LJ-razz, 10.18.06

Top Chef, Season Two, starts tonight, and I’m excited to see it and have vowed to stop everything to watch it.

School Briefs:
1. I thought I’d get a B at best on my Principles and Skills for Professional Cooking midterm; I studied hard and got the highest grade in the class. I also got the privilege to help cook for weekend and evening events that the college hosts … did I mention that I’ve been busy?
2. Classical Desserts has been a disaster, and almost every class, I botch one of the recipes and have to restart them. I’m not required to restart them—I just do and always end up with something that Chef V is happy with. She asked me if I’d be on the school’s pastry team that will compete at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival’s Best Dessert competition. She likes the way I plate my dishes and helped run the class when I was designated sous chef. I’d been hoping to be on the school’s savory team, but I lost contact with Chef B, and since Chef V asked, I’m … totally exhilarated.
3. Chef V will be on a documentary on the Food Network sometime I guess early next year. Rad! I think it will be that show with Giada De Laurentis where she goes behind the scenes to scope out party catering, but I don’t know, and Chef V wasn’t sure, either.
4. Chef S, my Principles chef-instructor, let me take home the leftover fresh clams from Monday night’s seafood section. Last night, I made clams in red sauce to go over brown rice, and it so rocked the yummies.
5. This past weekend’s baking experiment was chocolate chip banana bread with toffee bits—a little on the moist side (too much water), but good flavor!
6. I’ve also been able to help Christy with her cakes and baking, and that’s been such a good time! I’m so glad I met her. She makes such amazing cakes.

Most of these were taken after I’d brought them home, so they don’t look as good as they did before the crumbly ride home, and if they’re in the styro containers, they weren’t the plated versions I showed Chef V.

Dessert sauces—we made crème anglais, chocolate sauce, and raspberry coulis, then baked up some cupcakes and practiced plating with sauces. I did two plates—this one and one with a Nouveau flower off the side, which Chef V really liked, but then I went nuts and drizzled chocolate all over the cupcakes, taking away from my flower, and then my flower’s sauces bled together. Heh …

Puff pastry was a rough time. My class partner, Julie B, and I were both having a bad day, and there were only two of us. Groups are supposed to be trios, but we’re often doubles, and that’s been a problem, but somehow, we always pull it off. This class’ mishaps including my having to make the Napoleon dough over three times, with Julie B dropping one of the baked products. We were slow to go with these apple turnovers, but we were the only group that didn’t end up burning theirs. Burning will become a recurring theme here for my classmates. Luckily, I’m a hawk when it comes to watching the clock. Heh.

Our Napoleon. Julie did the patterns on top. I wanted to go crazy and skew the lines, but I think she did fine.

Pecan tart. Crazy day—we had to make three kinds of tarts in four hours. That’s a load of dough. Some groups didn’t finish their pecan tarts. We were the only ones to decorate ours with the dough cut-outs. I’ve made a version of this with just leaves everywhere, but that was on a pie, and I thought it would be too crust-y on a shallow tart.

Lemon meringue tarts. Almost every group burned theirs, but I was anal retentive about pressing my shells, so I was behind in putting my tray in the oven and took mine out along with everyone else. Phew! The meringue is boiled meringue. Chef “borrowed” Julie B to make the meringue, so for a chunk of the class, it was just me and Sue working on our tarts, but we rocked the section, regardless! Sue is amazing, and I’m glad we were able to take her into our group when our original partner took some sort of extended leave of absence. She’s been in the program for awhile and is a great baker, so she’s great to work with. =)

Tahitian vanilla cheese tart. Julie B did an awesome job with the filling here! It was so good. I need to remake this soon. The whole class had issues with our tart dough. I did the dough and shells for our group, so I was paranoid about it. We were only supposed to freeze the dough for twenty minutes, and I was the first to take dough out of the freezer after I realized how long it had been. I let mine thaw a bit in the walk-in for ten minutes then on our table for another ten. It was a little stiff when I started rolling it out. Then I realized that nobody else had taken their dough out of the freezer so I yelled out a warning. For the next half hour, all you could hear was the sound of people pounding on their dough with rolling pins, trying to soften it up.

Chocolate sponge and raspberry filling roulade, Cakes 1. This tied for roughest day with puff pastry day. Everyone had to make their own roulade, but we stood at the tables in our group. The first process was to make chocolate syrup to stir into the chocolate sponge cake, and it took me three tries. It was as simple as messing up and starting over right away, either. I’d make the syrup, set it aside for ten minutes to cool while I’d make the rest of the batter, look at the syrup, and see that it had turned to chocolate clay. I did this twice before I finally got it done, and by then I had the rest of the batter made (which I’d had to restart once because I’d underwhipped my yolks the first time and couldn’t put them back in the mixer), so I had to speed-cool the third chocolate batch in a big ice bath. Eep! I wish I’d had a raspberry or strawberry to fan out and garnish here, but someone hogged the few berries we had. =\

Opera Torte with marzipan, chocolate ganache, and espresso filling, Cakes 2. This was the tastiest, yet most labor-intensive, dish yet. Julie B and I were a duo again, but we still had to make three cakes. Woot! I suggested that we split up and make the separate layers instead of trying to team up for each filling, and it worked out really well. I made the cake layers, which was awesome because it was my first genoise, and I’d been wanting to try a genoise for a long time. Luckily, we had hazelnut flour so I didn’t have to worry about it. I’ll have to look for hazelnut flour or just buy whole nuts so I can make genoise at home. I then worked on the espresso reduction to soak the cake with while Julie worked on the filling base and ganache. We each rolled out marzipan and got the pieces the right size to layer. We had to freeze each section as we built the torte up, so we were able to clean as we went, and we ended up doing a lot of the general class dishes while we waited for sections to freeze. I’m glad I’ve had so much cake-frosting experience, and I was able to turn out two cakes while Julie B (also a Wilton decorator—yay!) worked on hers. I gave Julie B the better of the two cakes to feed to her co-workers, and when Chef V saw it, she said it looked really beautiful. =) Yey yey yey!!! The cake in the picture here is squishy because I deli-wrapped it, and it got a bit melty during the drive home. It was still really tasty, though. =)

I have a big, scary test on Saturday as I try to earn my Certification in Food Service Safety and Sanitation. We have to get 75% right, or 60 out of 80 questions, and the test will include 10 secret pilot questions on top of the 80. I’ve been studying as we’ve gone along (a three-week class every Saturday morning), but the material is intense. Regardless, I frigging LOVE it and everything I’ve learned in the other two classes, as well. I’m having such a good time! The only problem is I’m working elbow-to-elbow for 4 to 5 hours, two nights a week (and for three weeks this month, every Saturday morning). Aside from the aforementioned from Fact 2 above, I’ve really valued my personal and private space outside of class. This further affects my social life.

Follow-up: Chef Mraz, my Food Service Safety and Sanitation chef-instructor, ended up subbing the last few Classical Desserts sessions, and she asked me how I felt about my test results. I got a 97%! She said she'd figured, then said a whole bunch of other complimentary things that were pretty cool and humbling and kind. Anyway, now that I'm certified, you can hire me to manage your kitchen!


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