30 December 2009

Graduation and NYC

It's about time I posted some graduation pictures...

The morning began with a ceremony of sorts at the Union League Club of Chicago. Our chefs, selected classmates, and a couple of guest speakers addressed us, and we received our certificates. Afterward, everyone headed down Jackson Street to our school, where our guests were invited to sample treats from every course of our studies. The buffet was truly spectacular, and everyone was impressed.

I spent the remainder of the weekend in Chicago with my mom and dad before heading to New York on Monday morning. I spent eight days there, trailing in restaurants and partaking in good NYC stuff. After landing in Chicago yesterday morning, the tentative plan is to head back to KC this weekend to get all of my things under one roof again, then pick and choose what I need to take to NYC with me. It's not official yet when I'll be heading back that direction, but I hope it's soon.

12 December 2009

Exam IV Recap, Future Plans

Well, that's it. With the exception of preparing our graduation buffet, we're finished. I've been feeling very uneasy about reaching this point, but late this week I finally began to hear back from some NYC restaurants I have contacted with regard to available pastry cook positions. After taking the largest sigh of relief of all time, I now feel better about school coming to an end, and am planning a trip to NYC to do some trailing.

For our fourth and final exam, we were required to present the following to Chef Laura:

  • Chocolate Hazelnut Cake (chocolate biscuit, hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate mousse, hazelnut mousse, chocolate mirror glaze)

  • Pithivier (puff pastry, almond cream filling)

  • Buttercream cake (chocolate biscuit layered with buttercream, with piping)

  • Gum Paste Flower Bouquet (two roses, two carnations, one set of leaves)

04 December 2009

Hot Dogs and Fries at Hot Doug's

"There are no two finer words in the English language than 'encased meats,' my friend."

The above quote is written in large typeface along the south wall of Hot Doug's. I can't remember who said it, but that's irrelevant; the quoted is indeed correct.

My friend, Michael, and I made a long-awaited pilgrimage to Hot Doug's after class today. There is always a line out the door, no matter what time of day. We waited patiently on the first truly cold Chicago afternoon, and our patience was handsomely rewarded.

One must visit Hot Doug's on a Friday or Saturday in order to indulge in a delicious basket of duck fat-rendered fries. Honestly, what meal wouldn't they complement? Our strategy was to order three hot dogs (along with the fries), and split each one in half. We decided on and devoured the following:

The Marty Allen (formerly The Don Rickles): a thuringer sausage made with Hello der beef, pork, and garlic

Special: a ribeye steak sausage with chimichurri, crispy fried onions, and Oregon smoked blue cheese

Today's Celebrity Sausage, the Joe Fortunato: a cognac-infused lamb and pork sausage with spinach raita and port wine chicken mousse

This was my first Chicago hot dog experience with the exception of basics at Wrigley and U.S. Cellular Fields, and, to be honest, it'll probably remain the only one. An exceptional lunch.

Wedding Cakes

Happy Friday, all. Today marked the last day of class before our final (not comprehensive) exam and graduation weeks. Unlike many students, I didn't enter school thinking I'd come out a cake decorator... and it's safe to say I'm still a member of that camp. To be sure, it's amazing to look at a three-tiered cake covered in fondant and gum paste flowers and think, Wow, I can't believe I made this; however, I'll take a crazy restaurant chef as a boss any day over a crazy bride.

We made three cakes this week: a two-tiered buttercream cake; a three-tiered (Styrofoam) fondant cake; and a croquembouche, which is a traditional French wedding cake. A tremendous amount of patience and detail were required, in that it took entire class periods to individually build each cake.

The buttercream cake is exactly that: covered and piped with buttercream. The cake itself is a traditional French "biscuit."

The fondant-covered cake has flowers made from gum paste as well as beads and patterns constructed with a 50/50 mix of fondant and gum paste.

The croquembouche is essentially a pyramid of cream puffs that have been dipped in cooking sugar (with half being dipped again in sucre grain). It is built using more cooked sugar to glue the puffs together. The topper is made with even more cooked sugar, and the base is nougatine that has been piped with royal icing. PS - The cake in the picture is Chef Laura's... not mine. :)

26 November 2009

Gum Paste Flowers

Happy Thanksgiving! Finding myself surprisingly conscious after going to bed two hours later than usual and waking up an hour earlier than usual, I thought I'd use the airport downtime before my flight to Kansas City to post some pictures from this week's gum paste extravaganza.

Day One: buds for daisies, carnations, roses, orchids, and lilies

Day Two: roses, daisies, carnations, orchid and lily buds

Day Three: orchid throats, blossoms, daisies, carnations, roses; rose leaves, orchid and lily petals

Day Four: lilies and orchids

We also coated the base and first layer of our "dummy" cake (Styrofoam) with fondant. By the end of next week we will have added another two layers to the cake and constructed a centerpiece using some of our gum paste flowers.

Enjoy the holiday, everyone! I'm sincerely looking forward to some quality time with friends and family.

20 November 2009

Entremets (Cakes)

My temporary burnout has ended, thanks to Chef Dimitri Fayard of Chicago's Vanille Patisserie. In France, a layered mousse cake is called an entremet, and over the past couple of weeks I have learned the differences between several mousses with regard to texture, flavor, and ingredients, as well as how to successfully construct various layered cakes. Each cake we made contained a minimum of three components - sometimes more - and they were each built over the course of a couple of days. Besides the cakes from our books, we were fortunate enough to have enough time to make two cakes that Chef Dimitri sells in his bakery. We also made puff pastry from scratch to construct a Pithivier - an intricately-decorated French cake that gets its shape and pattern designs from the use of a blade. We filled the Pithivier with frangipane, and made apple turnovers with our leftover puff pastry scraps. Nearly everything from this course was absolutely delicious. See below for pictures and details...

Nougat Mousse Cake:
pistachio dacquoise
passion fruit and apricot gelee
nougat mousse
clear glaze
Hazelnut Chocolate Cake:
hazelnut dacquoise sprinkled with caramelized hazelnuts
chocolate biscuit
chocolate mousse
hazelnut mousse
chocolate mirror glaze
Coconut Passion Cake:
coconut dacquoise
candied pineapple
coconut mousse
passion fruit mousse
clear and colored glaze
Raspberry Silk Cake:
almond dacquoise
raspberry gelee
hazelnut crunch
white chocolate diplomat mousse
puff pastry
Apple Turnovers:
puff pastry
apple compote
Chef Dimitri's Sophia Cake:
flourless chocolate biscuit
craquant praline
vanilla cremeux
chocolate mousse
chocolate glaze
Chef Dimitri's Chocolate Caramel Cake:
streusel / streusel crisp
caramel cremeux
chocolate caramel mousse
dark chocolate glaze

15 November 2009

Exam III Recap

For our third exam we were required to produce and present the following:

  • Beer Bread
  • Toast Bread
  • Croissants
  • Lemon Pound Cake
  • Chocolate Espresso Tarts
  • Coconut Rochers
  • Raspberry Financiers
  • Pate a Choux (Chouquettes, Eclairs, Salambos)

While I personally feel I could've done better on this one, my grade was decent enough to slightly raise my overall grade. Can't complain about that! Here are some photos:

All that remains: cakes and wedding cakes...

30 October 2009

Petit Fours and Mini French Pastries

I can tell I'm in a bit of a lull lately because I wasn't really excited to write this. We made some really delicious treats during this portion, but everything feels reminiscent of things we've already learned, such as tart shells and meringue, which makes it slightly more difficult to get out of bed on time in the morning. The upside of such repetition, however, is that I could probably make pastry cream with my eyes closed if the situation ever arose.

The general idea behind the petit fours class is to create small bites. Here are some examples...

blueberry with streusel
chocolate espresso
fresh fruit
dacquoise (the French call these "cat's tongues" - ew.)
macaron shells on the sheet tray
filled macarons
...and a few other treats:
pate a choux, before being baked
baked pate a choux, now transformed into filled eclairs, etc.
opera cake, which, as far as I can tell is the French equivalent of tiramisu... though you'd never convince any of my chefs to admit it...
Next week we have an exam over breads, breakfast pastries, and petit fours. I am truly grateful for the approaching time change, as I'm sure it will lure me into a normal sleeping pattern for at least a week or so. Boy, do I need it.
Also, my brother, Thomas, is on his way to Chicagoland as I write this! He is moving to Skokie, IL from Raleigh, NC, and will continue to work for McCormick & Schmick's. Though I have no idea where I'll be two months from now, it will be great having a family member nearby in the meantime.