Thursday, August 26, 2010

Evening of Desserts at FCI

The Evening of Desserts is an event in the pastry program that we were all looking forward to. We had seen the Level 2s before us get to do it, and I know I was anxiously awaiting a chance to show off what I had learned for my friends and family.

My team's dessert - chocolate hazelnut mendiant

We each got to invite guests to come and sample desserts that we prepared and plated. My parents, my sister Melissa and her boyfriend Joe all came to check it out. Being on a Tuesday in the city, I was really happy they could make it.

Molly prepping the amuse bouche - a lemon scorpino

We had a menu of eight items that our guests could order from, and each team was in charge of plating one of the desserts. My partner Brittany and I were in charge of the chocolate hazelnut mendiant. I'm not sure why it's called mendiant, but it was a semifreddo. We made a (really boozy) cherry compote to go with it, a kirsch caramel sauce, and a really crazy chocolate piece. I had the idea for the chocolate "wave" from something I had seen on Best Thing I Ever Ate (which ended up being nothing like our finished wave).

With my parents - you can tell my mom has spent more time at the beach than I have this summer!

With Melissa & Joe - another illustration of how I've spent my summer tucked in a kitchen, away from the any sort of UV rays...they both work at the beach

The mendiant ended up being the most ordered item (thanks my classmate Molly who plugged our dessert in her intro), and Brit & I were a well-oiled machine.

Kataifi nest with fromage blanc mousse and fruit compote

Overall, the night went really smoothly. Everyone was super pleased with the results, and my family loved the desserts they ordered.

Panna cotta with peach compote, raspberry riesling granita, and granola

After everyone left, we got to taste the desserts we served. My personal favorite was the fontaine, which was a chocolate cake with ganache and fresh raspberrys wrapped in filo dough and baked. It was served with a trio of sauces, and was so good. A close second was a kataif (another type of dough) nest with the fromage blanc mousse.


Champagne sabayon with roasted peaches

Plum soup with almond cubes and orange sherbet

Group scorpino shot to cheers the end of the evening

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 30: Back to Plated Desserts

There are three plated desserts units in the FCI pastry program, and in our second one we moved on to some more complicated desserts and some more polished plating. The style of plated desserts we do at FCI is VERY polished - a lot more so than I see my style evolving. On every plate there will be a dessert, a couple sauces, a tuile (thin cookie), a chocolate doodad, some fruit, a garnish, more garnish. Don't get me wrong, it all looks very pretty, but just a little too "done" for my taste.

Chocolate hazelnut mendiant with cherry compote

Speaking of actually taste, the desserts we made in this unit were fantastic. We made a lot of semifreddos which reminded me of ice cream...that isn't ice cream. The mint chocolate one was a particular favorite of mine, and I don't even particularly like mint.

White chocolate citrus semifreddo with strawberry salad

White chocolate hazelnut semifreddo - the raspberry cake part of it was excellent

What's been interesting to me has been the combinations of flavors we put together that surprisingly go well together. I like experimenting with this, and our chefs having a lot more experience than us and have been good leaders. When I read the dessert descriptions the night before class, I'm sometimes skeptical about how things with pair, but it's all been good so far.

Chocolate mint semifreddo with blackberry salad - sooo good

The highlight of the second plated dessert unit was the Evening of Desserts we hosted for our friends and family (more about that in another post), but a close second was the Saturday morning Chef Peter made breakfast for the 8 of us who had showed up for class. Poor Chef Peter, the only male in a group of 16 women, has to put up with a high chatter volume, lots of giggling, and a ton of Christmas carol singing (don't ask...) from us. The biscuits he made nearly brought the 8 of us to tears, they were so good. Buttery, light, flaky. I've never had biscuits this good before. I still dream about them.

Those biscuits!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

More Wedding Pics

Lauren, the bride of the second wedding I did in July, was nice enough to send me over some of the professional pictures after my last post. The pictures look incredible, and I'm so happy I can share them!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some Wedding Baking in July

On top of my already insane schedule, many months ago I agreed to take on two weddings in July. Back in April and May, this seemed like a good idea. Things were a little calmer back then, I think. Flash forward to mid-summer when things could not be crazier, and suddenly it was time for these to be delivered.

Had to throw out almost everything in my fridge to make room for the cake truffles -
just 1/2 the vanilla here!

The first wedding was for their favors which were 300 cake truffles. This was the one that I thought would be the easier of the two weddings, and boy was I wrong. So very wrong. I was under-prepared for just how long it would take me to complete 150 chocolate and 150 vanilla truffles and mistakenly thought I was on the ball. It resulted in a meltdown of epic proportions that required me calling my parents to bring in reinforcements - more chocolate and some moral support (thanks mom & dad!). Once they were all finished and bagged though, it was such a rewarding feeling and I was really happy with how they turned out. I had some pretty great reviews from the bride and wedding guests, and am really happy that everyone was pleased with the outcome.

Bunch of cake truffles packaged

For the second wedding the following week, I had learned my lesson and was super, super prepared. There were lists of lists. I needed to make an 8" cake covered in fondant and 144 cupcakes decorated with individually cut and painted (with edible luster dust) fondant pieces. The fondant decorations were shaped like blossom flowers and butterflies. I was able to get those all done over a week in advance to leave me enough time to bake everything the night before pick up.

Start time - just home from class

I was fortunate that when my parents were up to help out with Wedding #1, they took me to the grocery store so I had a car to transport all the ingredients. Which was excellent being as it was 12 pounds of butter, 3 dozen eggs, 10 lbs of flour, 10 lbs of sugar, and many more heavy items! That would have been quite a struggle carrying that back to my apartment.

One of the 6 boxes of cupcakes

Close up of cupcakes

The one issue with this all was that the pick up was on a Friday morning. I'm in class until last Thursday night and don't usually get home until midnight. Class is my first priority, so I knew missing one wasn't an option. Not having the freshest cupcakes possible also wasn't an option, so I settled on the fact I'd have to start baking when I got home from class and stay up as late as it took. Everything went really smoothly though, and I was getting a new batch of cupcakes into the oven every 20 minutes - about as fast as I could expect to go.

Close up of cupcakes

Finished cake

Sometime around 3:00 am, the cupcakes were baked and frosted, and it was time to start the cake. Covering cakes in fondant is always really nerve-wracking for me, but it went pretty smoothly, and I was happy with the way the fondant decorations looked on the cake. I boxed everything up, ending just after 4:00 am.

End time - documented to remind myself how crazy I am

Crashing into bed was probably one of the best feelings ever. What a long day - I was up at 7:30 am to go to my "real" job, then class, then 12 dozen freaking cupcakes!!! Talk about a sense of accomplishment. Somehow I managed to remember to take pictures of everything too (it was on my to-do list!).

The bride was nice enough to send me a pic from the wedding set up - looks beautiful!

Looking back on both these orders, I think I was clearly insane for agreeing to do them, but I'm so happy I did! Not only did I get to be a part of these awesome people's weddings, but I got to test the limits of my baking, something I really love.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chocolate Projects: Fairy Tales

This week I posted on Food 2 about our final chocolate projects. You should check it out there! Our theme was fairy tales, and I chose my favorite fairy tale - Little Red Riding Hood. My piece weighed about two and a half pounds and was made entirely out of chocolate. There were some challenging moments during the course of the project, but overall, it came out pretty close to how I envisioned it.

Initially, I had wanted to make the characters out of modeling chocolate (it's pliable like clay), but Chef Peter called that a cop out. Using various molds and piping techniques, I managed to make Red and the Wolf entirely out of solid chocolate. The only elements that were made out of modeling chocolate were the roof shingles, Red's hair, quilt, cape, and the pillow "cases." I hand-painted the quilt and pillows using luster dust mixed with vodka.

This project was a big deal for me because like I said in my Food 2 post, I had built up a lot of anticipation for this assignment. Plus, chocolate was never really my strength during Level 2, so I felt like this was a particular achievement.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Week 28-29 Chocolate II

Week 28 brought the return of the dreaded chocolate unit. I did not enjoy the first chocolate unit - it was messy and tempering chocolate proved to be challenging. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed our second chocolate unit. I now have a feel for the tempering process, and the whole thing went much smoother.

Spiced Caramels

This unit we got to make a bunch of candies - both traditional and some not so much (beer ganache anyone?). In the first unit, we did hand-rolled truffles which have a less uniform look than their molded counterpart - bon bons.

Chocolate-dipped Butter Toffee

Peanut Butter Nougat - Soooooo good!

When I think of bon bons, lazy housewives lounging on the sofa eating them comes to mind. This is probably because whenever my dad would come home from work, a frequent refrain from my mom would be "What do you think I did all day? Lay on the couch and eat bon bons?"

"Paint-splattered" Dulce de Leche Bon Bons

My Glitter-ized Dulce de Leche Bon Bons

Bon bons are great because there's so many different fillings you can make. Almost any flavor can be used. One of the best class days in this unit was when our class had free rein to make a filling of our choice. I made a passion fruit caramel filling and a beer ganache filling. Some of my classmates fillings included caramel apple, tiramisu, wasabi, fig, peanut butter, and so many more. In the locker room after class, the culinary students just descended on the beer ganache bon bons, devouring almost all of them.

Gold=Milk Chocolate Bon Bons with Passion Fruit Caramel
Red= Dark Chocolate with Beer Ganache

Inside the Passion Fruit Bon Bon

In the chocolate unit, we also made our first 2-tiered cake, a chocolate cake with a delicious chocolate raspberry mousse filling, and a chocolate buttercream. Using cocoa butter colors as "paint," we made transfer sheets and poured chocolate over them. When the chocolate was partially set up, we bent the chocolate strip around the cake. It's a pretty cool technique, and the finished cake looked pretty good. The picture's deceiving though - it was way tinier in real life - just a 3" and a 6" cake.

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