Friday, September 23, 2011

End of Days in Baking and Pastry

Lemon Stacked Cheesecake with Caramel Wafer, Candied Lemon Slice, Spun Sugar, and Caramel Sauce
Lemon Cheesecake, Tuille Leaf Cookie, Caramel Sauce
Tonight was our last night in chef Richard's Baking and Pastry class. It was a normal night just like any other, really. We had a lot to do so we got right to work, and before we knew it, it was time to start cleaning, and everyone was anxious to get home. So there was no celebration or much of any goodbye's, but I did take a moment to say a heartfelt "thank you" to chef. 

I feel good about what I have learned in B&P. It certainly opened my eyes to the world of pastry, and I know that I made the right decision in making the savory side my home.  I still enjoy baking just as much as I did prior to this class, just enough to make some yummy desserts. But now I can add yummy breads, pastries, sauces, and garnishes to my repertoire. Which makes me very happy! So overall, it was a really great class, and I learned a LOT. So much so that I really couldn't tell you off the top of my head how to make biscuits, or bagels, but I would just need to refer to my detailed notes, and I can produce some great products.

Citrus Creme Brulee
In our last few nights leading up to tonight, we made some fun and yummy items that I have not yet mentioned. So let's just take a moment to look at those.....

We learned about custards, which is by definition an egg protein-gel suspended in sugar and liquid.  We made Creme Anglaise, ( a stirred custard), and Creme Brulee ( a baked custard). The Creme Anglaise was used to make ice cream....and silly me, I did not get a photo either the Anglaise or the ice cream! But I did get to sample my strawberry ice-cream tonight (lucky me!). And who ever thought of ice cream as being a "flavorful cream-base suspended in ice crystals, fat, and air"?! But that is exactly what it is.

And then we moved on to making a cheesecake, which was really much more simple than I ever thought it would be. Just a handful of ingredients, some nice little ramekins, a little bit of patience, and voila, we have cheesecake! Our cheesecakes were to be used for our final plated desserts, as shown in my pictures above. I made my cheesecake with a bit of lemon extract, which gave it a nice bright flavor. 

Then we moved on to plated desserts. Chef showed us how to make spun sugar (awesome!), and piped sugar designs, which is really tricky and scary because you have to work with the sugar while it is still hot, VERY hot! As you have to heat the sugar up to 320 degrees. Before class started tonight, we ran into our former chef instructor, Chef Tony, who we asked if he has ever worked with piped sugar, and he quickly replied "oh yes, even 20 years later I remember working with piped sugar. If you have ever gotten a sugar burn, you will definitely remember it 20 years later!" 

Chef also showed us how to make Caramel Batter and Tuille Batter, which are used for garnishes (and are required as garnishes on our final plated desserts). And we also made a caramel sauce and a pipe-able chocolate sauce. And we got to spend some time working on our final plate designs, figuring out every element for each. 

Candied Lemon Slices
Our final consisted of making a simple chiffon cake, two plated desserts - one banquet style, one VIP style, and a written test. We had three hours last night in which I made my chiffon cake, got it assembled and frosted, and also made two of my garnishes for my plated desserts. I made my caramel batter wafer, and tried my hand at making candied lemon slices....pretty huh?!?!

Lemon Buttercream Chiffon Cake with Cherry Liquer
And tonight we had two hours to complete and present our chiffon cakes and plated desserts. I was having difficulties managing my time as I was not certain about when to start my plating. I was worried that some of the elements would begin to melt, and they did. I was excited to try my hand at the spun sugar, because it looks so amazing and fun on the plate. I wound up burning my first batch of sugar as the temp jumped to almost 400 degrees, but it was more of the brown color that gave it away! I quickly got my second batch of sugar together, and threw in a little red food coloring, and kept a closer eye on it. She turned out great, and I did the little spun sugar action across two yardsticks, pulled my sugar together into a neat little cone shape, and set her aside. After some time, she started to melt, and fall into itself, as it was gathering moisture from the air. Remember, sugar is "hygroscopic" (one of the first things we learned in B&P), meaning that sugar absorbs moisture, and the moisture was making my beautiful spun sugar a little ball of mess. 

So I am fumbling around trying to decide on what to do next, as my pinkish spun sugar is withering away. I tried to make a strawberry ice-cream quenelle, but it wasn't holding shape as it wasn't frozen enough. So I finally decide to just got for it and get this thing done with! I quickly wrap up all the elements for both of my plated desserts, take a few snapshots, and let chef know that I was ready and next in line to present. He acknowledges, and shortly comes by my station. He first looked at my glowing white chiffon cake, said I did good on smoothing out the sides and the top, and piping the rosettes, and that it just takes practice to perfect. I felt good in that was only the second cake I have ever made in my lifetime. And then he moved on to my plated desserts. I don't recall he said very much, just a nod of approval as he has always been pleased with my work. And a mention of them being elegant and cohesive. Which is exactly what I was shooting for. I got perfect scores, and the highest score in the class overall. Yay for me!

Next week we move on to our very last class at CCA, Cuisines of Cross Cultures. I am really looking forward to getting back into savory cooking! And looking forward to learning about some new cuisines! Till then...Happy weekend!

Oh, and just a few more little garnishes we practiced in class with piped chocolate...

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