Like the blink of an eye

6 months have come and gone so quickly.  It's as if these past months have whipped by on fast forward, like standing in the middle of a speedway, watching only the streaks of colors from the cars careening around the bend.  I wish I had more time, but in a few weeks, the next professional program will begin and the etch-a-sketch squares will be shaken and reset for the next group.  A classmate of mine recently commented that 'we've been in this program for 6 months', to which I scoffed, thinking nothing of it.  He then said 'it's been half of a year'.  This is when it made a real impact.

Before last Friday's graduation, we worked feverishly for 2 weeks straight on the production for the ceremony.  We worked on a list of over 100 different products to produce an amazing and comprehensive spread of what we've learned to bake and make since we stepped through the doors of SFBI.  Graduation was bittersweet.  It was a great feeling of accomplishment to see exactly how far we've come as bakers and confectioners, but it tugged at my heart strings to realize I would not be sharing the same space with 11 other amazing and passionate people every weekday morning.  I've made some great friendships and had some irreplaceable experiences through the course of the program.

When I started this blog, I honestly didn't think anyone beyond my immediate friends and family would even read it.  It's been a great and humbling experience to recognize that my words and photographs have reached beyond that.  I very much appreciate everyone's support.  I know there are a few outstanding questions and comments, of which I plan to address in the next few weeks, after I have fully decompressed back to 'real life'.  Thanks to everyone who has accompanied me through the program via The Pastry School Chronicles.  It's been a great experience.


Damn, that's fancy

It's been 6 months and a lot of damn breads, pastries and confections.  Our last week of official learning has ended with plated desserts, bringing all elements we have learned up this this point together in a nice little satchel.  Our highly awesome instructor Frank, who was with us for the breads section and wedding cakes made another cameo appearance to take us on the roller coaster ride through Fancy Town.

All aboard the train to Fancy Town!  Keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle.  Photos are more than permissible.  They are required!

The classic chocolate souffle.  Pretty enough on it's own, but...

Add some powdered sugar and a nice quenelle of freshly spun jasmine tea and caramel ice cream to a souffle which has just departed the oven, and you have absolute heaven.

5 seconds after we assembled our own souffles, they were completely demolished, nothing left but the evidence in the ramekin and on our spoons.

Buckwheat-beer crepes filled with macerated strawberries, nestled in a bed of Sabayon and garnished with a quenelle of strawberry sorbet.

Profiteroles.  In layman's terms, these are choux puffs split and filled with vanilla ice cream.  Garnished with a chocolate sauce, candied hazelnuts and licorice micro-greens.

Custard soaked brioche with strawberry sorbet, black olive crisps, fried brioche croutons, black olive caramel and strawberry reduction.  This was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten!  Needless to say, our instructor plated this in a way which would make it easy to shell out the big bucks for.

This looks like asphalt, but is one of my favorite culinary epiphanies.  Cocoa nib praline.  Cocoa nibs are bitter chunks of the cocoa bean which are a byproduct of chocolate processing.  We caramelized these little gems and created something toasty, sweet, nutty, chocolaty and super fantastic!

The cocoa nib praline in action!  A cocoa nib praline crisp rests atop cocoa nib praline chantilly, a slice of pot de creme, and a bar of incredibly tender chocolate cake.  This awesome creation is surrounded by a port and raspberry reduction, anise tapioca, fresh raspberries and more of those awesome micro greens.

Grapefruit, date and coffee tart topped with coffee infused cream and sat beside a quenelle of grapefruit sorbet.  Yum, yum!

The last 2 weeks of the program will be non-stop production for the graduation ceremony.  I can't believe it's almost over.  We've become such a close knit dysfunctional family and I have looked forward to seeing the band of misfits each and every weekday morning.  File my decisions to attend SFBI under 'One Of The Best Things I Have Ever Done'!


A class of overgrown 7 year olds

Chocolates, caramels, candies and confections.  That's been the theme of the past few weeks.  It's enough sugar to give you a tummy ache like the time your parents were away for the weekend and the babysitter let you consume an entire bag of Starbursts before dinner.  Lesson learned?  Apparently not!  I've been on a daily rollercoaster of sugar highs and crashes.  Along with massive amounts of caffeine, there's nothing quite like snacking on and evaluating candies that should be wrapped up nicely in your pillowcase candy bag on Halloween before you've even approached lunch.  As delicious as they were, the sheer amount and variety of confections we created was enough to reduce the entire class to overgrown 7 year olds.  Stomach aches, sugar crashes and all, we were a collective whiny bunch of adult children.  There was literally one point where we were all clutching our stomachs, crying 'I ate too much sugar!'.  Funny now, sure, but at the time it was bad news bears.

A few days after the sugar attack, I've essentially regained composure and have since reflected on what a fun week it was working with confections.  Note to self: better to create the sweets rather than consume them.

Chocolate caramels enrobed in chocolate and topped with hazelnut 'crunchies'.
Peanut butter goodies snuggled up in a bed of chocolate and topped with lovely, crunchy bits.
Turtles.  Massive mounds of caramel and nuts smothered in chocolate and topped with hazelnut crunchies and cocoa nibs.
Hand rolled salted caramels.  One liners from I Love Lucy were of course, requisite.
Vanilla and Fleur De Sel caramels.  Every single ray of sunshine captured in little paper satchels.  I'm usually not a caramel girl but these were the devil!
French macaroons (or macarons).  Yes, I took the exact same photo that no less than 2,169 other people have taken of the much loved macaroon.  I'm sure you'll forgive me.
Some sort of macaroon flavor combo which was rather tasty.  We had so many combinations of macaroon shells and fillings/ganaches, it made my head spin.  I just know they were pretty and tasty.  Do you really ask for anything more?
Chocolate marshmallows.  These tasted like Count Chocula and looked like lava rocks.  I'm still on the fence.

Classic vanilla marshmallows.  My first experience eating a homemade marshmallow.  And I loved it.

Passion fruit pate de fruit and pistachio brittle.  The end of the day was literally like Halloween, everyone was 'shopping' at each table for different flavors of candies.

Toffee and pate de fruit fashioned into a day of the dead skull.  Yes, this was me playing with my food.

Nougat de Montelimar.  This was an absolutely insane creation, requiring perfect timing of 3 different elements of syrups and meringues.  With the amount of almonds, pistachios and sheer labor, I fully understand and appreciate why this candy is so damn expensive.  But delicious indeed!

No more sugar for me!  At least that's what I say until I approach next week which will be plated desserts.   Stay tuned.