Monday, December 26, 2011

Oh Canada :)

Hey everyone!

I know it has been a really long time since my last post - I'm sorry! It just got so crazy studying for my final exams, packing, graduation, etc. that I was forced to take a bit of a break from blogging. But I wanted to do one final post to update you all on my final experiences/thoughts on culinary school and my experiences :)

The final dish we learned how to make was undoubtedly the most difficult we have made this semester: the St. Honoré. Basically, it is a cake made of eclairs stuffed with chiboust cream. The "eclairs" are also dipped in caramel >> YUM! But the process isn't easy, and some caramel burns were acquired along the way I'm sorry to say - but it was all for the good of the St. Honoré, so it's ok! ;)

Here are some pictures of my St. Honoré (with a caramel ball on top for extra decoration!):

Our last class was held on Friday the 16th, so after that we had the weekend to do some last minute studying before our final exam on Monday the 19th.

The final was quite nerve-racking for everyone I think. There were 2 parts: a written and practical. For the written part, we were given the name of a dish (at random) and from that name we had to write out all the ingredients and quantities of the ingredients in that dish. The practical was similar in that we were given a dish at random, except this time we actually had to make the dish. My dish for the written portion was the Miroir au Cassis and my dish for the practical was the Lemon Tart. I was a bit jittery at first, during the practical, but after I got cooking, I was able to relax and "get into the cooking groove" :) In the end, all my studying really paid off, and I was able to produce a dish of which I was very proud :) I didn't take my camera into the final exam, so I can't show you a picture of the dish, but it looked similar to the lemon tart I had made weeks ago in class, so that was a good sign!

After the final, I had about 48 hours to pack/recuperate from all the studying, and then it was time for graduation festivities! Graduation was a beautiful ceremony. It was held in the Hotel Chateau Laurier, which, apparently, is the nicest hotel in Ottawa. It truly was a beautiful hotel and it was such a lovely ceremony! It was similar to a university graduation - except a lot of it was in French! lol But the "head" Pastry and Cuisine chefs spoke and congratulated everyone, and there was even a valedictorian, one of the Superior Pastry Graduates. They called us all to the stage one by one (first the Basic Pastry and Cuisine students, then the Intermediate, and finally the Superior) and presented us with our diplomas. Attire was business casual, but instead of graduation robes (like in University), we wore our chef jackets :)

Here is a picture I found online of the Hotel Chateau Laurier:

Here are some pictures from Graduation:

Some students from my house and I (from left to right it's Robin (she actually didn't live in the house, she just jumped into the picture lol), Mulianti, Pranav, me, Sam, Jessica, and Derek)

Most of my Basic Pastry class :)

I had such a wonderful experience in Ottawa - as I sit here trying to come up with words to describe my time there, I am realizing that any words I come up with simply will not do my experience justice. I met so many incredible people and made so many wonderful friends. I learned so much and truly pushed myself outside my comfort zone. It feels strange to be back in the States now, in many ways. I'm not necessarily "homesick" for Canada, but I do miss it very much. I feel that I "grew up" in a lot of ways in Canada, and I feel so lucky to have all the experiences that I did there. It is hard to believe it is over, but I will never forget my time at Le Cordon Bleu or the Wilbrod House.

Thank you all for your encouragement and support during these past three months - keeping this blog was a wonderful way for me to contemplate my experiences and share them with my friends and family, and I hope you enjoyed reading it! :)

Until my next blog (perhaps about grad school?),

Me ;)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Don't forget the vegetable!

Hey everyone :)

Today was a really good day - I feel like I've been in a particularly happy mood the past few days which is enjoyable lol and kinda unexpected because I've been waking up at 7am for the past few days and the weather has been a rainy/snowy mess and the Congolese Embassy near my house had a HUGE riot the other day - people were shooting rifles, throwing rocks at the police was pretty intense. The riots were apparently about the election that just occurred in the Congo in which the incumbent, Joseph Kabila, won what many are claiming to be a "stolen election." If you want to read about it (from an Ottawan perspective), here is the link to the article I was reading:

Anyway, it feels like a lot has been going on here lately, and I've been keeping pretty busy with class, grad school applications, etc., so I'm figuring that all that has a lot to do with my good mood - I always seem to feel better when I'm keeping busy, you know?

Ok, well moving onto class today, we made Pear Charlottes which are basically frozen desserts with lady-fingers around the sides and pear-flavored Bavarian cream in the middle. They are served with raspberry coulis (or a fruit reduction sauce) and Chantilly cream on the side. They are impressive to look at and taste pretty good. Personally, my favorite dish still remains to be the croissants lol But this wasn't bad ;) Pear Charlotte is a very light dessert - no butter - so that might be a :) or a :( depending on who is reading this lol

Chef piping the lady fingers

After you pipe lady fingers, you have to dust them with powdered sugar (or, as they say in Canada, icing sugar)

Chef using my new favorite kitchen appliance (the blow torch) on another cake he made today in class (that we didn't make in Practical) called Entrements aux poires (or Geneose sponge cake with pears). And don't worry - he is not torching the icing on the cake in this picture, he is torching the almond paste masque he put over the buttercream icing.

This is what the Entrements aux poires looks like when it is done :) Beautiful! That is mint in the center (for the vegetable component of the dish ;) ) and chocolate "cigarette" sticks.

Here is Chef's Pear Charlotte or Charlotte aux poires - apparently, it is traditionally served with a bow tied around the middle lol So the part that you see are the lady fingers, but if you cut into the Charlotte, you would see the Bavarian cream filling.

These are some frozen souffles Chef just "threw together" at the end of class ;)

And here is my Pear Charlotte with my raspberry coulis and whipped cream on the side :) (apparently, this dessert can also be called a Charlotte Russe! Like the clothing store lol) Ps. I *did* have a mint leaf on my Charlotte when I presented it to the Chef, but I didn't have it when I took the picture because there was a limited amount of mint leaves in class, so my friend Erin and I shared, and she was presenting her dish when I took this picture, so the mint leaf was on her Charlotte. I tell you this just so you know I didn't skip the vegetable component ;)

Here is a picture of a few of my friends and I from class: from left to right it's Erin, me, Rafi, and Beth is in the middle :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I love chocolate :)

Hey everyone!

If I were to sum up today's culinary creation in a single word it would be this: CHOCOLATE (!!)

Yes, there was chocolate today. Lots and lots of chocolate. We made Pavé du Roy or chocolate cake :) And this is definitely something I'll be making again :)

Basically, its a 3 layer rectangle cake with alternating layers of chocolate biscuit (or cake) and chocolate ganache. The sides of the cake are decorated with chocolate sprinkles and the top of the cake is decorated with a chocolate flower made out of chocolate shavings. It's a pretty straightforward cake to make, but the tricky part is the ganache. It has to be at just the right temperature and consistency before you spread it on the cake - not too cold, not too hot, not too liquidy, and not too solid. To get it to the right consistency, you have to stir the ganache about once every 5 minutes over the course of an hour or so. If you over-mix it, it's ruined. If you under-mix it, it's ruined. Today was a bit frustrating, if you can't already tell lol But in the end, I mixed it just about the right amount of times and got it to be the right consistency :) Woohoo! [Ganache is made by boiling cream and pouring it over an equal amount of chocolate chips and stirring]

Here are some pictures:

Chef spreading the first layer of cake with chocolate ganache.

Chef's Pavé du looks flawless to me!

This is something else Chef made today in Demo (but we didn't have to make it in Practical). It is called an Entremets Casino Cake, and is basically spongecake with apricot jam and a filling of bavaroise (or Bavarian cream). I want to try to make this at home - it was so good!

My Pavé du Roy :) Not quite as pretty as Chef's, but it tastes good! ;)


Friday, December 2, 2011

Crème Brûlée and a Blowtorch for Christmas?

Hey everyone!

Waking up at 5:45 in the morning is seldom a happy way to start the day (at least for me). But I figured I wanted to get some extra study-time in before my exam this morning, and so that's why I did it...although I did hit snooze a few times ;) Anyway, despite the fact that I woke up so early, I was greeted by a happy surprise when I looked out my window:

Doesn't that picture almost look magical? lol My camera wasn't focusing very well, and it kept wanting to focus on the snowflakes instead of the landscape, but I actually think I like it better that way! It matches my sleepy/dreaminess at 6am (or whenever this picture was taken) :)

Anyway, after pulling myself away from the window (which was not easy to do!), I pulled out my notes and got an extra hour of study-time in before my exam. The exam was...difficult. But right now I'm trying not to think about it and just focusing on the fact that I studied the best that I could and for better or worse, it is at least *over*.

After the exam, we still had class, but that was ok because we made crème brûlée!! Crème brûlée is a mixture of cream, milk, egg yolks, and sugar aka it is rich and delicious!

We also made crème caramel (or flan) in class, a dessert which I personally am not that big a fan of, but it was still cool to learn how to make it!

This is a picture of one of the first steps in the flan production. First, you make caramel and coat the bottom of the ramekins with the caramel, and then you fill the ramekins with the custard. To serve the dish, you flip the entire dessert upside down, so the caramel is on the top, and it kinda oozes down the sides of the custard :)

Chef also taught us how to make ice cream and sorbet in class. This is vanilla ice cream. Ice cream is actually one of the only dishes we have made so far that I've had previous experience making - thank you Missy and Mandy! :)

This is raspberry sorbet - it was delicious!

Here is Chef's final presentation: the flan is on the right hand side and the crème brûlée is in the back. The ice cream and sorbet are in the big bowls behind the crème brûlée.

A close up of the flan with a vanilla bean on top.

Now, here are pictures of my dishes:

Crème caramel (or flan). See how the caramel oozes over the top? :)

Crème brûlée :) And *yes*, I *did* have to use a blow torch to caramelize the top! After the custard has baked in the oven, you sprinkle some sugar on top of the dish and pretty much go for it with the blow torch! haha I was a little apprehensive about using it, but once I got started, I loved it! I don't know why it was so much fun, but it really was! This might be going overboard, but I'm thinking about asking for a blowtorch for Christmas!

We also made and colored (with an airbrush) marzipan (which is a play-dough-like substance you can mold) animals and flowers. Chef gave us creative liberty, so we could basically make any animals or flowers we wanted! I made a duck, a pig, a rabbit (with a carrot), 2 turtles, a frog, a pumpkin, and 2 roses:

I had originally only intended on making one turtle, but I couldn't resist making a little baby one too! lol ;)