Sunday, 21 June 2009

Judgement Day part deux

Just one more week left at school but in reality, this week just past was our last full week in the lab. There was lots going on, revision sessions, making some regional pastries, our last wine class, last FLE class but the most significant event was our pastry test (or "contrôle des connaissance"). 2 intensive half day sessions making certain pastries from our repertoire designed to test as many techniques as possible - I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous beforehand. Luckily, a few of us had met up last weekend to compare notes which was helpful and despite not having an oven, I tried practicing other techniques at home such as lining a tart shell, piping with Nutella and scoring for pithiviers. The 2 days were very hectic but we managed to get almost everything done - we were also told at the end of day 2 that chef normally takes 3 days for the tests but wanted to push us further as we were a good class so had squashed everything into 2 days. I don't mind being pushed but doing it to us on test day was maybe not exactly what I had in mind. So, what was on the test?
  1. Pithiviers
  2. Chaussons aux pommes
  3. Tarte aux pommes
  4. Flan parisien
  5. Moka
  6. Eclairs / Religieuses
  7. Bavarois entremet
  8. Chocolates (dipped, egg,  cigarettes)
  9. Creme anglaise
  10. Almond flowers
Chef had given us initial marks at the end of Day 1 and one of his colleagues was also invited to mark our work. Yes, I managed to take a sneaky peek at what my scores were but I think what is more important for me (and also after hearing that chef had already decided what our marks were before the end of the test) is how did I feel I did since ultimately, I will have to be my own critic in the future so here goes:
  • Pithiviers: Looked pretty regular compared to last time (not regular and a section had shrunk) and better scored. However, a little almond paste leaked out so will have to be careful not to score so hard next time. Also, need to smooth my almond paste "hump" to make it picture perfect.  
  • Chaussons aux pommes: Right size in general but not all regular enough. Also need more practice with rolling out of puff pastry in order for better "puffiness".
  • Tarte aux pommes: Pretty good but if I were nitpicking, my apple slices could've been sliced more thinly. The pinching was almost perfect but there was a little section where I did not have enough dough and needed to "stick" some extra for crimping!
  • Flan parisien: only made the pastry shell and same issue as with tarte aux pommes.
  • Moka: construction of the basic cake was a disaster (compounded by feeling the need to rush at the end of the day). Cut the cardboard base too small which gave me problems when scraping butter cream on the sides. Cornet piping was hindered since my cornet was falling apart as I was piping (folded it the wrong way and only found out when I was almost done!). Shell piping was pretty regular.
  • Eclairs/religieuses: Eclairs turned out better than last time, mostly straight. They tasted really good too. Religieuses were too knobbly and need to take more care when dipping in fondant. All choux were filled correctly (fortunately) and made the best pastry cream to date which was a confidence boost :) Butter cream needed to be softer when piping for religieuses.
  • Bavarois entremet: OK bar not sticking raspberries down enough so they appeared on the surface of the entremet.
  • Chocolates: dipped were an improvement from last time as there were less "feet". To me, my ganache had just the right flavour. Egg not as shiny and thick as I would've liked. Cigarettes were acceptable. Think chocolate may have not been crystallised properly? On the plus side, worked quickly and efficiently here.
  • Creme anglaise: think the consistency was correct. Concentration faltered when it came to "moulding" it like ice cream - did not believe that I could produce another perfectly moulded ice cream after last time, I was proved right.
  • Almond flowers: not bad but petals a little too dry and perhaps too close together. Have made better but not a bad effort. Made 5 in the time others made 3.
So my conclusion is that I did OK but not as well as I would've liked in the test. I also think I need to stay calmer as the nerves were jangling a little during the course of the 2 days.  
Have I learnt anything over the last 5 months? A lot. 
Is there any room for improvement? Always.
Do I know what I need to do to improve on my mistakes? Yes. 

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