Archive | December, 2010

Its Cold and Snowing here. And oh so sparkly!

20 Dec

Coldest winter in years in Europe. Of course. The winter loves me. Follows me everywhere I move, as proven by:

Colorado – ‘nough said; winter would hit for our finals, in May.

Boston – I could only cut one year there. The snow. And the cold. And the wind. I hibernated for 8 months, all while never taking off my white puffy coat, regardless if Jill thought it was her’s or not. *It was not her’s, it was mine. I swear.

DC – It wasn’t that bad the first couple of years. I made fun of the people walking around with umbrellas in the snow and loading up on milk and toilet paper whenever flurries were forecasted, just in case. An inch would shut down the town, I swear. But last year, it showed me. Wow, did it show me.

Seems to be happening here in Paris again this year. The winter loving me; me, not loving the winter…

But I do have to admit my love for Christmas lights. So while I brave the fierce cold (in the 30’s!) and terrible storms (almost snowed ½ inch in a week!) to try to get to the semi-closed airport, take a look at all the sparkly Parisian displays and remember why December is still ok. (January, no excuse.)

Notre Dame

Galeries Lafayette


Around the Champs-Elysees

The Bon Marche

La Defense Christmas Market


And…the dreaded snow.

Merry Christmas! Hope you all get where you are wanting to go, and have a lovely little holiday season!

As to you snow, you’re on my list…


An old post…from before I had a blog.

17 Dec

I knew I wanted to start a blog since before I left for Paris. A great way to share with my family and friends what my life was like here, an even better way to rub it in their faces. And even best of all, a great way to remember all I’ve done here. Well, I’m a slacker when days last longer than 12 hours in the kitchen. I knew I was a slacker before and know that more now. But nonetheless, I was planning on “this”, so I started blogging before I had “this” set up. Here is a snippet of what I was thinking I might blog about before I knew what my life would be exactly (misunderstanding French, having my feet feel like they might fall off while my back might just crumble, eating everything I go near, making things I never knew I could pull off, getting sick of sweets while still eating everything I never knew I could go near let alone make, getting picky of eating a butter croissant versus a margarine croissant, just plain not knowing French, pretending like I know less French than I do as yet another homeless guy hits on me, freezing even while wearing at least 6 layers on top and bottom, and loving my life more than I knew I ever could while missing the States and everyone there more than I ever knew I could). I was a lot less snarky then, huh?

Who likes less snarky me. Noone. Nonetheless, here’s a bit of me, just a lot warmer and therefore nicer. And yes, I do love Paris this much and more now, even with the extreme cold that has now set in.

As I was walking from one market to another today, I was looking around. It was grey, sort of rainy, and had the fall crispness to the air, which I love. The light was hitting all the old buildings, with their blues and whites and reds and golds, perfectly so they all sort of looked illuminated from inside the walls. All in all, a rather amazing walk, which made up for the lack of what I needed at the first market.

I decided to detour my second market trip, since it was open later and I only needed a few standard items that wouldn’t sell out. I sat in a park for awhile, drinking a café and half-reading my book all while watching the park’s Sunday morning rituals. I watched all the little French kids literally running around with their parents; all dressed better than I ever will be as much as I try. I saw a young couple come strolling through, because Sunday in Paris means you are a couple and are madly, truly, deeply in love and can’t stand to walk without touching each other. (Pretty annoying, but I wasn’t walking behind them at least, so I could stand it.) A little old man, with his beautiful cane, shuffled by and smiled and nodded at me. Pretty standard fare for parks universally, but it was a great little scene for me. I stayed longer than I expected and just loved the people watching.

Eventually I made my way over to the second market, which only took me looking at google maps about 3 times, a huge accomplishment I felt. I bought my few kitchen staples in my broken, attempted French and only the man at the hommus stand responded to me in English! A very successful trip for me. Walking home, I just took in all around me and fell in love yet again with Paris.

On my way back from the second market to my apartment, I again detoured from the direct route and found myself sitting at the edge of Pont Neuf. You see the tip of the Eiffel Tower, with Notre Dame behind me, and the Seine flowing past. However I may have gotten here, I’m so happy that I did…now if only I had a pain au chocolat in my hand…

So this is Heaven.

17 Dec


More yum.

Still lots of yum.

A brief shot of what one of my weeks look like. It was our chocolate bonbon week, after a brief interlude of making chocolate egg sculptures (the first ones, not so pretty…but we were practicing!). The egg sculpture week, while really fun to do and great practice with tempering, wasn’t quite as tasty.

This past week, 10 different chocolate bonbons were created from some delicious ingredients. We made ganaches, tempered chocolate, poured/scraped/melted and in general, made a mess which resulted in us ending up with approximately 20kg of chocolates. Only 10kg ended up on our aprons, I think.

It was heaven.

First up, we made an anis-cannelle (anise and cinnamon flavored) chocolate ganache filling. Here’s my spices, spicing up my cream.

And then with the chocolate, poured into a mold to set up.

Once it was set, we spray gunned the block with a thin layer of chocolate (later, to be the base of the bonbon)…I love this spray gun. So does Chef. Here he is, spraying all his chocolate fillings. All of our soft centered chocolates were coated with this chocolate layer, to make the dipping easier. Well, getting the dipped chocolate off our forks easier.

The second chocolate was a lemon and basil flavored chocolate ganache filling, called a Garrigue – a bit too basil-y for me, but such a lovely idea. I plan on playing with this one in the future. Here we have basil infusing the cream. Lemon zest is also in there, with lemon juice to be added later.

Once the ganache was set, with its thin layer of chocolate, this too was onto the guitar to be split into even pieces. Here’s the guitar in action!


We also made a pistachio and almond paste filled bonbon, called an Aladin. These were super delicious, and in no way has my love of all things pistachio influenced my opinion.

We rolled these guys into little bite sized balls…

…then flattened them…

…and finally cut them into perfect little circles, to later be dipped in their chocolate coating. I claimed this one.

One of the sweeter bonbons was called a Baiser Vole, or a “secret kiss”. It was a passion fruit-apricot and hazelnut praline ganache filling. I felt quite fancy for being able to pull this one off, I must say.

First layer – passion fruit and apricot. Delicious.

We then layered on a hazelnut praline, which we had made the previous week, and chocolate ganache. This is the stuff of dreams. Hazelnut praline is magic.

Side shot:

Into the guitar, ready to be dipped in chocolate…

Moving along, we come to the Hesperide. Not my cup of tea, but that’s because I’m not a huge fruit-pieces-in-bonbons-type, but it was a delicious filling. It starts with our chocolate molds getting a thing coating of chocolate.

In this goes a little layer of apples cooked with butter, sugar and a liquor called Calvados. Hmmm.

Then comes the milk chocolate and caramel ganache, flavored with Calvados again. This ganache was incredible. I ate some with a spoon…but if there had been vanilla ice cream anywhere, it would have been gone before it had time to go on the chocolates.


Then we covered the bottom with more chocolate, to seal our bonbon. One, done and done!

Another of my favorites was the Palerme. Any clue why? More hazelnut ganache! This wasn’t the praline, just a hazelnut flavored chocolate ganache. Super delish.




…and then let it set up!

The chocolate is calling me from my countertop, must have a piece…

Ok, back. We then made a Palets Or, a coffee and cognac flavored ganache, piped into circles and then flattened, waiting to be covered in chocolate. You have to be quick with the piping, because the ganache starts to set and then you can’t flatten them in time. Oh the glory of chocolate being temperamental…

We also made Schuberts. When Chef asked if we knew Schubert, my partner responded with “I know a Seibert, but not any Schubert.” I found this hilarious. Isn’t kitchen humor awesome? Please say yes.

Right. Anyway…Schuberts. They are orange and almond paste fillings, with a milk chocolate ganache swirl on top.

We made 55 of these suckers, each.

Good thing, too. They were awesome.

Then, we made the classic truffle! Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, cream, and whisky. All in a bite size. Wow.

We piped them out, first (just 80 each this time).

Then rolled them into little truffle balls, coated in cocoa powder.

Then, since we’re pastry chefs, we dipped them in chocolate again and rolled them around in more coco powder, so the shell would be hard and they would keep longer.

Our last one was an Orangette, simple and delicious. Candied orange zest, dipped in chocolate. I ate half while making them, and the other half on the walk home from school. Oops.

With some of our chocolates fully made, we got to the process of covering our fillings. All chocolate was tempered (melting chocolate to 55°, spreading it out on cold marble and keep it constantly moving to cool it to 29°, then bringing the temp back up to 31°, so that it will be super shiny! This is where most of us got covered in chocolate), then the fillings were lovingly dipped individually with our special chocolate forks, and topped in their individual way. It was one of my favorite things to do, but some of my classmates didn’t agree. Crazies.

Some shots of the process:

The insides.


Setting down to set.

Palets Or, with plastic on top to smooth out the bonbons.

Decorating the tops, before the chocolate fully sets.

Final product!

My box, ready to go home with me.

And the rest of our boxes, ready for gifts and to be sold through our school’s store.

After this, we made more chocolate eggs. I made sure to have chocolates nearby, so that with the smell everywhere, I didn’t eat my sculpture. But here’s my work. White chocolate egg, with white chocolate lily, painted with glitter of course.

When the white molding chocolate didn’t set and actually started melting (so sad…so very, very sad), I made a quick dark chocolate flower before the final presentation. Not as pretty, but still fun!

If at all possible, I love chocolate more now. It was hard work, getting it right, but the feeling when you did was so worth it. Loved it! Plus, I have 2 boxes of chocolates to take on the plane with me. Considering I will be flying for about 21 hours or so, I wonder how much will be left when I arrive…

I’m a serious pastry chef. Very serious.

7 Dec

If you know me, have met me, or just have read any of this very enlightening blog, I’m sure you can tell how serious I am. I never joke around, rarely smile, am always on focused in my endeavors, and never, ever, ever am I sarcastic.

The same can’t be said of Chef. He’s taken to throwing things at me. On our field trip last week, it was a snowball. Then this happened. Yes, that’s his hand in the picture, pointing and laughing. As was my entire class. I was still wondering what was going on – it was early in the morning.

See, there is a story to this. My partner and I were making a meringue. We weren’t sure if the egg whites were whipped enough, so we called Chef over to ask. Before we could get the question out, he grabbed our bowl and flipped it upside down over my head. P.S. One of the greatest tricks of all time is turning your egg whites upside down over another’s head to check to see if they are stiff enough peaks. If they are, they stay in the bowl. If they aren’t…

…you get some great conditioning for your hair.

Have no fear, I wiped it all off eventually when I figured out what had happened and stopped laughing. But I had a meringue hat, which was no good. Luckily, we have hats for visitors to wear and I grabbed one of those. Aside from my head being too large to fit into the hat, I thought it was a great look. So great, I decided that if I don’t like being a pastry chef, I can go into the culinary arts at In ‘n Out Burger. Here’s me, flipping my imaginary burgers with an imaginary burger flipper. Told you I was serious.

Unfortunately, due to my awesome new look, many in class were starting to change their minds about pastry and were starting to think about switching to burger-making. So, Chef kindly switched hats with me so that the world will have pastry chefs in the future.

I think the look works for me, no?

And yes, my hair was super shiny after the meringue was washed out.

*Thanks to Kat, my partner in macaron making, chocolate tempering and crime, I now have these pictures forever.

5 entremets, 4 days…will we make it?

5 Dec

So, our second week of entremets has come and gone and I’m all the stronger for it. It was my week to be partnered with Chef, which is hard. He knows what he’s doing, knows where we’re going with this and in general, thinks that if we’ve done it once, we have mastered it and therefore demos aren’t needed (he believes in us – until you whip the cream into butter). They might not be needed, but when you are partnered with Chef, demos are super helpful. Otherwise it’s you by your lonesome while he checks on everyone. Good chance to get some practice, but stressful!

But I did it and loved it. Entremets are fun to make, as they make a dramatic scene when you unveil 5 all sitting together, like this.

Incredibly impressed yet? Score!

Above is the Equateur (in the middle, of course), Framboisie (closest to you if you were standing where I was taking the picture), Soleil Indien (clockwise, or at 9 o’clock), Macaron Ananas Estragon (in the back with the pineapple and chocolate sticking up like a cowlick) and the Mogador (last one on the right).

Starting with the Equateur, let’s build us an entremet. First up, the classic – a coffee dacquois. Chef piped it lovely, even though we would be covering it up. Good thing too; while everyone was off looking at the croquembouches, I stayed behind to transfer both chef and mine dacquois from the countertop to the baking sheet to put in the oven. Easier said than done by yourself.

On top of that cooked dacquois, you place a frozen crème brulee – milk, cream, sugar, yolks, and a vanilla bean. Hi friend, bake away little buddy.

Layer it up with a coffee geniose (sponge cake like, but a bit dyer, which we solve by soaking it with simple syrup infused with instant coffee).

And holding this all together, inside and out, is a coffee flavored Saint-Honore cream, similar to a pastry cream but with gelatin and meringue. Stupid gelatin. To get the distinct caramelized look and flavor on top, we iron powdered sugar on top with a big old fire starting iron. Its pretty fun.

Push some genoise crumbs around the edge and voila!

And a cross-cut…

With that pup dog done, we move right along to Framboisie. Similar looking to the Giverny, but different once you get inside. We start with a pistachio dacquois, with a ring of pistachio joconde around the edge.

On top of that, we pour a vanilla supreme cream, made like crème anglaise, then add gelatin and whipped cream to it to thicken. A ring of raspberries is placed inside the cream.

Top this cake off with a pistachio butter cream, with a slight dome in the center when you ice it (it’s a frozen cake, so when you take it out to serve, it warms up a bit and tends to deflate a bit). Note – not this big of a dome.

Then, like the Giverny, you glaze it with a few drops of raspberry jam and natural glaze.

Throw some raspberries and pistachio dust, and you’re done! My little cake.

Rolling along, next up Soleil Indien. Bottom it with walnut dacquois, soaked in pear juice and cognac.

Cut a pineapple and soak in syrup and cognac. Try not to eat all of this, because its class and that’s booze. Pile up the fruit on the dacquois.

Yum. On this, goes a caramel supreme cream, piled up into a dome.

And then its time for more powdered sugar and the iron!

Cross-cut of the yummy pineapple goodness.

Hitting my stride now. Here’s the make-up of a Macaron Ananas Estragon. I love saying the name of this one. Its basically a big old macaron.

The base is an interesting hazelnut, Szechuan pepper macaron. In the center is an anise flavored diplomat cream (pastry cream with whipped cream; we added gelatin to add stability and to make it non-veggie for me), combined with pineapple that has been soaked overnight in a simple syrup/anise liquor/tarragon mix. For some reason, I have no pictures of this being made. Must have been during the whipped cream incident.

We topped this with some powered sugar, then covered the edges with hazelnut pieces.

And last, my most favorite (no gelatin!!!), the Mogador. It’s a pretty simple entremet, but I thought it was delicious. You start out with a chocolate genoise, or sponge cake.

Then you soak the cake with a raspberry syrup, made up of raspberry juice, raspberry syrup, raspberry liquor, and simple syrup. Not a bad combo. Then a thin layer of raspberry jam with seeds goes down. Then you cover the cake with chocolate Chantilly cream. I told you this one was good.

Then we spread another layer of the raspberry jam on top and decorated the sides the cake crumbs, much like the Equateur. We also added some raspberries for decoration. So super delicious. I could go for another piece right now actually…

Cross-cut. Not the prettiest, I was hungrily awaiting a bite and rushed it.

A successful week! You can tell when I was busy, I have less pictures of the process. The making also started to get jumbled together in my head, since we were making 5 cakes all at the same time, and pictures I thought had taken didn’t exist or were of another cake. Oops. But it was fun, we made great cake and I even got to take pieces home of anything I wanted (Mogador!). All in all, another awesome time as a Chef!