Chocolate, my new arch nemesis, has returned.
On Monday we first tackled two types of dough to use later in the week before getting anywhere near chocolate, which I was grateful for. But then we moved on to tempering chocolate in order to make some spiced chocolate bars–and somewhere between going to get a thermometer and putting my chocolate in the top of my double boiler, all my confidence went completely out the window.
In theory, I understand that chocolate needs to be tempered in order for the correct crystal structures to form, leading to a stronger, shinier chocolate that doesn’t melt at room temperature or when you slightly touch it. But that doesn’t stop my exasperation of needing to temper chocolate, and watch with anxiety as the thermometer somehow jumps from 40 degrees C to 60 degrees C in seconds–when I am aiming for my chocolate to cap out around 55.
Chef just looks at his chocolate and knows what temperature it is. I think he might have super powers.
The tablet we made turned out much better than my mini tablets from the first chocolate week–for example, all the toppings stuck because it was mostly tempered properly and didn’t harden into oblivion as soon as I put it in my mold.
I was worried with the amount of chocolate the next days in the week might bring, but I think I think the club chocolate cafe cookies we made on Tuesday are my new favorite thing ever. Seriously, there are so many possibilities! (And they involve zero tempering of chocolate while still being chocolate filled and elegant, so yay).
We started with our chocolate sanded dough, which had been siting in the refrigerator overnight, and cut it into triangles before baking. Once they were baked and cooled, we sandwiched three cookies together with stripes of whipped cappuccino cream and chantilly cream. After the sandwiches were built we topped them with some decorative chantilly cream and chocolate decoration—and you would be proud to know that I am now a semi-pro at piping squiggly lines of cream on things.
On Tuesday we also started our Strawberry Basil and Rhubarb Marmalades. In order to get more natural juices out of the fruits we were using, we chopped up all our fruits and mixed them with sugar to leave in the fridge over night. This stage of the recipe taught me that my knife skills are probably worse than I originally thought—it should not be that hard to cut rhubarb into a fine dice, even if the dice is microscopic!
Wednesday was a day of blending tradition with experiments.
We started by finishing our marmalades, which are very traditional, but we ended up adding a ton of fresh basil to the strawberry marmalade and then layered the strawberry and rhubarb marmalades together for a more complex flavor experience.
Next we moved onto the pate fruits—with a traditional layer of strawberry but then topped it with almond milk jelly, which was not only new to us students, it was new to chef. As in, chef didn’t even know himself if it would work or not.
It worked…for Chef.
Turns out that pate fruit is a bit of a bitch to make, since you have to perfectly arrive at 103 degrees before adding some materials, then wait a super long time to arrive at 107 before adding in more and then shutting off the heat—hopefully not adding any lumps or you will have to blend the mix quickly—trying not to add bubbles!—before pouring it into your prepared mold. Because within 30 seconds it will start to gelify if you have done everything correctly.
Needless to say my pate fruits had lumps and bubbles and just about every other problem area that could arise. (At least my two layers actually stayed in two separate layers, unlike some other students in class who somehow ended up with a lava-lamp-situation when they poured the almond milk jelly on top of the strawberry jelly!)
Since we made our own almond milk, we were left with a bucket full of mashed up almond bits that had been soaking overnight.
Chef is always lecturing us on the importance to not throw anything out if it is possible to salvage it into another recipe. So if you have a bucket full of soaked almond pieces, don’t throw them out—make them into cake!
This cake was not originally part of the plan for the week, but it was one of my favorite recipes. Basically the mashed up almonds got mixed with a handful of other ingredients in a bowl before being poured into molds and baked for a few minutes before being stuffed with praline paste and dusted with powdered sugar.
Can we justify the number of little cakes I ate by pointing out that it was mostly almonds and therefore lots of protein? 😛
Thursday started by unmolding our pates fruits and cutting it into nice bite-sized pieces. Did I mention all the problems ours had during its creation the day before? Yeah. So the two layers didn’t really stick together all that well, so cutting our large squares of pates fruits into small squares was an adventure.
To my great pleasure (and I hope the level of sarcasm dripping off these words is really coming through here) the day continued with finicky, sticky recipes. Thanks, Chef. >_<
The next thing we tackled was a peanut butter caramel and a chocolate creamly that we would use to make snickers bars with.
Of course, it was just not my day, and my partner and I burned our first caramel and had to completely re-do it. We finally, successfully got our snickers bar filling in our molds and off to the blast freezer before rushing to do our gimauve—marshmallow—to finish the day.
Marshmallows shouldn’t be scary, but there is something about a time constraint + two layers of neon marshmallow surrounding a fruit paste that is just terrifying. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted great. In the end. Even though I screwed that up as well by not adding enough fat spray to my mold, leading one of the neon layers to stick. (And let me add, the layers were not supposed to be neon….and neither was the floor. But both were, in the end).
Friday we had to cut our marshmallows—which were supposed to be vibrant three layer sandwiches but were actually just slightly sad two layer treats.
I utilized a really fantastic, messy American style of dipping my only-semi-correctly-frozen bars—I’m sure to the great pride of my Chef.
Despite their sad appearance though, I will definitely be attempting the snickers recipe again, because I think everyone needs to taste it. It was so creamy and amazing, I don’t think I will ever be able to eat a store bought snickers again without crying in regret of not having any more homemade ones lying around.
We finished off our week by making some cookies. And I mean like legit cookies—filled with chocolate chips and nuts and homebaked goodness. They were the perfect comfort food/gift giving/something your grandma baked/binge-eat-while-stressing-about-life cookie.
And let me tell you, knowing is almost worse than not knowing.
There are only five weeks left to study all the French and pastry possible before being thrown in the deep end! Yikes!
Thanks for reading, and come back soon for more stories of my life at pastry school in France. I am running a bit behind in blogging everything, and it is partially because I am in the process of creating a new, professional website solely for my work in pastry—so thank you for understanding and be on the look out for the new site in the next couple weeks!