Pastry School Update: The First Two Weeks

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This week at pastry school was our first week in the kitchens. Last week was mostly orientation, food safety/sanitation, and lecture classes, which were inspiring. Some of the chefs spoke to us about the different areas of the food industry our talent could take us.

The great thing about being a pastry chef is that you can work anywhere, and anything is possible if you are motivated. If you can create great food, people will come.

Photograph (right): That’s a lot of bread: Toast bread, whole wheat bread, and brioche loaves

We also received our texts, and after flipping through it and seeing what we would be making, I was ready to start cooking!

My class will spend the first 8 weeks on breads, breakfast pastries, and petit fours with Chef Jonathan. Our typical routine for this unit starts with us scaling our ingredients for the day. We scale ingredients, rather than use measuring spoons and cups, because the scale ensures accuracy every time.

Not every measuring cup is exactly the same, nor are ingredients, like flour, measured into the cup in the same manner universally. I purchased my first kitchen scale this summer and I love it, especially for ingredients like cake flour.

After scaling, the chef-instructor demonstrates his approach and techniques for each of the recipes we will be making that day. Then the rest of the time is ours to bake with.

MONDAY:

Our first day started with some basics. We were given a tour of the kitchen we would be working in for these next 8 weeks and an introduction to the kitchen equipment.  We also practiced knife skills (kinda important, eh?) on apples. The chef also showed us how to make clarified butter, beurre noisette (a browned butter with a delicate nutty taste that can be used in pastry doughs), and our own baking grease for pans.

TUESDAY:

Our second day in the kitchen, and this time we would be making products for the first time. We made a versatile and beautiful vanilla bean-flecked sweet dough that can be used for tarts and cookies, streusel topping, and an almond cream for using with tarts or cakes.

We also had the opportunity to test out those fabulous pastry tips from our tool kits- we practiced our piping skills with butter.

Photograph (below): An arsenal of pastry tips

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Photograph (below): Sablees

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WEDNESDAY:

This is where things started getting busy. We rolled our sweet dough into cookies, made pastry cream, piped and baked French meringues, made Italian meringue, and Italian buttercream.

By the end of class the kitchen smelled deliciously of vanilla. There are several different types of meringues, and it can get confusing sometimes when reading recipes.

The main difference between a French meringue and an Italian meringue is that the French meringue is baked, creating a hard, yet melt-in-your-mouth shell that can be filled with fruit, pastry cream, etc.

Italian meringue is basically when a hot sugar syrup is beaten into egg whites, creating a stiff meringue that is usually combined with other ingredients, such as butter, to make a light, sweet, and beautifully spreadable frosting.

Photograph (below): An oven that’s too hot creates edible, yet cracked French meringues

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THURSDAY:

On this day we started to dip into the baked goods department. We had our first opportunity to work with yeasted dough by making toast bread, a lovely white bread with a crumb.Perfect for toast or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Chef Jonathan spent a long time discussing yeasted doughs with us and showing us some of his techniques, as bread baking is his specialty. It’s amazing to watch how quickly and perfectly he shapes dough.

We baked blueberry muffins and started brioche dough, which rested overnight in the refrigerator.

Photograph (below): Blueberry muffins baked in mini charlotte molds

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FRIDAY:

Our last day of the week ended with a bang. I had so much product to take back to my apartment that I didn’t know if I’d even be able to carry it all.

We made whole wheat bread, finished and baked our brioche, and made lemon pound cake. This created a massive number of mini loaves, as for the wheat bread alone we each made 6 loaves!

My favorite had to be the brioche, we made two mini loaves with our dough, then divided the rest into 6 individual balls that were brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with either Bee Sting (a delectable sugary honey almond mixture) or pearl sugar.

For lunch Friday I had bread with cheese, honey, and jams. The rest went into my freezer!

Photograph (below): An assortment of quick breads

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And that concluded my first week of kitchen time. Despite the below zero temperatures, severe windchill, snow, and early mornings, the time in the kitchen has been truly enjoyable. I am looking forward to the next!

Photograph (below): Brioche topped with Bee Sting mixture

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  1. nice site 😉 i’m in stream 4

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