I’m having a Big Rant Day today. I’ll try to catch up on all the things that have happened this past week, and how I am feeling about pastries.
We began work on chocolates this past week – tempering and understanding milk and dark chocolate. Before that, though, there was the Opéra cake.
This cake was easy to make in terms of layers – all the layers are familiar recipes for us. Joconde sponge biscuit? Check. Coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache? So Basic Pastry. Making the components didn’t take that much time. I think I glanced at the clock when I was almost done with making the components for the layers and was surprised to see that it was still really early.
However, when it came to assembly, the clocks must’ve sped up on double-time. Since I had put my cake in the freezer to set early, my cake got pushed to the back of the flash freezer and was the last one to be glazed (only one glazing station in the kitchen). So when I was slowly cutting the square, being extra careful with my blasted super-sharp serrated knife, the chef started hurrying us by turning out the lights. I was so annoyed with him. I looked at the clock to see that we were indeed running late, but I had no awareness of this timing constraint until just then. It definitely didn’t help that I was trying to finish in the dark. Ughhh. Thank goodness I didn’t need practice on my writing, having practiced the night before. So I just slapped on the writing on top quickly in the end, with a really crappy border as you can see. By the time I stumbled out of the kitchen, almost 20 minutes late and elbowing past the incoming Superior Pastry students, I was super grumpy about the way class ended. Luckily, we just had one more demonstration class that day before I could go home and forget about it for a little bit.
The next cake was a three-chocolate-mousse cake that is divine, when consumed in small quantities. My streak of being slow continued, and this was probably one of the worst classes ever. To make the three mousses, we had to have three separate bowls of melted chocolate, a big bowl of whipped cream, a bowl of crème anglaise, and empty bowls to mix the mousses in. We were in the smaller kitchen, so it was super crowded with all the ingredients everywhere. I found it really hard to stay organized during this class, which in turn flustered me a lot.
By the end, I was glazing the cake with another girl who had set her cake in the freezer with me – we were basically working at the same pace. However, the glaze set perfectly on her cake, but was too hot on mine and melted my white chocolate mousse. I wanted to scream. With minutes left, the chef scraped off this ugly chocolate glaze tainted with white chocolate, and told me to re-set my cake in the freezer. I put my cake in there, and somehow, the magnets holding down the parchment paper on the baking sheet in the freezer disappeared. The next time I opened the freezer, my cake had been mauled by the flying parchment paper in the blast freezer. I was close to tears; I just wanted to finish this damn cake and get out of there! The chef helped me fix up the glaze, and I scrawled the white chocolate drawing on top before running out of the kitchen. I felt unsettled for the rest of the day, like I was falling really far behind and too flustered to continue with classes.
Pralines and muscadines with icing sugar (not bloom!)
Since I’m doing intensive classes, I couldn’t just go home after a disaster to recollect myself for another day in the kitchen. We had to temper milk chocolate that evening. I had never used my thermometer before, and wasn’t quite familiar with the best way to use it. My thermometer is also not exact, I think. Anyway, so I was already feeling crappy about my day, and we began tempering milk chocolate. We had to make fillings to dip the chocolates, which took a bit of time but wasn’t too bad. Once I got to dipping my chocolates, even though it was just about reading a thermometer for the right temperatures, I was a nervous wreck. We were supposed to try the “tabling method”, which meant pouring the chocolate onto the marble to spread and cool, before scooping up the runny mass back into the bowl. It’s a very messy method, in my opinion, especially with a bunch of newbies who aren’t magical with their pastry scrapers just yet.
The chef overseeing the class was busy doing his own thing and didn’t talk to us much, which was kind of nice, but not that good for us because we sure could’ve used the extra pointers. As you can see in the pictures, my chocolates bloomed in the end due to bad tempering. Packing up the ugly chocolates, I was extremely upset on my way home after that long day.
We had had some really long days by then, and I was really discouraged after such a bad day in the kitchen where nothing worked out. Maybe I’m not meant to be a pastry chef, sure, but all those disasters and feeling out of control in the kitchen made me question my sanity for why I’m even here. I was really bummed out about how slow I had worked, and how poor my results were even though I took a long time. Intermediate pastry is more about the art of patisserie – beautifully crafted desserts with lots of flavours, so there’s always lots to do. Being fast and precise are keys to success. There are some very talented people here, and some people who are definitely serious about this profession. I’m feeling like I’m neither, and I’m sticking out like a sore thumb.
I came home and wallowed to my mom, Alex, and my sister before crashing into bed. Perhaps it was just a bad streak and things would get better, but I was too tired to encourage myself. It was class #8 already and I have just a couple of weeks to see where I’ll end up. Sigh, pastry is getting a lot harder for me! :(