What?! It’s 5am.
Yes, I couldn’t sleep till 2 plus 3 am the night before.
And when I did, before I knew it, I was rudely interrupted by my alarm.
Can I just go back to bed?
It’s just the second week of school and I am already facing difficulties in waking up! This can’t be real, can it?
I went through my morning preparations in a daze. Once I got to school, I perked up instantly. After all, it was a new week, a fresh start at school. Today’s lesson was on tarte aux fruits (fresh fruit tart) and tarte aux pommes (apple tart).
Did I mention how much I LOVE tarts and the crème patisserie?
No, wait, I seem to love all desserts, most desserts anyway.
This explains why I’m taking this course, doesn’t it?
Back to the class proper, Chef M*ichael greeted us cheerily and asked how our genoise and gateaux weekend went last week. Oh, why do you have to remind me of my cakes?
He went on to assure us that we didn’t have to worry if our genoise did not turn out too well as we would be doing it for a few other lessons.
After which, he launched straight into the pate sucree (sweet short crust pastry). Why the term ‘short crust pastry’? Well, because of the ‘shortness’ of the pastry; it should crumble, and it should be crisp.
The key to getting a good crust is not to overwork the dough.
I’ve learnt this from a lesson that I took at Shermay’s about a year plus ago.
And yes. I’ve done many, many pate sucrees before- chocolate raspberry tart, pineapple tart, and also many other shortbread cookies.
But it wasn’t time to be complacent.
Mastering the crème patisserie (the pastry cream) is essential. It is not only going to be one of the skills tested in our practical exam, but also, it is the base of many, many French pastries such as the chocolate éclairs.
The crème patisserie can get quite tricky. You need to ensure that the milk is of the correct temperature. Too hot and it will burn the milk. Too cool and you wouldn’t achieve the right smooth consistency of the crème.
Chef also went through the technique of the frangipane filling (almond crème filling) for the tarte aux pommes though we wouldn’t be making that during practical lesson.
Can I confess that my stomach was growling way before the tasting session? The lovely smells of butter from the oven just make me go hungry.
The tarts, both of them, are really good. I can’t decide which I prefer. The frangipane filling oozed of rich almond flavour and together with the caramelized apples on the top, and a perfect tart dough, made one of the best warm dessert. The crème patisserie is made with vanilla bean and I’ll just fall prey to anything with vanilla (vanilla bean to be exact).
The practical class is an intense one. We had to make the tart dough, the crème patisserie, cut up the fruits, decorate the cake AND we have to make a batch of Hollander dough (chocolate and vanilla flavour) for the next lesson.
I was extra cautious when making the crème patisserie. Even the best tart dough wouldn’t save the dessert if the crème was bad.
I was really happy to see that my crème coming together nicely- smooth, right consistency, pale yellow dotted black, precious dots of vanilla.
Chef walked by and commented that my tart dough was rolled out a little on the thick side. I admit that I’m the type of person who really enjoys the tart crust and feels that everyone would feel the same. I guess probably not.
When it was time to decorate the tart, I was kind of nervous. Friends would know that I’m not overly big on decorations. This is an understatement. To me, taste is most important. If my tart doesn’t look too good, it’s fine with me as long as it tastes really good.
I needed to overcome my lack of ability to beautify my creations so I challenged myself to decorate the tart well. We were each given a punnet of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwis each. I sliced the fruits carefully to ensure that they are of the same thickness.
While was decorating, the voice in my head told me that height is the way to go. That’s the way to go to make food look good. I’m pleased to say that Chef complimented my tart. He says that there is nice height there and that the colours go well together.
Can you believe that?
Yeah. I couldn’t and neither could my sis, nor my father when I told them that Chef said my tart looks good.
I practically skipped out of school and promptly gave half my tart to this café owner whom I befriended. Then I went home and rewarded myself with a slice of the tart.
I was tired but contented. That very night, I slept like a baby.