Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How Things Can Change in Just One Day

Thanks to a wonderful chef friend of mine back in the states, I had the opportunity this past week to do a three day internship in a patisserie in Paris!  The owners are a wonderfully sweet couple who welcomed me into their shop with open arms.  I hadn't been there an hour and I was already making creams, cakes, helping with decorations and floating from one station to the next.  Out of respect for the shop, I'm not sharing any of their recipes but you can drool over some of the yummies prepared at the shop, some of which I had a hand in helping complete.

I could actually feel myself gaining weight just being around all these beauties.  By the end of my first day in the shop, I had been offered the opportunity to come back as I wished.  This got me thinking.  Which would be better?  Finish out my time in France by completing my course or by working in this wonderful patisserie. 

After some thought, I decided with the latter.  Yes folks, we're moving to Paris!  The hubs is excited to be going to a city with some semblance of life and the little one does look cute all bundled up for the cold weather.
We also found out that we can't travel in the countries we were planning on traveling too after our time in France is up since those countries are in the same "union" as France.  So, we are leaving France mid December to spend Christmas and New Year's in Ireland.  I'm pretty stocked to be taking the little one to our "home away from home"!

In the end, I'm going to miss all my new found friends in Le Cap d'Agde, but new adventures await.  I'm finishing out one last final week of plated dessert, my favorite, before taking a week to site see and make our way to Paris.  I can't wait to drive into work and learn as much as I can in the city every pastry chef dreams to have an opportunity to work!

One last thing on the plate before we hit the road again...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Cake-mas!

Sad as it may sound, this year I'm thankful to be outside the US for Christmas.  Department stores haven't started putting up Christmas decorations.  Christmas music hasn't taken over the television.  No one is talking about the "it gift" this year.  And, since there's no Thanksgiving here in France, there's no talk of Black Friday.  Ok...I admit...I'm probably going to miss getting up at 3am to go shopping.

Yes, it's true that I'm going to miss being with a bigger portion of my family for Christmas this year, but it's nice to think that without all the "craziness" and American Christmas can bring, we can really focus on what's important for the season and invest in spending time together.

Now, all that being said, we did have a Christmas theme in pastry this past week.  In France, it's traditional to serve some type of bouche, or rolled cake, for Christmas dessert.  This week we did two traditionally rolled buches as well as another cake.  Of course, they were filled with all sorts of yummy goodness continuing my love of "surprise inside" desserts.  Feast your eyes on these beauties.

On the left you have the Bangkok.  We built this cake upside down and then inverted it into a round of prepared coconut mousse.  The result is layers of pate sucree, cocoa ganache, chocolate biscuit and coffee jelly surrounded by fluffy coconut mousse.  This was my favorite cake of the week, combining my three loves of chocolate, coffee and coconut all in one.  It reminded me of a much more elevated version of the coconut cake I made for Christmas dessert last year and made my tummy very happy!

On the right is the first buche we made, named Belle Helene.  This buche wasn't rolled, but instead made in a rounded cylinder mold.  We did the same thing here that we did with the Bangkok in that we built a base and inverted it into praline mousse.  On the inside of this buche you have almond biscuit topped with praline, pear compote and pear Chantilly cream.  Once the buche was fully set, we sprayed it with a gold colored chocolate spray, topped it with melted chocolate glaze and sliced almonds and bookended the buche with chocolate decorations.  It was almost to pretty to eat...almost.

The last cake for this week was a traditionally rolled buche named Montreal.  We have several students in the class from Canada, so this was chef's nod to their home country.  To make this cake, we took sheets of biscuit viennois cake and spread a layer of whipped dulce de leche ganache on top.  We thin spaced frozen logs of passion fruit ganache over the top and placed caramelized nuts between the logs.  Once it was rolled up, we put it in a cylinder mold to set.  Once set, we spread the remaining whipped dulce ganache over the top and used a small offset spatula to give the "wave" affect to the top.  It was then coated with dulce de leche spray and decorated with chocolate and caramelized nuts.  Not only would this be an impressive dessert to serve at Christmas, but it would also make a pretty awesome centerpiece!

A brand new adventure is just around the corner...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pain Part Deux

Every month in patisserie, we repeat the same topics as the month before making different thing.  This week we revisited bread and got to do the one bread I wanted to do more than anything else in pastry…croissants!!!
Croissants are tricky little suckers to make.  I tried cutting them out by eye like chef did and ended up with some big ones and some baby ones.  Next time, I think I’ll measure them!

We tried out two different recipes, turning one into croissants and the other into two different pastries, pain aux chocolat and plies pistache.  The main difference between the two recipes was that the one we used to make the pastries had butter in the detramp, or beginning dough, which made it a bit denser than the other.  I liked the croissant recipe better since it turned out lighter and fluffier.  It would be interesting to try and make pastries with this recipe to truly taste the difference.
We used some of our remaining puff pastry from previous weeks to make chausson mangue, a coconut, mango and cardamom filled turnover.  Chef came up with this flavor combination when he had a large class of students from India.  I’m glad he did.  These were amazing and surprisingly simple to make.  All you need is some puff pastry and this recipe for the filling:
Mango, Cardamom and Coconut Compote
250 g mango compote
1 g cardamom
35 g coconut powder
1- Mix all ingredients together. 
2- Roll out puff pastry and cut into ovals.  Spread a little melted butter on the outer edge of the bottom of the oval.  Put a scoop of compote in the middle.  Fold over and seal.
3- Bake at 170°C until golden brown.
We also made baguettes, another French specialty.  Since I’ve seen so many people walking around with them, I was excited to make them myself.  My baguette here turned out so much better than the baguettes I made in culinary school.  I can totally understand why the French eat them with everything!

My favorite for the week was the fougasse aux tomates confites et basil.  Tomatoes…good.  Basil…good.  Put them together in bread?  GOOD!
Here’s all the creations from the week.
From left to right you have baguette, pain aux chocolate (chocolate croissant) and chausson mangue, fougasse aux tomates confites et basil (tomato basil bread), cake café (coffee cake), plies pistache (pistachio filled pastries), brioche Providence (brioche with chestnuts, orange and chocolate) and croissants.  I was a busy little bee this week!!

Next week we go back to cakes and the sugar rush hits once again...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Miscellaneous Tidbits From Our First Month In France!

It’s hard for me to believe that we’ve been here a month!  The time has truly flown by.  Here are a few jewels from our first month that haven’t made the blog yet…

Doing laundry is a little different here.  I’m not sure how people afford to do laundry if they don’t have a washer in their home.  The laundry places here are pretty expensive!  We’ve found a way to save some money by doing our laundry in the tub and paying only to dry it.  Here’s the hubs channeling his inner “Charlie’s mom” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Our little one is channeling her inner fashionista.  She certainly puts together some interesting ensembles complete with accessories!

She’s also taken to calling everyone a princess.  She even got to ride in her very own carriage!
Some of the best oysters are found in a small town called Bouziques not to far from where we live.  The town is said to be the oyster capital of Europe, and I can see why.  They are super fresh and oh so delish!  We chose La Cote Bleue who even knows how to do a kid’s meal up right!

Now back to the business of pastry…


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Holiday Part Two...BARCELONA!!

Confession time...

I typically have a fail proof plan for remembering the order in which I did things on vacation.  I use my camera.  I look at the order of my pictures and write from there.  It hasn't failed me...until now.  For whatever reason when I transferred my pictures to my computer, they got all mixed up.  And, of course, I deleted them from my camera.  So...instead of day by day, I give you subject!


Of course we must start with the very best...and Barcelona has something for everyone.  We sampled a little bit of everything!

Tapas and Paella from all over the city.

Yummy pizza and freshly made pasta from a lovely restaurant called La Tagliatella.

Spicy Indian food from Bembi.

Even some tastes of home with Eggs Benedict from Café Emma
And good ole bar food at George Payne.  *Side note here not about food...the Spanish LOVE our little one.  We thought the French liked her, but the Spanish LOVE her.  She's been getting presents everywhere we go and one friendly cook even tried to take her sightseeing.  Have to keep an eye on her!

If you like interesting architecture, you MUST put Barcelona on your bucket list.  The city, and most of the architecture itself, is very old but looks modern.  The most interesting architecture was designed by a man named Antoni Gaudi.  Born in 1852, Gaudi paved the way for modern architecture in Barcelona, Spain and, some would say, Europe in general.  Here are two of his most famous works.  The first is the Casa Batllo.
This beauty was originally a house.  That's it, just a house.  Can you imagine living in something like this in the early 1900s?  How awesome would that have been!  It's had several uses sine then including work space and host to private events.  Since 2002, it's been a museum of sorts displaying some of the beautiful textiles and furniture the Batllo family was famous for.  Unfortunately, the line to get in was always ridiculous...even at this was the most that we saw.
If you think that's impressive, let me present to you Gaudi's crown jewel, so to speak...The Sagrada Familia.

The construction of this architectural wonder began in 1882.  Gaudi worked on this project until his death in 1926, when the huge Roman Catholic church was less than a quarter complete.  Some people still feel that it should have been left uncompleted in Gaudi’s honor.  However, it continues to be under construction today.  If you ask me, I don’t think it will ever be finished!  Sadly, we saved this for our last day and ran out of time to go inside.  However, we WILL be going back…so stay tuned for pictures from the inside!

Aside from Gaudi's amazing designs, some wonderful sites to see include the Columbus monument...even if he's not really pointing to the New World like he's suppose to...

The beach is also quite lovely and you are likely to get a bit of a show with all the people attempting to roller blade down the boardwalk.  We only saw a few that actually knew what they were doing.

You also must feed the birds while you are here.  They are crazy!  The little one had a blast trying to get them to land on her arm and all I could think of was a very dear friend back home who would have had a heart attack had she been here!


Of course, I had to check out the markets while I was there.  There were some interesting finds as I ventured from stall to stall.

We stumbled along a fantastic little pastry shop along La Ramble called Pasteleria Escriba.  They were really in the mood for Halloween!  I think I will have to make this next year!

I also saw my very first Fnac.  Fnac is like France’s version of a Best Buy.  Not very interesting, I know…but it’s an inside joke in my French class, so I had to include it.
Spain is like a wine drinker’s wonderland.  All the wine is amazing and it’s EVERYWHERE!  Check out this beautiful wine shop I found called Villa Viniteca.  Over 600 bottles of wine, some of which can’t be found outside of Spain.  I found a lovely Cava from the year I was married.  The hubs and I will have to enjoy that for a special occasion!

Of course, you must try the sangria.  But if beer is really your thing, take heart in knowing that you can order one the size of your head.  Yep, that’s a full liter of beer.  No, it wasn’t mine, it was the hubs…but it looked funnier in front of my head!
A lot of my classmates also ended up in Barcelona at the same time we were there.  What a small world it was when we ran into six of them passing by a coffee shop we happened to be having breakfast in!  It was fun to hang out and let loose a little with some of my new found friends!
The little one also made friends with some of the street performers.  She really is a social butterfly!

Vacation may be over but the adventure is not…