Thursday, November 24, 2011

Basic Pastry Graduation

Because not everyone that comes to Cordon Bleu stays for the full three courses to get the Diploma, they have a small ceremony after each course to give out the Cetificates and to say farewell to anyone not coming back.
The ceremony is quite simple, they arrange chairs in the free space outside of the locker areas. I wanted to take pictures, but I was sooo late I barelly was able to get a chair.
My ceremony was for Basic Pastry and Basic Cuisine. They called everyone by name starting with the ones in Cuisine to give out the Diplomas and to take a picture with the Head Chef of Basic Cuisine, and the Head Chef of Basic Pastry.
Then they went on to call the ones for Basic Pastry. I did not get a change to get a picture of me with the chefs yet, but I am currently in the process of obtaining one.

Because this is was the first time after a couple of days since the test, it is the day as well when one finds out who didn't pass the test and therefore failed to get a certificate. It was so beyond comprehension to me how some people did really poorly over the whole course, and somehow managed to pull a descent test and pass, while some that did ok during the course, and happened to fail to test don't get the certificate.
When you get your certificate, you get a Class picture as well which is nice, and you get your grades, which I was not happy about. I mean I am really not happy to see a C- grade in my report card, but considering that the second highest of all was a C, I am not feeling that bad. The thing with chefs here is they are very tough on the grading. They grade us having their work as a standard so no one ever will get 90 or above. 80 to 90 they may get that in a really bad day, but no one in school gets it, since it is considered that if you get a grade like that means you are really good, and you would not need to be here. So the common given high grade will be between 70 to 80 and is very very hard to be close to that 80. Considering this I do not feel that bad about my grade, but I still have a hard time adjusting to how they grade, since this a really really low grade to what I am used to. I am really going to try and do better for the next term to raise my grade as much as possible.
Anyway after the brief ceremony we went to the Demo Room in the first floor to have some hors d'oeuvres and tiny sweet pastries with champagne and orange juice. For me at 9 in the morning it was a bit to early to start drinking so I went with orange juice, and the hors d'oeuvres, were not exactly my favorites. As I could tell they were bought and not very good.
Putting the food aside, it was good to talk with the chefs, and to have a small social to say good bye to those not coming back, and see you later to the rest of us, going in vacation until January.
 Here is a picture of my and one of my favorite chefs, Chef C!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Basic Pastry Final Test

I was so stressed out the morning of the test. My main worry was not the actual exam itself, but my fear that I would get the Moka. I kept praying that I would get the Gateau Basque or the Saint Honore since I had practiced those, and did them fairly well.
We all gathered outside the kitchen in the second floor, all anxious and trying to guess which will be the recipes for the test, and who will get which. It was very nerve racking just seeing the chefs and assistant going in and out without saying anything, and us trying to catch a glimpse of the kitchen to see if we could figure out which were the chosen recipes by what molds were placed on the tables.
Finally sweet Chef T came of with a cup wit colored chips in it, green yellow, and red. One off my friends was the first one to rich for a chip, a yellow one. I was going to reach for the same colored chip, but something stopped me form doing that, and I found myself reaching for the green chip. The other 3 girls that are usually next to me in practical, all when for the green chip as well, hoping we would either be together, or help each other at least by looking (since we are not supposed to talk or help each other at the exam like we normally do in class).
Once everyone had their chip, the Chef went in, leaving us all clueless about what the chips mean. By this time we had figured out that the Moka was for sure one of the test cakes, since we saw the mold required to do it, so of course I was totally freaking out in fear I would have gotten it Then finally the Chef comes out saying: "Green inside", so we go. The Chef goes inside as well and point to the right hand corner of the kitchen where we had all set up for us, it was such a relief since I saw that the Moka was in the middle. I didn't even care what cake I had gotten, but just not getting the Mocha was already a relief. When I finally reach my place I was so thankful to God when I saw I had gotten the Saint Honore. I was so thankful to God, since he had not only not given me the Moka as I had asked, but he also gave me the cake I wanted to make.
Everyone was getting in by now, and once we were all in the Chef gave us the green light to start.
I first made the dough for the tart lining since it is easier to work with once it has been chilled, and then off I went preparing my cake.
We had two and a half hours, to make the cake, and the tart lining. I finished both in a bit less than two hours, I was very excited. We do not get extra credit for finishing early, but is always nice to realize how you have improved from the first time we did it in class, and took us the full class, without the tart lining.

During the test I was able to focus, but never forgetting it was my final test. For the tart lining, I think it wasn't perfect since I didn't leave enough dough to make a nice pinching in the edge, but still came out pretty even.

My cake came out good, my choux pastry puffed nicely, which was one concerned I had. The one thing that got my a bit not happy about my tests was the final decoration of the cake. It is so difficult to do the Chantilly cream pipping to make it look even and well define each "flame". Even though I had practiced it at home, I am not very happy on how they looked, since it could definitively looked better, still with shaky nervous hands, it was all I was able to do that day.

Oh, and I burned myself, with the caramel, again! I was so focused in getting puffs, to be all straight in the cake, that for a moment I got distracted holding one in position, while dipping another one into the caramel, so I burned my finger, luckly not as bad as last time, but still not fun.

I was overall happy and comfortable about my outcome, it wasn't spectacular, but wasn't bad either. I just hope the Chefs' and the invited jury that will grade like my cake as well.

Now, lets relax while eating some of the left over chouquettes, and Chantilly Cream!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Test Prep

I have been so anxious about my Final Exam. They gave us at school this list of about 10 recipes that we have to know have to do for the Exam. For the exam they will choose three of this recipes to be done, and the way for you to know which one you get, is by taking a color chip, out of a container, and that will determine which recipe you are to make. Not only you do not know what are you making until the very moment, but you are not allowed to bring in any notes at all. The school will provide you with a ingredients list and thats about it, you will have to know how to make everything from memory. Besides doing this cake in two and a half hours or you get penalized by everyminute you are late, there is a technique part of the test which consisits on making a tart shell, like the one we did for our Tarte aux Pommes. It doesn't have to be cooked or anything, but this is how we will be graded on techniaue for the Basic Course.
Out of the recipes we got, we already know there are some that are very not likely to be given for our test, since we either just made them, or we did them over two classes. On th eother hand we already also know which ones are very likely to be chosen.
Although there is not much space in my apt kitchen to work on, I decided I wanted to practice some of the possible recipes we could get for the test.
 For the technique part I did a Tarte aux Pommes to practice my tart lining.

And I chose two cakes to do, the Gateau Basque and the Saint Honore. The Gateau Basque was sooo difficult to make this time, because I could get the dough to cool down enough, so it was very difficult to work with, besides I didn't find the ring to do it, so I had to do it using my tart ring, making it thinner.

For the Saint Honore my only concern was to not burn myself, like I had done when I did it at school, since it took me almost two months to completely heal from it. To give it a twist I made it in different sizes, and I think for being it a pretty small space, they came out pretty descent.

I also wanted to practice making the moka, since frosting it is very difficult, but I couldn't find the mold to do it, plus it was already hard enough trying to get rid of three cakes, what was I going to do with a fourth cake. So I am praying to God, that I do not get this on my test since I did not practice it.
I am really feeling very anxious about, because I do not know for certqin which cakes are we doing, and that idea that I get the moka for the test, and that I won't be able to make it look like it is supposed to is just torturing me.
I really just want to just  get it done; so good thing we  are the first ones to take the test at 8:30, that way we don't even have time to think about and just get it done. Whish me luck, or like the French say: Merde!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Last Demo

I just cannot believe we finished our last Basic Pastr Demo!!! I am so happy to have make it through, but at the same time, I cannot believe time went by so fast!!! It all seemed so distant, that I really can't believed we finished it.
For this demo the Chef made a Chocolate-Bergamot Mousse Cake with Orange Crisp, which I really believe is a sort of introduction to what we will be working on for Intermediate Pastry.


 It was a sponge cake layer, with a bergamot mousse on top, and a chocolate mouse on top, chocolate glaze, and to decorate orange crisp.
I wasn't sure I was going to like the orangy-chocolate combination, fearing it was going to be too rich. Surprisingly the mousse had just the right amount of sweetness and flavor, that will tame down the chcocolate, and the is so trasty, and gave the cake a wonderful crunchy texture to it.

Can you all see my glass of Champagne behind my cake?
Because this was our last demostration for the Course, and some people are not coming back for the next level, they gave us a glass of Champagne to celebrate that we finish and to say farewell to those not coming back, which I thought was a pretty nice closure to it.

It really just made me excited to think of what there is to come, as well as realize all the way we have been through. To imagine our first demo was about shortbread cookies, and now we have this different element cakes is just really exciting for me.
The only thing left to finish Basic Pastry is the exam, so lets get ready for it!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Really Do Not Like Chocolate !!!!!

I knew that working with chocolate was not an easy task. We worked with it for our last cake, and because it went fairly well, I was not so afraid of it, until this next cake came along. Getting the chocolate glazing done the right way is sooo horribly difficult!!!
We had Chef C for the demo, and he did wonderfull cakes as always, and showed us a various ways we could decorate our cakes.

The cake for this class was the Alhambra. This is a chocolate-hazelnut bread, imbibed with coffee-rum syrup, chocolate ganache in between the lqyers, and a chocolate glaze, talk about a rich tasting chocolate cake!!


I really liked a lot the bread for the cake, and it was specially with the imbibing syrup, tyhe chocoalte was a bit too rich for me, since chocolate is not my thing, but if it is your thing, you might consider trying this because is good!!!

Chocolate is not easy to work with, but covering the buche we did last time was not so difficult, so I was feeling a bit more confident about glazing this cake. I did the cake with no mayor problem, until it was time to glaze the thing. Ohh boy, was this a tricky task! When I glazed the ends, the glaze didn't completely cover all of them, so when I did the generql glazing it didn't coat all evenly either. I did maybe like " coatings to completelly cover the whole cake thinking it was better. It turned out I did cover the whole cake, and I managed to achieve for the top to look smooth which is not easy, but what I wasn't counting on is because I did so many layers, and the cake underneath was cold, all my chocolate glazed started cracking real bad, all over!!!

You can see the horrible crack running on the side edge
It was just horrible!!!! I didn't know this would happen, but I wouldn't have been happy either with a not completely covered cake, I mean either way the result was not as I like it to be. My marzipan rose I liked, I tried doing it in a slightly different way, and because the rose had to be smaller than the one we did for the Dacquoise since this is a smaller cake, it was a bit more challenging; Either way at least I got that one right. It wasn't a completelly horrible cake, but it really makes me realize, there is no easy work when it comes to chocolate, even if it is just glazing a cake!!!

This was  our last practical before the final exam for Basic, so we all were very excited. I still cannot believe Basic is almost finished, and that we worked our way through all the recipes in the binder we got at the beginning of the session. Oh well, now get ready for the test.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Christmas Cake??

In Mexico and USA, that I know off there is no particular cake that we eat for Christmas. In Mexico there are some characteristic desserts  of the season, as well as in the USA, but not one specific cake for the Christmas Dinner. Well, in France they do, is called a buche. The interesting thing is that buche only refers to the shape of the cake and not the flavor, so it can basically be any cake, which ever is yoour fqvorite as long as it is in a log shape or buche you can eat in it Christmas. Some are decorated with Christmas motifs, and some with no particular theme, but always nicely decorated.
At school they taught us, how to make this cake in the Pistachio-Chocolat flavor modality, as well as a bread called Pain de Genes. The rectangular cake is made of the left over batter, just for the Chef to show us a different way to present this cake for another ocassion besides Christmas.

The Buche Pistachio-Chocolat was ok, but a little too rich in chocolate flavor for me, since it was a pistachio Genoise, with chocolate ganache in between the layer, and a choclate glaze. But I can't deny that the presentation of this cake is very elegant.

The Pain du Genes, is not a formal bread at all, but I quite like it since it is mainly almond bread it has a much milder taste.

Even though you already see what the inside looks like, I will still post a picture of what I got for "la degustation".

For our practical we, of course did the difficult one of the two, the Buche Pistachio-Chocolate.
Doing the glazing of teh cake so that is smooth, even and all over the cake is very difficult> Somehow I managed to get it done like this, but things don't end here. Once you have it glazed you have to move it somewhere where the chocolate can set, so I put mine behind me, and all was ok, except when the chef passed real quick beside it, and gently hit my cake. The result, my chocolate glazed cracked. Because of this I could not make the vertical decoration the chef had done in demo, and I had to figure out a way to hide my cracked cake without it looking horrible or that I was covering something. I managed to make it look pretty descent, or at least I think so.

When we were all presenting our cakes to be graded, I saw that most of them just did the normal decoration even though their glazed was cracked. I had second thoughts about my decoration, but then I though mine is ok, since mine shows a perfect glaze hidden the crack.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The French "Rosca the Reyes"

In Mexico we have the tradition of eating Rosca de Reyes for The Three Wise Men Day in January 6th. This round bread has a plastic baby figure that is to remember baby Jesus, and who ever gets it, has to buy the tamales for February 2nd. Well the french have a similar tradition, but in the first days of Februqry and they eat a "Galette des Rois" which has a colored chickpea inside. And the way they do it, is that the youngest member of the family gets under the table and as one older person cuts out the pieces, the kid is to say who that piece goes to making it fair   so that no one cheats in trying to avoid getting the chickpea which in turn will have to buy food for another occasion.

In school they taught us how to make this, well sort off, we made the "Pithiviers" which is exactly the same thing as a Galette des Rois, the only difference being is that the Pithiviers has petal shapes all around it, and the galette des Rois is completelly round. The "cake" is only puff pastry with almond paste in it, the puff pastry was good, but the almond paste not my favorite thing to eat though.

The chef was actually in a pretty good mood, and was telling us all about this tradition. And there is a third way of calling this cake if you do it in a long rectangular cake, and then sell it as individual pieces, which is the: "Dartois". Talk about being picky about names, this cake changes name in the way you even serve it.

 With the left over dough, since is difficult to reuse in another cake, since it won't puff as nice, the chef just did what they call "Sacristans" which are nothing more than chopped almonds, cinnamon, and supar twist. They are very good though.

And of course the fun part was to try them all.

For practical we had to do the Pithivier, and with the left over the Sacristains.

Look at those nice layers!!!!
The making of the pastry was a workout. We had to do 3 1/2 double turns on the dough, and the rolling out of it, is exercise.

Mine turn out pretty good actually, since my dough really puffed out in a very nice way, even though I had little pieces of butter exposed while making it.


The sacristains are a whole other thing. These are very very difficult to make. They look easy, but rolling them so they actually look like twist, and for them to be all even and look alike is very very hard. Mine once baked turned out not so bad, but I has very worried before baking them cause they looked really awful. Thankfully flavor and looks not always go hand in hand, and these tasted very good!!

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