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Gastronomicom Week 8: Plated Desserts Week

I was so looking forward to plated desserts week ever since the last plated desserts week ended. Of course, it just had to come with another test.

This time we knew about the test the week before, so that we could do our best to prepare recipes in accordance with the theme at hand–which was a dessert that represents memories of summer in our countries and cultures of origin.

I spent most of the weekend designing a s’mores themed dessert–because besides donuts what is more American than bonfires and marshmallow induced sugar highs? But when I talked to chef about the recipe and he asked if I was going to incorporate any fruit, I tried to find a way to mix another flavor into my design for hours before scrapping the entire idea in favor of a new one. Something so simple I hadn’t given it real thought. Pie.

So while I regale you with stories and pictures of the other amazing desserts we made Monday through Thursday, just know that while all this is happening my mind was constantly at least 25% focused on Friday’s recipe and after school I would rush home to attempt another variation on a recipe I had in mind.

Each of the desserts we made this week were absolutely incredible. Monday’s dessert had a grapefruit and pistachio theme and was composed with confit grapefruit rind, sanded dough, biscuits, grapefruit sorbet, pistachio cream, pistachio caramel and meringue. It was amazing.

Similarly to the past plated desserts week, each team was in charge of one recipe on behalf of the entire class, and at the end of the period we combined everything into one majestic plate.

I think I am finally starting to appreciate that there are times when you make something that a normal person would see as a sauce or as something to pipe on top of something else, but we end up just slathering all over the plate as a base or adding it into another recipe to make something even greater. That said, it is so hard to slather things on a plate and still have enough elements to create the hight that you need to keep things interesting and not look like some 2D portrait!

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Of course, as hard as I tried, Chef’s was 5x more amazing than my plate

The dessert was delicious, and you can probably already anticipate that I will say that I enjoyed it despite the high amounts of pistachios. Maybe someday Chef will actually read my blog and realize how little I care for those little green nuts and leave them out of our future recipes. Or more likely he is already reading this and laughing at me, because he is adding more and more pistachios to the recipes just to spite me. Ah well.

Tuesdays dessert was nothing short of a fantasy come to life.

If you in any way are a fan of chocolate or coconut, look no farther than this plate. Seriously, it was so good.

We started by making a coconut ice cream, which was then sandwiched between chocolate biscuits we made–which was then topped with chantilly cream, fresh coconut, and pieces of gold. And then to the side of that, we also made a little chocolate covered ball filled with chocolate and coconut creams and a coconut biscuit. And then it was served next to a cocktail.

I’m not sure that one person is capable of eating that much, particularly after a two or four course meal, but it was fantastic nonetheless. I will definitely be making it again.

Wednesday I sadly didn’t get to go to class because I had to wake up at the crack of dawn to take a train to Montpellier, where I got examined by two nurses and a doctor in order to get my visa papers processed and finalized. It was actually went quite smoothly, but it was a pain in the neck to need to go all the way there and waste my entire morning. At least now I am finished with everything and won’t have to worry about the logistics once I go to my internship!

Thursday, thankfully back in the kitchen, we made a plated dessert unlike any we had made before, using brioche as the base. The brioche was soaked in a syrup to soften it up and add flavor, and was then topped with a citrus salad, foam, passion fruit caviar, tuile, sugar decorations, fresh dill, and served next to a “milkshake” with mango sorbet that we made.

The dessert ended up being interactive (though I’m not sure if it was supposed to be or if that was a split second decision that Chef made and he just decided he wanted to play with his food) and we poured the milkshake over the top of our brioche before digging into it.

I was skeptical of the amount of dill we were putting into the dish–I don’t ever recall eating a dessert with dill before–but it actually really helped to add freshness to the plate and helped to enhance the fruit flavors rather than adding its own flavor. It was really nice.

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Okay. So Friday. Test day.

I was not entirely prepared. I was not particularly confident. I didn’t really know what I was doing.

But, I went ahead and did it anyway, because what choice did I have?

Right off the bat, my dough did not turn out how I wanted it, and I was starting to freak out that the entire dish would be off because of it.

Chef, very kindly, gave me some pointers and told me that it was going to be okay. Dough semi-crisis averted, I continued on with all the remaining recipes I had planned, and was able to finish everything and plate on schedule.

Of course, the end of the class when all the students are rushing to clean everything while Chef and the cuisine Chef are standing at one table staring at the desserts and one by one sampling all of them was probably the most stressful part of all. Each student was clearly itching to go closer and see what the chefs were thinking, and possibly try to explain or rationalize part of their dish.

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Chef first told us that he was really proud about how well we worked and with the appearance of each of the dishes–that he could tell that we were all really trying our best and that we had clearly learned something over the course of the week. Next, he went one by one to talk about each of the individual dishes. One had great flavor but the student had used a plate and plating style that didn’t do the dessert justice. One dish was delicious but the plating was too traditional and lacking in creativity and personal expression. One dish was beautiful but had no flavor.

Then Chef comes to my dish.

I’m holding my breath, ready–I think–for anything.

“It’s perfect,” Chef says. “It tastes like something my grandmother would have made.”

Then he moves on. Literally, no constructive criticism–just that the dish was perfect.

I think I passed out a little because I’m not entire sure what he said about the students dishes that followed mine. But as soon as he was done talking and explaining everything, we all dove in with spoons and forks, attempting to taste and understand what Chef was talking about for each of the plates.

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Thank you for reading, and come back soon for more adventures in the kitchen!

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