Pass the Alka-Seltzer?

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With computer back in action and 2 weeks worth of pastry photos uploaded, it's time for show and tell!

The weeks before and after the holiday break, we worked on pies, tarts and pate a choux.  Clearly, we have arrived in the land of desserts.  Sugar, cream, eggs, butter.  The sheer thought of the volume of these ingredients we have gone through thus far is aversion alone.  Honestly, after tasting one teeny, tiny cream puff or eclair, I've had my fill of cream laden sweets.  It's fantastic to create, but God almighty, it's near impossible for me to taste (or 'evaluate' as we refer to it in class) each item we make.  I forge ahead however, in the name of food.  As a general rule, I can't handle a lot of sweets.  Ironic?  Sure.  Perhaps it's this oxymoron which will keep inventory control at bay.  I've been told I'm the only girl who has uttered the words 'I don't particularly care for chocolate'.  It's true.  Whenever I've made chocolate chip cookies, I always cut the chocolate chip quantity in half.  Brownies?  I'll have a few bites, but that's all I need for a good, long while.

With my low tolerance to sweets, it's still pretty damn great that we are getting the chance to create such a wide array of European pastries, most of which we may not have the chance to even see in real life.  Not all of us are members of the fancy-pants country clubs or eat at high end restaurants.  As rare as it is, I'm always intrigued in class when we make something I have never seen before, let alone heard of.  I am further opening my foodie horizons, and sharing my discoveries along the way.

Prepare yourself for a serious tour of the world of pastries in which I have been frolicking for the past few weeks...

A perfectly delicious wheel of Brie.  Of course, we could not accept this as is...

We stuffed 2 separate wheels.  The first was filled with roasted chilis and kalamata olives.  The second was filled with toasted walnuts, honey, white truffle oil and rosemary.  The fat doesn't stop here, we then tucked each on into a nice bed of puff pastry.  Yee-haw!

Exhibit A: roasted chilis and kalamata olives sandwiched between warm, oozey and delicious Brie.  Heart attack in heaven anyone?

Exhibit B: toasted walnuts, honey, white truffle oil and rosemary.  No one needed to actually eat lunch after our 'evaluation' of the greatest food ever invented.  Amen.

Far from departing from puff pastry, we created miniature chicken pot pies enrobed in the delicate layers of butter and dough.  Gorgeous little ones these are!

Miniature puff pastry chicken pot pies. Some with square tops, others with rounded, nicely trimmed tops.  Either way you spell it, they were delicious.

Onto pies in preparation for the holiday break.

Mixed berry pie with a lattice top of flaky pie dough.

Tip: when mixing pie doughs for lining pies, it's best to mix a bit further to create a 'mealy' or 'short' crust'.  This is more compact and more resistant to the moisture of the filling.  Use less mixed, flakier pie dough to set atop the pies, whether in a full sheet or a lattice top.  This will remain flaky and crisp longer, as it is above the high moisture filling.

3 holiday pies which I traded for a damn fine, highly respectable bottle of Cabernet for Christmas.

In case you've been living under a rock and are unable to deduce just what kind of pies these are: pumpkin pie, mixed berry pie, apple pie.

The sourdough loaves I made while home for the holidays.  These came out much nicer than I expected them to.  With my Dad sneaking bites here and there, lurking in the shadows when no one was looking, these disappeared in a matter of hours.

The blistering you see on most sourdough loaves is a result of the overnight retarding technique which allows for a very long fermentation at a cooler temperature and is a sign of a well fermented dough.  I have scratched my head along with other classmates over this, reaching the conclusion that it has something to do with pockets of acidity and enzyme activity breaking pockets of gluten down.  I found an interesting explanation of this phenomenon here.

All of this was our material before the 2 week holiday break.  Once we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes and back to 7:00 AM starts, we launched into tarts and choux pastry.

Blackberry crostata: a free form tart made with very flaky pie dough, lined with frangipane (almond cream and pastry cream) and topped with frozen blackberries before baking.  Holy stripper boots Batman!  I find beauty in the simplicity of fruits when they are allowed to shine.  Delicious.

On somewhat of the same note of tart dough, frangipane and fruits, we have a pear bourdaloue.  The slices of pear are arranged in a shingle or fan-like manner.  After baking, I glazed my tart with apricot glaze and garnished with powdered and pear sugar after busting out the camping sized blowtorch to further caramelize and showcase the slices of pear.  As gorgeous as it is, I'm not so crazy about the classic almond/pear combo.  You'll have no competition from me for the next pear bourdaloue that I bake.

So pear and almond doesn't fly me to the moon, but fruit tarts sure the hell do.  I tell you what, I'd give up chocolate for the rest of my life if I could have a few bites of a well made fruit tart garnished with glistening fresh and ripe fruits every day of the year.  I love the jewel tones found in each of these edible pieces of art.

Here is my Holy Trinity of tarts.  I'll run with the classic quote of 'less is more'.

The savory tart known as the quiche.  This was made with a very rich custard which was cooked slowly to avoid scrambling the filling.  Mine was filled with spinach, sun dried tomatoes and Gruyere cheese.

Lemon bars.  Also known as pockets of sunshine dusted with clouds of powdered sugar.  Also known as mother-uckin' delicious.

Chocolate tart consisting of:
-Chocolate tart dough
-Chocolate cremeux (a rich, creamy chocolate filling)
-Black glaze (a fluid chocolate sauce which coats the tart)
-Gold foil garnish

Keep in mind that every single thing we make in class is made FROM SCRATCH.

Chocolate tarts continued.  Note the sheen of the black glaze, acting as a mirrored surface.  Too much chocolate for this girl, however these were works of art.

Strawberry Breton tart consisting of:
-A cookie like base of tart dough.  Salty, sweet, crunchy and chewy.
-Pistachio filling
-Fresh Strawberries

This has taken the title of the BEST DESSERT I HAVE EVER EATEN.  I immediately gave mine away, knowing that if I were to take it home, it would quickly become my dinner.  I'm still regretting this lapse in judgment.

Onto choux pastry or pate a choux piped onto sheet trays.  Pate a choux is French for paste of cabbage - named after the cabbage like puffs this dough becomes when it's all grown up.

Pate a choux after baking.  The unusual method of cooking a flour/milk/water/butter mixture before baking allows for easy piping.  The dough creates large steam pockets which are responsible for creating the puffed shells we know as cream puffs and eclairs.  These were destined to be cream puffs for our St. Honore cake.

It's a hard day's work piping pastry cream into trays of tiny little cream puffs.  Remember that the next time you pop one in your mouth and wonder where the hell it came from.

Religieuses.  These are stacked cream puffs, a large body and a smaller head perched atop.  These are meant to resemble nuns, the white, spiky piping is meant to look like a nun's habit.  I personally found these to resemble tiny cracken, the white, spiky piping being the cracken's shiny and death inducing teeth.  Is that so wrong?

Besides the fact these were miniature sea monsters out for the blood of sailors, they were bona fide pastry cream bombs.  Hats off to anyone who can eat of these in it's entirety and not fall to your knees out of sheer sugar coma.  Alka-Seltzer anyone?

Paris-Brest.  A ring of choux pastry filled with a hazelnut cream.  The rings are meant to represent a bicycle wheel, as the Paris-Brest is a famous cycling race from Paris to Brest and back again.  More info on the race here.  I'm pretty sure these were invented to restore the caloric loss while cycling from one city to the next and back.

The crowning glory of our choux pastry marathon.  St. Honore cake, which is the cake in honor of the patron saint of bakers.  It consists of a layer of puff pastry, a layer of choux pastry, filled with chiboust and chantilly.  Cream puffs crowned in caramel are placed on the outer ring of the cake like a golden, glowing halo.

St. Honore cake in all it's glory.


Klisty said...

You must bake for the girls when you come back...I would love to try all these delicious things you are producing!!

Janknitz said...

Wow,I can really see your growth as a baker! These are fascinating and I wish I could taste them through the computer screen.

Rach said...

As many a cook and baker have said before, if I were to create a interactive sensory experience for these pastries, I'd be a rich woman indeed!


Anonymous said...

I am in awe. Everything is beautiful. My Smell-O-Vision shorted out after the second simply couldn't handle the wonder of it all.

Linh said...

OMG, I'm gonna be sick.... It's the butter.... Ugh...

blacktealeaf said...

Oh my, I think I just had a heartattack and climaxed at the same time.

blacktealeaf said...

This is Judy by the way! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Everything looks fantasmically amazing!

Rach said...

Judy, it's the least I could do. Glad I of service!

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