Pastry Boot Camp Day 4

September 19, 2008

I was kind of sad this morning because it’s the last full day of class.  Tomorrow we’re done at 1:30 and everyone heads home to the real world.  During our morning break I sampled one of our fruit tarts and then compared it to the fruit tart that Chef Welker made, and I think ours was better.  Ours had more pastry cream and it held together better. My partner agreed, but she’s just as biased as I am. But as the chef says, make it how you like it.  This morning’s lecture on aerated desserts was pretty short and covered mousses and bavarian cream.

Our kitchen work was fun because we already had everything we needed prepared.  We divided our puff pastry into thirds and made a rustic apple tart, palmiers (elephant ears), and Pithivier (which is a round thing that puffs way up and has almond filling).  The hard work of the puff pastry was done, so it was ready to go and easy to work with to put together our creations. Then into the oven…the moment of truth for our puff pastry!  I’m happy to say that our apple tart and Pithivier turned out beautifully (we didn’t bake the Palmiers today). We all sampled the ones the chef made and they were outstanding.  Now I can say that the puff pastry was worth it – it tastes better than the frozen (reference yesterday’s picture of the slab of butter if you’re wondering what makes it better).  There are a heck of a lot of things you can make from it, too, including savory items like cheese straws.

The other task before lunch was to ice our cake.  That went really poorly for a while but had a happy ending.  It’s difficult to cut one cake layer into three.  This is old school – there are no fancy gadgets to use and the chef likes to tell us about everything he had to do by hand during his apprenticeship (this is a chef’s version of walking uphill both ways to school). So our cake was kind of lopsided and even though it looked great before we cut it, it seemed shorter than everyone else’s after we had it assembled and iced.  We were unhappy and my partner decided that we had to add a layer to the cake to avoid total embarrassment.  We had an extra cake, so why should it go to waste?  We added another layer on top and it looked much better.  It was still crooked, so when we tried the decorating comb on the sides, it did not hide all sins as advertised.  Apparently our cake had some pretty big sins. We ended up coating the sides with sliced toasted almonds.  We piped a few rosettes on the top and it really looks pretty good now.

Here’s our cake during its repair. We had frosted the whole thing but then added another layer.

cake repair

cake repair

Here’s our final cake – much better!

final cake

final cake

For lunch, a few of us skipped the standard lunch hosted by the banquets class and went to the Apple Pie Bakery, which is the informal restaurant run by the Baking & Pastry students. I had a vegetable salad – just what I needed.  After lunch, the chef demonstrated chocolate mousse, raspberry mousse, peanut brittle, marbled chocolate, and napoleons.

I’m now known as the class worrier.  Am I worried about that?  Of course!  I worry about everything, which is second nature to me, but there’s nothing like spending a lot of time with a new group of people to learn something about yourself. My partner admitted that my worrying has come in handy this week and has saved us from making some mistakes.  So there.

Dinner was at Escoffier, which is the school’s French restaurant.  It was good, but the majority of us agreed that American Bounty was the best of the restaurants.  Escoffier is the most formal and the food isn’t as approachable as at the other restaurants. A couple of people ordered Bananas Foster, which they prepare tableside, so we had a nice show at dessert.

Since I’m headed home tomorrow, I’ll write up Day 5 and do a final recap over the weekend. No, I will not be reporting my total weight gain. Right now, my clothes still fit.  As they say, what happens in Pastry Boot Camp stays in Pastry Boot Camp!

Click here to continue to Day 5

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