Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'll bake my cakes and eat them, too

So I totally forgot to post pictures of the entremets that I made two weeks ago! They're basically like layered cakes:

Opera - the traditional favorite with layers of coffee-soaked cake, chocolate ganache, and coffee buttercream... time consuming and difficult yet sophisticated

Feuille d'Automne - thick chocolate mousse layer between cooked meringue discs, covered in and decorated with chocolate leaves (above pic - how to make the leaves / below pic - how the leaves are arranged)...

... probably one of my favorites that week

Succes - praline buttercream sandwiched between two almond biscuits... simple and chewy

Forêt noire - chocolate genoise between layers of chocolate mousse and whipped cream, dotted throughout with Griottine cherries (cherries macerated in Kirsch)... impressive, but not my favorite

three of the five final pieces together (l-r: feuille d'automne, succes, forêt noire)

Giverny - pistachio bavarois and raspberry mousse layered deliciousness surrounded by a wall of ladyfingers... a perfect summer delight

sampler dessert for the weekend.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good Company, Good Food

wow it's been awhile! Last week was definitely not long enough. One of my closest friends from college came to visit for a week (too short)! Unfortunately her spring break coincided with one of the busiest weeks of school... at least she spent her junior year abroad here so exploring Paris and getting around wasn't a problem for her :). Luckily (and for reasons unknown), I didn't start class on Friday until the afternoon, so we got a chance to catch up once she arrived in the morning. Saturday was a Journée Porte Ouverte - JPO (open house) for the public to come and see what we all do, so I had class again that morning. We didn't do much but make recipes while the public would stream through and ooo et ahhh. After a delicious lunch at one of the many crèperies concentrated on rue du Montparnasse, we stopped by school to check out the rest of the JPO. It was great to check out the other métiers that the school offers (leather, furniture making, upholstery, etc).

That afternoon we decided to benefit from the 5th annual
Jour du Macaron. We joined the crowds and stopped by one of the renowned Pierre Hermé stores to get 3 macarons for "free," (donations encouraged). The 40 min. line passed quickly as we spent most of the time choosing among the 25 various flavors (including ones like jasmine, strawberry/wasabi, and chocolate/foie gras). We narrowed it down to: Fragola (strawberry and balsamic vinegar), Éden (peach, apricot, and saffron), Mosaïc (pistachio and cherry), Marron & Thé Vert Matcha (chestnut and green tea), and Infiniment Caramel (caramel with salted butter)... I forget the 6th one. The fragola tasted like a jelly sandwich, while the éden was just as bizarre as it sounds. Maybe I need to really try saffron by itself and appreciate the spice? The mosaïc was ok and the marron one wasn't my favorite... but the caramel was delicious!

Sunday was a French family day -- we had lunch with my friend's former host family and from there we went to my English conversation class, where I teach 2 young French girls English once a week. The lunch was really fun and although I didn't understand all of what they were saying, it was very convivial and lively. We had confit de canard (duck) which was amaaazing. Conversation never ceased, especially with the parents, their two sons, and the American student currently living with them. After the English convo class, we headed to the lively Jewish quarter of Le Marais where we indulged in falafels!

Montmartre at night

While I had class during the day (when we worked on our Moka, Roulade, and Mont Blanc), my friend and I hung out at night, exploring Montmartre and making crèpes at home. Sadly, her last day was Wednesday, the same day I had class from 8am to 11pm. We had a final lunch at a nearby café during my extended lunch break before I returned to the kitchen to prep for restaurant service that night.

Pre-desserts (how amazing is that: mini dessert before actual dessert)!

Restaurant service consisted of a pre-dessert of either a mini mont blanc (meringue base filled with whipped cream, eglantine paste, and topped with a mess of chestnut cream) or a tapi
oca/pineapple cleanser. It was followed by a choice of spice cake with citrus segments or a layered square of nuts, red berry confit, and fromage blanc/white chocolate (I forget the French name and the English name just sounds weird). The petits fours for the coffee consisted of black/white sablée cookies, date crumble squares, and chocolats de cannelle/anis (cinnamon & anis). It was a long night of standing around, as we had the dessert courses ready before the customers even started dinner... at least we got to finish our roulades during the service...

spice cake with citrus segments and citrus gelatin

roulade with a vanilla bavarois and raspberries inside

We had an 9-hr turnaround time, from after restaurant service to the time we had to be in labo again the next morning. We spent the morning finishing and decorating our moka cakes... not necessarily the best "activity" to follow up a sleepless night... definitely need to practice this before our final exam! We also started to make marzipan flowers in the afternoon...

the infamous Moka cake: layers of coffee genoise, spiked with a coffee syrup sandwiched enrobed in coffee buttercream

Friday was an easier day, as we made and assembled an experimental Irish dessert that chef needed to do for the school. There was a base of a biscuit, soaked in coffee syrup. Then we spread a
crème brulée mousse on top (we actually got to brûler the sugar on top!), followed by coffee bavarois spiked with some whiskey... looked pretty good! Our marzipan flowers got a simple spray of color before we headed off to Oenologie, where we tried Sancerre (white), Rully (white), and Bourgogne (Burgundy).

burning the sugar on top of the crème brulée before we mashed it up and folded it into whipped cream = crème brulée mousse!

my marzipan flowers

Today for Sunday brunch a few of us went out to Angelina, famous for their mont blanc and thick chocolat chaud. We had an amazing spread of hot chocolate, omelettes/quiche, followed by some viennoiseries (croissants and bready items), and then an actual dessert.

half of my omelette angelina, half of a quiche brocoli et fromage, with my deliciously thick chocolat chaud

226 rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cream, Chocolate, Wine, Bread... what else (besides du fromage)?

Can't believe it's already halfway through this week! Quick notes about last week, which was full of pâte à choux:

chocolate éclairs - filled with chocolate pastry cream!

religieuse (chocolat) - essentially a round ball version of an éclair

Paris-Brest - a ring of pâte à choux filled with praline cream and covered in sliced almonds. Please note the double layer of cream in the huge mama... yup, that's right, that whole thing is filled with just cream!

Restaurant Service - about once or twice a month, we have restaurant service (lunch or dinner). That basically means that we're in charge of plating the desserts for the school's restaurant. Last week was all about chocolate! Diners had a choice between tarte au chocolat/sorbet au chocolat & fondant au chocolat (molten lava cake with a raspberry filling)/glace à la pistache. We also made little petits fours plates to accompany the "obligatory" café after lunch: truffes (truffles), tartlette religieuse-style, and all-American brownies (!).

I was chef of the week, which meant that I had to be in charge of calling out the orders that the servers handed in. It wasn't too difficult, save the fact that we had to make quenelles with the respective ice creams and time it just so that they wouldn't melt before the servers came back to retrieve the goods... Well, a few minutes after we finished plating a table of 9's desserts and were eagerly waiting for the kids to deliver them before the ice cream melted (which it already had started to do), a group of them came rushing in with arms full of plated desserts, ice cream soup included. Apparently they had put the plates in the fridge, as to stop the ice cream from melting, but in doing so, they had forgotten that the fondant au chocolat was supposed to be eaten warm... oops! We had to re-plate about 8 desserts, but luckily everything turned out in the end. Restaurant service wasn't as horrible as I thought, considering we had a lot more down time than anticipated... then again, let's see how next week's dinner service goes.

Oenologie (wine class) - we have a handful of wine classes throughout the course that will hopefully teach us how to pair a wine with dessert. Although we'd had an introductory class beforehand, Friday morning was our first dégustation (tasting): Gewürztraminer. I'd had it before when I went to Strasbourg last fall and actually enjoyed it (I'm still "training my palette" when it comes to wines... what better place than France?)! Observe, inhale, swirl, inhale again, and sip, making a mental note of the different "tastes" of the wine as it passes through your mouth and down your throat... and don't forget to somehow suck in some air while the wine's still in your mouth and swirl it around. Who knew it could be so complicated?! Nonetheless it was really interesting, and I learned quite a bit.

Friday afternoon we had boulangerie, where we made baguette de tradition (the traditional way: by hand and with larger holes and a better taste), in addition to specialized breads. I made pain de mie (canapé). It's basically like sandwich bread, using eggs and SO good... thick slices toasted with butter and jam --- mmmm! Unfortunately we were a little too rushed at the end so I didn't get a clear shot.

I should get some sleep now, since after tomorrow, sleep isn't going to be a priority. My dear friend from college is coming to visit me for a whole week. I'm so excited! And the weather's finally starting to warm up -- mid-50s during the day. woowoo!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


When chef told us about Europain in the first week of class, I had no idea what to expect. "A fair for bread and pastries??"

A handful of us took the RER all the way up toward the airport, getting off at "Parc des Expositions." It was the first morning of the fair and so luckily I had registered online beforehand and got to skip past the other enthusiasts. This place was huge: 4 exhibition halls, all taking us about 6 hours to go through, samples and photos included. We started with some delicious gelato and ate our way through chocolates, colorful pastries, confectioneries, and ended the journey with an assortment of bread.

mmm - what a way to start the morning!

a couple of the many displays promoting verrines (little layered desserts in glass cups)

a cute display booth

striped chocolate sticks

another brightly colored display with ribbons, boxes, and tissue paper

multi-colored chocolate dragées

machine that coats candies in chocolate

the flow of chocolate was unbelievable

beautiful chocolate piece

too pretty to eat

free croissants? who can't resist?

fur-lined cases with space bubbles to display the goods... don't know how I feel about that

macarons - all colors of the rainbow and enough to last a lifetime!

tables with samples of bread to enhance potential clients' experiences... and ours as well

one of the most delicious cheese breads that I've ever had... warm, soft, and so cheesy

I left the fair with a couple free baguettes, numerous samples of other bread, magazines for those in the industry (including one called "France Snacking"), two different sized Silpats (cheap!), and a tummy satisfied for the rest of the weekend :)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Puff Pastry + Almond Cream or Pastry Cream = divine

I've never eaten so much bread & puff pastry in such a concentrated time period. I guess you can say that Thursday was the commencement of the 3-day Downhill Diet :)! That day, we had a taste testing of our most recent creations:

- Jalousie (long band): almond cream surrounded by puff pastry. You can also add fruits inside... none for me though -- I already had enough mirabelles for one week. Called a jalousie because it resembles the slatted window shutters hiding a man with his mistress!
- Conversation (criss-cross circle): similar to the jalousie in that there is almond cream inside, but it's circular and covered with royal icing and thin strips of puff pastry before being baked. The sweet crackled royal icing added a different dimension to the repeated puff pastry/almond cream duet.
- Tarte aux Pommes Alsacienne (apple rings on top): kind of like a quiche, but with apples inside.
- Pain Complet (not pictured): yet another round pastry filled with almond cream, except that it was topped with a thin layer of raw almond paste and heavily dusted with powdered sugar before being baked... delicious! The almond paste/powdered sugar made a nice caramelized topping which was the best part. Unfortunately chef sold most of them during lunch so I couldn't take a photo [and I was too busy tasting what was left to take a picture of the one that I was tasting...]

Friday was enjoyable and different, considering we didn't use almond cream at all. Not that I don't have a soft spot for that deliciousness which is almond cream, but it was a nice change. Remember the chausson aux pommes (apple slippers/turnovers)? Well, we made chausson italiens -- translated to "Italian slippers" -- which had a filling of pastry cream mixed with pâte à choux (pastry used to make profiteroles and éclairs) and rum raisins. They were so good fresh out of the oven! Then again, they had better be... doesn't Italy = shoes?

In the morning we baked our sheets of pâte feuilletée (mine's on the top rack):

and cut, filled, and layered them to make this:

Traditional millefeuille layered with pastry cream and topped with fondant. As for the bright pink color, even I don't know the answer to that.

Another millefeuille, but with layers of chocolate mousse and praline/pastry cream... topped with powdered sugar and a branded criss-cross design. Scrumptious! [Please disregard the oozing praline... the more the better, right ;) ?]

During lunch we feasted on the other pastry class' catering buffet -- the same spread that we made last week... that's when the day transformed from being a normal Friday to becoming a day of gluttony. I knew what was good, and I went for it. And then when we finished our millefeuilles after lunch, I had to make sure the chocolate mousse and praline cream were edible... that's what a chef does, isn't it? Well, let me tell you, they were edible, all right :)!

Just wanted to note that I think we (as a class) have picked up our pace and have become either more efficient or just more comfortable in executing each step/recipe... or maybe it's all thanks to Didier. Anyway, it's nice to know that we're making progress and getting the most out of this experience.

After class we went out for drinks before I met my friend for a full meal of crèpes... ugg my tummy was about to explode by the end of the day. And it didn't stop then, either. The next day was EUROPAIN (fair for bread, chocolate, and pastry... with SAMPLES!). That's a whole new post in itself... more on that later.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Puff, the pastry student lived in labo...

... and frolicked in the flour bin in a lab called Ferrandi! ["Puff the Magic Dragon" anyone?]

This week is PUFF PASTRY WEEK! I never thought that I'd be able to make the buttery, hundred-layered, puffy, light, and flaky pastry from scratch. I hardly even use it at home, and when I do, I rely on the store-bought kind (thanks Pepperidge Farm!). This week however, I've already made about 5 batches including traditionelle (butter folded inside the dough), inversée (dough folded inside the butter), with tour simple (simple turn) and tour portefeuille (double turn). It's been an interesting week to say the least... and not just because we're making pâte feuilletée (puff pastry).

These past two weeks have been February vacation for France, and the two Anglo patisserie chefs have each taken a week off. Somehow the two classes switched teachers... so this week, while our dear chef Thierry is on vacation, we have the other crazy chef, Didier :p. It's great to have a taste of the other teacher, however, I am eagerly awaiting Thierry's return. While Didier is very good and being in his class will get one mentally/physically prepared for the stage (internship) afterward, he has a lot of character which makes class very interesting... and sometimes frustrating. Rushing us to finish our pieces and familiarizing us with probable French kitchen craziness is all fine with me, however, criticizing us for something we didn't even do and the lack of direction/response to our questions can be a little discouraging. He does have a sense of humor though, which helps to liven up a class of baggy-eyed patisserie students at 8am...

Because of the exact/delicate nature of puff pastry, we've had to stay on our toes and make sure we use the correct dough, roll out the correct number of turns, roll out the correct type of turn, work quickly before the butter melts (especially with inversée), make sure we put enough flour so it won't stick (but not too much), and attempt to roll out a perfect rectangle... all that on top of chef's antics. Honestly though, it hasn't been too bad... just different.

The whole week has kind of blurred together, considering we began with various types of pâte feuilletée in the beginning of the week. We'll begin a couple recipes one day, we'll finish them the next, and we'll juggle the different types of puff pastry (+ their scraps) in between.

The first thing we made was chausson aux pommes -- literally "apple slippers" but really like a Frenchified apple turnover. We folded puff pastry over some homemade compote de pommes. Here are mine, "flat and gray," according to chef... I understand it being flat, but where's the gray?!? Someone, please enlighten me, does "gray" according to a French person really translate to golden brown crispy deliciousness?

Enough about that. I'm over it... he just needs to get his eyes checked, right :) ? Next on the menu was bande de tarte aux pommes. It was basically like the traditional tarte aux pommes but in a long "band." We also made a bande de tarte aux fruits (same thing with fruit...). Unfortunately we ran out of apricots and cherries before I could get my hands on some, so mine's mainly a bande de tarte aux mirabelles... let's hope whoever got this one at the school likes mirabelle plums!

the bandes are cut up and served like this

And last but not least, we made our pithiviers, another puff pastry creation filled with a dome of almond cream, spiked with some rum (I only note the rum, as it was pretty potent...). Note its trademark "spiral" in the middle:

And then we had lunch. Well, you might be thinking, "WOAH! She did all this today?!?" Technically we didn't make the dough and fill and bake all of this this morning - we started yesterday, and we just finished them today. After rushing to clean up and running to lunch around 13h20 (lunch closes at 13h15 during vacation. Normally it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but we didn't want to face the grouchy card-swiper lady again, since we were late yesterday as well), we had FLE and then went back to labo to do more! After another batch of almond cream and doing the mise en place for two more recipes, we finally cleaned up and got out of there semi on-time...