Saturday, September 27, 2008

Boot Camp Day 2 – My Teammate Sucks

Day 2 started before dawn, as will all of the days.  I scraped ice off my windshield before taking off for the Culinary (as they call the school).  I'm careful to observe all speed limits as the county police seem to have little interest in any law enforcement that doesn't involve a speed trap.  It will not surprise you that I drove around campus for 10 minutes looking for the correct parking lot.  The breakfast line had formed by the time I (a) found the correct parking lot and (b) found my way back to the kitchen where breakfast is served.  I noticed yesterday that the people who ordered pancakes got their breakfasts really fast, so I went with pancakes.  Today they had bananas and chocolate chips and were served with maple syrup (burp).  Then I ran off to our kitchen to start my mise en place.  The rest of the students and the chef arrived and we had a short lecture, then we hit the kitchen.

Today was an ambitious day (I'm sure it will seem like an easy day when I look back on it tomorrow night).  We piped our pate a choux for eclairs, cream puffs and Paris Brest and baked them off (OK, the student assistant baked them in the big ovens).  We made tart shell dough.  We made butter cookie dough and piped it into shapes that resemble stars (if you woke in the middle of the night and looked at mine without your glasses, you would think they were...oh yeah, stars).  We filled and glazed our eclairs.  We made a foamed cake batter (genoise), and then baked it in four cake pans.  We'll assemble our cakes and make butter cream frosting for them tomorrow.  Tomorrow we'll also bake the tart shells, and make fresh and baked fruit tarts. 

Some things went better than others.  Chef called the other campers over to look at my tart dough so they would know what theirs should look like. That was the high point.  I got my mise en place done early but production can be challenging when you're on your own.  I had the eggs for my cake in a double boiler and left it alone for a minute or two when Chef reminded me I needed to put my piped cookies in the walk in.  When I came back, the water under the bowl was boiling and my eggs had started to scramble.  That batch (15 eggs! 2 pounds of sugar!) went down the sink and I ran off (literally) to crack 15 more eggs and weigh another 2 pounds of sugar.  I stood over it and whisked like mad, with the student assistant's instant read thermometer. I won't go into the details but a well intentioned suggestion from a student assistant lead me to tilt the bowl in a way that, you guessed it, put the eggs in a position that the heat under the pan started scrambling the eggs.  It was too late for me to start all over for a third time.  The Chef said I could use the cake layers he made during the demo (I missed most of the demos today), but one of the student assistants suggested we strain the eggs through the chinois (very very fine cone shaped strainer), then beat it like mad on the mixer to cool it down. 

IT WORKED!!  My eggs beat up to incredible volume and I got four cake pans out of it (the yield per the recipe).  The other teams got three or even two layers. 

I think if I hadn't had that traumatic experience, Chef would have made me stay after class and pipe "I will not over heat my eggs" 100 hundred times since my piping looks like the extruded sand kids use to make sand castles at the beach.  

At the end of the class, we plated some of the desserts we completed so far:

Crème brulee

Crème caramel

Petit pots de crème

bread pudding


Cream puffs

Cream filled swans

Paris Brest (pate a choux filled with a chocolate hazelnut flavored pastry cream) 

It amazed me how good our desserts looked.  And they even tasted good!  The eclairs were the best eclairs I've ever had.  I realized they should be crisp on the outside, contrasting with the pastry cream inside, and the dark chocolate fondant on top.  We begged a maintenance man to take the rest of the desserts (Chef told us they would put them aside and take them to dinner so the students could have them with their dinner...that felt like somewhat of an honor). 

After that, the school took a photo of our group, then we headed off for a lecture on teas and coffees.  It included tastings of 16 teas and 6 coffees--served with six different pastries.  It was an exceptionally good class, and I learned a lot. It was 5:15 when we rushed back to our hotels to change clothes before dinner.  Dinner was at St. Andrew's Cafe, the Culinary's healthier cuisine restaurant.  It was a fabulous meal, but the chef sent each of us a dessert assortment (minis of white chocolate cheesecake, chocolate panna cotta, pineapple and orange sorbets in an almond tuile cookie cup, and an apple tart with vanilla gelato-see photo of plated dessert above).  We were crying with pain as this was, easily, our fourth dessert of the day.  The students working in this restaurant truly cared about our dining experience. 

Several of you have requested leftovers, samples, a daily Fedex.  Leftovers are a big problem here.  They take all food scraps to local farmers who use it for compost or feed. 

It's late here and I have to study a little before I go to bed.  Tomorrow, we MAKE puff pastry. From scratch. 

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