Sunday, July 26, 2009

The thrills of reaping your rewards

IP Lesson II: Savoury petit fours
Petit fours: Mini pizzs with anchovies. kalamanta olives, cheese on a tomato concasse sauce, quiche lorraine and parmasan twists

The second day of classes on the first day of school was pretty hectic. We had to produce quite a few variety of reverse puff pastry products including mini pizzas, parmesan twists (Cheese sticks), pissaladierre, quiche.

There was lots to do and lots to bake today but I’m all for savoury stuff. I’m thinking about an instant dinner. What better than to dig into a plate of freshly baked petit fours.

Today was about reaping the rewards of yesterday’s toil. That is if you did your puff pastry and pate brisee (short pastry) well.

I enjoyed today’s lesson even though I was rushing a little towards the end to get my mini pizzas into the oven but overall the products were beautiful. They puffed up really evenly and nicely.

The petit fours tasted awesome really; you cannot ask for more with a good puff pastry with flaky layers that melts in your mouth.

So that was our dinner.
Would have been our breakfast too if we didn’t control ourselves.

pissaladierre with julienned leeks, carrots and onions

Another first (without too much anticipation)

IP Lesson I: Reverse puff pastry

Back to school once again after a two weeks break. It felt a little surreal as I walked through the school gates once again. This time, I am no longer a ‘freshman’ so to speak. I am a senior now yet at the same time, I don’t feel like I’m that good to be one.

I see them gather at the school hallway looking a little lost, wearing their starchy white uniform still fresh and new, carrying their ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ branded tool kit. That sight reminded me of myself three months ago. I felt a tad nostalgic if it’s the right word to use.

Walking into the familiar demo II kitchen, I found myself amongst cheery, familiar faces. The kitchen was bustling with noisy chatter amongst strangers-turned-friends. We also met our new chef for this term (for Thursdays)- Chef K*aren W*igston. She is no stranger to us since she was one of the examiners grading our ├ęclairs during assessment week last term.

The lesson started proper with her referring to a long list of things on the white board which included a section on ‘work flow’, which was something unfamiliar in the demo kitchen last time.

Intermediate patisserie as I soon found out required much better time management and work flow than basic patisserie. This time, we had to present all our products to the chef half an hour before classes end (by ANY means). If not, we would not be assessed for the lesson.

Time management in the kitchen isn’t my strongest suit. This would probably sound strange for a person who enjoys (needs) to plan and be in control of things.

For me, time in the kitchen simply zoom by me. Three and a half hours in the kitchen may sound like a long time but with the numerous tasks and procedures that we have to complete, it simply isn’t. I’m still trying to work on that part.

Back to the lesson proper.

You know what’s cool: we ended basic patisserie with puff pastry and today, we’re starting intermediate classes with puff pastry. Reverse (or as some people may call it ‘inverse’) puff pastry that is.

The difference between the two types of puff pastry is the way in which the butter is enclosed in the detramp. For the reverse puff, the butter dough encloses the de tramp (dough mixture). This results in a flakier, crispier, lighter product. As far as I know (if my sources are right), Pierre Herme prefers the reverse puff pastry method.

And from this lesson, I found out that I favour this method too.

Today’s class was mainly focused on mise en place (simply means good preparation). We had to prepare our reverse puff pastry dough, fillings and sauces for tomorrow’s class because we will be making a variety of savoury petit fours.

Pretty funny that we, patisserie students, are starting the course with savoury items isn’t it?

Making the reverse puff pastry isn’t as tricky as I thought it would be. As with puff pastry, you need to (a) give the dough enough time to rest, (b) ensure that the consistency of the butter/butter dough is the same as the de tramp. For practical class, we were giving the green light to use the dough breaker which is a really cool machine.

Last term, we had to roll out the puff pastry by hand. It was back breaking and arm breaking work. Imagine having to roll it out 6 separate times. The dough breaker cuts the time by two thirds and cuts away all the pain!

Preparation of the tomato concasse which is a tomato based sauce for the mini pizzas and the filling for the pissaladierre was done in pairs. I can’t be more thankful for such a wonderful partner for Sarah and I work well together.

By the time class ended, it was already six-thirty in the evening. But our day has yet to end. We had a two hour theory class till eight-thirty. Did I mention how much I dislike late classes?

Theory was dreary as we had to learn about food safety. (Once again, it’s back to haunt me) Honestly, the classes are, at best, dry. I rather learn more about the differing ingredients in patisserie.

When the day finally ended, Sarah and I made our way to the bus stop only to find ourselves there for forty-five minutes. Those minutes crawled by; it just does especially on a cold, wintry night after a long day of classes. The feeling of misery really kicked in bad, I kid you not.

It was nine-thirty by the time I got back and ten by the time I had dinner. That’s no fun at all. That’s how much I dislike late classes. I pray and hope that the time table for Superior patisserie would be much better.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Home-cooked Korean Feast!: Post-assessment pig out session

The lovely, lovely spread

I love being with friends who can cook and who love to cook. One of our Korean course-mate invited the group of us to her house for a meal post-assessment. She would be cooking up a Korean spread for us. We were more than thrilled, of course. Well, even for a non-korean food lover like me.

The moment we stepped into her house, we were greeted by her chirpy housemate and a whole spread of Korean dishes on the table. “Oh my God, she must have spent the entire day in the kitchen,” I thought to myself.

The feast started without much further ado. We had beef bulgogi, daeji bulgogi (stir-fried pork in a spicy marinade), mandu (deep-fried dumplings), kimchi dumplings, Korean-style potato salad (with ham included), chap chaue (Korean stir-fried noodles), normal garden salad and some other food that I don’t know the names of. Forgive me, but I’m unacquainted to Korean cuisine.

I was surprised that I really enjoyed the meal not only for the company but for the great food! My favourites were the beef bulgogi and the chap chaue, which is basically stir fried potato noodles with mushroom, vegetables and beef and this battered and deep fried roll made with seaweed with sweet potato noodles in the centre.

She also made this Korean sweet rice drink called sikhye. It is basically made from rice and malt barley and it goes through several hours of fermentation. It taste sweet, somewhat a cross between barley and chenddol. Initially when she mentioned rice drink, I thought of the brown-rice tea that Japan serves. The sikhye is more like a dessert because of its sweetness.

Home cooked Korean food has changed my mind about Korean food. Perhaps I wouldn’t call myself a convert as yet but I’m definitely more open in trying and learning more about the Korean cuisine.

I have to thank my very kind Korean host for all the time and effort that she put into the meal. When we left her place, her kitchen looked like it has been through a snowstorm of sorts. I couldn’t imagine cleaning up but being a typical Asian host, she didn’t want us to lift a finger even though we attempted to clean up.