Friday, October 23, 2009

Around the World in Several Desserts


Between work, school and numerous side jobs I'm finding less and less time to write. However, I'm not giving up, there is still lots of exciting things going on in school and at work to write about. Work goes well for me at Crema. I'm getting to know the team, the ins and outs of the kitchen and learning to work in close quarters. I'm eating my way through the sandwich menu at Crema (got to have lunch you know) and so far nothing has disappointed me. The soups are pretty tasty too. If you're thinking of stopping by, I also recommend the newest addition to our croissant line up: Ham, Cheese & Apple with Mornay Sauce. It's a wonderful savory combination wrapped up in a flaky crust, and perfect for breakfast, lunch or anywhere in between.

School has been a challenge mentally and physically. It's challenging working in a noisy kitchen for most of the morning and early afternoon and then only have an hour and a half time to go home, change from kitchen work clothes into school uniform kitchen clothes, put my feet up, have a snack and sometimes make a video call to Paris. Then I'm off again to school for up to 8 more hours on my feet. Thankfully I only do this one day a week now, but it is tiring.

This is why sugarwork is painful, those are heat lamps above my hands

My Sugar Roses

In the classroom we are being pushed to be more creative and taking on more challenging aspects of pastry. Chocolate is "temper"mental. Sugarwork is so beautiful and painful. Plated desserts not only have to taste good, they have to look like a work of art. We are still learning new stuff, but we're also taking many elements from previous lessons and combining them to make more elaborate desserts. We have several large projects in the upcoming weeks and I am brainstorming for ideas.
Nougatine (it was a little hot too)

The last two weeks of classes have taken us around the world, appropriately starting with French Tarts, followed by Italian Tarts. Then we traveled through Asia and Latin America, and returned home to the good old USA. French Tarts were not suprising. They used typical elements of pate sucree crusts, custard fillings, soaked genoise, and beautiful garnishes. Italian desserts followed with more use of nuts and some cheese. Latin American desserts are not a far cry from European desserts, but they have their own native twists. I made a Guava cheesecake. Asian dessert are probably the most different from any thing we have learned. They are not as only sweet and sugary and some like the Onde Onde contain some savory elements and are rolled into a mixture of Salt and sweetend coconut. When the American desserts class came up, I wasn't very excited, most of the desserts were things I have easily made on my own. But it turned out to be comfortable and relaxing class to prepare things that I was familiar with.
Tart Valentino

Onde Onde

After a few introductory classes to Chocolate and Sugarwork, we'll be returning to these works again in the upcoming weeks. These classes will lead to completion of final projects: a Sugarwork showpiece and a Wedding Cake with a Pastillage cake stand. The weeks are flying by.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pastry Chef for a Night Follow-up

A Peek into the Kitchen at EVOO

I want to say a big, big Thank You to Peter McCarthy and the wonderfull staff at EVOO for a fantastic experience last weekend. The kitchen at EVOO is cozy, warm and welcoming; a great reflection of the people who work there. I enjoyed planning my desserts and executing them in such a fun and energetic environment. Thank you also to my wonderful supporters who showed up that evening and ordered my desserts.

Cayenne Spiced Chocolate Pear Tart with Sweet Cinnamon Ice Cream

I wish I could say my desserts were wildly popular last Saturday, but EVOO has a pretty good regular dessert line up with which I had to compete. However there were many orders for my desserts as well as EVOO's offerings. I received many great comments, and even a 2 thumbs up from one customer. The EVOO staff eagerly gathered around my desserts to have a taste also. At the end of the evening, I sat down with a nice glass of red wine and my own serving of the Chocolate Pear Tart and was very pleased with how everything came out.

Pumpkin Pot de Creme with Toasted Hazelnut Tuiles

I apologize that my photos of the evening are not super fantastic, but I was a just a bit busy making and plating desserts.

It's funny the questions and reactions I get when I tell people I am in school, training to be a Pastry Chef. I've gained a lot of new friends, had a few marriage proposals and heard such comments as, "how do you stay skinny?" People almost always want to know what I want to do when I am finished. In the Boston area, a lot of people ask if I want to work for Finale. Ideally, some day I want to open my own small European style patisserie. Will my shop be in Boston?, Paris?, it's hard to say. I am well aware that before I can do that, I need some experience....ok lots of experience. Food establishments come and go. They have a high rate of failure within the first 5 years of operation. I want to get as much experience as I can before I venture out on my own. (I'm also going to need to either find an invester, a sugar daddy, or save a lot of money too). I want to do as much as possible to set myself up for success.

The things I am doing now, may make it seem like I'm all over the place. One day I'm working at a cafe in Paris, next month I'm making local and organic based desserts for Cuisine En Local, running a one night stint at EVOO, working my now regular job as Crema; I even do some personal pastry chef-ing here and there as needed. I'm trying to soak up as much experience as I can. I don't want to settle with just getting my feet wet, I'm trying to get completely immersed in the whole pastry/culinary experience. I'm searching for my niche. I can't remember ever in my life feeling so passionate and driven about one thing. I'm running around like mad, getting little sleep and eating way too much sugar.... but I'm loving every moment of it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pastry Chef for a Night

As promised, and in case anyone was waiting to decide if they were going to trek out to Cambridge based on my menu, here is what I have planned. I have been given the green light on two desserts. Drum roll.......

Chocolate Pear Tart with Sweet Cinnamon Ice Cream

Fresh Pumpkin Pot de Creme with a Toasted Hazelnut Tuile.

I'm sad to say I have not eaten at EVOO yet, but it is one of the restaurants on my ever growing list of places to try. Peter, the owner, is a very friendly and takes what he is doing serious. During our meeting on Wednesday, when I decided I wanted to serve Pumpkin Pot de Creme as one of my dessert, Peter picked up the phone and called his local farm to inquire about getting a fresh squash for me to use. I love that they are focusing on local and seasonal foods. It's a growing trend in restaurants and I applaud it. Their menu looks fantastic and I do intend to have dinner there very soon.

Hope to see some of you Saturday at EVOO!

A special thanks to my two awesome roommates who have put up with me taking over the kitchen for hours at a time and have kindly taste tasted many versions of my desserts, consumed large quantities of sugar and butter, and provided invaluable feedback. You are the best!