So all of last week was dedicated to creating our chocolate showpiece. Originally we were required to follow a winter theme since most of the big patisseries are already getting ready for that season oh so far away (I guess Hallmark isn't the only one!). I decided on a gift basket, with the intention of reproducing those coveted Harry & David baskets... but then I realized that all the pears, boxes of bonbons, and bags of popcorn were just a little too complicated for my amateur hot hands. After considering a few ideas, I eventually decided upon a basket filled with ornament balls and presents.
On the first day, we cut and taped boxes together to create a life-size version of our showpiece and the necessary molds. The next couple of days, we just worked on tempering/cutting/molding/spreading/gluing/shaping chocolate. I think if you ask me what I disliked the most of what we did during this entire 5-month course, I just might have to say "tempering chocolate" (the process of raising and lowering the temperature of chocolate so that the chocolate will snap and be shiny when hardened). It's honestly a real science and can be complicated, much more difficult than just melting chocolate chips in the microwave. Here are the basic steps:
1) melt chocolate to at least about 45°C.
2) cool it down -- we used the process of pouring most of the melted chocolate across the granite and spreading it around with our spatulas, before scooping the chocolate back into bowl.... repeat this step until the chocolate reaches 28-29°C, most likely 2-3 times.
3) bring the chocolate back up to 31-32°C and use.
What those basic steps don't tell you are the difficulties that might arise when manipulating the chocolate: the possibility of having lumps in your chocolate is very high if you let the it cool down on the granite for too long time; trying to keep the chocolate at 31-32°C by keeping it near the oven can overheat it causing the the chocolate to heat back up to 40°C and requiring you to temper it again (spread it over the marble); the overall messiness of the granite, your hands, the bowl of chocolate, and the work area in general, and many more obstacles, those of which I do not care to revisit at this time... we can just say that after this frustrating period (including tempering chocolate for about 2.5 hours... don't ask), I finished my basket!
my favorite present!
So that's what was going on ALL last week... except for one day when we started to review for our final exam. Ahh I can't believe there are only a few more weeks of school left. It has gone by SO quickly and is really kind of scary... with the passing of each day, I am closer to starting my stage (internship)!
Speaking of, at the end of the Anglo pastry program at Ferrandi, we can do an internship for 3-6 months here in Paris. After translating my CV and writing a motivation letter en français, I had a successful "interview" at Plaza Athénée. While the executive chef is Alain Ducasse (!), the pastry chef is Christophe Michalak, and he creates some amazing stuff. To tell you the truth, I didn't really know (and am working on expanding my knowledge of) many of the great chefs/restaurants, but after doing some research, I am very excited to start working on the chic Avenue Montaigne next door to Harry Winston and across the street from Valentino in early July. I'm very curious to see how that goes and compare notes with my classmates who are going to be all over, including at Le Meurice, Ledoyin, Lutetia, Pierre Hermé, Dalloyau, Hugo & Victor, and Potel et Chabot.
ok that is about all that's been happening. This week, we've been doing a lot of reviewing and practice for our final exam in a couple weeks. We had restaurant service last night, but that will have to wait until another post... time to enjoy the Parisian sun!