Friday, September 5, 2008

Practical (I've never taken a test so sweet)

Today started with making half recipes of pate sucree, which in itself would not be graded, but the rolling of it would be. The written exam was all short answer and surprisingly thorough with 15 questions. Then chef cut out to a private room and we did the following:
  • Made a small batch of creme anglais
  • Made one perfect cornet for piping
  • Piped 'Happy Birthday' in compound chocolate on three cardboard rounds
  • Rolled pate sucree into a 10" tart pan
None of this was particularly challenging. With creme anglais, you get the sugar dissolved in the half&half -- you can boil it, but if you do, when you add the whipped yolks, it'll go from thin to thick to scrambled eggs in a hot second. By using medium heat, it took a good minute and a half to thicken, but no eggy grit formed -- perfectly smoooooove.

Cornets are annoying, but once you got it, you can make perfect ones all day. Rolling a triangle of parchment into a cone with a super tight pointy tip doesn't take a lot of skill, just a little practice.

Piping 'Happy Birthday' was easy -- there were lines in the cardboard that you could guide your letters, which would not be on a properly iced (or glazed) cake.

Rolling the pate sucree was a bit tricky -- once you roll it out far enough to have enough to extend beyond the 10" pan, it had to be even through out. Once you get it on the pin and transfer it onto the pan, you don't want it to rip and you want enough extra to get onto the walls of the entire tin. Pushing it in and giving a little lip that rises over the edge, it's problematic.

I didn't do anything more than once, and just chugged through -- I was the first in to see the Chef. Most importantly, my creme anglais was a perfect consistency, perfectly cooked. My piping and cornet were good enough for a perfect score, but my tart was a bit uneven on the sides. I had left it on a sheet tray sitting on top of the oven, and the pilot lights heated up the tray enough to make my walls sag. Oh well. I got a 95 on the practical, a 94 on the written, and learned I got a 95 on the midterm.

And that's it for mod 4. Packed up the creme anglais to make some great ice cream at home.

I totally spaced and didn't take a picture. So when I got home early (as we could split when we were cleaned up), I took all my tools out and cleaned them. As I held each one, thought of the yummy meats and starches and greasy things, fried, sauteed, baked, mmmmm....

This entry needs more pictures. Here's something delicious:


BREAKFAST: 6:15am, organic cornflakes with good milk, .5 bowl, hunger 2/5
That peasant bread and champagne was sitting with me.

AM TASTINGS: 9am, a couple handfuls of semisweet chocolate, .25 bowls, hunger 4/5
Funnily enough, the practical didn't really involve tasting anything, just making it look proper in thickness, texture, and design.

AM WATERING: 11am, 1 quart

LUNCH: 11:45am, school made fresh beet pasta with homemade tomato sauce, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 1:30pm, small plate of mashed potatoes, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Went over to B's friend's house, who just had wisdom teeth pulled out and B dared to make her mashed potatoes....from a box! So I came over with some spuds, heavy cream, Irish butter, and borrowed some salt, a dash of hot sauce, a dash of Worcestershire and made some proper mash.

PM SNACK: 4pm, sesame crackers and peanut butter, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5
Raiding the fridge at Casa de la HVS.

DINNER: 5:15pm, grilled shrimp with chorizo and corn cakes, water, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Good dinner at Union Smith Cafe.

EVENING SNACK: 9pm, 3 small school made croissants, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Plated Desserts (Enough Already)

Last day of dessert plating, and the last day of pastry -- tomorrow is both the written and practical exams. The day started with making some cornets and piping 'happy birthday', as well as making creme anglais, two things that make up a part of the practical tomorrow.

Different teams made different things to go with the stuff made over the next few days. We made raspberry upside down cake. Pretty straight forward: make a batter with a lot of egg and a bit of baking powder, lemon zest and lemon extract as a flavor. In round tins, grease them with butter, coat the bottom with brown sugar, put down the fruit, cover with batter and bake.

For non-plating purposes, we also rushed through flourless chocolate souffle, which was basically whipping the hell out of some eggwhites with sugar, melting some chocolate and adding egg yolks, fold the two jammies together, and bake in heavily sugar-coated cups till they puffed up.

The last hour was dedicated to arts & crafts, centered around the upside down cakes, the panna cotta and cheese cakes from yesterday, and all sorts of assorted garnishes -- I was not turned on, though some of it tasted absolutely fabulous.

I can't wait to cook up proteins and starches again next week.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, organic cheerios, good milk, .5 bowls, hunger 3/5

AM TASTINGS: 9-11:30am, chocolate, panna cotta, cheese cake, ice creams, upside down cake, 1.25 bowl, hunger 4/5
Panna cotta and cheese cake, not light dishes.

LUNCH: 2pm, turkey on a roll with swiss, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 6:15pm, green salad, 2 small school-made brioche, 2 bowl, hunger 4/5
After such a bad eating day and sitting down with Ilsa, good to get something reasonable in.

DINNER: 7:30pm, a few mini quiche, assorted cheeses on bread and crackers, moz and wild mushrooms on peasant bread, small piece of salmon in cream sauce with couscous, lime sorbet, equivalent of 2 glasses of champagne, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
At a champagne tasting at a friend's house, really fun, she cooked up a storm, I contributed the sorbet which got a surprising number of compliments.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Plated Desserts (Chaos)

Today was dedicated for making a few things to plate today and tomorrow, then set up stations and plate a few different desserts. Unfortunately, Chef G wasn't on her game today and we ended up with a quite unproductive, disorganized class. Well, you can't just pin it on the Chef, a lot of the students tuned out because of disinterest in the subject matter, while others were in their usual haze.

Four teams, each got assigned a few things, for some reason my team only got assigned one thing -- milk chocolate panna cotta. After a few words, we got the go ahead to make vanilla panna cotta, but it still only took maybe 20 minutes, and we had an hour and a half to get through.

Milk chocolate panna cotta, easy peasy. Milk, cream, gelatin, half a vanilla bean and milk chocolate. Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk, wait a few minute for it to absorb -- looks like brains growing on top of the milk. Bring cream to a boil with the split vanilla bean, turn off heat and let steep. After a few minutes, combine with the gelatin mixture. Turn on high heat, add chocolate till melted. Pour into cups, cool and refrigerate.

Long Island Lolita was assigned to head up our team of four and she went to help make tart tatins for another team (oval silicon mold, with layer of caramel, fruit (pineapple, apple, banana, etc) then a piece of puff pastry. When cooked, flipped out so caramel and fruit on top. Natasha and I cooked up some caramel (water and sugar on the fire till brown, finished with a solid amount of butter.)

When we finally got around to plating, Chef went around and gave some pointers -- odd numbers always look more interesting on a plate, too symmetrical is boring, choose ice creams and sauces that make flavor sense with the main attraction, always like the main element be the main element, etc etc. Reminded me of many of the art directors I've worked with over the years. Here are a few of the things I slapped together:

This is a glass full of layers of cake and pastry creams, topped with merengue, torched.
This apple tarte actually tasted pretty gross, but the vanilla ice cream (made with beans, not extract) and the caramel sauce was kickin' it.

The caramel of the banana tart tatin brought out the texture of the fruit, and the 1-2 punch of the caramel sauce and the caramel ice cream was a serious menage a trois in my mouth.

Not very porny, I know, but was not feeling particularly inspired with all the grouchy team members and scolding authority figures around. Tomorrow is another day of plating and the last day of pastry, before a battery of tests of Friday.

Went to a demo by chef Michael Schlow, cooking recipes from his new cook book. He owns and runs six restaurants, one of them 4-stars, and to have him cook for me (and 19 other students) personally was a treat. I had forgotten what this demo was about, so I made a big bowl of pasta before I went. Used the tomato sauce I made over the weekend, a mash-up of my dad's sauce and Mario Batali's. I sauteed some shrimp in browned butter and a little garlic, hit it with a little mirin and damn if it wasn't the best shrimp I made at home yet.

Then I sat in on this demo, and the chef basically made a simple tomato sauce with salami, white beans and olives that tore my pasta a new one. Mine was 'good', maybe even servable in a cheap red-sauce joint. His pasta had so much heavy, starchy, fatty stuff and STILL tasted balanced, bright and delicious, even though I wasn't hungry at all.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, smoothie, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Good yogurt and milk, blueberries, cherries, grapes, banana, flax, dash of sea salt, ice.

AM TASTINGS: 9-11:30am, caramel ice cream, banana tart tatin, caramel sauce, hazelnut sponge cake, handful of chocolate, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
A full meal of sweets, I can't wait to start cooking real food again next week.

LUNCH: 2:15pm, large green salad with a handful of sesame stick pretzels, half glass of sauternes with a small piece of cheese, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

DINNER: 4:45pm, rigatoni with shrimp and homemade pasta sauce, grated parm, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5

PM TASTINGS: 7-8pm, 4 pieces of creamy mushroom crostini, pappa al pomodoro (tomato and bread soup), rigatoni with soprasetta, white beans and olives, 1 bowl, hunger 3/5

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Introduction to Plated Desserts (Eat My Ink)

Today's class was not actually plating desserts but making a lot of different creams, sauces, cookies, tart shells, nuts, and garnishes to plate tomorrow. With about 15 people in class, we were divided into four teams with about 4 to 5 things to do each. With Natasha, Long Island Lolita, and Squarehead on my side, we were assigned caramel sauce, lemon confit, orange and chocolate pastry cream, pate sablée, and crystallized mint and cilantro.

Before we began, we practiced piping with melted compound chocolate. Compound chocolate is chocolate made with a large amount of vegetable fat -- it doesn't need to be tempered to harden when cooled, but tastes cheap and fatty. Rolling up triangles of parchment to make the cornets needed to get the fine piping lines, we all had to write "Happy Birthday" over and over again, either in print or cursive. It's surprising how many people misspelled this. It's tricky getting smooth lines, I found the faster I drew, the nicer the lines but the sloppier the letters. And it was too easy to eat the ink.

We divided up responsibilities, and I ended up making crystallized mint leaves and crystallized cilantro. Very simple garnish: wash and dry the plucked whole leaves and lay out. Brush lightly with egg white, sprinkle superfine sugar over it. Let dry for a few minutes, turn, repeat. Let dry a bit, transfer to a clean sheet, wipe off excess lumpy sugar. When it dries, the egg white stiffens the leaf, and keeps the sugar adhering.

Tomorrow, we make some more stuff, bust out some frozen treats from last week, and then create some REAL food porn for all y'all.

Started digging for an externship in pizza. I graduate from this here cookin' school in a month, I'm debating whether to blog about my time slaving in a pizza restaurant.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, banana, .25 bowl, hunger 2/5
Last night's pasta still weighing on me, felt good but not very hungry at all.

AM TASTINGS: 9-11am, melted piping chocolate, melted chocolate on french bread, bits of roasted nuts, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 1pm, salad pizza, fresh moz pizza, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
From Pie by the Pound, OK, not great.

PM SNACK: 5:30, 6 small pork dumplings, salad, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5
From Rickshaw Dumpling, very overrated.

DINNER: 6:46pm, shrimp with rice noodles, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Half assed Vietnamese food.