Sunday, July 26, 2009

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.

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