Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chocolate Tart, Exam 1

Today we finished our Chocolate Tarts. The shell is a chocolate sweet dough, which is filled with a thin flourless chocolate cake (essentially a chocolate mousse which has been baked), then filled with ganache. The tart is then topped with a chocolate nougatine, which is kind of like a very thin chocolate almond brittle. The end product is very good, but very rich. I brought it home for my lovely preganant wife, Ali, who I'm sure will appreciate it. The tart pictured here is the "stepchild" to our main tart, which Carlos took home. It was made with our leftover scraps, so it is smaller and not as nice looking as our main tart, but it's still pretty tasty.

We also got our results back for the first exam covering Chocolate Candies and Cakes. I got an A- overall, which I'm basically happy with. I thought I performed pretty well on the practial piece of the exam, but there were also a few points that I wish I had done better, so I feel my grade was fair. Some of the others in class were a little more disappointed, while others were not.

We also made Pate Choux today. Pate Choux is best known as the dough used to make cream puffs and eclairs. Tomorrow we'll use the Pate Choux which we baked today to complete our St. Honore, of which I'll try to post a picture. Come back tomorrow for the picture and description of the St. Honore, which also uses the inverted puff pastry I explained previously.

Another note on Inverted Puff Pastry that I omitted yesterday. Another significant difference between Puff Pastry and Inverted Puff Pastry is that since with the inverted form the butter is wrapped around the dough, the end results are different. Rather than a large puff, the butter kind of encases the dough, in essence frying it and creating lots of crispy layers. Mmmmm.... butter....

Finally, I haven't mentioned it yet, but there always seems to be a song floating around our class which ends up in everyone's head. One of the first was "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do" although the word "One" was substituted with "Juan" to poke fun at someone in class. Go ahead, sing it out loud to yourself. You know you want to. And now try not to sing it for the next hour.

Anyway, the song of the day today was "Kung Fu Fighting" for some reason. As usual, I think it was started by Pete. Danny also spreads different tunes, which he normally picks up with his alarm waking him to the oldies station. Poor Chef Bob even feel victim to the song curse, and threated Danny's grade because of it. This from the chef who sings "I gave my love a cherry, that had no stone...", compliments of Animal House, while making Black Forest Cake.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lemon Tart

Today we finished our Lemon Tarts. I think they turned out pretty well. I made the tart with Pate Sablee Dough and Lemon Cream, while Carlos made his with Lemon Curd and Sweet Dough.

We had a little drama today when we went to the cooler to retrieve our Chocolate Tart dough and discovered that it was missing. Later I saw another table's Lemon Tart on our rack, so I have to assume that they innocently were using the wrong rack when they took our dough. No bid deal. Chef John gave us some extra dough for us to use.

We also put in 4 turns on our Inverted Puff Pastry. For those who may not know what inverted Puff Pastry is, it's pretty much what it sounds like. To better explain Inverted Puff Pastry, let me take a quick moment to describe normal Puff Pastry.

In normal puff pastry, you make a dough and wrap it around a slab of butter. This is then rolled out so that it is 3 times as long as it is wide, such as 7" X 21". Fold the top 1/3 of the dough over onto itself, then fold the bottom 1/3 up over that, so that it is folded into thirds, much like a letter. At this point you'll have a dough that is about 7"X7". This is called a "turn". Once the dough is turned, there are several layers of dough (D) and butter (B), so that it is kind of like DBDDBDDBD. Turn the dough 1/4 turn clockwise so that the "opening of the letter" is to your right, and repeat the process of rolling the dough to 7"X21", then fold it onto itself in thirds again. At this point you've completed 2 turns. In doing so, you've not just doubled your layers of DBDDBDDBD, but you've raised the levels exponentially to something like DBDDBDDBDDBDDBDDBDDBDDBDDBDD. Classic Puff Pastry has 6 turns, which in the end gives you about 1600 very thin layers of DBD, which gives you the dramatic puff when baked.

Anyway, Inverted Puff Pastry starts with butter wrapped around the dough, rather than dough wrapped around the butter. Yes, you read that correctly, you wrap the butter around the dough. Sound messy? It is. But after getting 1-2 turns in your dough, it becomes more manageable.

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Monday, February 26, 2007


Today was our first day in Kitchen 2, our first day with Chef John, and our first day in the Tarts section. My new Partner for this section is Carlos, who is a very funny guy. I'm not sure he had the most experience coming into school, but he has doing a lot of practice at home and is progressing well. I'm looking forward to working with him over the next few weeks.

Over the last several weeks, I've been trying to figure out who in my class will be the superstars after graduation. Carlos may or may not end up being the most talented, but for some reason I think he has the ambition and drive to be very successful in the pastry field. I can see him being the guy that is wildly successful after taking a few risks and surrounding himself with the right people.

Carlos tends to be very quick witted, and has a good banter going with the Aussie, Pete. It's all good-natured fun, and everybody (almost) gets along really well.

So far, none of us are very happy with the layout of Kitchen 2. The dishes area seems to be a little cramped, and our work areas are not layed out as well as Kitchen 1. Having said that, K2 is much warmer than the 58 degrees we normally experienced in K1.

Today we made Sweet Dough, Sablee Dough, Chocolate Sweet Dough, and Chocolate Flourless Cake, and the beginnings of our inverted puff pastry. Over the next few days, we'll be making Lemon Tart, Strawberry Rhubarb Tart, and others.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chocolate Candies

This posting will cover my first few weeks in class, which I haven't been able to update yet, so this posting is incomplete. I will work to update it over the next week and let you know when it's complete. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few pictures.



The first exam period at the French Pastry School for the Winter, 2007, period was completed last week. Through the first 5 weeks of class, our focus was first on Chocolate Candies, then on Cakes.

In the first few weeks, our focus was on Chocolate Candies, with Chef Sebastien Canonne. Chef Sebastien is arguably one of the finest pastry chefs in the world, and it was truly an honor to have been in his class.

The next few weeks we learned all about cakes with Chef Bob Hartwig. Chef Bob joined the French Pastry School withing th last few years, having spent much of his career in some of the finest hotels in the world. He has a tremendous amount of real world knowledge to share.

Upcoming posts will focus on updating you on everything you've missed over the last few weeks, and follow me through the remaining weeks of the program. For now, however, I will leave you with a reference list of the students you will learn to love over the upcoming weeks and months.

Below is a list of fictional characters in our classroom. The names, descriptions, and any similarities to actual people are purely coincidental, and are not based on real people.

Cast of Characters:
Tim Henkaus, the banker, and your humble blogger
Pete, the Aussie
Danny, the cook from Whole Foods
Trish, the waitress at the pizza place
Carlos, the former military man and prison guard
Luis, the cook from Mexico City
Betty, the daughter of the Executive Chef of a major hotel
Clint, the accountant
Erin, the culinary student
Nat, the sushi chef from Thailand
Sunshine, the graphic designer
Lauren, the birthday cake specialist
Peggy, the cook from Singapore
Kam, the waitress at the buffet restaurant
Max, the theater jack-of-all-trades
Nanette, the investment banker

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