Oh, hello! It’s been a minute, guys. Between work and getting used to this busy schedule, I’ve been really slacking in the blog post department—so much so that I missed an entire unit! So let’s play catch-up, shall we?
After we finished up our cookies and food safety unit (which, by the way, would be a great name for someone’s memoirs, just saying), we moved into pies and tarts. This is a section that I was looking forward to, but also a little skeptical about.. I mean, I make a mean pie already. What’s there really to learn?
So much, my friends. So much. First off, just to paint a picture of how much we actually made and give you an idea of the volume of treats we’ve been dealing with: we started with tarts—apple tarts, pear tarts (tarte bourdaloue), fruit tarts, custard tarts, lemon tarts, chocolate tarts, nut tarts, galette flamande, caramelized onion and bleu cheese tarts, quiche(!)… Then we finished off with some good ol’ fashioned American pies—double-crust apple, caramel apple streusel, pumpkin, and lemon meringue, to be exact. If you’re keeping track, that’s A LOT of tarts and pies. Luckily, these are all very shareable things, so my coworkers and friends have been very happy (and full).
I really didn’t think there was that much to making a tart or a pie, so I went into this unit a little cocky. In truth, there really isn’t that much to making a dish comprised of a shell and a filling; make the shell, fill it, bake it, you’re done. Anyone can do it if they know the basics, but like many things, the difference between a good tart and a great tart is, well, it’s like the difference between being ranked the 100th best tennis player and the 1st. To someone sitting on the couch who can’t or doesn’t play at all, they might as well be the same person, but to people who are knowledgeable and spend their lives in the field, it’s a tremendous leap quantified in terms of technique, consistency, and presentation.
Just on day 1, when all we were doing was a basic apple tart that involved rolling out dough, lining a tart ring, slicing some apples, and making a compote, I learned more than in the years I’ve been making pies on my own. How to properly peel, core, and slice an apple, how to correctly throw flour on your work surface, how to roll out dough and line the ring the right way (yes, there is a right way to do this). As we went on, I got to try things I’ve never done before, like flambéing, working with almond cream (finally, I got to learn how it’s made! I know all your secrets now, pastry professionals! [lololol]), making meringue successfully and with various methods, toasting said meringue, etc. etc.
This is the kind of experience I was hoping pastry school would be. I’m literally learning something new every day—truthfully, many somethings—and even though I’ve made some mistakes (e.g. the Great Raspberry Jam Blowout of 2016), they’re all opportunities to discover and improve. Example: now I know that when you don’t heat your swiss meringue enough, it will start to fall apart mere seconds after you meticulously pipe it on top of a mini lemon tart in the cutest pattern ever and gaze at it proudly.
Even though I’m exhausted all of the time always, every time I step into the kitchen, I seem to get a burst of energy and forget that I’m running on coffee and the few hours of sleep my cat lets me have every night. I might come out of class with a sore back and the occasional sliced finger (seriously, guys, be careful when cleaning your knives), but I’m still loving it so far, and can’t wait to try my hand at éclairs, cream puffs, and the all-intimidating croquembouche in our upcoming classes. Who’s excited for some pâte à choux? I know I am.