Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tarts and Meringues

Arrived at 6.20 this morning, to find half the class was already there buzzing about, getting together the mise en place for Chef's demonstrations today. I pitched in, measuring out butter and zesting lemons. As a bonus, I learned a new "best" way to zest them: hold lemon in one hand, microplane in another. Zest lemon with microplane ON TOP, so the zest accumulates on the "bottom" of the zester. This way, instead of trying to control zest flying off the microplane and into whichever bowl you've chosen, you turn the microplane, over a sheet of parchment paper (or foil, or whatever) every few seconds to collect the zest. No mess, no cleanup.

This is how those profiteroles and eclairs baked. As you can see, Nicole's were far more generous than mine. I advertised mine as "diet" petits fours as they were each less than the two-bite standard. Oh well. Note: squeeze pastry bag harder next time.

As promised, here is the filled, assembled and finished Paris-Brest. You can see the individual size Paris-Brest below the large one. As the pastry is huge, the hollow space inside is also substantial. To use Chef's turn of phrase, instead of killing the diner with a solid mouthful of pastry cream, you line the bottom of the interior with scraps of cake (usually sponge, ladyfingers in a pinch, and a good way to use leftover cake) drizzled with rum syrup before decoratively piping the traditional praline pastry cream on top. The cream must be high enough to show in between layers of chou, as it does here. The top ring is sliced into individual portion-sized pieces and reassembled on top of the pastry (for ease of slicing during service) before being dusted with confectioner's sugar, which will help hide the cuts. A bowl of chocolate is placed in the middle for drizzling with each slice, and there you have it. You can see the chou, cake, and pastry cream in the picture of the cut slice. The school is catering the Bastille Day celebrations at the French Embassy this weekend, and Chef has decided to serve one of these with a twist, to suit the occasion. In light of the heatwave, praline ice cream will be used to fill the chou, and chocolate sorbet will replace the chocolate sauce. As this is also peak Tour de France season and the French are following it closely, of course, he is also assembling little chocolate bicycles to garnish each serving. There was a moment of silence in the class after Chef finished describing his plans, only to be broken by a soft, "Wow!"

Before we left for the day, we were shown how to make lemon curd and were introduced to the three types of meringues today, and this was the result of Chef's demonstration. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the meringue made the room smell like roasted marshmallows when Chef torched it. I can wait till we get to try our hands at it tomorrow! Chef's blowtorch is the size of a fire extinguisher!


Lana said...
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Lana said...

Oooh...lemon meringue pie already?? Did it taste as good as Mrs. London's?

MooCow said...

Nah. I was disappointed, but it just goes to prove that even a White House pastry chef can be outdone!