Friday, 13 March 2009

ESCF - Week 5

Week 5 has been the most varied to date in terms of making different pastries - over the past few days, we have made babas, barquettes aux marrons, brioche, millefeuille, and polonaises. As usual, there were new techniques and lessons to be learned along the way:

Chef: You need to soak your babas more....

10 minutes later,
Chef: Don't soak your brioche so much otherwise you destroy it...

Lesson learnt - all things need different levels of soaking, char!!!

We were given the chance to improve our palette knife skills when making barquettes aux marrons and polonaises. Unfortunately, I think I am pretty far away from being the "queen of palette knife work" - we were working with the same dastardly fondant as for éclairs which I'm pretty sure is cursed at this point! Polonaises was all about mastering spreading enough meringue around your brioche tower so that it looks like a uniform cylinder...all fine and dandy if your underlying tower was cylindrical in the first place but not so easy when its closer in shape to a cone!

The good news this was that my brioche and millefeuille turned out pretty well so was happy about that! One of the recipes for our millefeuille was from  Pierre Hermé, who would've thought that raspberry and pastis would be such a good combination, stroke of genius :)

The other piece of news this week was experiencing our first "restaurant service" - the school has its own restaurant on-site, which members of the general public can pay and come for a meal. It also serves as the perfect training ground for all the school's budding cuisinières and patissiers and for us to experience restaurant service first-hand. We were doing a double shift for Wednesday dinner and Thursday lunch, which meant starting prep work on Wednesday afternoon through to finishing service late on Wednesday night, then coming in early on Thursday morning to prepare and serve lunch - a bit of a marathon session, especially if you add in 6:30am start on Friday for breadmaking and an extra few hours on Saturday for the school's open day, 加油!! The class was split into pairs or small groups to do different tasks for service and I was assigned to "pre-dessert", which was to be a mini "mont-blanc". Assembling this mere mouthful proved to be a little fiddly but I think it turned out pretty well and all in all, service was less hectic than I had imagined (had been expecting something out of "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares"). I even had time to help out with making some chocolate truffles for petit fours. Handy tip - cocoa butter is great moisturiser for your hands :) Alas, that didn't manage to prevent my first cut in the kitchen - no biggie as it was more a nick from a rogue breadknife but still needed a sexy blue plaster plus dubious looking "raincoat" ;)

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