We are done with the first basics unit in school and our first final and practical exam. I spent the better part of the last two weeks fretting and studying until my brain felt like it was oozing through my eyeballs. Don’t think I could have prepared any more than I did. Oh – and I did get the highest grade in the class. Not to brag, but I am really proud of myself.
I never felt closer to being on an actual food competition show (i.e, Chopped or Top Chef) than I did while doing this 3-day practical exam. We had to take everything we learned and produce baked goods on our own in a completely silent kitchen, except for the occasional warnings of “Hot!” and “Behind you!” It’s somewhat tough to transition to this, being that we always work in pairs, so one of you is working on a mixture while the other is rolling out a dough of some sort. But for this we all had to gather our own ingredients, measure them out, prepare, and bake it all ourselves. We also had to quarter each recipe, so there was a bit of math involved. Though I’m used to doing this in my own kitchen, it’s really not the same – this is baking on a bigger scale! On the list of required recipes were: Chocolate Mousse, Apple Pie with a lattice top, Éclairs, Cream Puffs, Paris-Brest, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Spritz Cookies. Everything also had to be plated nicely – just like those shows!
The only one out of those that had a time constraint was the mousse, thank goodness, which had to be done by Tuesday at a certain time. I was the first one up, scrambling around the kitchen looking for strawberries at 5 minutes to the time I was given. Five minutes running around turned into 2 minutes and I still couldn’t find those darned strawberries (and I ran right into two tables and a chef-instructor!) Finally I decided to nix the strawberries and just put powdered sugar on my mousse, which I plated in a ramekin, and topped with pecans. I brought the plate to my chef instructor, and sat across from her sweating as she played with my mousse; checking for consistency and eyeing me as well. She finally tasted it, those few seconds of silence before her reaction seemed eternal! After a few moment she said it tasted excellent but took off points for the pecans, stating that it might confuse someone into thinking there are pecans in the actual mousse. I guess I agree, but I like nuts and chocolate and really wanted a garnish. Still – I was glad to be done with the first part!
The rest pretty much went the same; baking, waiting, worrying, rushing, plating, crying when something got burned (I had to make my cookies and éclair paste twice). Since everything else had to be done by Wednesday night, I had a few days to fix my mistakes and all in all I did a good job. I survived to bake another day, though my nerves need a bit of rest time.
Next unit – breads!
Love & Sweets,