Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Menus, Projects, And Menu Projects!

Hello again, everyone. This entry is going to concern the projects we put together for our plated dessert unit, as well as our wedding cake project. Our class put a lot of effort into our projects, and I think they came out really well.
First, to end our second plated dessert unit, we held an event called Evening of Desserts. We came up with a dessert menu, as a class, and then we were all able to invite some of our friends and family to come and try our items. We all had a great time doing this project, and we loved being able to share with our guests. Unfortunately for me, I didn't get a picture of the dish I made, which was an amuse bouche consisting of a plum consomme topped with a Thai spiced sherbert. I thought it was really good, and the sherbert was delicious!

Here's the menu:

Here's me being all super serious about plating the semifreddo

Laura and Sirisha are working to plate the mendiant

The chocolate hazelnut mendiant.

The panna cotta

Pistachio Semifreddo. This is the one I helped plate with Nicole.

Next up we have our big menu project. This was a very intense, but still kinda fun project to work on. We were given the assignment to invent our own establishment (restaurant, dessert bar, truck, etc) and to develop an 8 item dessert menu for the place. We had to define a style to the establishment and a story to go on. Like I said, it was a lot of work, but it was really fun to get to be so creative. I invented a restaurant, named Patterson, which would be in Astoria. It's a sort of new American style, neighborhood spot, that emphasized seasonality and pulled influence from the neighborhood. Here's my back story, as well as a copy of the menu!

So yeah, it was really exciting and fun! And thanks to my brother, Todd, for helping me out with the logo and layout...a lifesaver, as usual. Our chef picked two items from the menu that we had to make. We had two days to get everything done, which was busy, but enough time. I made the sticky toffee pudding and the strawberry rhubarb compote.

Sticky toffee pudding with a bourbon salted toffee sauce and espresso granita. I threw in a few espresso beans for decoration. Although, looking at this, perhaps a color other than brown would've been a nice touch to perk up the plate.

Strawberry rhubarb crostata with basil ice cream and a strawberry rhubarb reduction. The crostata opened up a little, but it tasted great, especially with the basil ice cream! Too bad it was so hot in the kitchen, and ice cream started melting instantly...it ruined the look of my plate!! Bastard!

They turned out very well. My chef made some constructive critiques, but overall, she really liked it.

Finally, we have our penultimate project...the wedding cake. We were given a theme by another class, which was Ancient Rome, and it was a same sex wedding on Cypress. The colors were royal purple, orange, and gold. Yes, that's not a lot to go on, and the colors are really gross. And yes, Cypress is more Greek than Roman. But we got what we got, and we made our cakes accordingly, although I don't think anyone was too thrilled with it. Anyway, here's my cake. For the record, it's a white cake with honey buttercream, covered in fondant, decorated with sugar paste laurel leaves. Cake decorating has never been my forte, but I think I pulled it off decently.

Phew, that was a lot to tell you all about, but we're almost there. The end is nigh!!!!

Next up....the final project. 5 days of intense work to prove that I've actually learned something in 9 months. Crazy!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sugar...Aw, Honey Honey!

Hey everyone! It's been a crazy few months. I finished up my internship just as things at school began to heat up....literally! It's been ridiculously hot in the kitchens, and it certainly didn't help when you're working with intensely hot sugar! That being said, I loved working with the stuff. I was so much fun to be able to pour, pull, and blow sugar. Part of the point of this unit was to begin desensitizing our hands to heat, and boy did we ever! We were cooking sugar to well over 300 degrees and then working with it with our hands, wearing only some regular old latex gloves.

We started with poured sugar, which is pretty straightforward. You cook sugar until it's super hot, and then pour it into the shape you want! We made owls. Here's mine!

In our next class, we began learning to pull sugar. You have to set up heat lamps that keep the sugar hot and pliable in order to pull the shapes you need. It's hot hot hot, let me tell you, and my fingers were tingling until the next morning! We added different kinds of feathers, and well, I don't think mine came out quite right. He looks rather, um, different. Oh well, with the heat and humidity at school, the whole thing melted into a sugary mess almost immediately, so my shame didn't last too long.

However, we also learned to pull sugar ribbons and make bows, and I think mine looks pretty nice!

After pulled sugar, we moved on to blown sugar, which was really cool, even if it often ended in explosions. Basically, you take a piece of pulled sugar and attach it to an air pump. You then carefully pump air into it to form a ball, or whatever shape you're aiming for. It's fun, but if the sugar cools too much, or you pump too hard, the whole thing explodes with a loud pop, almost like glass. Here's a generic ball I made...it could almost be a Christmas ornament, no?

After we had learned these techniques, we began our sugar project, which was a group showpiece. Our theme was the Rainforest, and I took part in pouring the base (which probably took 20lbs of sugar on its own) as well as making trees, some ponds and a river. Other people took care of the waterfall, animals, plants, and rocks, and it came out really well!

And that's sugar! Sadly, it's not very likely that I will get to do this much sugar work again, since it's not something that's done very often. Hopefully, something will come along, though!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Extravaganza Of Plated Desserts!

What? Huh? What's going on? Where am I? Oh...is this a blog? I vaguely remember that I was writing one, but I guess I haven't been keeping up with it. Um...sorry...my bad. Well, now that I have less than one week of school until graduation, I guess it's a good time to catch you all up on what I've been doing. I'll start with plated desserts. I believe this should cover almost everything from the second and third plated desserts units There's a lot of ground to cover here, so you'll forgive me for being brief.

Chocolate mint parfait on  creme anglaise with blackberry "salad" and a white chocolate "cigarette."

Yogurt panna cotta with apricots and a riesling granita

 Warm chocolate cake with tamarind ice cream

Tropical tasting plate. This was pretty uninteresting to me, except for the coconut cous cous "risotto" that was awesome!

Apple beignets with cider caramel sauce and caramel ice cream. Drooooool.

Fried bomboloni filled with coffee, vanilla, nutella, and chocolate pastry cream. Oh my!

Cheese souffle...imagine the lightest omelet you've ever tasted.

Chocolate Hazelnut mendiant with cherry compote.

Chocolate souffle 

Citrus parfait with strawberries and candied thyme.

Tropical fruit fritters with, I think, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Gianduja souffle

Pistachio semifreddo with gratinee of apricots.

Raspberry souffle

Tiramisu with espresso granita and whipped cream, in a chocolate teacup.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chocolat 2...now with 100% less Johnny Depp!

Hi all! So sorry it took so long for me to get this up (that's what she said), but it's been crazy around here trying to juggle everything. Well, here we are, two months to go until my graduation, which is insane to think about, and I think I've made real, honest-to-goodness progress! Between school and my internship, I'm actually beginning to think I can be a real professional chef. Or baker. Or chocolatier. Clearly, my mind's not 100% made up yet. Anyway, here is everything from our second chocolate unit.

First I'm going to start at the end, which doesn't make sense, normally, but I wanted to start on a high note. It's the chocolate project. Our theme was movies, and I had a hard time narrowing anything down. So, thankfully, Adam gave me a great idea: Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this gem, it's the classic tale of two prehistoric creatures out to destroy humanity and each other. Oh, and it stars Debbie Gibson and Lorenzo Lamas, so you know it's gonna be good. I decided to capture a specific, and iconic, scene from the movie. In this scene, the Mega Shark, for no reason at all, decides to eat the Golden Gate Bridge. It's glorious, and I only hope I did it justice. Remember folks, this is 100% chocolate, and I'm pretty proud of how it came out.

Not bad, right? Anyway, I was happy with the outcome.

On with everything else.

The big technique we learned in this unit was how to make bonbons, and our class got a huuuge surprise when we got to class....we were going to learn this technique from Mr. Chocolate himself, Chef Jacques Torres. It was truly an honor, and it was just so much fun to get to spend a class with him. He really took the time to walk around and talk with everyone, offering pointers and helping us season our fillings. Mine was the chai spiced ganache, and it was really good! Here it is!

Oh, and of course I couldn't let the opportunity pass, so here's a picture of me with Chef Jacques!

Now, in the next class, we got to invent our own bonbon flavor, adapting recipes we already had to fit the flavors we were looking for. I took a bourbon pecan recipe, switched out bourbon for maple syrup, added a little molasses for the bitterness, et voila! I'm not going to lie...it was really good. Poor Chef Tai had to taste all of them...that's a lot of bonbons!

The other bonbon we made was a cherry cordial, which is always a hit!

We also got to practice other techniques, such as dipping. Here is a peanut butter nougat, which was not unlike a certain popular peanut butter cup. It was delicious!

These are butter caramels

Here are some pecan toffees, with fun transfer sheet designs:

These are caramel mou, dipped in chocolate!

Not only were these rocky roads delicious, but they had me quoting Goonies all day...because I am a loser like that. Oh...and the marshmallows are homemade, too. Er...schoolmade.

Here you can see the Branchlis, both finished and unfinished. These were chocolate hazelnut branches from Heaven. Yum!

My personal favorite, the peppermint pattie. Who knew they'd be so simple to make!?

Ok, this is the Cardinal Cake, aka Brett Couldn't Care Less. It's a chocolate genoise with a chocolate raspberry mousse. However, we decorated the outside with chocolate. On the top is a dark chocolate cage, and on the bottom we made our own designs. You can see that I am a terrible artist, as a 5 year old could've done a better job. However, this cake is notable in that it's our first tiered cake. Bring on the wedding cake project, bitches!!

Well, that's it for chocolate. I truly loved our two chocolate units. Chocolate is tempermental and messy, but it's so interesting to see all you can do with it. We'll see what that means for me in my future, but I'm definitely considering it as an option.

We moved onto our second plated dessert unit, and I promise not to take so long to get those pictures up! Pinky swear!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pour Some Sugar On Me

Hey all! Well, I just got home from my last class of our first sugar unit, and boy was it a doozy! This unit involved two projects, one small and one large, which is why I waited until the end to post this entry.

I'll start with the larger of the two...the pastillage cake stand. Pastillage is a form of sugar "dough," exlusively used for decoration. It is completely edible, but I can't imagine it tastes very good. The specifications of the stand were to make a base, elevation, a cake covered in fondant, and three to four "favor" boxes, all with the theme of Spring. I decided to make mine "I Love Paris in the Springtime," and I made the Eiffel Tower. Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking, either.

Along with this project, we were lucky enough to have two classes with Chef Ron Ben-Israel, the wedding cake god. If you've never heard of him, Google him to see his amazing cakes. He's most well-known for his sugar paste flowers, and it was such an amazing experience to be able to learn his techniques.

That being said, I have to say that this whole project stressed me out. So, while I really appreciate the amazing opportunity, it really gave me PTSD flashbacks to first grade and my inability to color inside the lines. But I think my flowers came out great!

Long story short (too late), here's my stand! Voila!

The other, smaller project we completed was a nougatine candy bowl, filled with marzipan fruit. This was very fun, and I think everything came out really well!

Well, c'est tout for now...next up, Chocolate 2!