Friday, June 18, 2010

it's over already?!

Well, I guess this is it. 660+ hrs in lab, over 20 spent in art supplies I never used, 2 aprons that once were white (and now have a yellowish tinge to them), countless number of photos, two cuts on my fingers, hundreds of flips through my recipe book, and maybe a few lbs. more, I am done.

This past week was all in preparation for our final exam on Thursday. We did the
mise en place/practice on Monday and Tuesday, while Wednesday's boulangerie class was a nice diversion from all things pastry. Although only 5 of us showed up for the 6h30 class, we did accomplish quite a lot. I made 2 types of dough/bread: pâte à croissant and khachapuri, the Georgian purses I made last time. With the pâte à croissant, I tried some sort of spiral pastry lined with almond paste/pistachio paste. I also managed to squeeze in a batch of pain au chocolat as well!

my pistachio-spiraled "claws" before baking

I got a little bored with the "claws" so I made flowers

my finished "claws" and flowers - surprisingly not too sweet... yum!

my pain au chocolat before baking... some lucky ones got 3 sticks of chocolate!

khachapuri, but filled with emmental cheese (like swiss) and lardons (thick bacon chunks)

just a sampling of what my friend (and partner in crime/lab/eating contests) made with her 10kg batch of bread: olives, cheese, cheese + chorizo, roquefort + chorizo, cheese + onion, the list goes on...

Thursday was the BIG DAY, our final exam. Earlier in the week, we received a time-table to make each item (i.e. 8h - pâte à choux, 8h40 - crème anglaise, 9h15 - crème pâtissière... all the way until 16h - présentation). After mentally preparing the recipes according to the time-table and reviewing specific tips to remember, I went to sleep before the sun on Wednesday night. It was kind of weird, considering it was already 10.30pm but just starting to get dark.

Thursday morning, I met the rest of my classmates (who all showed up on time!) before 8h and we got our stations ready with the necessary tools and pastry tips. Once 8h struck, we were on our way to making some
pâte à choux. In the beginning, I felt a little off, considering I was moved from my normal spot and stationed right next to the central ingredient area/oven/"hang out" spot for the 3 judges and our 2 chefs... yea, a little distracting, to say the least. And somehow I was the last one to start the pâte à choux. Luckily I got into my groove and sped along during the first half of the exam. I was in my own world as I tried my best to keep my station as clean as possible, while working efficiently. If they weren't talking, the judges would walk around the lab and peer over our shoulders as we were rolling out our tart shells or piping our moka. While I thought it was quite normal for them to inspect all our moves, I don't think it was fair how they hung out right behind me or just to the right of me... not only could they keep an eye out on my every move (umm, there are 9 other students to watch as well!), but their conversations distracted me as well... and then after lunch, they seemed to move closer to me, so I couldn't even open my fridge without bumping into one of them! I was hoping they would get the hint after the 3rd time, but whatever. Things happen during exams and you just have to go with the flow and do your best under whatever conditions are present, right?

After frantically trying to glaze my
éclairs/religieuses and make almond paste roses after lunch, I finished a little before 16h. While the judges made final notes, we cleaned the lab, as if it was a typical day... and then we went home, EXHAUSTED.

List of what we had to present by the end of the day:
- pithivier (filling with almond cream and striking specific design on top)
- moka (cutting, filling, and decorating the cake)
- tarte aux pommes (lining the tart ring, slicing the apples, and arranging them on the tart)
- tart shell for a flan parisien
- 8 religieuses
(making/filling with pastry cream and glazing them with the difficult fondant)
- 8
éclairs (same as the religieuses)
- 8 chaussons aux pommes (cutting and filling with applesauce before striking design on top)
- ice cream mold (making
crème anglaise and after churning ice cream with it, filling an ice cream mold, free of holes... harder than it looks)
- 3 roses made from almond paste

tarte aux pommes, pithivier, and moka

éclairs, religieuses, and chaussons aux pommes

roses that I had made at home earlier in the week for practice

Today (Friday) was a day of painting our pastillage (white disk made of sugar paste...) . Afterward, we packed up our tools and had a final meeting with the director of the anglo program. Chef distributed our "grades" and we left, loaded down with a heavy suitcase full of knives, scrapers, spatulas, and whisks, among others, in addition to whatever else had been hiding in the depths of our lockers.

my pastillage - everyone else seemed to replicate a painting, but somehow I didn't get that memo/never thought to refer to great artists for inspiration... this was inspired by my day-trip to Giverny!

I have to say that I was pretty pleased with my final exam and how everything turned out. It went by so much faster than I imagined, and I felt pretty confident throughout it all, besides my roses and disastrous
éclairs and religieuses... oh well, it's over! Still hasn't sunk in, but I'm sure it will later. No time to think of that though, time to pack and get ready for a few days in Pays Basque with my classmates next week!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

crunch time!

This past week was mainly about doing the mise en place for our practice exam, struggling to finish the practice exam, doing the mise en place for restaurant service, finishing our last restaurant service, and then having a free day!

the timeline for our practice exam... we kind of fell off schedule after 11am

what we did get accomplished by 1pm [starting on the left, clockwise]: pithivier, chaussons aux pommes, moka, flan tart shell, and tarte aux pommes (unpictured, éclairs et religieuses shells)

my chaussons needed more applesauce, as you can tell

the moka's close-up shot. I think my "flames" (the piped border around the criss-cross design) have improved since the first time I made the moka. woo hoo for improvement!

we finished filling and glazing the éclairs/religieuses the next day

Chef checking out all of our choux

Other than our practice exam, our big thing this week was the last restaurant service for lunch. We ended with a bang, offering 6 different desserts! There was quite the assortment, with sweet treats ranging from:

Macaron framboises - a macaron filled with rose-flavored buttercream and fresh raspberries... there might have been something with litchi sorbet, but I didn't see it

Feuillantine - a chocolate biscuit base with a wafer/praline layer and topped with chocolate mousse... I think I can honestly say that this was one of my favorites of this service, if not the whole program.....

inside cut of the feuillantine

Paris-Brest en stick aux framboises - basically a Paris-Brest in long stick form with raspberries inside

Fraisier - another entremet with a biscuit on the bottom, fresh strawberries dotted inside a layer of mousseline cream (pastry cream + butter) and topped with another layer of biscuit... and fondant on top. Might be the 2nd place winner of this lunch's service.

good old traditional tiramisu

and we finish off with the one and only French tarte tatin.

The service was ok, since we didn't have to plate any of the desserts. We just left them as big pieces and gave them to the servers so they could slice and serve, as needed. In the meantime, we finally finished our practice exam by dipping our chocolate bonbons... did I mention I hate tempering chocolate? Chef seemed to be really on our backs this past week, especially when we did the chocolate... is he finally simulating what it's going to be like in our internships? The stress and stern voice? Why now? Why not from the beginning??

As we started late on Friday (13h30), it was definitely a chill relaxed day. No one really wanted to be there, including Chef. He mentioned something about doing regional desserts if we wanted, or we could just practice whatever we thought we needed to practice. I decided to take the opportunity to squeeze in some new recipes before I lose the availability of an oven (no oven at home).

Gâteau basque - a cake from Pays Basque (I think) with pastry cream in the middle...

my 2nd gâteau basque since I made two smaller ones rather than a large one. I ran out of pastry cream so I used some leftover chocolate pastry cream and green tea pastry cream, divided by some dough... made an interesting combo, to say the least.

30 minutes before we were supposed to start cleaning up, Chef told me to make a kouign-amann. Umm... yea, I don't think he realized what time it was. The kouign-amann was supposed to sit for 30 min, before I did a couple turns to it... letting it rest for 30 min. between each turn... and rest for 45 more min before I baked it. Well, we actually finished it within an hour, and let it rest in the warming oven before baking it. Turns out the warmth melted all the butter (and there was a lot of butter) so the dough was sitting in a pool of butter when we baked it.... despite its presentation, it still turned out really well. So good and buttery!!! *note: don't eat too much otherwise you're going to get sooo sick... not that I would know or anything ;) *

2 of my kouign-amanns turned out, while the other two had some separation-anxiety issues from the pan...

Still can't believe that this next week is our final exam. eeeekkk! Time to go and practice some piping...

Friday, June 11, 2010

review review review!!

This is sad. The past couple of weeks have been all review, with only a few new recipes thrown into the mix. It's all coming to a close!

Last week, in addition to practicing some feuilletage (puff pastry), we had dinner restaurant service and made a nice assortment of sweet treats.

a classmate and I prepared crêpe soufflées - crêpes filled with fresh fruits and a lime soufflé mixture... pop them in the oven for a few minutes and serve them tout de suite (immediately) before the crêpes deflate!

we had a table of 25 that we had to serve these to!

Pain perdu (French toast) - served with caramel apples and salted butter caramel ice cream

Pavlova - a meringue shell filled with whipped cream and fresh fruits... perfect summer treat!

Croustillant de crème à l'anis - crème brûlée inside a filo dough purse and sitting on a bed of red berry sauce

That Friday, we had a special class with our art teacher, Pascal Niau. We learned how to make fruits from almond paste and also decorated an entremet with chocolate flowers!

my tray of fruits

my entremet with gold flecks - wish we did more stuff like this in class... usually we just do traditional decorations, if that. I just want to be a little more creative or modern!

This past week we had a practice exam, but more on that in another post... time for bed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I love food fairs.

Le Salon-Saveurs des Plaisirs Gourmands. Even if you don't know French, I'm sure you can just guess that this was amazing... the words "Saveurs," "Plaisirs," and "Gourmands" are in the title. What else could you ask for??

I definitely filled up on countless samples of jambon de Parme, olive oil, foie gras, cheese, and various spreads...

regional olive oils

balsamic vinegar - varying ages

delicious smelling tea!

honey from assorted trees

one of the new fads this year - flavored oils to enhance your dish

jams and jellies for tasting

cheese, anyone?

she sure wants some...

reminds me of the pepper tree at home!

love all the colors

this was interesting... a blueberry flavored garlic mousse spread... not as bad as I would've thought. They also had fig/brown sugar, rose, and ginger.

more olive oils... from Greece, this time

the biggest Mortadelle I've ever seen!


centerpiece for the table? it's only 8!

where I got my delicious jambon de Parme

I love these food fairs. Did I mention I thrive on samples? It was like Europain but with salty food as well!

the goodies I had collected by the end of the day: vanilla vinegar, fleur de sel and potatoes from Noirmoutier,

Bärlauch spread (made from ail des ours -- basically salad greens that taste like garlic), truffle spread and 3 editions of "Saveurs" magazine from 2009!