Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pastry Boot Camp Day 5 - It all comes together

Day five started the way all the others have...dragging myself out of bed at 5 AM.  But this time, I had to finish packing (I move to a hotel close to the airport tonight) and get to the Culinary by 6:15 so we could meet our Continuing Education coordinator for breakfast.  She's been escorting us to another breakfast kitchen instead of the one we're scheduled for.  The chef is more creative and the breakfast choices reflect it.  The meals are very banana chocolate chip pancakes here! 

We then hustled off to our classroom.  Chef gave a final lecture, then showed us a PowerPoint of the plated desserts lecture he was giving his class (a real class) this afternoon.  We all love to get back into the kitchen.  No matter how tired you are, you forget it when you walk in there. 

We had another aggressive schedule today.  We were supposed to do crepes and soufflés, but there wasn't any time.  Instead, we finished decorating our cakes, made fresh fruit tarts, made dessert sauces, made more eclairs, cream puffs, and swans out of pate au choux.  We also made palmiers (puff pastry cookies that look like butterflies) and pithiviers (puff pastry tarts filled with almond cream).  We glazed our baked fruit tarts (I made an apricot almond tart) and the fresh fruit tarts.  The student assistants set up tables with white tablecloths and made displays of our desserts. 

In the middle of this controlled madness, two things happened.  A Continuing Ed person wanted us to complete our course evaluations RIGHT NOW.  We basically told her no way (she had told us we couldn't take them home and mail them back).  We had explained we had much too much to do for our dessert buffet; no was not an option, so we compromised and agreed to come back early from lunch and do them then.  Of course, we've come back early from lunch every day because we love what we're doing. 

The second thing that happened:  I asked Chef one last time to demonstrate piping (literally for the fifth time) and he did, calmly and without frustration at my inept technique (hold bag; squeeze hard).  For some reason, the stress of piping ebbed away and I not only held the bag reasonably well, but my piping looked pretty decent.  I was overjoyed...I had piped a simple border on my cake!  The rest of our desserts came together very nicely.  Chef was pleased with our collection and asked some of the other chefs to come by and see our buffet (and have some, of course).  The lemon vanilla glazed cream puffs (my creation!) were a hit and I was thrilled when Chef told the first visiting chef that he had to try them. 

My poor, homely cake was the ugly ducking that turned into a swan.  After I piped the border, Chef helped me decorate the top in a modern, asymetrical way, utilizing the glazed hazelnuts and chocolate cigarettes we had created yesterday.  It looked so much better.  

We had a surprise visitor.  The chef who created crème brulee teaches at the Culinary, and Chef asked him to stop by our kitchen and see our buffet.  He gave us pointers on our crème brulee (!!!!!) and admired each dessert individually.  It really was a treat. 

We had a nice group of chefs and Continuing Ed people and that was good because we had an amazing number of desserts.  They tasted great, but partly because we relived their creation as we ate them.  Finally, everyone left (some with whole fruit tarts or cakes), and chef gave us our diplomas.  We took a picture of the class together.  The campers who live within easy driving distance left.  I hung around since I don't leave until tomorrow morning, plus dinner would be free at the Culinary kitchen of my choice.  I decided to visit the Cuisines of the Mediterranean kitchen as it was "in Italy" today.  But before that, I took Chef up on his invitation and sat in on his class with his full time baking and pastry students.  It was fun, partly because I knew some of the answers to questions he asked the class, and partly because I knew I was just visiting this class.  I can go home to my kitchen and just cook.  I don't have a refrigerated marble pastry counter, nor ovens large enough for full sheet pans, nor walk-in refrigerators I can store racks of sheet pans in.  But I also have none of the stress and anxiety to spoil my love of baking.  I walked away from the baking and pastry building grateful for the experience, and glad to be heading home to my little kitchen.  I have a slab of puff pastry chilling in the trunk of the car to bring home with me.  I have no idea what I'll create with it, but I'll figure it out. 


Prudy said...

Oh, why does this sound like so much fun to me. Isn't boot camp supposed to be awful? :) Welcome to TWD!

Leslie said...

I know! It was very exhausting, though. I slept a lot once I got home!

Rachel said...

WOW i am LOVING reading these posts about the boot camp! Thanks for all of the info and welcome to TWD!

Leslie said...

Thanks for the welcome. I would recommend boot camp to anyone--it was the fulfillment of a dream to spend 5 days at the CIA!

Anonymous said...

Hi Leslie, I just read through your boot camp posts. It's fun to relive it! I think we were both there in Sept 08, but not the same week. I agree that it was exhausting but so fun - definitely one of the best experiences I've had. Please let me know what chocolate cookie recipe you're talking about on Day 3 so I can look it up in my book.

I'm headed to a chocolate class at the French Pastry School in Chicago this week, so stay tuned for my posts on that. My chef's jackets from boot camp are packed!