Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pastries Final

Chef Mar's practical exams have a way of exhausting a person. Our Monday pastries final was four straight hours of intense concentration combined with running around the bakery in order to finish everything on time. It was a complete cluster.

We worked in groups to come up with a menu to start up our own pastry shop with the aim of making the offerings well rounded and along a theme. I love a them. Talking with Janelle and Gianni, we decided on comfort food of the Southern variety, and I went straight for the Georgia peaches (which I unfortunately burned), key limes and banana creams. The challenge was that we had to present a spectrum of skills learned in pastries fundamentals, while still finishing quality work on time. We could only use the same dough twice (tops) and we had to have three breakfast pastries.

My additions to the "pastry shop" were chocolate pavlovas (baked meringes) with a chocolate-lime-raspberry mousse, banana cream savarins (yeasted sweet dough) with vanilla bavarian cream and caramel sauce, a sweet potato-onion-bacon quiche (if that's not comfort food ...) and a laminated brioche filled with pecan frangipane and peach compote, except without the scorched peaches. The brioche was by far my favorite. It was so flaky and buttery--a heart-attack roll. They turned out enormous in the oven after the dough rose and the butter steamed out from between the pockets in which it was cushioned. The mousse and bavarian cream too were just devinely light. I stole home a deli container of the vanilla but didn't grab the chocolate before it found its way into the trash during cleanup.

I abhor meringues (see below), and my pavlovas turned out more like sugared cardboard than marshmallowy pillows. The quiche was a near disaster saved only by my partners. When I went to pull my dough out of the cooler, it had turned olive green over the weekend. Obviously inedible. Janelle had extra pate brisee dough, which was perfect, but all Gianni had was sweet tart dough for her creme fraiche pie. I used it anyway, hoping the instructors wouldn't eat from that quiche (they didn't!). My partners made beautiful rugelach, soft panna cotta, scones, sandwich cookies and a couple pies to round out our "display," which was totally overshadowed by the group who made a replica French bakery out of a cardboard box and Hobby Lobby supplies. It was somewhat ridiculous and totally made my group look like goons because we didn't even bring a cake stand or platter on which to display items in our fake bakery.

The final went from 8:30 a.m. until half past noon, after which point it took us all three or four hours to come down from the mind**** of the exam, which was great because that's how long it took Chef Mar to grade our pastries. The bakery was a complete disaster zone--one person had left a puddle of chocolate ganache on the counter in a rush to turn her pastries in on time. I cleaned every single sheet pan by hand, which was 20 to 30. The trash cans were spilling over. At least no one had injured themselves. We were all so exhausted in the end that we just sat around a table in the bistro laughing, laughing, laughing at nothing and everything at once. I came out of the class with an A, a point of great pride. I am extremely satisfied with a B in Chef Mar courses, so to get an A was a great feeling.
Puddle of ganache:
Chocolate Pavlovas: (if you like that sort of thing)
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 300. In the bowl of a standing mixer, pour the egg whites and mix starting on low and slowly moving up to high. As the eggs begin to foam and set up to soft peaks, add the sugar slowly. Once white have reached hard (stiff) peak stage but are still glossy stir in the vinegar. Once incorporated, add the cornstarch and cocoa powder and stir to incorporate. Portion into rounds on a baking sheet with parchment paper and form a well in the middle of the round to fill with whipped cream or mousse. Bake at 300 for an hour to an hour and half. Remove from oven when the pavlovas have just started to dry out--they will dry out more once they're out of the oven.

Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry and Lime:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 ounces butter
1 tablespoon raspberry jam
juice from one lime
8 ounces heavy whipping cream

On a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter, jam and juice. Once melted and smooth, start whipping the cream until it is medium stiff peaks (not completely stiff). Make sure the chocolate is still melted but isn't super hot and stir the whipped cream into the chocolate. Refrigerate until cool. Fill pavlovas and top with fresh fruit.

Replica bakery:


janelle said...

I am on your blog! How exciting. Congrats on your A, you deserve it. It was great working with you and getting to know each other in class. Thanks for the laughs

Allison said...

you're right, the replica bakery is a bit over the top, but still pretty cute. the pastries sound delicious and i'm wondering who gets to eat them when class is over?

Anonymous said...

Yes, who does get to eat them, your mother perhaps? Congratulations on your A and I love a trip to the bakery.

Jess said...

an A, congrats! everything you made sounds and looks amazing to me. then again, I am a bit of a pastry fiend.