Pastry School Update: Petit Fours and 1st Exam

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So far the petit fours unit has been my favorite unit in pastry school. Everything is small and bite-sized, and therefore cute.

We started the unit by making pate a choux, which is the thick, rich paste used for making eclairs, cream puffs, and other pastries. It has the amazing ability to puff as it bakes, then it hardens on the outside, leaving behind a hollow shell that is crusty and spongy at the same time. This creates the perfect base for filling with a rich, smooth pastry cream or nut cream.

Photograph (right): Chocolate espresso tartlets

For petit fours, we made mini eclairs filled with chocolate pastry cream and glazed in a chocolate fondant icing, the traditional French way. We also made chouqettes, or mini cream puffs, filled with a hazelnut praline cream; mini paris brests, and salambos. Salambos are probably one of my favorite new (new to me, at least) pastries. They are a shorter, fatter shape than an eclair and are filled with rich custardy pastry cream, then dipped in hot caramel. The caramel hardens on the top, so when you bite into the pastry it is crunchy, soft, and creamy all at the same time.

Photograph (below): Fruit tartlets filled with kirsch pastry cream, fresh fruit, and candied lemon

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During this unit, we made a variety of tartlets, French macarons, and financiers. Financiers are made with ground almonds and buerre noissette, or browned butter. They have an amazing flavor and texture, and the almond flour keeps them really moist.

Photograph (below): Chocolate french macarons sandwiching Earl Grey ganache

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Photograph (below): Chocolate financiers

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During our final petit fours week, we made opera cake, which reminds me a lot of tiramisu, especially in both the texture and taste. It is a composed of numerous sponge cake, espresso syrup, coffee buttercream, and chocolate ganache layers.

Photograph (below): Opera cake

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Week 7 was our first exam week. I was a little bit nervous about this, being the first one, but it went fairly smoothly. The first day was a bit hectic because I wanted to try and get as much done as I could, so the next few days would be mostly shaping proofed doughs and assembling products.

But I survived. I didn’t have any mishaps, fortunately. My products looked good and I was satisfied. Voila!

Photograph (below): Madeleines

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So with that, I bid good-bye to Chef Jonathan and the breads, breakfast pastries, and petit fours unit.

I also had my first stage experience during these weeks. A stage is when you go to a restaurant, hotel, pastry shop, where ever; and work under the supervision of the pastry chef for one shift. This is really nice because if you hate it, it’s only for one shift. But more importantly, it gives you the opportunity the see what it’s like working in different areas of the industry and what will ultimately be the best fit for you.

My stage was at Le Flour Bakery in Edison Park. I have been flipping the idea of opening a cafe/bakery style shop over and over in my head for awhile now, and Le Flour has that vibe. It was very quaint and comforting inside. The owner, Nicole, went to The French Pastry School and hired two of her classmates. Sometimes I’m not sure if I would like the everyday, never-ending obligations of running a bakery, but one thing is for certain- if you are surrounded by friends and family, in a way, it’s not “work”.

Photograph (below): Chocolate espresso tartlets

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  1. The pictures look absolutely delicious! Those macaroons are indeed my favourite French Pastries! The fruit tartlet also looks amazing!

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