Though traveling out of the country is not an easy feat these days, the Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) is bringing the French pastry experience to kitchens throughout the county. The library’s Bake-Along program gives local families the opportunity to make pastries alongside pastry chef Molly Wilkinson.
“While we have hosted many virtual programs since the pandemic began, this particular series is the first bake-along program and one of our first international programs,” said Anne Arundel County Public Library marketing and communications manager Christine Feldmann.
Wilkinson is originally from Dallas, Texas, but she moved to France to study pastry at Le Cordon Bleu, a prestigious culinary and hospitality school located in Paris, France. Wilkinson has worked as a pastry chef at many locations in the United States as well as France. Currently, she teaches pastry out of her apartment in Versailles, France.
“So many of us are taking on new cooking/baking challenges this year, and this was a great way for the library to support that,” said Feldmann. “It’s also just a lot of fun to bake together – even virtually, and to get a little taste of France when we’re unable to travel.”
AACPL virtual services manager Stephanie Petruso heard about Wilkinson through a podcast and followed her on Instagram. Later, she realized these classes were perfect for AACPL.
“Stephanie saw that Molly Wilkinson did a class for another library, which gave her the idea to ask her to do some classes for us,” said Feldmann. “Stephanie reached out to her via her website and she was very receptive.”
During the class, the students will be given a recipe in addition to following Wilkinson. The October 12 session, which was geared toward children, made Moelleux au Chocolat or chocolate lava cake. The November 14 class, which is for teenagers and adults, will make Tarte Tatin, a pastry in which the fruit is caramelized in butter and sugar before being baked. Wilkinson teaches the participants by breaking down recipes and offering helpful tips and tricks along the way. Though AACPL has hosted baking events at library locations before, the virtual format gives participants the opportunity to engage themselves in the lesson.
“In the past, we have offered in-person cooking demonstrations from chefs and restaurateurs, as we have no kitchens in our libraries for hands-on food programs,” said Feldmann.
Participants of the October session spoke highly of the hands-on experience.
“There were lots of delightful social media posts showing happy kids baking at home,” said Feldmann. “They were so much fun to see.”
AACPL has offered a variety of virtual, engaging, skill-building activities for the entire family. These events are made possible by the Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation, which supports all 16 branches of the AACPL and raises funds to enrich and enhance the lives of county residents.
“In these times of isolation, the library provides a safe, fun and educational outlet for kids,” said Feldmann. “Kids can connect with others who share common interests, learn new skills and be exposed to the world around them in a safe way.”
The next session will occur via Zoom on November 14 from 10:30am to 12:30pm. Registration opened on October 31 and will remain open until November 14 or until all 60 slots have been filled. This class is recommended for teenagers and adults. While you must be registered to receive the Zoom link, you can have as many bakers in your kitchen as you’d like. To register, visit www.aacpl.net. More information about Molly Wilkinson can be found on her Instagram page at www.instagram.com/mollyjwilk.