Saturday, May 23, 2009

Week Five: Sugar and Custards

On Monday, we wrapped up our lesson on sugar and each team created divinity, torrone, peanut brittle and dry caramel.  As my partner worked on the torrone, I started the divinity.  I incorporated the hot syrup into the egg whites and allowed the mixer to start whipping the mixture cold.  I watched it closely as I cleaned-up my area to prepare for the next recipe.

About five minutes later, the mixture was a complete mess: clumpy and grainy.  I asked the chef to come look at it and as she peered into the bowl, she simply said the mixture had crystalized.  A look of disappointment must have washed across my face, as she told me not to be too concerned about it - it could have just been a tiny particle in the pan or mixing bowl that caused the issue.  I understood sugar was very temperamental, but I was still disappointed.  I do not like to mess-up.

As the taste of the candy was still fine, she had me scoop it out so it could dry.  My partner finished the torrone and I helped her mix in the almonds and spread the mixture between the two pieces of wafer paper.

We started working on the peanut brittle, as I took extra care to be sure the pan was clean.  The sugar took a fairly long time to reach the required 300 degrees.  Once it did, the honey roasted peanuts, vanilla and baking powder were immediately stirred in and then the brittle was poured and smoothed onto a SilPat and allowed to cool.

As we made our dry caramels and worked on creating caramel decorations, we each individually met with the chef to receive our mid-module reviews.  I was happy to hear I was currently earning an A.  Even more assuring than my grade, however, was when my instructor again praised my chocolate piping skills and said she thought I would "do extremely well" in the industry.

The divinity was awful - every group threw theirs out - so I didn't feel so badly that I messed it up.  But I did bring home the peanut brittle, which I thought was delicious, and the torrone.  Mike was intrigued with the torrone once I explained it was a traditional Italian candy and taste tested a small piece.  I was informed I was not allowed to take the torrone to the office; it was to stay in the apartment.

Tuesday brought the introduction to custards, as well as our second quiz, on which I received a 100%.  I am not a huge fan of custards, but creme brulee, baked caramel custard (flan) and bread pudding were on the menu for the evening.  We made up the custards fairly quickly and they were ready to set overnight before tasting.  While the bread puddings went home, the baked custards and creme brulees me stayed in the kitchen to be unmolded and burned-off the next day.
I had been looking forward to Wednesday's class for awhile: cheesecakes!  Each team was assigned a different style: New York, Philadelphia and mascarpone.  We were then to take one of each home, refrigerate it for at least 12 hours and then taste each one.  I did my taste-testing last evening after my wine class.  

My favorite was the New York style - and not just because my partner and I made this version.  The Philadelphia style was fine, but did not have as much flavor.  I unexpectedly enjoyed the mascarpone.  I thought the pate sablee (cookie part underneath the cheesecake) could have been much more flavorful on all three - it was just kind of there and did not really add anything to the overall flavor of the cake.  For the mascarpone, I think some amaretto liquor or a chocolate hazelnut base would be delectable.

We also made creme anglaise Wednesday night as well as our ice cream bases for Thursday night.  Each team had two different ice cream flavors to prepare - my partner and I had praline and cinnamon.

Thursday night was fun.  We took turns freezing our ice cream bases in the industrial ice cream machine.  The base comes out like a soft serve and is then placed in the freezer to become a hard serve.  But we were able to try each flavor before they were quickly whisked away to the freezer for next week.  

Cabby would be proud of me, as the ginger ice cream was one of my favorites.  My top-pick was the cinnamon ice cream - sweet, spicy and homey.  I think it would be absolutely amazing over a warm piece of Mummy's apple pie (any takers for Thanksgiving?).  The chocolate and coffee flavors were also very good, but the team that did both flavors added a ton of add-ins which, in my opinion, distracted the taster from the simple flavor of the ice cream.

It was another enjoyable week - I am starting to gain confidence in the kitchen and am becoming more relaxed during the recipes.  I only have four more classes left in this module, with the exam and practical taking place on June 2nd.  That will put me a quarter-way through the program - its amazing how quickly it has already gone!


  1. This week sounds like a lot of fun! Sometimes mistakes do teach you more than it going smoothly the first time - although I hate kitchen mishaps too :) You MUST make your ice cream at Thanksgiving!!!

  2. I can't keep the drool off my chin, it all sounds delicious. Really wish I could give Mike competition on the tasting.


Site Design By Designer Blogs