Long time, no post

Oh, hi! It’s been a while, friends. I’m really sorry I’ve been so absent, but it’s not personal, I promise! It’s just evidence that pastry school isn’t a walk in the park, and doubly so when coupled with working full time and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life. Obviously I was a little over-ambitious when I thought I could keep this up regularly and maintain some sanity in my everyday life.

To play some quick catch up, here’s a brief list of the things you’ve missed between my last post and now:

  • I made and ate my weight in butter in our puff pastry unit, making some really delicious treats like poires en cagetarte tatin, and palmiers. It was our introduction into lamination, which is essentially the layering of dough and butter to create flaky, airy layers of baked pastry.
Mmm, flaky, buttery layers of pastry goodness.
  • In our first cake unit, we learned the basics of various mixing methods, and it took me three tries to figure out how to make a génoise correctly. We made some basic layer cakes, as well as succès au cafémarjolaine, and an intricately piped basket weave, which was way more fun than it sounds!
That basket weave is no joke!
  • Next was one of my favorites, if not my favorite unit in our whole program: breads and viennoiserie. Bagels, croissants, danish, pannettone, brioche, sticky buns, English muffins, the list goes on… I just love working with doughs and yeast, so I’m hoping we get to do some more of that.

Are bagels not one of the best things about living in NYC?
Croissants and pain au raisin and pain au chocolate, oh my!
  • Our second cake unit involved some more complicated cakes and entremets, which are, essentially, cakes with various components that use those components as elements of design. This is kind of hard to explain, so just take a peek at the pictures below. These were all so yummy and challenging—it was definitely a fun section, and all of the cakes were so impressive!
This black forest cake was one of my favorites to make.
The raspberry-pistachio entremet was easily the most popular thing we’ve made in class, at least with my coworkers.
Filled with salted caramel mousseline!
  • Petit fours were tedious, but tasty, even though my macarons all came out wonky because of sugar or oven issues., and my pâte de fruit came out as rubber de fruit. The madeleines were deliciously fluffy, though!
Macarons, caramel mou au chocolat, almond tuiles, marshmallows, raspberry-strawberry pâte de fruit
  • Miderms were their own unit, and they included a section where we had to make a product without the instructions from the recipe. It was hard to study for it, but it felt like the most “real” exercise we’ve done; if and when we go out into the real world and work in professional kitchens, we’re going to be expected to know how to do things without detailed instructions. So, it was rewarding when my caramel nut tart came out perfectly, and I finally got redemption on my pâte de fruit!
Caramel nut tart, sliced strawberries and whipped cream rosettes, chocolate writing, overdone palmiers, pâte de fruit.
  • In our first chocolate unit, there wasn’t as much to take home, but what made was delicious, and definitely was a more technical unit. Even so, I really enjoyed getting to work with chocolate and felt like such a nerd (which I love) for getting excited about learning how to temper and what beta crystals are and how to use my handy infrared thermometer. But hey, we get to make stuff like this, so there’s that!
Some lucky family members got a nice surprise in the mail…
  • After chocolate came our first individual desserts unit. This was the first time we’d gotten to really play around with creativity and really make our creations our own. We made crême brûléesoufflés, fritters, sorbet, so much freaking ice cream, and a lot more. It was a really nice change to be able to take ownership of what we were doing in the kitchen, especially since it will prepare us for our restaurant day exercise toward the end of the program.
My personal favorite.
Bomboloni, aka fried brioche. 🙂
  • Then there was our first sugar unit, which was somewhat less popular. We learned how to make gum paste flowers, which, while kind of therapeutic because of the detail and attention paid during the process, took forever, and I don’t think I’ll be a famous flower maker anytime soon. Then we worked with pastillage, which is a sugar mixture that essentially dries like clay (though isn’t as wet), and is the literal worst. My showpiece broke as I was assembling it, and there were only minimal tears because of how angry I was at it.
Nougatine basket with marzipan fruits!
Not pictured: the pieces of my broken mountain strewn across the table.

It’s hard to believe I’m in the home stretch of this program now. We only have a few more units to go (two levels made up of various units), and things are getting more creative and simultaneously technical now. We just finished our advanced chocolate unit, which I loved, but honestly wasn’t my best work somehow. My bonbons were all pretty good, but my showpiece was…well…it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t the best. Long story short, I threw it in the compost bin with such force that it shattered and pieces went flying everywhere. So…. I really do love chocolate and working with it, but maybe showpieces just aren’t my thing?

Two-tier chocolate ganache cake with hand-painted white chocolate transfer sheet.

Pastry school really is flying by, so I’m trying to enjoy as much of it as I can while I speed through. After a few months, I got used to the schedule, but that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly tired; and I’ve managed to develop some sort of back/neck issue in the process (gotta work on that posture!). Even so, I’m still really glad I made the decision to go to school, and I’m starting to get excited about figuring out what I want to do in the future. There are so many options! Restaurants, bakeries, freelance… What do you think I should do?

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