The Pass. The Judgement day of plates.

The Pass. The Judgement day of plates.
Bring the finished plates up to the pass for inspection.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My favorite Lemon Cream !!

There's this recipe from our French Pastry School text book that teaches us how to make the best lemon cream for a filling on a tart or inside a cake, or for your cream puff filling. The possibility of usage for this lemon cream is endless! And I LOVE a good lemony dessert.

Before when I made any sort of lemon tart or lemon filling for a cake, I never would have thought about adding butter to the lemon curd to make it a lemon cream. This is just SO French, adding butter to everything that they get their hands on. Being Taiwanese, (Chinese) we tend to stay away from butter, we think it is very unhealthy to the heart so maybe that's why butter never popped up in my mind to add it to my lemon curd. However, it's ironic, because Asian food are known for it's hot oil flash fry or deep fried foods, and here we are saying No to butter? HA!

So here we have your basic lemon curd ingredients and with the addition of butter to make it a lemon cream. Notice the container of butter? That's A LOT of butter to be emulsifying into your curd. Delicious!
You would go about making your lemon curd by adding sugar to your eggs and lemon juice and then combining the two mixture together then zest your lemon rind into the mix. Then over a hot
water bath, you would cook the mixture to 85degree C to pasteurize your eggs. This is important to do so, if you don't hit 85C, you will run the risk bacteria growth and someone may get seriously ill from food poisoning!

With a digital thermometer measuring the lemon curd that's being cooked over a hot water bath. It's important to keep on whisking as the curd cooks, or else the eggs will end up cooking at the bottom and you will end up getting scrambled lemon eggs. Not very pleasant to eat at all! Keep that whisk going!

When it's time, you add the butter into your curd and by using a hand blender, you will need to emulsify the butter into your curd. This will give you a real smooth, creamy and thick texture that is packed with richness and flavor! I am in love.

Lemon Cream Tart with French Meringue!

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Classmates at the French Pastry School.

It's been almost 4 months or so since I've attended the French Pastry School in early July and time is sure flying by fast. I still remember back in February when I was still in Taiwan, pondering if I should spend $22,000USD on attending the French Pastry School to further my pastry knowledge. And I can tell you with a proud mind set that, I've made a right decision.

Here at the French Pastry School, I met some of the best Pastry Chefs from around the world. From Chef Della, who was the Head Pastry Chef at 'Charlie Trottors' for many many years to World Pastry Champions like Chef Dimitri, who've just recently returned from competing at the MOF semi-finals in France. We have Chef Josh, who is super talented at everything to anything chocolate, and he has an awesome chocolate milk drink that he made for us at the end of the chocolate class. Chef En-Ming, who is another World Champion, competed for Team USA and won 1st place. And many, many more passionate Chefs, like Chef John and Chef Pierre who will be soon teaching us the the art of artisan bread making!

I enjoyed meeting everyone in my class, 4 months together have really brought all of us from strangers to almost a family-like relationship. We look forward to seeing each other everyday, look forward to making French pastries together and most of all, we are always looking forward to tasting our delicious desserts at the end of class!

Every table at school has a Kitchen Aid Stand mixer and an induction burner, along with multiple baking trays of different sizes, and stainless steel bowls and plastic bowls for mixing. There are always tons of tools and equipment for all the students to use, so none of us would have to really wait for major appliances to mix our cake batters or cook our pastry cream.

The French Pastry School does a really great job of making sure that each and every one of their students are getting the chance to use tools best suited for the task. They spend thousands of dollars on kitchen appliances, like the blast freezers that will freeze anything into a solid within a matter of minutes! And this will assure the best quality is of our work is preserved for the next day or to take home to eat. They buy the best ice cream making machines, and deck ovens that will bake anything from tarts to breads with the most prefect condition top and bottom.

There are 18 students per class, 2 students per table and at the end of each day, all 18 of us will do a thorough clean up of the kitchen classroom. We are all assigned a duty or task to go about our cleaning, from sweeping the floors, to mopping. All the fridges are wiped down with special polishing material, and all the tables are scrubbed and sanitized with the proper sanitizing solution. Every table gets reset at the end of class, meaning all the trays of different sizes are restocked, all the plastic containers and stainless steel bowls are neatly placed underneath the table. All is prepared and ready for the next day!

We have tons of kitchen aid mixer bowls, and stainless steel rings and plastic containers to scale our ingredients in. And at the end of class, they are all washed through a 3 sink dish compartment, 1st rinsed out with hot water, then it's scrubbed with soap, and it's rinsed again in hot water and then finally it's soaked in a sanitizing solution. Afterwards, we place them on the racks and hand dry them! It's a really fun job! I promise! =D

What is "Pastry Chicago" ?

Mission Statement of Pastry Chicago.

" Pastry Chicago is a group of passionate people who love and enjoy all forms of pastries. Pastry Chicago is made up of professional pastry chefs, students of the art of pastry and people who enjoy eating and the visual art of pastry. The goal of our group is to experience the Art of Pastry in all its glory at educational fun events across the city of Chicago and at the same time promote the fantastic talents of all the Artisans who work at the craft of producing beautiful delicious pastries "

Kind of like how in Taiwan or Japan, we have the 'Gateaux Association', and here in Chicago we have 'Pastry Chicago'. I truly enjoy these types of events which are all for the love of pastries and culinary. These organizations bring the community closer together by the means of sharing delicious pastries and food, and friendly competitions with awesome prizes!

The previous event hosted Pastry Chicago was pie contest and sponsored by California Raisins. I had the opportunity to volunteer for this wonderful event and got to witness the judging of the pies by Pastry Chefs through out Chicago and also got to test the winning pie!

Pastry Chicago Cupcake Competition!!

I decided to attend the cupcake competition hosted by Pastry Chicago and the French Pastry School that will take place on October 23rd, which is this coming Saturday. The winners will receive awesome prices from Kitchen Aid products, and I believe the 1st place winner will get a Kitchen Aid Mixer!! How exciting is that! So far I believe there are already 35 competitors signed up, and judging from last year's winners, it's looks like I am going up against some tough, highly skilled cupcake masters!

For this competition, I cannot reveal too much of what I have planned for my cupcake, but what I can tell you is that, I am experimenting with pumpkin seeds as my flour. That is why in my previous post I wrote about using my Kitchen Aid hand blender with the food processor attachment to turn my pumpkin seeds into a flour-like ingredient. And use the pumpkin seed flour as part of my flour mixture in my cupcake. I am hoping this will bring some kind of unique flavor and texture into my cupcake base.

One of a challenge for me would be finding time to practice my recipes since both of my roommates are also in French Pastry School, and one of them is also competing! So we have to be real cautious of each other, not to reveal our ideas or secret recipes. After school, I head towards the gym for a 2 hour work out, it's a must, since every day I consume a brick load of butter, sugar, and other fattening French pastries. When I get home and shower, it's roughly about 11PM and that's when I start my practice cupcakes.

I cannot reveal any recipes for these cupcakes yet, but if I win the competition, I will surely post up the winning recipe! On this tray of cupcakes, there are 3 different types of flavors, methods and textures. As you can clearly tell, there's an obvious difference in the color, height, and shape of the 3 rows of cupcakes. But all of them have one thing in common, they all have the pumpkin seed flour that I've made earlier incorporated into the cupcake batter.

As for the frosting for the cupcake. I'm still not sure what flavors I'm reaching for, but I do have ginger and honey on my mind. So perhaps a 'Ginger Honey Cream Cheese Frosting' ? That does sound very delicious, but we will see how the flavors bind with cream cheese as a frosting. I hope I win! I want that Kitchen Aid!!

Pumpkin Seed Flour Test!

So this whole concept of using pumpkin seeds as part of my flour mixture for my cupcake base is only just a theory, and it needs to be tested to see how it holds up.

First, making the pumpkin seed flour is not as simple as it sounds. There's a lot of factors they may become a problem to consider when blitzing nuts or seeds. An good example is the natural oils in the nuts or seeds itself may cause the mixture to clump up into a semi paste if your blade is generating too much heat from spinning. So you might have to think about doing this in a 2 step or 3 step process, giving time to allow the nuts to cool down and dry off a bit before continuing to blitz the nuts into a finer consistency.

 Just some simple tools. Hand blender with the food processor attachment.
Luckily, my kitchen aid hand blender comes with 10 speeds. The blender is a roaring beast. But even at it's highest speed, it is unable to slice the seeds into a finer, flour-like consistency.

I had to stop the machine eventually because the cup was getting warm and I knew if I had let it continue spinning, it would create too much moisture and clump up into a semi-paste.

Then I sifted out the pumpkin seed flour and there were still some bigger nibblets that I had to go through again with my blender. However, the pumpkin seed flour is still too big for me to use, so tomorrow I will have to blend it again, hoping it will become finer.

The end result of today's trial for pumpkin seed flour. As you can tell, it looks alright but it's still a bit too gritty. If all else fails and I cannot get it to be like powder then I'll just tell the judges that "I did it on purpose to add the gritty texture". YUP! all part of the master plan.

Dark Chocolate Rhum Truffle Part 2.

So you've managed to emulsify the chocolate and cream, and now it is a 'ganache'. It should be still quite fluid, however thick like milkshake, but smooth like pastry cream. Let that chill and cool for about 20-30 minutes, and eventually you will be able to either fill it in a pastry bag and pipe out little balls, OR you can wait until it's firmer and use a spoon to scoop into balls. I did the scoop with spoon method and rolled it in my hand to make it into a more sphere shape. You need to have a bowl of tempered chocolate to enrobe your truffle balls and create a protection shell that will mostly prolong the shelf life of these truffles, and also give you a thin layer of crunch.

 Working with chocolate is always a challenge to stay clean, and it takes lots of good cleaning habits to prevent a chocolate messy. Once, you feel like you are getting chocolate on areas where you're not suppose to have chocolate. STOP! Stop what you are doing and clean up the mess before continuing or else you will surely end up with chocolate on your clothing and on your shoe and everywhere else besides the truffles.

You need to prepare yourself a big enough of a bowl or tray to roll your enrobbed truffles in. The bigger the bowl, the wider the surface area for your coco powder to spread, therefore easier for your truffle balls to roll around in and not bump into each other. You need to roll your truffles in coco powder as soon as each one is enrobbed, because you will need the help of the tempered chocolate to glue the coco powder on. If you allow the enrobbed truffles to dry out before you roll them in the powder, they will not coat at all. And DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT BUYING CHEAP COCO POWDER...

Until they are all nicely coated, you should use a mesh sift and sift out the excess coco powder. You just want a even light coat, not a ball of cocaine shot in your mouth. Be gentle with the sifting, you don't want too much force being appliced, or else you might break the chocolate shell. These truffles will store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, given the condition that your cream and other ingredients are fresh. Chocolate by itself will last up to 2 years in dark, cool and dry places. If you decide to freeze them, they will store up to 3 months, but defrost them over night in the fridge. If you leave them out in the open, room temperature to defrost, the drastic change in temperature will most likely create some condensation on your truffles and that's where the sugar bloom, fat bloom and spoilage comes into play.
ANYWAYS, why store them? Make'em and EAT them right away or give them away to strangers. That's what I do all the time. The homeless people that lives just down the street, underneath the train tracks, they get all the delicious desserts from me. =D

Dark Chocolate Rhum Truffle. Part 1.

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood chocolate bonbon is the "Truffle". Yes, the truffle is a mushroom that will cost you fortune, and NO, the chocolate 'truffle' is NOT made out of the truffle mushroom. The only reason why we call this chocolate bonbon, "Truffle", is because of it's round, rugged shaped that can almost resemble the black truffle mushroom. And you know the French, they always like to name their food creations with some fancy name, when all a chocolate truffle really is, just a mixture of cream and chocolate emulsified together.

Anyways, to make this EASY luxury chocolate treat, all you need are some simple ingredients that you can find at pretty much any grocery store.
1. Heavy Whipping Cream

2. Good Couverture Chocolate

3. Excellent Quality Coco Powder

4. Rum or any other flavorings.
You don't really want to skimp out on buying quality chocolate when you're making truffles. Since a truffle is pretty much combination of chocolate and cream, it's important that you buy a great quality chocolate that is consider couvertures chocolates. And again, don't be intimidated by the word 'couverture', it simply just means that the chocolate contains 31% or higher of cocao butter. Cocao butter is what makes the chocolate rich, smooth and melts heavenly in your mouth. Most cheap chocolates that you buy are not couverture, they don't contain cocao butter, or they contain very little amount. Other types of fats and oils are used in replacement of the cocao butter, and sadly, they don't provide the same result. If you really want to a clear defined understanding of the differences here, just compare shortening and butter. Which one melts easier in your mouth. Try it! =D

Melt your chocolate in the microwave in intervals of 15-20 seconds on med-high power, and stir well everytime until it's 80% melted. Do not try and mircowave your chocolate for 40 seconds at once, thinking 20 seconds strength + 20 seconds strength = 40 seconds strength. It's NOT! You will end up burning your chocolate. Chocolate does not have a very high melting point, they melt in your mouth and that's not very hot at all compared to 40 seconds in the mircowave. Chocolate can only withstand a temperature of about 45C before all it's characteristics and flavors starts to be compromised.

When the chocolates are melted, you can heat up your cream to a light simmer, roughly about 68-70C, and pour the warm cream into the melted chocolate. Let that sit for about 15-20 seconds to allow the warm cream to melt the rest of the 20% of chocolate before stirring it. I prefer to use a whisk in begining to create a swirl of the two mixtures, and that will eventually emulsify together, becoming a "Ganache".

Start your swirl of emulsion either towards the side of the bowl or dead center, and slowly work in small circles bring everything together before moving out into larger circles. If you start whisking in large circles before you start an emulsion, you risk breaking the ganache, and you will end up with a layer of coco butter floating to the top. Then it's pretty much a down hill battle from there on, unless you know how to fix a broken ganache.

Continue Part 2.

Sugar Sculpture. Using Isomalt.

Carrying this thing around with me on the train attracts so much attention. Everyone looks and stares with a confused face. You can hear people whispering and talking about it, wondering if that's made out of sugar or if it's a cake. These girls who were next to me asked what I was going to do with it, and I told her I'm probably going to throw it out in a few days. And she insisted that I shouldn't because it's so beautiful and it would be a waste.
Anyways, so this is my final piece of sugar art, it's mostly made out of sugar and isomalt (a type of sugar). There's blown sugar involved, the dragon-like bird is a part of blown sugar and so is the hidden apple in the back. Blown sugar is a lot like glass blowing, and it's quite an interesting art. I am thinking of taking up glass blowing classes and pottery classes as well. Everything here is made by hand, some are pressed onto a patterned mold to achieve the imprints, but mostly they are all hand pulled and molded.

Hope you guys like it.