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!


  1. Congrats! All of your work looks awesome. only cut yourself twice over 660+ hours? I'm impressed!

  2. We are all soooooo proud of you! Can't wait to EAT the goodies...but have to lose a few pounds first...