Meredith circa 1982

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Is my sweet tooth fading?

So this weekend we took a field trip to Gramercy Tavern - - to sample their dessert menu and to meet Pastry Chef Nancy Olson. It was great to have the opportunity to meet her and tour the kitchen of such a well known restaurant.

Here are my school pals Pamela and Rebecca before our feasting extravaganza began!

If you visit the Gramercy Taven website, you can see how extensive their dessert selection is. Our group of 14 was seated at 3 tables and each table was served a selection from both the Tavern and Dining Room dessert menus. We started with a cheese plate and breads before the staff brought out our desserts.

I wasn't able to take individual pictures of each dessert, because we were already getting strange looks from the other patrons for ordering nothing but desserts at 12:00 on a Saturday, so I didn't want to draw additional attention to us by walking around taking pictures. : )

Anyway, this was the dessert placed in front of me - Lemon Bread Pudding with Caramel Ice Cream and Salted Almonds:

German Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate & Coconut Ice Cream (bottom left) and Slow Roasted Apples with Pecan Crumble and Vanilla Ice Cream (top right):

Chocolate Pudding with Salted Caramel and Brioche Croutons (cup at bottom left), Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding with Cacao Nib Ice Cream (top center) and Apple Crostada with Calvados Caramel and Spiced Walnuts (bottom right):

There were a few desserts that our table did not receive, but our classmates did so they passed them along to us to taste and vice versa.

Those included:
  • Banana Cream Tart with Chocolate Ice Cream and Rum Caramel
  • Pear Sundae with Chip Meringue
  • Peanut Butter Semifreddo with Chocolate Macaroon (one of my favorites!)

The aftermath (shameful, I know). And this is the point where we all felt nauseous and could only think of salty, savory things to help keep our minds off of the sugar sickness we were feeling. Keep in mind, we had not had anything else for lunch besides these decadent desserts!

Before we slipped into sugar comas, Pastry Chef Nancy Olson took us on our tour of the restaurant - Front of House and Back of House (kitchens and other cool stuff). Gramercy Tavern has a separate kitchen just for Pastry which is rare in NYC where space is limited. It was great to see a professional kitchen and get a taste of what a career in that world entails. GT even has a chocolate room that they use to make their own truffles and chocolate components for desserts. We tasted a Pumpkin Ganache truffle coated in Gingersnap Crumbs and it was great!

While we were out of the classroom and in the Union Square area which is a culinary mecca in NYC, Chef Jeff had us stop into the L. A. Burdick Chocolate Shop on 20th Street.

This is the inside of the shop / cafe - really cozy and warm feeling on a blustery winter day!

They are known for their adorable chocolate mice - sounds weird, but they really are cute! Chef bought enough for our class to try them and we saved them to eat later Saturday afternoon when our systems could tolerate more sugar.

And it was after we got back to the classroom that I started to wonder if being a Pastry Student is causing me to not like sweets so much? Ironic, but I guess when you are around such abundant amounts of sweets, and are "forced" to taste them as part of the learning process, your sweet tooth does seem to fade. Hmm.

After the field trip on Saturday, we spent the rest of our time in the kitchen making buttercream and practicing our piping skills so we didn't really make anything.

Sunday was Candy Day and we made recipes that required us to cook sugar to the various stages of consistency - soft ball, hard ball, crack, hard crack, etc.

We made fudge and cooled it on marble slabs using bench scrapers to work the fudge to smooth out the texture and cool the mixture. Felt like I was working at River Street Sweets in Savannah, Ga.

Next we attempted to make Divinity. No pictures because it was a complete flopper for the entire class! Momma always told me that Divinity was very finicky and hard to make, and I believe it now! If a class full of Pastry Students in culinary school can't get it to work, then you know it's hard!

Ours came out as a crumbly mess and was deposited into the trash can shortly after it cooled! LOL!!!

Next was something a little more familiar to me - Peanut Brittle!!!! For some reason this picture reminds me of December in Morrow, GA - wonder why Daddy? : )

Our recipe was different from Daddy's and was just OK. Not to give away family secrets, but the recipe we used in school called for Honey Roasted peanuts and I think they made the final product way too sweet. I think I'll leave Peanut Brittle making up to Daddy because he certainly has a winning recipe and perfect technique!

Next we made Torrone which was new to me . Apparently this is a very popular confection in the Italian community and I can see why! It was delicious and something I plan to make again. The base has honey in it and is cooked to a nougat like consistency and then toasted slivered almonds and pistachios are folded in. Very pretty too!

Lastly, we made more Meringue cookies - this time using the Italian Meringue method and giving us another opportunity to practice our piping skills. Nothing too special about the flavor of these, but they are pretty!

And that's it! I'm giving my sweet tooth a break this week - kinda like resting a sore muscle - to prep for this weekends Creme Brulee, Custards, Bread Puddings & Ice Creams!

1 comment:

  1. Oh the trials and tribulations of being a pastry student! If you need a substitute taster for Creme Brulee, let me know! ;)