Archive | January, 2011

Chocolate Architecture. Eek.

30 Jan

In a rare cross-over that actually was useful to my future as a pastry chef, my art class at school gave us a homework assignment that we would later be creating in the kitchen. Initially, we were to build a box out of chocolate to put more chocolates in, so we had to draw what we wanted to do.

Sounds sort of delicious in the end, but oh, God, art class. I gave it my best shot and came up with this.

Fine, done.

Except that our teacher neglected to mention we were to draw a holiday-themed chocolate structure, 30 cm x 30 cm base, which would include a box to hold approximately 15 chocolates. Ok, round 2 of drawing.

Considering art is not something I’m very good at (PS – thanks to my oldest sister, who conveniently decided to take the entire family’s art skills), and we weren’t sure what we could build or how long we would have to do it, I thought it was a valiant effort. My art teacher disagreed. So I tried again. Yes, round 3.

Pretty simple and straightforward, right?

Fail again. Still not acceptable to my art teacher, so I go for number 4.

Less stuff, pretty easy I thought. Ha.

Let’s just say I left art class, knowing this still wasn’t right and I would have to go into the kitchen with no real idea of what I was going to do and see what would happen. After drawing all of this (which is a lot for me – and embarrassing to post, but it was a lot of work for someone who will never get to be a struggling artist in this sense), I was still clueless.

First day of chocolate sculptures, we were simply making our cardboard molds to make the chocolate pieces. So, arts and crafts day. I used to be pretty good at arts and crafts; I remember some stellar pipe-cleaner structures that I was proud to have created. But me being me, I hurt my thumb cutting all the cardboard and am only now starting to have feeling again in my thumb. It may never be the same and keeps reminding me of this stupid art process. But that holds no bearing on my chocolate sculpture process, so let me continue.

Second day of chocolate sculptures, we tempered about 75 million kilos of chocolate (I’m not good with the metric system yet, so this could be a slight exaggeration) and filled our molds to be put together the following day. I had changed my mind on my base, making it a solid base with a relief of pine trees, so the theory being I would have one single tree with stars on the top, as if the tree was coming out of a forest. Sounds good, huh? I’m creative, if nothing else. Too bad it looked bad, so I took a hot knife to it, scared my chef with my recklessness, and cut off the sides to make it more like a slate slab. Creative, remember that. It just doesn’t always come out right…

Anyway, here’s all my pieces, ready and waiting to be put together.

The cone, to be covered. Looks a bit like a witch’s hat. I liked it.

And all my stars to cover my perfectly tempered and shiny cone. I put a little make-up on it all, because I like the stuff. Little known secret among my friends and family (it was even glittery make-up! I had to!).

Starting to build on day 3…looking more and more like a witch’s hat.

The tree is completed! Hot chocolate used as glue to put all my glittery, made-up stars on my cone helped keep it all together.

Then I put my box on the sculpture, which was my favorite part of the whole ridiculous looking thing. Yes, more sparkly bits were used.

At this point, I wanted to toss my tree out and just put the box, but that’s not an option. I did toss out the legs though, because they looked silly. But here it was, all together. Done in 3 days, start to finish, woohoo!

Here are some of my classmates. Their planning proved to be key, as their pieces are quite lovely. And by quite lovely, I mean gorgeous.

All in all, a fun thing to go through, but I needed more time to do what I wanted. At least I got to include glittery make-up and eat all the chocolate I could possibly stomach as I made the little guy. Yum!

Christmas and New Year’s back in the States – a brief review

29 Jan

Let me start with this:

This is the terrible storm in Paris that almost cancelled my Christmas. Can’t you tell how snowy and treacherous it is out there? Nope, me either. My original flight was cancelled due to this, but luckily my dad worked some ridiculous magic and I got another flight back to the States. The strangest thing happened when I got off the plane in Chicago. I suddenly could understand everything people were saying around me and I could read every sign! For a brief moment, I thought this was that point of suddenly understanding a language – finally, I spoke French! Nope, its English, dummy. Maybe that last glass of wine on the flight caught up with me, but I’m blaming jetlag.

After arriving, I started baking! Made cookies with my family, then started in on Christmas Eve’s Pirate desserts (yes, in my family we have a themed Christmases, since that isn’t enough of a theme. Much to the dismay of pretty much everyone but my sisters and myself): lemon meringue tart and bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce, with a little foray into savory with a mushroom chevre risotto for dinner; then onto Christmas Day desserts: chocolate flourless cake, apple tarts, truffles, and éclairs. I initially meant to make a Croquembouche as well – over estimated my abilities for the timing on that one. Another strange thing – I baked and took no pictures. Odd for me now…

Anyway, after Christmas I headed to San Francisco with Jeff to unpack. It was so exciting to see my things! But not exciting enough for me to want to unpack for that long. So we took a trip to Napa to placate me. I stand by it was research for my future restaurant; wine will be very important. So we sipped wines around these lovely places.

Jeff was my driver. He was pumped.

We also tasted some local macarons, so I could compare to Paris. Apparently I can open a macaron shop in Napa right now and do amazingly, if these suckers are the only competition in the area. Not bad, per say, but not what I’m spoiled with over here for sure.

After this whirlwind through Denver and San Francisco (about a week and a half), I was back to Paris to finish up school. I was in a bit of shock getting on the plane, to say the least. Short trip home, but wonderful to see everyone!

I’m alive!

29 Jan

Its been a busy month, that’s for sure. So busy that I’ve neglected my poor blog to a despicable degree, a fact that I will be making up for in the next week.

Since we last blogged (I say we to make me feel better that its actually me slacking), I’ve been to Colorado for a wonderful Christmas with family, moved into my apartment in San Francisco, went to Napa (purely for research, no fun whatsoever), met new friends for New Year’s, came back to Paris, made a chocolate sculpture, rocked a pastry final, went on a trip to Evian, graduated, went skiing in the Alps, went to Copenhagen, and now I have one week before I start my internship at the Plaza Athenee. See, busy. Plus, I got a Kindle for Christmas and seeing as I’m obsessed with reading, I’ve spent my spare time learning things about safaris, Columbian druglords, the Mafia, and some other randos.

Have I thrown enough excuses out yet? Ok, good. Now I’m back to blogging. I have one week to catch you up on all that. But, to hold you over while I type, here’s a look at my final for Pastry School, ice cream not included. Can’t believe its over!