Home > Cooking school > Knives and Fire XXII (Week 6)

Knives and Fire XXII (Week 6)

Pastry Day

Welcome to all the people from the CKCA mailing! I hope you enjoy this.

We began by discussing our new schedule (the next two Mondays and Wednesdays, plus a test the following Wednesday.) We also learned that our final exam will be a practical – we’re to make pico de gallo (salsa) to show our knife skills, and then cook either a chicken or fish plus sauce. Chef will tell us which sauce, which everyone will make.

Then we did an exercise changing volume to weights using charts from The Book of Yields. I had fun with it, but then, I like doing things like this. Also, chef talked about how a chef in a hotel figures out how much to buy for a day, taking into account banquets and number guests and average number who dine in the hotel. We also discussed the chain of command in a hotel, which pretty much ends at the general manager.

After some housekeeping, we went to the heart of the day – pastry cream and paté a choux (cream puff paste.) We used lots of sugar and eggs to day, I’ll tell you that. Pastry cream is usually made with milk – we, of course, used Coffee Rich and/or soy milk in its place, as well as margarine instead of butter.

One thing to know is that in pastry, everything but the smallest quantities is scaled. “Everything” includes liquids – it’s a pound of water, not two cups even though they’re the same thing. Everything also includes eggs. Instead of so many eggs, it’s so many weight ounces of eggs. Weight is more accurate than volume, you see. So, pastry cream.

2 lbs of milk is brought to a boil with 4 oz of sugar and vanilla – either a bean or 2 tbls of vanilla extract. Meanwhile, 3 oz of whole eggs and 4 oz of yolks are whisked in a bowl with 4 more oz of sugar and 2 oz of cornstarch. When the milk comes almost to a boil, take it off the fire and temper the eggs by slowly adding the hot milk until the eggs are warm. Then add the contents of the bowl to the pot and, whisking all the time, heat until the mixture is thick and produces a bubble or two. Add some butter and cool as soon as possible.

I used soy milk – mostly standard sweetened soy milk plus a bit of vanilla soy milk to get the right amount. I did not adjust either the sugar or the vanilla, btw. And. It was perfect. I’m pretty amazed myself – everyone else was too loose or too tight or burned it. I thought it tasted cloyingly sweet, but other people liked it.

Then we made paté au choux. This dough is unique in that it’s actually cooked on top of the stove like a béchamel. I worked with G as my partner. We brought a mixture of water, margarine and salt to a boil, and then added bread flour all at once, off the heat. We then put it back on the heat and stirred until it pulled away from the sides and formed a soft ball. We transferred this to a mixer with the paddle attachment,and beat the dough until it cooled enough to add the eggs – the bowl warm to the touch, but not hot. We added the 1lb 2oz eggs (we used eleven) one at a time until about the end, when I added the last three at once. And it was, again, very good.

To use paté au choux, one uses a pastry bag – a large tip makes long strips for eclairs. One can also make puffs of whatever size. Use a smaller tip to make a paris brest – an inch thick circle – and the necks of swans. The body is made with an open star tip.

G tried very hard to show me how to use a pastry bag. I did get better by the end – the trick is to squeeze with the hand holding the top of the back tight. We made paris brest and puffs.

Chef then made a genoise – a sponge cake – in this case, lemon. Sponge cakes are leavened only by air and eggs. Many, many eggs. Over a pound of eggs. (Much like, now that I think of it, paté au choux.)

To fill the cream puffs and eclairs, he took pastry cream (mine!) and mixed it with whipped topping – one part cream, two parts topping. This is called “chantilly” cream. Add puréed fruit and it’s bavarian cream. We also had chocolate pastry cream – another recipe of pastry cream plus melted chocolate. He used a pastry bag to inject the cream into the eclairs and puffs, and he cut the paris brest in half like a bagel, and put cream between the halves. Meanwhile, he made caramel and an apricot glaze (melt apricot jam with brandy), and we still had the melted chocolate.

And he made swans – he cut the eclairs made with star tips in half lengthwise, and the tops in half again. He covered the bottoms with cream and crossed the tops over the cream. Then he dipped the top of the necks in chocolate and then stuck them in the cream – and SWANS.

We also used puff pastry (homemade, but not by us.) Well, chef did. He rolled out two long oblongs and docked them with two forks, to be made into napoleons. Then there was the Band of Fruits, or Parisian Band.
This is a dessert made with a base of puff pastry, with the long sides built up. The sides were both glued and brushed with egg yolk – the latter to make them shiny. This has to be done carefully because we wanted the center to puff.

Chef then spread a layer of chantilly cream on the base and added a thin lengthwise slice of the genoise cake between the built-up edges. He covered this with fruit – a row of thinly sliced strawberries in the center, a row of thinly sliced kiwi one side, and of mandarin oranges on the other. This was glazed with the apricot glaze and put in the fridge to harden a little. Then it was sliced the short way into thick slices. It was really beautiful. He also glazed strawberries just for pretty.

Then he took the tops of the paris brest, dipped them in caramel and then in pine nuts, and replaced them. He melted fondant and glazed the tops of the napoleons (rectangles of puff pastry layered with pastry cream.) Chef also mixed the melted chocolate with some fondant and sugar syrup. He glazed some eclairs with the chocolate, and drew lines of chocolate over the white glaze on the napoleons and zig-zagged them with a toothpick. He also made a zabaglione.

And then he said for us to fill and do things and have fun. And, well. Dessert is not my thing, but I managed to be sligtly creative – I took a too-thin paris brest and dipped half in chocolate and then in pine nuts. Crushed nuts would have been better, but it was yummy.

And then we cleaned up.

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