Friday, April 6, 2007


Thursday finished up exam week for us. The exam covered Tarts, Breads, and Petit Fours.

We had practice days on Friday and Monday where we could make anything we wished to practice for the exam. On Tuesday, we took the written part of the exam, which was 10 quesitons for each section, for a total of 30 questions. The general consensus on the written portion was that we all bombed it pretty badly. This was a lot different than our first exam, which I think we were all very prepared for. On that exam, we all had a pretty good idea of what the questions would likely be on the test, and we had the answers pounded into our heads over the previous 3-4 weeks. But for this exam, I think most of us didn't have a clue what to expect. Anyway, one of the students asked Chef John how we did as he was grading them up front, and he said he thought about only 1 person got an A, most got C's, and even some D's. I'm holding out hope for the A, but I know I got at least a couple questions wrong.

Anyway, right after the exam, we were given the sheet telling us what would comprise the practical part of the exam. By 11:45 on Thursday, we were required to make and turn in the following items:
  • 6 blueberry muffins, which must be baked on Day 1, Tuesday
  • 9 chocolate eclairs, for which the pate choux must be baked on Day 1
  • 12 Madeleines, which must be baked on Day 2, Wednesday
  • 1 loaf of Farmer's Bread, which must be baked on the day you draw from a hat, which was Day 2 for me
  • 6 plain croissants
  • 1 broiche loaf and 6 streussel brioche
  • 12 blueberry stressel tarts
  • 1 lemon curd tart with italian meringue garnish

This was a pretty daunting task, and everybody jumped in right away. It's really all about being organized and planning your days. For example, if you need to bake Madeleines on day 2, you have to make the batter on Day 1 because it needs to rest at least 12 hours in the fridge. And you need to make the sweet dough for the tart shells right away, because that also must rest overnight. Ditto for broiche and croissants. Then considering that some of the items actually require several components, you've got a lot to get done in 3 days.

Take the lemon curd tart, for example. Day 1, you make the sweet dough and refrigerate it overnight. Day 2, you roll out the dough and bake it in a tart ring, then freeze the shell. On Day 3, you make the lemon curd, fill the shell and bake it for a few minutes to set it, the let it cool on a rack. While it's cooling, you make your italian meringue, then pipe it onto the lemon curd, and go over it with a blowtorch to give it color. I want you all to remember this the next time you're in a pastry shop and wondering why something seems to be a little expensive...

So anyway, I got everything done on Day 1 that I wanted to, except that I had wanted to put one turn into my croissant dough. This was no big deal, since I had all three days to get the croissants done. But everybody was extremely busy, and we worked right down to the wire at 11:45 when Chef told us to stop everything or we'd be penalized for our final grade. But I got my Blueberry Muffins done, baked my pate choux for the eclairs, got my croissant dough and brioche dough started and proofed, and made my Madeleine batter.

Day 2 was still busy, but not quite as hectic. I ended up getting more done than I had hoped for, and turned in my Madeleines, Blueberry Tarts, Brioche, and Farmer's Bread. I also made my chocolate patry cream that I would use to fill the eclairs with on the following day, baked my lemon curd tart shell, made my streussel, and got all 3 turns into my croissant dough.

Day 3 was the final day, when everything was due by 11:45. I went into the day pretty relaxed, knowing that I only had to finish my croissants, fill my eclairs with pastry cream that I had already made, and then make the lemon curd and meringue for my lemon tart. I got going on my croissants first, and they looked awesome. Everyone in class was remarking on how nice they looked before going into the oven, which really boosts your confidence on exam day. It was actually strange how different the croissants looked from person to person. After baking and giving them to Chef, he told me "good job", so I feel pretty good about that.

Filling the eclairs was a pretty fast job, so I actually filled about 2 dozen, rather than just the 9 that were required for the exam. It's funny how fast you can make friends when you have chocolate eclairs to give away....

At that point, I even took time to go have a cup of coffee and freshly baked croissant! Um... breakfast of the gods...

After break, I finished up my lemon tart and turned everything in. I wasn't too thrilled with the meringue decoration on top, but that's life. I'll only get better with piping with more practice.

Couple interesting notes:

  • On the first day, Nan finished her croissant dough and then noticed she had forgotten to add her sugar. So she decided to re-make her dough on Day 2, and forgot her sugar again!!! She was not very happy. I told her she should tell Chef that she had made a diabetic version.
  • Tara finished her lemon tart, and as she lifted it to more it to a sheet pan so she could turn it in, it broke in half. I thought she was going to cry. Luckily for her, she had leftover dough in the fridge, and she had just enough time to remake the entire thing. I actually think her second tart turned out better than her first!
  • Luis and Carlos were teammates, and they finished before everybody else. I finished shortly after them, and it was nice to be done early. General consensus is that Carlos finishes early because he dumps all his dishes in the sink area and leaves them for everybody else to do...



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