Sunday, October 17, 2010

Whisking Is Fundamental

Well, today was really great! Even the sanitation lecture was halfway interesting! But really, what it comes down to is that we made real progress and got the opportunity to make several fundamental pastry components: crème pâtissière, crème fouettée, crème legère, and crème Chantilly. And the best part is that we finally were able to taste our creations! I came home with both the apple tart and a banana cream tart, which were both delicious.

We started the day by quickly rolling out our pâte sucrée, so that it had time to rest and so we could get started right away after our sanitation lecture.

Oh! Here are two slightly interesting facts about the sanitation lecture that I found interesting. The first is that it’s ok to slightly under cook pork; Trichinosis is so rare these days that eating pork that is slightly pink on the inside is perfectly fine, although you really should cook it all the way through. The second is that eggs only need to be cooked to 145° F, but at that temperature, the egg is still completely liquid. So, it’s perfectly fine to have a runny egg, as any potential salmonella threat has been killed.

Ok, anyway, once that lecture was over, we got down to business. Our chef instructors had already baked our apple tarts and removed them from the oven, so all we had to do to finish them was to brush on an apricot “nappage” to give them the proper glazed look. Here’s a picture of the fully baked tart:

With that taken care of, we were able to get started on learning the crème pâtissière, the basic pastry cream necessary for so many French pastries, such as éclairs and napoleons. Making the pastry cream was the first of many whisking activities for the day, and let me tell you, vigorously whisking a thickening custard for 5+ minutes is no easy task, but our finished product came out smooth and the perfect consistency. It also smelled delicious!
As we let the custard cool in the refrigerator, we then got to making gingersnap cookie dough. As far as the class goes, making the cookie dough was kind of a throwaway; it was pretty straight forward and almost seemed like a time-killer until our pastry creams had cooled.

So, after lunch (oh yes, the culinary students cook a “family meal” for everyone each day), we began assembling our tartes aux bananes et crème. We hand whipped heavy cream to a stiff peak (yes, this class provides easy fodder for double entendres), gently folded it into the crème pâtissière to lighten it, making a crème legère, and then folded fresh bananas, to make the banana cream. We then spread it into our blind-baked pâte sucrée, and spread another layer of hand-whipped crème Chantilly (just whipped cream, sweetened with powdered sugar and vanilla extract). Finally, and this was definitely the highlight of everyone’s day, Chef Cynthia instructed us on the proper way to pipe crème Chantilly rosettes onto our tarts. So yes, by our third day of class, we are already making custards and learning proper techniques for whisking, tempering eggs, and using a pastry bag to pipe decorations.
And here’s the finished result, topped with shaved gianduja (milk chocolate mixed with hazelnut cream)!

Not bad for a first time, right? I’m sure that after a few hundred of these, I’ll be a pro!

All in all, I think that was a productive and fun class. I can’t believe how much I’m already learning, and I can’t wait to continue learning these basic building blocks of classic French pastry.


  1. wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Those pictures are happy making. I will trade you cheese for pastry!

  2. And what does the sanitation lecturer say about the three second rule?

  3. I had an entire class just on sanitation and safety. Do you know what the temperature danger zone is??

  4. Of course I do, Erika!! 40-135 degrees! We're getting certified for that what you did?