My fruit flan- Assessment Day III
The past three days have been a stressful period for me.
Exams aren’t a new concept to me especially having gone through Singapore’s education system.
Having been through countless test and exams for fourteen out of the twenty four plus years of my life, I shouldn’t be the least thrown off by the practical exams at LCB. I hate to admit it but the past few days have been a pretty tense and intense period for me.
The practical assessment was carried out over three consecutive days: Day 1, to prepare puff pastry using a) English method, b) French method and to prepare pate sucree (sweet crust dough) for the fruit flan; Day 2, to bake ten coffee éclairs complete with coffee crème patissiere, coffee fondant icing; Day 3, to bake 5 vol-au-vent cases, 10 bouchee cases using our puff pastry dough and to bake and decorate a fruit flan. We were assessed for our hygiene, our workflow in the kitchen, and of course our products.
I must have been very worried about my assessment because that has manifested itself in my sleep. For the past three nights I have been having dreams of rolling my dough. It would take me forever to fall asleep and when I do, I dream of being in my school’s kitchen rolling out dough over and over again!
Day 1 of assessment was the more relaxed one out of the three days- after all; you are just preparing the doughs. In terms of timeline, we were given a good amount of time to work with. Apart from getting aching arms from the rolling of the puff pastry dough, it was pretty much a breeze and I found myself humming along to some odd ditty that was stuck in my head.
Day 2 of assessment was the day that I was most worried and concern about. Chef M*ichael actually warned us that this was the day where even good students stumble because so many things can go wrong. First of all, the timing is very tight. Even though three and a half hours may sound very long, the time simply slips by you when you are making éclairs because of the many components that has to be taken care of. Second of all is getting ten uniform and consistent products isn’t easy.
My greatest fear was not being able to assemble the éclairs in time. That happened to me in class. I had no time to finish filling my éclairs with pastry cream and no time to do the icing. My next stumbling block was piping the choux pastry.
The éclairs need to be uniform- of the same length and the same width. They cannot be too slim or too fat either so that was the challenge. Piping is my nemesis. So I knew that this was going to be my downfall. While piping the choux pastry, my hands were shaking! I must have been really nervous about it.
I was the last to finish the éclairs but I finished about fifteen minutes before the end of assessment which was what that mattered. Overall, I was pretty happy that the choux pastry baked beautifully, the pastry cream was smooth, shiny and of the right colour, the fondant icing was tempered well. The only unsatisfactory thing was the uniformity- some of my éclairs were too thin and the fondant icing wasn’t applied neatly enough for one of the éclairs. The sad part of that two of my ‘better-looking’ éclairs actually toppled over so I had to use my back up ones for the assessment. A pity but that shouldn’t be my excuse really- because I should be able to have twenty uniform ones..not just ten.
The greatest joy was to bite into one of my éclairs on the way home. It tasted extremely good even though I don’t like éclairs- part of that must be the sweet taste of success and satisfaction.
Day 3 of assessment started off on the wrong note. 1) the ingredients was not prepared for us. When the assessment started, some of us still did not receive the eggs and vanilla bean needed from the pastry crème. 2) we found out on the spot that we had to prepare our own glaze for the fruit flan when it was promised that it would be made for us to use. 3) I just hate kitchen two because there isn’t enough stoves for the class. But like Chef M*ichael always say, “Good chefs can work under any conditions.”
So we just needed to cope. Everything went on well for me in terms of the work flow..the tart baked beautifully. Then came the vol-au-vents and bouchee cases. I thought mine would turn out fine. To my horror and dismay, all I saw were topsy turvy cases, slanting at an angle. Whatever happened to them!
My mind was racing fast on what I did on Thursday while preparing the puff pastry dough. I don’t quite know what went wrong but the fact that I might have folded in the butter into the dough a little too early. But there was nothing much I could do to salvage the situation.
I just had to choose my best ones to present. Thankfully, some of them still look decent if you do not examine them closely.
The fruit flan was alright-wished that I could have done a better job at the decoration but that still isn’t one of my strong suits. When assessment was over, I was just so relieved that it was all done and over with. I’ve passed the first patisserie exam. I’m moving on to Intermediate in three weeks time!
And last night, I slept extremely well.
No more dough-making dreams.