Today. Was. Rough.
Wow - I just got back from what was a really tough class. We made genoise (sponge cake) and biscuits a la cuillere (lady fingers). We learned how to make these in demo this Saturday, so today it was our turn to make them. Class started off ok, but there was definitely more of a "rushed" vibe than there had been in our last practical. The Chef who oversaw us today was different (*very* different) from our original Chef (who had been very calming, telling us not to rush and relax more). The Chef we had to day kept telling us to "go, go, go" and hurry up, which became a little nerve-racking for me (and I think everyone else) to be honest.
Anyway, regardless of the Chef, the hardest part today was all the hand-whisking we had to do. Both recipes required us to whisk eggs and since we aren't allowed to use mixers, we had to use our arms. We used our arms A LOT. It was a bit easier with the genoise because we whisked whole eggs until the texture became ribbony, but for the biscuits a la cuillere, we had to whisk egg whites with sugar to make a meringue. That was HARD. I ended up having to start over because the first time I did it, I added the sugar too soon and the egg whites lost their "fluff." The key is to whisk the egg whites as much as you can *before* adding the sugar because the sugar makes the mixture more liquidy, which is not the "proper" texture for a meringue. I thought I had beat the egg whites enough before I added the sugar, but when the Chef came over to my station to see how I was doing he looked into my mixing bowl, frowned, and told me to trash it :( That didn't do much for my self-confidence, but I did as he said and started the whole process over again, this time making sure to whisk the egg whites enough before adding the sugar. The meringue came together much better the second time, but this was far from my last misstep of the day.
After you make the meringue, you are supposed to *gently* fold in some egg yolks and flour into the mixture. You have to be really really gentle because the egg whites are very delicate, and you want to prevent them from deflating as much as possible. I felt confident that I could do this part because, this might be silly, but I feel like I have watched SO many chefs do this on the Food Network lol Well, I guess watching is really different from doing because I folded too roughly and my mixture deflated a bit. But I guess it deflated a bit too much because when the chef came back over to my station he told me to start over. Again. So I started the entire process over again and went back to hand-whisking some egg whites. It was very frustrating, but my consolation was the knowledge that my right arm is going to have some *insane* muscles when I leave culinary school in December!
The folding technique went better this time, and I was able to prepare my lady fingers for the oven. They are supposed to cook for 8 minutes at 380 (in degrees Fahrenheit). I was *so* tempted to take them out sooner because of my fear of burning things lol but I decided not to because I didn't want to start the recipe over a *fourth* time - my arm was SO tired by this point, and I was mentally exhausted. So anyway, I resisted the urge and took the lady fingers out of the oven promptly at the 8 minute mark. And lo and behold...they had burned. lol I think it was just one of those days. So, yes, I started over again (and this time, thank goodness, I didn't burn them...too badly).
I hope this isn't too depressing of a post, but to be honest today was just kinda hard. I learned from each of my mistakes though (including the one where I touched the side of the oven door, which I thought would be cool in temperature, but burned my hand because it was not), and I feel like I got a good example of the kind of learning Le Cordon Bleu is trying to teach us. They aren't just teaching us how to follow recipes or instructions, but they are teaching us techniques. It's a lot harder to learn techniques, but I know it will be worth it in the end!
Anyway, I'm happy I can just relax tonight and drink some of what is becoming my new favorite tea (it's Twinings brand Chamomile & Apple - I found it at Loblaws, a big the grocery store chain in Canada, and it is *fantastic*!) and maybe snack on a burnt lady finger or two lol ;)
This about sums it up lol: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAZgLcK5LzI