Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cream puffs, Tarts and a Special New Coat

Making the Tart Beausejour

I'm completely exhausted. My legs, knees, and feet ache from long hours of standing at work and school. My shoulders and arms ache from lifting, mixing and kneading. I haven't been to the gym in over a week. My bedtime fluctuates almost as much as the New England weather. It feels very much like when I was in college, except I'm no longer able to keep up like a 20 year old.

When I was still working the 9-5 daily corporate grind not so long ago, I always felt tired, no matter how much or how little I did. I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, and "I don't want to go to work", became my mantra. At work I couldn't stay focused. Let's just say, I was not happy.

My point is, I'm probably more physically exhausted and more sleep deprived from working part time and going to school, then I was just 6 weeks ago working 40 hours a week, but I'm happier than ever. This is what happens when you are doing what you love. Exhaustion becomes nothing (and coffee and red bull become your new best friends). Whereas I would have been irritable after only having 5 hours of sleep and going into the office, I just feel tired and slightly fuzzy until I have my coffee these days. Maybe all the sugar consumption has something to do with it. I'm feeling pretty content.

This week at school we delved into Pate a choux. I won't go into too much detail since I've posted on this in the past when I took the recreational class. It was interesting however to learn there are different methods to how/when to mix the flour and at what temperature to mix the eggs. My classmates and I had fun piping the puffs and eclairs onto the baking sheets and mixing the pastry cream.
Puffs cooling from the oven

I did make a new item with Pate a choux, and that was the Paris-Brest. Intended to represent a bicycle wheel, the Pate a Choux paste is piped into a circle and then sprinkled with slivered almonds. Once it is baked and cooled, it is filled with a generous serving of a praline pastry cream mousseline.

One thing I learned this week was the importance of tempering liquid ingredients before mixing them if they are not the same temperature. I poured melted chocolate, still warm from the stove, into a mixing bowl of mixing pastry cream. Immediately tiny bits of chocolate confetti spread through the cream. Ooops! Nothing a kitchen torch won't fix thankfully, and not something I'm likely to forget anytime soon.

Tuesday night's class was focused on tarts. We made 4 different tarts, using two different pastry crusts and lots of fruit and almond cream filling. With 4 different tarts to complete and multiple components to make for each, my classmates and myself dove in and worked together on most of the items. I decided I wanted to work on the Tart Beausejour, a tart with a Pate Sucree crust. The rich, sweet crust was the base for a filling of caramelized apples tucked into a almond cream.

Chef Delphin asked me what tart I thought was going to be my favorite. I said the Tart Beausejour. know I say I love a lot of things, but I do love apple desserts. Often if faced with a choice of a chocolate dessert and a simple apple crisp, the apple crisp will when, hands down. That is saying a lot, cause I love chocolate too.

The apples in this tart are cooked in a buttery caramel sauce, till softened and coated, and then doused with a healthy dose of Calvados. Then they are drained and the syrup is reserved for glazing the tarts once they are baked. The baked tart smells of apples and buttery caramel with a hint of lingering Calvados. The soft apples, almond cream and tender Pate Sucree render a melt-in-your-mouth pastry.
Apples cooking in Caramel Sauce
Ready for the oven
Tart Beausejour

Our seminar was canceled this evening due to wonderful New England winter weather. I hoped to update my blog, do some reading and get to bed a little early for once. Now this post has turned into a short novel and it is past midnight. So just one last note.

Our class was interrupted by an announcement that our chef coats were ready for us to pick up. My class hurried down the maze of stairs to the basement to collect our bright white coats, and quickly tore them from the plastic wrappings and put them on. We were like 5 year olds on Christmas morning; all giddy and excited over our presents. I was very pleased to see that Ted held to his promise and correctly spelled my name. I've never been a fan of wearing uniforms myself, but there is something special about putting this coat on and setting to work about the kitchen. Maybe I'm just young and naive in the cooking world, but I hope this feeling never goes away.

1 comment:

Pete said...

So what happens to all that delicious food?

It's exciting to see *you* so excited and stoked about your new life.

As you (I think) know, I worked in the restaurant business for about ten years, most of it as a line cook -- never as a chef. I think if I knew then what I know now, putting on that coat would've always seemed like a great thing.

I miss the clarity of that business. Feeding people good food. What's more basic and fulfilling than that? No lingering headaches at the end of the day, and it is clear to *everyone* when you've done a good job. Just look at all the smiles.

My favorite was always catering weddings and other 'upbeat' events, since everyone was happy and having a good time.

Thanks again for keeping this blog. You're a pleasure to read.