Monday, October 10, 2011

Week Two Buffet

This week we tackled two doughs that gave me serious anxiety in my Classical French class last year: pate feuillete (puff pastry) and pate a choux (what eclairs, cream puffs, and gougeres are made of).  Puff pastry never gave me too many issues, but it's just incredibly labor intensive. Roll, fold, fridge. Roll, fold, fridge.  It takes a lot of patience, and any exercise in increasing my patience is probably good for me.

Pate a choux, on the other hand, is known as one of the easier doughs to make… but somehow I screwed it up both times that I made it previously.  You basically make a roux (flour and butter) and then you keep adding in eggs until the batter reaches the right consistency. My issue is that people give me instructions like "When the batter looks like a smurf hat, you know it's ready". Umm…. what? Are we seriously bringing Smurfs into this equation?  (Sidenote: Smurf in French is Schtroumpf. Naturally.)

The eclairs that we made were a little different than normal. Instead of filling the middle with vanilla cream, we sliced them and made them look like hotdogs, sort of.  Inside these eclairs we put a praline pastry cream and some candied almonds. They were AMAZING. A nice twist on the normal chocolate-covered eclair (we made those too, but they are less exciting).



As for the puff pastry,  I did have a few issues with  because it was really hot last week (you need to keep the butter really cold for the dough to puff correctly), but my napoleon still looked pretty good.  The napoleon was made with chocolate mousse in the center. My hands were shaking really badly when I piped the design on top. I asked the chef how I could avoid this and he said "Drink less whiskey." Dually noted, chef.


We had a fun time decorating these. The freezer burn look is actually white chocolate cocoa spray.  Then we made some chocolate decorations that we painted with luster dust. Finally, I worked on some chocolate designs and piped dots out of glaze. Pretty intricate!


Check out that sparkly chocolate. I <3 luster dust.

The third high point of the buffet was the Gateau St. Honore.  This is a traditional French cake that is a pain in the butt to make because it has a ton of components. The bottom is a pate brisee (sort of like cookie dough) crust, which is covered with a ring of cream puffs dipped in caramel. Our caramel is pink because we are fancy.  The inside of the cake is filled with Creme Chiboust, which is piped in a very specific pattern with a special piping tip. Creme Chiboust is a royal pain to make - it's Italian meringue mixed with pastry cream and stabilized with gelatin. Um, yeah… it sounds like another language to me too. Plus, you have to have everything prepared at the exact right time or the whole thing is a flop.  Basically, to successfully complete this recipe, you either need to be an octopus or be able to make pastry cream with your feet while your hands make the meringue.


Ours came out pretty well, with only a small snafus. My thermometer mysteriously started melting as I was making my Italian meringue. I got a pretty nasty burn as the plastic from the thermometer melted onto my skin and then re-hardened there. Gross. I dramatically demanded that no one eat our cake unless they were interested in potential acts of cannibalism. I'm fairly certain a small chunk of my hand may have ended up in there. Ew.

Those are the highlights from week two. I can't believe how fast these classes are flying by!

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