Monday, January 25, 2010

Pastry School Week 3

I can't believe the first three weeks of pastry school are already over, and I can't believe how fast it's going. We're continuing with our tarts and cookies unit, and you would think I'd be sick of tarts by now, but there's so many (delicious) variations!

Sliced fig newtons

They all got crumbled when I put them in a bag

Last week we started out making fig newtons. My brother really liked the packaged kind growing up, but I was always wary of figs. In fact, this was the first time that I had even tried figs. We used dry figs because apparently figs are only in season at the end of summer. We cooked the figs in port wine, water, and sugar. It smelled really good, even though my figs took about four times as long as everyone else's to cook. I wasn't a huge fan of this cookie, but they came out pretty well.

Onion tart

Everything I've make at school during the week, I bring into work for my coworkers to eat. All of the tarts and cookies basically disappear as soon as I put them down on my desk. The onion tart was the exception to this. I was wrong in believing we'd only be making sweet pastries, and this onion tart was the first savory recipe to appear on the syllabus. The tart was made from carmelized onions, blue cheese (the amount of mold on that cheese really turned me off), walnuts and tomatoes. The whole thing smelled very strongly of cheese, and not in a good way. A few brave coworkers tried it, but there were no rave reviews. A lot of "it's....okay...."

I braved my nut allergy to try these spritskakor cookies. They have almond paste in them, and almonds aren't one of the nuts I tested as allergic to, but I sometimes have a reaction from eating them. All kinds of nuts are frequently processed in the same plants, so there's a lot of cross contamination. Fortunately I had no allergy symptoms, and they were just as great as my coworkers were reporting. They were a really great butter/almond cookie piped into a rosette with a spot of raspberry jam on top.

Clafoutis is a traditional French dessert that is a baked custard traditionally made with cherries. The original clafoutis is usually made in a bowl, not a tart shell. This one we made was made in a tart shell, with blueberries instead of cherries because cherries aren't in season. So this was kind of a departure from real clafoutis. It was still delicious though.

So there's two things that I'm really afraid of - burning myself and cutting myself. Being a pastry chef, both of these are bound to happen...more than once. This past Saturday I burned my thumb pretty badly trying to attach a KitchenAid bowl to the mixer I had previously had cooking on the stove. I should have realized that the bowl would be as hot as what was in it (135 degrees) or hotter, but I wasn't really thinking. I didn't cut myself this week, but during a lesson of candied lemon peel, we needed to julienne lemon peel, which means to cut it in thin strips. Our knives are REALLY sharp, and in order to do this, they had to be really close to your fingers. I think I need a lot more practice with knife skills before I feel more comfortable with them. The candied lemon peel came out really nice.

With the candied lemon peel and the meringue that burned my hand (well the bowl it was in at least), we made lemon tartlets. Using lemon curd we had previously made and refrigerated, we filled the mini tartlets and then piped a decorative design with the meringue. Then using a BLOW TORCH, we browned the meringue edges. The blow torch was also scary (see fear #1 compounded with my fear of things exploding). The candied lemon peel went into the center.

The last item on this week's menu was nut tart. Using our pate sucree (sweet dough), we lined our tart rings with it, spread a thin layer of raspberry jam, sprinkled over some toasted almonds, and then poured in the almond and hazelnut batter we had lightened with a French meringue. We were supposed to sprinkle powdered sugar over top in some sort of design. In the haste of the last minutes of class, I haphazardly overlapped two cardboard circles and powdered away. When I removed the circles, I immediately realized the design resembled cleavage. Oh well, lessons learned! Only one more week of tarts & cookies before our big exam on February 2!!


Cooking Foodie said...

The cookies and tarts look great! I wish I was your coworker too...
Have fun juggling work and school.

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