outside of Paris. During the lockdown, the pastry chef scored all the butter and eggs in Versailles and set off to teach $25 Zoom classes. These classes feature up to 50 participants, some cooking along with the baker, and others taking notes. But it’s not only about the baking; it’s about the energy of camaraderie, of creating a sweet moment in confusing times. “[The classes] are a little distraction and respite from the craziness of the world right now,” Wilkinson says.
Wilkinson even features free bake-alongs on her Instagram, where she will list ingredients and utensils for the one-hour live baking tutorials. “I love that I’ve been able to connect with more people by offering them online,” Wilkinson adds. “The classes offer a little peek into life in France with views out the window, French music, and creaky parquet floors.” And you might even be lucky enough to have a cameo of her lovely dog Peanut, who absolutely adores the smell of pastry in the apartment.
“The baker from Mexico!” Molly exclaimed when I reached out to talk with her, with a whiff of Southern hospitality in her easy familiarity. She tells me that she had a job in marketing in Texas when she decided to pack her life up and move to France in 2013. “My earliest memories are of baking with my mom and memorizing recipes during summer vacations,” Wilkinson recalls. What followed was a story of love: for pastry, for the country, and for a man, of course.
Her classes started as a fun way to share her skills and show that macarons are really not that hard to make. (Though one of her students Jamie Beck argues the opposite.) It felt like inviting family and friends to her home for a group activity that gathered together all ages and people. When the COVID-19 lockdown began in France, allotting civilians each only one hour of outdoor time, Molly continued baking, and began to amass something of a cult following.
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This week was the start of Virtual Classes on Zoom with a run of private classes. After several – “hey Francois!! Join my zoom chat!” calls from across the room to test out settings and make sure everything was right, it was time and I couldn’t have been more thrilled with this sudden turn in my business. Taking the classes to where they are live and virtual has been incredible! It’s always so much fun connecting with all of you on Instagram but there’s something truly special about seeing people’s faces or hearing their voices, and just simply baking together especially at this time. Someone in the yesterday’s class said it so well, “Here we are talking and laughing away with strangers and it couldn’t be cooler!” And so.. I’ve made some adjustments… based on the private classes this past week and your feedback (you all are truly the most supportive and incredible baking community!). The virtual classes will pretty much all be Bake Alongs!! If you’ve already signed up, then you’ll receive an email with the ingredients and equipment well in advance. These are now marked on the website too. Of course, it’s absolutely up to you though, take to your kitchen and bake live with me, or watch and bake later – either way, you’ll be creating something delicious, picking up lots of tips, and trying something new. All bakers that are signed up will be invited to a private Facebook group to share your creations, ask questions, and connect with your fellow bakers! The first class is on Thursday … French Macarons..! And I couldn’t be more excited! You can book a class at MollyJWilk.com ❤️ Can’t wait to see all of you 🙂
Now her attention has been taken by a new challenge. Molly is writing a culinary book called “French Pastry Made Simple,” to launch in Spring 2021, as the chef continues perfecting new French recipes for an international audience.