Meredith circa 1982

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Report Card

On Friday I got an email from ICE with my grade for Module I - Course 1 and I'm happy to report that I made an A! YAY!

We are well into Mod I - Course 2 and this past weekend was all about Custards! Just when I thought my days of separating eggs for egg whites was over, we make recipes with Yolks as the foundation! More separating....

We started out making Creme Brulee - "burnt cream" - which was fun. It's a rather simple preparation but it's all about getting the right texture and baking them properly. We made a traditional vanilla Creme Brulee but there are tons of flavor options for this dessert.

After the custards cooled, we covered them with granulated sugar

And then torched them to make the "burnt" portion. Here I am in my uniform - taking my torching very seriously!

We had tons of Creme Brulee's to share with our fellow Pastry & Culinary students because we made them in ceramic ramekins and couldn't take them home. We were puzzled because no one really seemed to want them, and then we realized it was because if they took them and ate them, they would have to wash the ramekins! The last thing you want to pile up in your kitchen is extra dishes to wash - so I think Chef was going to give our extras to a recreational class that evening.

Next on the agenda was Bread Pudding - our class made Traditional (vanilla with raisins) and Chocolate.

Not much to report on Bread Pudding - pretty basic. We did line our cups with thin slices of bread and filled the inside with the custard instead of using cubed bread which is how I'm used to seeing it.

Our next custard was Creme Renverse which is basically the French version of Flan. Very tasty!

We made a Caramel to pour into our cups and then poured the custard on top of the caramel. After they chilled we quickly submerged the bottoms into boiling water to melt the caramel and help release it from the mold.

Now that I'm writing this post, I'm realizing how much we did on Saturday! Because after those three desserts, we made Pate Sable which is a sweet crust that can be used as a base for Cheesecake! While those baked and cooled, we made our Cheesecake fillings. The class made a Traditional Cheesecake, Sour Cream Cheesecake and Mascarpone Cheesecake.

We baked our Cheesecakes Saturday so that they could cool in the refrigerator overnight and we could unmold and taste them on Sunday. Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead when we got to class on Sunday so I don't have any pictures of the rest of the things we made on Sunday. My partner took some pictures with her camera, so if she emails them to me, I'll post those pictures.

But just so you know, our Cheesecake turned out perfectly! No cracks, perfectly flat and a nice golden color around the edges. I sent the entire cheesecake with Roger to his office on Monday and it seemed to be well received!

Saturday afternoon we also made Ice Cream bases - which are a custard as well. Thea and I made Chocolate and then churned it on Sunday when we got to use the professional icecream machine! That was a really fun experience - and it is amazing how quickly the ice cream churned - I think our chocolate took about 8 minutes and it made 1/2 a gallon. It was absolutely delish! Tasted like Haagen-Dazs - very chocolately!!!

Interesting fact - ever wonder why a small container of Haagen-Dazs cost the same (sometimes more) than a 1/2 gallon of Turkey Hill / Breyers? It's because the Ice Cream industry has different types of machines to churn their products and the amount of air incorporated varies. So Haagen-Dazs may use a machine that aerates 20%, while Turkey Hill might aerate 50% - so you end up with less of the custard mixture and more air. This is also why these products have a very different "mouth feel" to them and why Haagen-Dazs and other premium ice creams seem much richer. I thought that was a neat fact to learn!

Other flavors the class made were vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, ginger and coconut. Chocolate seemed to be a class favorite! Sunday morning we made things that could be served with Ice Cream in a dessert presentation - pizelle's (like a waffle cone), tulipes (thin wafer cookie), and sauces - raspberry, hot fudge, caramel, chocolate sauce, etc.

While we worked on those recipes, we also made Sorbet. Thea and I made Sour Cherry Sorbet and it was nice to have something with a tart flavor to contrast all of the super sweet cheesecake & Ice Creams we had been sampling. It's a little hard to enjoy Ice Creams and Sorbets to their full extent in February - in NYC - but maybe we will have a chance to make some more frozen desserts once warm weather gets here!

In the afternoon we were able to showcase our creativity by using our Ice Creams, Sorbets, Sauces, Pizelles and Tulipes to plate our own original desserts. Hopefully I'll get pictures of that to post too - it was neat to see everyone's style come out!

This weekend we don't have class due to President's Day so I will have a little bit of a break! If anything fun happens or school related comes up, I'll do a post - otherwise I'll write again in a few weeks!

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!