Who needs a gym?

‘Who needs a gym?’ was first published on bee-bakes.com, October 23, 2014.

The leaves are falling. Spinning as they drop, scattering in the wind that picked up today. Autumn is here, and winter is close behind. It was about 9°c today, which has been a shock, as up until now we’ve been basking in mid-20s sunshine. The staff at school have been warning us that winter can be quite drastic with temperatures being known to drop to as low as -30°c on occasion, but regularly falling to -10°c. Luckily I invested in a jacket from The Northface a couple of years ago, so I’m all set for trudging to school through the snow at 05:30.

It’s been awhile since I updated, mostly because I’ve been ridiculously tired. Those who know me well know I’m not a morning person and, therefore, have been taking the early mornings hard. I usually arrive home after a day at school and don’t move off the couch! Many days we have seven hours of lab starting at 06:00 and then a three hour theory class in the afternoon. So afterwards I’m physically and mentally exhausted and all I can do is try to cook some dinner, attach myself to the couch and attempt to get to bed by 21:00 at the latest!

Sous chef

Here’s an update of things since last I wrote. For Week Two I was made Sous Chef, which in the real world means you’re second in command, but in school terms means you have to do the chef’s bidding—weigh out ingredients for him for demonstrations as well as your own, fetch necessary tools like assisting a surgeon during an operation:

Chef: spatula
Me: spatula (hands him the spatula)
Chef: bowl scraper
Me: bowl scraper (hands him the bowl scraper)
Chef: piping tip, No. 10…quickly! The crème is setting: we’re losing the patient!

Fortunately after working with him for the week he must have decided that I’m better than he thought because he graded 1.6 marks up for the week and said he liked working with me! Yay, he didn’t fail me even though I managed to make lumpy pâte a choux for a demonstration!

We made quite a few things in Week Two: a couple of my favourites and I’ve added a new one to the list. We made Le Religieuse au chocolat—this is basically a small ball of choux pastry balanced on a large ball of choux, like a snowman. Both are filled with chocolate crème pâtissière, covered in chocolate fondant and decorated with butter cream. It was so tasty although not the most attractive thing; there was a lot of discussion in the class from certain members about how to make it ‘pretty’…

We also made Tarte Bourdaloue which is a pear and almond tart. Salambos, which are similar to éclairs, but filled with rum-infused crème pâtissière and topped with crunchy toffee and almond flakes. Then came Tarte au chocolat ganache, but these ganache things don’t really grab me—too rich. The last two, though = yummy! My favourite in the Tarte au citron meringue, (i.e. Lemon Meringue Pie) covered with Italian meringue and unfortunately quickly baked in the oven. I say ‘unfortunately’ because I’d been looking forward to getting my hands on the blow torch. Last, but not least, Paris-Brest. Sliced choux pastry circles baked with almonds and joined a mouthwatering crème praliné…If you haven’t tasted it before, I suggest you stop reading and find the closest pâtisserie to try it. with No wait! Keep reading because Week Three gets better!

Le semaine de pâte feuilletée

Week Three was le semaine de pâte feuilletée: the week of puff pastry. By the end of the week I felt like I was coated in flour, my pores blocked and my skin caked, thick with powder. It was worth it, though, because we made Mille-feuille! Yay with a capital Yay! Actually, we made two versions: Mille-feuille à la Chantilly and Mille-feuille Classique. The first is pastry layered with our own raspberry jam and whipped cream. The second is layers of pastry with crème pâtissière, the sides rolled in chopped nuts and the top covered with vanilla fondant, decorated with chocolate lines. This was great to do, but resulted in me having a freak out because as I was piping the lines, some chocolate dropped from the bag and left an unsightly squiggle right in the middle of the cake. It just wasn’t ‘beautiful’.

We rolled and rolled and rolled pastry all week. Folded and rolled to achieve the multiple layers required for puff pastry. We turned the blocks of pastry, threw flour, double folded, forgot how many times we’d rolled and prayed we hadn’t broken layers. In the end we made many things with the pastry like the Galette des Rois, with its tiny fève inside, usually eaten around the time of the Epiphany in the Christian calendar. Pithivier, a similar galette that’s eaten the rest of the year. Chausson aux pommes et la crème pâtissière, folded puff pastry filled with apples or crème patissiere or if you’re me, a mix of the two. We also managed a tasty apricot tart decorated with crushed pistachos.

After Week Three, I’ve developed some serious muscles! Who needs a gym when you can work out by rolling pastry?