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Pastry Boot Camp Day 2

September 17, 2008

It was not a pretty morning.  As some of you know, I’m not too bad about getting up in the morning.  But 5:45am in the eastern time zone (which is 4:45am at home), after a long day and a lot of food – didn’t go too well.  I put my hair in a ponytail, threw on my uniform and headed to campus.  Only a handful of us showed up for breakfast today. Yes, I had the oatmeal and it was very good.

This morning’s lecture was about different methods for making sponge cakes.  In the kitchen, Chef Welker demonstrated using the warm method for making a sponge cake.  I haven’t made a wide range of cakes, and I had never heard of the warm method before, so it was interesting to watch and then try.  We used a 5qt Kitchenaid mixer, and the batter just about came to the top of the bowl, as you can see in the picture.

Sponge cake in mixer

Sponge cake in mixer

We also made a cookie dough which we’ll use as a crust for fruit tarts tomorrow.  One frustrating thing is that there aren’t enough mixers for each team, so we had to take turns.  The sponge cake had a good 20 minutes of mixing time, so it was a long wait.  We used a really big mixer (maybe 30qt?) to make our cookie dough, so that was kind of fun.

After those two things were completed, we had a demo of Diplomat Cream, which is pastry cream (which we made yesterday) plus heavy cream and a little gelatin to stabilize it.  So we made a cream filling yesterday and then added more cream to it today.  You can flavor it but we left it as-is, and it was tasty that way.  There was much discussion about the ratio of pastry cream to whipped cream – you could add less whipped cream for a denser filling, or you could use just the pastry cream to fill.  The chef made a large batch of ganache (which is chocolate mixed with cream) and we glazed our eclairs with that.  The eclairs look innocent, but there’s a lot of cream in there!  I will note that these are 3-inch eclairs, rather than the giant ones you see at the grocery store, so you could eat in moderation, and no, we were not required to eat 25 of them.

Lunch was back at the same dining room as yesterday.  We had a delicious mozzarella, tomato, and balsamic vinegar salad to start.  The entree was lamb so I opted for the vegetarian choice, which was a vegetable risotto. I toyed with trying the lamb, but I know that I don’t really like it and after I saw it, I was glad I didn’t go there.  The plates had three huge pieces of meat and all were of varying done-ness.  I thought some of it looked totally raw, but the lamb lovers assured me that was the way to eat it.  OK then, I enjoyed my veggie risotto.  No one opted for dessert, because it was profiteroles and we were on our way back to class to try our eclairs and custards. I’ve never thought I’d see the day when I turned down profiteroles!

Back in the kitchen, the chef demonstrated plating our desserts and then we put together our own plate with what we wanted to sample.  I used a kitchen torch for the first time and bruleed(?) my creme brulee (along with partially melting the eclair that I had on the same plate).  I’ve never been a creme brulee fan, but I don’t know why, because it was really good!  I had a bite of creme caramel and didn’t like that nearly as much, so it was interesting to learn how the different custards were made yesterday and then taste test them today.  Our eclairs turned out really good, if I do say so myself.  I expected the sampling to be more formal and to get some feedback from the chef, but that didn’t happen.  I’m not sure if that’s because we were a little rushed or because he doesn’t do that.  I’ll see if that changes as the week goes on.  We get plenty of feedback and can ask a lot of questions during the process, so that’s been very helpful.

Next was a group photo and then a lecture on the Physiology of Taste with chef von Bargen (our 2nd German chef).  The lecture was excellent!  I learned that the average person produces 10,000 gallons of saliva in a lifetime (fun fact to file away for parties).  Plus all kinds of interesting things about taste buds.  We had eight little cups with items to taste (most of which didn’t taste too good), to demonstrate the principles.  The chef was really fun and kept us all going after a long day.

Then it was a 3 hour break until dinner, which went really fast.  I stopped in at the bookstore and then headed back to the hotel and did the reading for tomorrow.  I only discovered today that there is recommended reading for each day – oops – but the chef didn’t mention it, so it can’t be that important. There are also videos that we can watch in the library, but it’s hard to find the time to do everything.

Dinner was at Caterina De Medici, which is the Itailian restaurant on campus. I had a spring vegetable tart, homemade fusilli with eggplant and tomato sauce, and tiramisu.  Mmmmm. Someone at dinner brought up the fact that the chef didn’t taste our food, and we decided to ask him to do it tomorrow.  Several people have been in one or more boot camps before, and they said that the chef always tastes and critiques the food.

Coming tomorrow: puff pastry!

Click here to continue to Day 3

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