Friday, June 25, 2010

Puff Pastry

This week we have been making different items with puff pastry, which I've really enjoyed. Puff pastry is considered the most expensive French pastry dough because of the amount of labor that goes into making it by hand and the cost of the ingredients (i.e. lots of butter!). It is really rewarding to make though, because there are so many things you can make with it. It is a very versatile dough. We made 4 different kinds; quick, classic, inverse, and chocolate. Quick puff pastry doesn't rise as high because you just mix in cubes of melted butter with the dough. Classic puff pastry you wrap a basic flour dough around a block of butter and roll it out and fold it like a letter six different times until you have many layers. Inverse and chocolate puff pastry are a bit harder to make and require a pretty cool kitchen because the butter is wrapped around the dough and then rolled out and folded six times.

Here are the products we made on our first day of puff pastry: apple tartlettes and a fresh fruit bar tart.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Sorry for not updating in a while! This past week was quite busy. Here are some pictures from last week showcasing our last day of making pate a choux. We capped the section by making a croquembouche--the traditional French celebratory cake. It is typically made with cream puffs (or choux) filled with some kind of cream, dipped in caramel or some other topping and stuck together with caramel. We dipped our choux in pistachios, pearl sugar, cocoa nibs, and caramel. We then decorated it with piped dough. It was fun to have some creative license and our cake was chosen by the class to be displayed in the hallway at school!

Here is my first "kitchen tattoo," as they jokingly refer to burns. I got this one on a sheetpan right out of the oven.

Below is a picture of the inside of the croquembouche mold as we layered choux balls on top of one another, glued with caramel. Also, here is a picture of the choux balls waiting on sheetpans to be layered and a picture of our final product.

And finally, I was able to attend one of the chef demonstrations that the school periodically offers. Jacques Pepin demonstrated proper knife skills, showing us how to break down and cut many different types of vegetables, a whole fish, 2 whole chickens, and fruit. It was awe-inspiring to see him work.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Choux

Yesterday and today, we continued making products with pate a choux. I was not able to take pictures of what we made today - grougeres (savory cheese puffs) and St. Honore Cake (a choux cake filled with pastry cream folded in with Italian meringue). I do have pictures from yesterday, though. The first picture is of a paris-brest - a classic french pastry commemorating an old bicycle race, hence the round shape. It is filled with a praline-flavored pastry cream.

The second picture is of a swan made with pate a choux and filled with pastry cream, pineapples, and creme chantilly. They were fun to make!

The third picture is of profiteroles, one of my favorite desserts. The puffs are cut in half, filled with a scoop of ice cream, and then topped with chocolate sauce.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Today we made pate a choux - a pastry dough used in pastries like eclairs, profiteroles, cream puffs, popovers, and beignets. The dough is cooked twice - once over the stove and then once in an oven to puff it up and then dry it out, so it becomes hollow inside (or deep fried, in the case of beignets).

Today we made eclairs. We made the dough, piped it onto a sheet pan, cooked it in the oven, then filled it with three different flavors of lightened pastry cream: vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. We dipped the tops in vanilla, coffee, and chocolate icings to identify the flavor of the cream inside.

Piping and scoring the dough before it goes in the oven is tricky. It has to be done properly or the dough will burst on the top, creating fissures or holes that can later leak the filling and make it hard to properly frost. It will definitely take me more practice to perfect!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

First Test, Top Chef Style

Today we had our first test reviewing our knowledge of Unit 1: Tarts and Cookies. The first 45 minutes of class we had a written exam. The rest of class we had a practical exam. We were not told in advance what we would be making. We found out when we walked in the door of class this morning. I had to individually make a caramel-nut tart, 4 quiche lorraine tartlettes, and vanilla crescent cookies and present them on a half sheet pan to the chef.

It was both fun and nerve-wracking. For some reason, the oven my team was using took a long time to pre-heat, leaving us with 25 minutes to bake off our tarts before time was called. The recipe cooking time for the quiche called for 25-35 minutes. I was so nervous it wasn't going to cook in time! It all worked out in the end. I pulled the quiches out with one minute to spare, threw them down on the sheet pan and raised my hand and yelled "Done!," as instructed. I felt like I was on Top Chef or Iron Chef :). I think I did well, having received good feedback from the chef. Here is the half sheet pan I presented for grading...

Yesterday's Class

Here you can see what we made yesterday in class. The first is a linzer torte, made with hazelnut linzer dough, raspberry compote, and almond cream. The second picture is of bourbon-pecan cookies. The third picture is a quiche lorraine in a tartlette shell.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Caramel Tarts

Today we made quick apple tartes tatin. You make caramel, pour it in a tartlette pan, put fresh apple wedges on top, lay a pastry dough round over that, and this is what you get...

It would be delicious with vanilla ice cream.

We also made a caramel nut tart. We made a caramel filling with sugar, walnuts, milk, and cream and then spread almond cream on top. It puffs and up and creates a delicious tart. I think it was one of my favorite tarts we've made.

Monday, June 07, 2010


Today we made 2 chocolate-themed tarts: chocolate Bavarian cream tart and a chocolate ganache tart. This first tart is the Bavarian cream tart. We made it with creme anglaise lightened with creme fouette (unsweetened whipped cream). I practiced piping rosettes of creme chantilly (sweetened whipped cream) on top. I may have gotten a little carried away :).

We practiced piping white chocolate onto the chocolate ganache tart. Since I was giving the tart to John Benjamin after work, I decided to leave him a little message...

Pics from Last Thursday

Here are pictures of the clafoutis tart and spritskakor cookies from class last week.

Ashley's Wedding

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Today we made clafoutis (pronounced CLA-foo-tee). This dessert is from the Limousin region of France. It contains cherries baked in a custard in a tart shell.

We also made spritskakor--a German cookie that is piped into different shapes (we piped it into rosettes). We made an indentation in the center and filled it with raspberry jam.

We also baked our vanilla crescent cookies. When they came out of the oven hot, we dredged them in vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar can be made with used vanilla beans blended with granulated sugar, then sifted.

I will have pictures of all of today's creations on Monday. Until then, I am off to Charleston for the weekend for my friend Ashley's wedding. Congrats, Ashley and Will!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

More Favorite Recipes: Blood Orange Polenta Cake

I don't know if anyone saw this recipe in the March 2010 issue of Bon Appetit but I highly recommend it. When I made it, Whole Foods didn't have blood oranges in stock, so I used pears, peeled and sliced. I think apples would work nicely and perhaps Meyer lemons. The cake is so moist and the whipped creme fraiche adds the perfect tang to cut the cake's sweetness. Also, the caramel is not too difficult to make, trust me!


* 7 tablespoons sugar, divided, plus 3/4 cup sugar
* 3 tablespoons water
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
* 3 unpeeled small to medium blood oranges (or other fruit)
* 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
* 3 tablespoons polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 large eggs, separated
* 6 tablespoons whole milk

Whipped crème fraîche:

* 1 cup chilled crème fraîche*
* 2 tablespoons sugar

* Special equipment: Ovenproof 10-inch-diameter skillet with 2 1/2-inch-high sides

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons water in 10-inch-diameter ovenproof skillet with 8-inch-diameter bottom and 2 1/2-inch-high sides.Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is golden amber (not dark amber), occasionally brushing down sides of skillet with wet pastry brush and swirling skillet, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and whisk 2 tablespoons butter into caramel. Set aside.

Cut off both rounded ends of each orange so that ends are even and flat. Using sharp knife, cut oranges into 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Remove and discard any seeds. Arrange orange slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles atop caramel in bottom of skillet.

Whisk flour, polenta, baking powder, and coarse kosher salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup sugar, remaining 6 tablespoons room-temperature butter, and vanilla in another medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beating batter just until incorporated.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of egg whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions. Drop batter by large spoonfuls atop orange slices in skillet, then spread evenly.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in skillet 10 minutes. Run small knife around cake to loosen. Place platter atop skillet. Using oven mitts, hold platter and skillet firmly together and invert, allowing cake to settle onto platter. Rearrange any orange slices that may have become dislodged. Cool cake completely at room temperature.

For whipped crème fraîche:
Using electric mixer, beat chilled crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until mixture thickens.

Cut cake into wedges and serve with dollop of whipped crème fraîche.

Finally, a Savory Tart!

Today we made a tarte a l'oignon. We made it as a galette, meaning we did not use a tart ring. We just laid the dough down and curled up the crust. It is meant to look "rustic." The tart is layered with caramelized onions, blue cheese, walnuts, and Roma tomatoes. The top is brushed with just a touch of olive oil and lightly sprinkled with salt and fresh-cracked pepper.

We also made fig newtons. They were delicious! I liked that the compote still had big chunks of figs in it. The picture up above shows the trays of fig newtons being prepared for service at the school restaurant. But don't worry, we got to keep a good number, too.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


I don't think I'm allowed to share school recipes with y'all, I'm sorry to say! They are all in metric weight anyway. But I would love to share some things I've been baking in my free time. This past weekend I made strawberry shortcakes using a recipe from Commander's Palace in New Orleans. The New Jersey strawberries are in season at the Farmer's Market and this past weekend was hot and summery, so this dessert fit the weekend perfectly.

One pastry tip--before cutting the butter into the flour, freeze the butter after you cube it. It makes all the difference!

Buttermilk Biscuits for the Shortcakes

* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces and frozen
* 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into large bowl. Add butter and cut in with pastry cutter or scraper until mixture resembles lentils. Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until large moist clumps form. If dough is too crumbly, knead slightly until it forms a loose dough. Gather dough into ball. Divide into 6 pieces. Shape each piece into 3-inch round. Transfer to baking sheet, spacing evenly.

Bake biscuits until tester inserted into center comes out dry, about 20 minutes (biscuits will be pale). Transfer biscuits to rack and cool to lukewarm. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cool. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and store at room temperature. Before serving, you can rewarm in 350°F oven for 5 minutes.)

Rest of the Shortcake

* 2 baskets strawberries, hulled, halved or quartered if very large
* 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
* 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves
* 1 cup chilled heavy cream
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar and raspberry preserves in large bowl; toss to coat. Let stand until syrup forms, tossing occasionally, about 1 hour.

Beat chilled cream, vanilla extract and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in another large bowl until stiff peaks form.

Cut Buttermilk Biscuits in half. Place each biscuit bottom in shallow bowl. Top each generously with strawberries and whipped cream. Cover fruit and cream with biscuit tops. Dust biscuits with powdered sugar and serve.

Back to Tarts!

We have another week of tarts ahead of us. We started today with continued sanitation training. We have a test on it Thursday -- my first test since the bar exam. Thankfully, the answer to almost every question is "wash your hands." :)

Today, we made tartlettes (baby tarts). They were very cute but sadly I didn't get a picture of them. Things got kind of rushed at the end of the day. They were filled with pastry cream lightened with whipped cream and a little orange-flavored rum. We whipped the heavy cream by hand--a first for me! We then tried to artfully arrange fresh kiwis, oranges, blueberries, and strawberries on top.

We also started making homemade fig newtons. We made a fig compote using dried figs, lemon juice, sugar, and rum, and then we made the dough. We will assemble them tomorrow. We also started rolling out our Viennese vanilla crescent cookies.

We also had a lesson on conversions today. It is very important, as a pastry chef, to be able to convert recipes that are listed in ounces or cups to metric weight so we can scale it out. I don't think I've had to do math since college!

I feel like I'm starting to learn some professional pastry kitchen lingo. For example, when you are getting your ingredients together, you are "scaling them out" and "preparing your mise en place." And when you actually bake the tarts in the oven, you are "firing the tarts." Maybe everyone already knew that...