Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is this really a Pear Tart??

Well I started another week, and I started school on a Tuesday, which threw me off a bit in knowing which it was. I had demo, and practical in the same day, which I like because the demo is still fresh on my mind, and that way I get it just done.
This demo for this week covered sweet pastry dough, which meant more tarts. The chef did some Caramelized Pear and Crisp Almond Crust Tart and Honey Filled Barquettes. Both names are not a real match to what he did. The Honey Filled Barquettes are filled in reality with sliced almonds, I mean the filling does have honey in it, but they are not only filled with honey as the name implies. I really liked these, because they are relatively simple and easy to make. The pear tart although it does has pears on the filling, once you eat it, the dominant flavor is not the pears. The filling has raisins, as well as black currants, and both really overpower the flavor of pear, so I would not call this a pear tart at all. Plus the black currants will paint all the filling purple, even though you just kind of sprinkle them on top of the filling. Anyway the tart is really good, but still unsure on what I could call it.


Tarte Meringue aux Poires Caramelisees

Barquettes au Miel


And, of course, the best part of every class "la degustation", I think I like it more every class!!

This week I only had one practical which is a nice breather from eating all these things on a regular basis, although is just for this week, since next week, I will be having 4 practicals!!

Anyhow this practical went smooth, and people seems to be getting the hang of things, since everyone in class did a pretty good job in the tarts this time. Since we had some death time while we waited for our tarts to bake, the chef showed us how to do some decorations in chocolate, and it looked so easy while he was doing it. He later asked us to practice, so we could start getting a feel on handling chocolate, and wow!!! It is soooo hard, the first time I tried, the chocolate was to hard (cold) and was really hard to get it running smoothly. On my second try now the chocolate was too runny (hot), and everything I did would just spread, and not hold its shape. Putting that aside, the making of the patterns is very hard too, since you have to use both your hands to  be more precise, and then be somehow descent in drawing to do this patterns, and even more for them to be uniform all the way through. I definitively need to practice this A LOT MORE!!

the Chef's sample designs

My very awful attempt!!


My tart came out really good. I couldn't resist and ate a piece, as soon as I got home after I backed it. It was still warm, it was so good!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Palais de l'Elysee

Ok, so I am finally going to put my last post regarding the Patrimony Days. On Sunday I went to the Palais de l'Elysee, which is the President's House here in France, and is only open once a year, so there was no question I HAD TO go.
So there I go Sunday morning. The place was to be open at 8:30, so I got there by 7:45 thinking I should find many people. Ohhhh boy!!!! Was I wrong about that. There was a line going all the way from the President's House to the Place de la Concorde, which might be only one block, but is a really looooong block. Anyway I get in line thinking I have about a hour before they open, maybe another hour for me to go in, I will wait 2 hours tops, not so bad. So I get my book out, and start reading, as we waited, and move forward once in a while. By the time we are a bit over half the line form when I got there I checked my watch, and realized I had been in line for 3 hours already!!!!! What??!!!! I could believe that. Then I figured I have been in line for 3 hours already, there is no point in leaving now, I didn't waste three hours here for nothing, so I waited. To make matters worse, this day was the coldest Paris has been since I got here, and besides that after being so many hours just standing there, I was freezing cold!!!
I had to wait 4 1/2 hours!!!!! Before I could actually go inside the fence.

I was cold, and not very happy after waiting for sooo long!!
Finally I got inside!!! Sadly only to find myself still in line for about one more hour.


It was after 1 pm when I finally made it inside the actual building:

Salon d'argent:


Salon a manger Paulin

Ceiling Detail




Salon des Aides de Camp

Salon des Ambassadeurs


Salon des Portraits


Salon Dore - President's Office

Vestubule d'honneur:

Even though it wasn't the last place to visit in the house I left it for the end, because I think is the most beautiful room in the house, and the set up is very impressive. La Salle des fetes:





It was very impressive, to see how beautiful they set up the room, and while we where waiting on the garden, they were showing a video on how they set up this tables, such as that everything has to be aligned, and spaced exactly right, and center, so everything is symmetrical and in the perfect location.

I really like getting to know the President's House, I will not do the whole waiting for hours thing, buy I am glad I did!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

My ALMOST Perfect Cake!!

We had the Demo for the Gateau Basque and Diplomate on Wednesday. The cake which is the one we have to do for demo, and the Diplomate didn't look so difficult, but the Chef emphasized a couple of things several times, proving that most likely we will have to watch for those, such as clearing the top side from the ring since we will have to remove the ring through the top. As the chef was almost finished explaining, he said if we had any questions, as no one asked anything, he started laughing as he said " We'll see in practical if you really got it, usually 1 in 4 student will get this cake right", which hit us all as a joke, then realizing he was serious about the comment, so when the time came to take pictures of the cakes he had left at various points of preparation, everyone was very attentive since by now, we were all a bit unsure about how we were all going to do in practical. The Diplomate pudding is sort of like bread pudding, which is really not difficult at all to make.

Gateau Basque

Diplomate with Creme Anglaise

Diplomate with Raspberry Coulis

Diplomate with Apricot Coulis

Since I am not a cherry fan, and the gateau basque has cherries, it was definitively not my favorite, I mean it was good except for the cherries. I like the Diplomate more, but just the one with the creme anglaise. I found that the ones with either the apricot or the raspberry coulis where a bit to sweet, and too strong of a flavor to notice the Diplomat.
Chef J is the youngest of the Pastry Chefs here in Le Cordon Bleu Paris, he is only 32 years old, but as you listen to him in demo, you immediately notice how much he knows, and how good he is for his age. I really like his classes, since he talks in a medium speed, which allows me to understand, and he always gives lots of interesting information.
Having him for practicals is a whole different thing, although I know he does this for a purpose, and is good for me, is very stressful when he is always rushing us, telling us, we should already be putting our cakes in the oven, and how we are already late, even though technically we still have plenty of time. The other thing he does, is he walks around checking our work, but something in the way he looks at you while you are working, that you feel how he is scrutinizing every single movement you do, already thinking how you are doing it wrong, and how will he do it better. It is indeed very stressful to have practical with him.
Of course today when I had to do the Gateau Basque and knowing it might not be an easy cake to accomplished based in all the mocking comments made by the Chef in demo, I had Chef J as my Chef for practical .
I was very excited this time since my Gateau Basque came out pretty good, except for the fact that when I was removing it form the ring, we use as mold to bake it, being this my first time, I don't know exactly how I cut it, that I made a cut along the crust, which was OK, just as I take my cake to the Chef, so he can grade it. Just as he was about to say a praise about it, he spins it fast and a tiny piece falls off, and he said:  "Ohhh, it could have been the perfect cake, but you where clumsy with the knife, and you messed the whole thing up. You have to pay more attention!".

I, of course,  didn't picture the little mess up
 In spite of this little mistake he still took my cake, and gather the whole class around it, to show them how the cake was supposed to look, the shape, the color, the decoration. At the end he did tell me a "Tres Bien", which made me feel really good, and so happy, I know that for some people it might be just a cake, but this is something I had always like to do. I knew I wasn't terribly bad, at it, but coming from a job when nothing was appreciate it, whether you did it good, bad, or nothing at all. It is certainly encouraging to know that I can do this, and not only can I do it, but I am good at it, and I love doing it!!!
He was the Chef when I had my not so good Madeleines, so hopefully I erased that bad impression with my cake today.

Butter Cake with pastry cream and cherry filling
I didn't try this cake since I do not like cherries, but I already received some reviewing comments about it, and so far all are positive!!!

I will definitively will be a lot more careful now when unmolding my cakes, who knows, maybe I can get a perfect cake one of this days!!
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