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Gastronomicom Week Two

I feel like I’m standing outside in a field watching as a tornado is coming. I know its approaching and there is nowhere to run.

On Monday, Chef brought us through a brief outline of what recipes we would be making during the week. He told us that all of the recipes–which we would have 10 hours to make–would be able to be completed by a real chef in a mere three hours. THREE HOURS. Did I forget to mention we have 17 recipes?

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Because there are only 6 of us in the class, we are making one recipe per person–which is great because it means that Tiff and I can still be “partners” and help each other out.

We started by making the Sablee for two of the recipes–and while the recipes themselves are actually quite simple, since we gathered all the ingredients at the same time and it was our first time making something that wasn’t bread, I think everyone was a little frazzled.

One Hazelnut Sablee and one Red-Colored Almond Sablee later, we started on our Lapshong Tea Cake–using an amazingly fragrant lapshong tea, which is a smoked green tea from China. I have used Earl Grey, Jasmine and Thai Tea a number of times in recipes before, along with Sencha and Chai, but it is rare that I go outside that circle of flavor familiarity.

We ended the cooking part of Monday by making an Apple “Marmalade,” using a cool technique of pressing it into the bottom of a cake round covered with plastic wrap before putting it in the freezer. I honestly can’t imagine what the next step will be with this flat disk of apple jam, but I am curious to find out.

 

One (of the many) reasons I feel like a tornado is about to hit the kitchen is because today when we attempted to clean the kitchen it was like we were chickens running around with our heads cut off. To start with, we had way too many dishes to be done, and then everyone was confused with who should be doing what and in what order. And then once things finally calmed down, everything still took forever because some people in the class were like zombies–taking 20 minutes to do a task that should take 2. So we ended up going 30 minutes past the bell to signal the end of class–cutting out basically all the time we would have had to eat lunch between Pastry and French. >_<

I’m attempting (pitifully) to take up jogging, and initially I had planned to jog again tonight. However between the stressful day, not eating lunch, spending an hour going to the grocery store, and cooking dinner, I decided to pass for the day. I’m crossing my fingers that Tuesday brings time enough to eat lunch and also to get in some real exercise!

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Preview of the entremet from this week!

Today—Tuesday—we finished the Red Current Recipe, the Chocolate Mirror Glaze, the Caramel Glaze, and the Hibiscus Recipe. We were once again supposed to fit in an additional recipe…but we seem to fail as a whole at being fast and efficient with our time.

All of the recipes today required saucepans, whisking and sticky ingredients—many of them red—so you can only imagine the state of our tables and pristine white chef coats and aprons at the end of the three hours. I would have loved to have taken a picture of the disaster, but we were so pressed for time (though thank goodness we managed to end earlier than yesterday!) I refrained.

In general, the recipes themselves are not difficult at all, but they are all very new and we have such a finite amount of time that I am constantly feeling the pressure.

Chef, being amazing, took time to help me improve my stance and technique while cutting, which was fantastic because prior to this I literally had no technique—it was just a bizarre free-for-all. Turns out I was doing basically everything wrong, and when Chef was trying to help me dice my plum better I was literally shaking as I chopped.

I was told to stop being so anxious. If only, Chef, if only it were that simple! >_<

After another exhausting day of new things, scrubbing the kitchen, and then three hours of French, the other girls and I all but slept walked back to our apartments—cancelling plans to study together, go for a walk/run, or basically anything else. At least it wasn’t just me who was feeling a little brain dead after our day!

(The cuisine class was likewise tired from having made several risottos, which were time consuming to make and also so filled with wine and cheese that the students basically rolled to French class—requiring several trips to the coffee machine during our halfway break!)

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Wednesday was a whirlwind—but with a result much better than the initial disaster I was predicting at the beginning of the week. I guess that goes to show you that it pays to stick it out.

Why do I always revert to being so cheesy?!

Anyway. We got to class and Chef told us that we would finish our Fromage Blancs and Red Fruits Tart today, because it would be too challenging for us to complete two entremets tomorrow and one on Friday since we are new to this. Instead we completed the one entremet today and will proceed to finish another entremets tomorrow and then again on Friday.

Which is fantastic, but even with sharing with my roommate, sharing with a friend and devouring some myself, I didn’t even finish off half of the entremets we made today! My refrigerator can’t handle all of the cooking! :O

We started the day by turning our pate sable dough from Monday into tart shells. I don’t remember the last time I made a tart, but this was creeping a bit more into familiar territory for me, and went quite smoothly. We didn’t have a lot of time, so as soon as the tart shells went into the fridge to chill before going into the oven, we started in on our “fromage blanc” mousse.

My French teacher tried to explain what “fromage blanc” was to me—using only French—the other day, and it failed epically. At first from the way he was explaining it, I definitely thought it was cream cheese. Turns out it is basically a specific French variety of yogurt. Its delicious, but its just yogurt.

I think mousses are a lot easier and more straightforward to make than anything else we have made so far, and I was feeling quite in my element. As soon as we finished the fromage blanc mousse, we tidied up a bit and then started on the raspberry mousse.

Oh my god. Everything should taste like this mousse. Everything.

I know I say that a lot, but imagine, the most delicate consistency—light as air and melts in your mouth—flavored with raspberry puree, a very light amount of sugar, what can only be described as the most epically gourmet jasmine extract in the world, and lemon juice.

Once the mousse was all ready, we pressed the red current marmalade from Tuesday against the top of the fromage blanc mousse, then poured the raspberry mousse on top.

With, I might add, a spatula. And I mention this because it bares repeating. We have been doing a lot of whisking, mixing and pouring this week—and even after Chef told us he would kill the next person who used a whisk to pour their mousse into the mold, guess what I did?

Yep.

I’m still alive, but I got a semi-stern, mostly-exasperated talking to from Chef asking why I wouldn’t use a spatula to make sure I got out all the ingredients from the bowl—as not to waste anything.

After the mousse went back into the freezer, we quickly cleaned the kitchen and watched as Chef prepared some chocolate decorations, a chocolate glaze, whipped cream, and demonstrated the correct way to put the entremets together.

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Everything seemed very chill…until the bell rang signaling the end of class—and we hadn’t even started putting everything together yet!

Half racing to finish everything and half moving at a snails’ pace to ensure nobody dropped anything, we all managed to complete our entremets and tidy up the kitchen within 20 minutes.

We unfortunately had to leave the entremets behind in the kitchen, since we all had to head right to French class, so we had to wait to taste them until after our three hours of French AND a very painful bus ride home while precariously holding my entremets lightly wrapped in plastic wrap in front of me.

Well. Thursday has come and passed. We didn’t finish our Caramel Apple Entremet due to our lack of ability to organize and do things on time T_T AND IT LOOKED SO DELICIOUS! :O

We spent Thursday making all the last ingredients for the Caramel Entremet—rolling and cooking the hazelnut sable, making the sesame nougat, and then the caramel mousse. All of these amazing things got layered with the previously made apple marmalade in a pastry ring, removed from the pastry ring, and stuck in the glace freezer—all that needs to be done is the caramel glaze and decorations… WE WERE SO CLOSE TO DELICIOUS HEAVEN.

But alas, twas not to be. Tomorrow is going to be a real challenge, what with quickly and carefully finishing the caramel glaze, then finishing all the recipes for the final entremets AND doing our weekly Friday deep clean.

I decided to wear a dress tomorrow—maybe that will bring some chill and good luck to the day, even if I can’t wear it in the kitchen 😉

Friday = Success.

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Woke up at 5:30 for unknown reason? Check. Got to school an hour early? Check. Worked my butt off in pastry class in order to finish both entremets? CHECK.

Guys, we successfully finished them both and they are STUNNING!

Check out these pictures:

The Purple Tea Time is my roomie’s favorite, with Lapsang Souchang Tea (smoked tea from China) that reminds her of home and her family. This entremets also has chocolate glaze, chocolate mousse, and the plum and hibiscus marmalade and dacquoise that we made earlier in the week.

 

The dessert really is a study of complements and layers of flavor—with the lapsang hitting you immediately, which is then calmed down by the smooth chocolate and then brightened by the plum and hibiscus compote . I really have never tasted a dessert like this, and I couldn’t stop eating it out of pure curiosity.

The second dessert we worked on today was the Caramel Apple Nougatine that we were scheduled to finish yesterday.

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When Chef’s cakes are still 10x better than your cakes… #SoMuchToLearn

It is nothing short of fantastic. All of the layers are amazing, and carries the perfect amount of sweetness while also allowing for a depth of flavor and texture. The Hazelnut Sablee we made earlier in the week really helped to add crunch and a buttery, almost savory flavor to the entremets, and the fresh apples really added a great brightness.

The one thing I would change would be to not have two layers of sable, since it was hard to cut through neatly and eat nicely with one crunchy layer of sable/cookie resting between two layers of soft mousse. I think I would either create a tart shell, like the Fromage Blanc and Red Fruits Tart, make small mini domes like the Purple Tea Time cakes with only one layer of cookie where the layer of dacquoise was, or I would make it the same way only minus one layer of sable/cookie (probably replacing it was a larger area of apple or perhaps a layer of vanilla bean mousse to calm down the sweetness of the caramel…).

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*EDIT: After the Caramel Apple Nougatine sat in the fridge for an extra day, cutting it and eating it became a lot easier as the sable layer in the middle melded more with the mousse layers above and below it. Perhaps this entremet just needs to rest before being served, or perhaps it needs some kind of simple syrup to help it soften and gel together with the softer layers… I am going to keep thinking about it.

Of course, being a Friday, we were treated to the delight of a deep clean after our desserts were finished—so I didn’t actually dig into them until several hours after they were made. I’m happy to say that I think I’m actually getting the hang of what it means to clean a kitchen that size though ^_^

All in all, a good, if slightly stressful week in the kitchen! I know that was a long post, but I’m still playing with the layout and finding what I want to say. If you have questions or want to know more, please leave me a comment below!

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Half of the refrigerator has turned into pastry storage 😛

Thanks for reading and come back soon for more adventures in and out of the kitchen!

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