Friday, July 31, 2009

Week Fourteen: Introduction to Cakes

We had Monday evening off from school this week, which was a nice treat after the stress of last week.  Mike and I made reservations at Blue Smoke, a BBQ place we had been wanting to try.  The food was a bit of a disappointment, the quality didn't seem to match the prices they were charging.  Due South BBQ in Christiansburg is a tough place to beat. 
But the company was enjoyable and it was nice to have an evening together that didn't involve me traipsing home at 11 PM, debating whether or not I had enough energy to clean the coffee pot and immediately falling asleep.
On Tuesday it was rainy and chilly and the weather reflected my mood.  I was still wishing the past weekend could have been longer and, after the blow-up in class last Thursday night, let's just say I was not bubbling with excitement to return to class.
Before class began Tuesday evening, one of the administrators and our chef-instructor talked with the class about last week's events.  My friend, the girl who made the mistake of standing-up for herself and thereby catching a lot of the grief, decided to take a break from the program and join up with another class in September.  The administrator was furious with everything that happened and I was embarrassed that he had to speak with a group of "adults" about their childish behavior.  I was embarrassed to be associated with a group of people who is radiating that image.
The evening proceeded quietly and awkwardly.  Given what happened last Thursday, combined with the fact that our class is now down to only six members, our Chef Gerri told us all to work around the same table for the evening (the class is normally spread out over two large tables).  To my surprise, but not disbelief, her request was met with groans from several people in the class.  But I thought it was a good idea - mostly because after my trail, I felt like I needed to practice working quickly and efficiently in a small work space.
The third module of the program is focused around cakes and cookies.  While I am a bit of a cookie feign (how else do you think I acquired the loving nickname "Cookie Monster" from both my Dad and Mike?), I realized last night that I had surprisingly little experience with cakes.  The first cake we made was to become a double-layer chocolate cake, but the cakes had to be held in the refrigerator overnight before we could frost them because they had a very fudgy texture.
The second cake for the evening was carrot cake.  This particular cake was ruined for me by my loving grandmother when I was quite young at the Festhaus at Busch Gardens.  All I could see of the slice of cake was the frosty, white icing, which Mum always used to frost chocolate cake.  "Oooohh, is that chocolate cake?" I squealed.  To which my grandmother assured me it was.
Wrong.  It was carrot cake.  Imagine being seven years old expecting to take a big, unhealthy bite of gooey chocolate cake with sugary icing and instead getting a mouthful of dry, spicy cake with foreign shreds of carrots.  "" I choked.  "Well, I was a little confused as to why someone who hates carrots would choose carrot cake," my Dad laughed as he pointed out the little iced carrot on the top of the cake.
I successfully avoided carrot cake for the next sixteen years, so I was not especially thrilled to bring this streak to an end.  We baked the cake in a half sheet pan, placed the two halves together and placed globs of cream cheese icing on top for the finishing.
I did try a piece of carrot cake.  It was not as bad as the version I have forever embedded in my mind.  But it was not that good either.  If I'm going to eat cake, it's not going to have vegetables in it.  And I like vegetables, now.
We also made muffins.  I come from a family where if you can't make good blueberry muffins for Sunday morning brunch, you might as well just stay in bed.  The family muffin recipe is right up there with pancakes and biscuits.  Since blueberries were quite pricey, and not always that tasty in Virginia, I took the family recipe for the muffin base and added coffee cake crumble.  This is when I was in middle school.   So, let's just say that when it comes to muffins, I have high expectations; which is why I usually make my own.

My partner and I made lemon poppy seed muffins.  They looked nice, but were seriously lacking in the flavor department.  They were plenty lemony, but they were not sweet enough, which is saying a lot since muffins aren't that sweet to begin with.  Another team made fig and orange muffins, a flavor combination I really liked, which would be far superior in a decent muffin base.
Wednesday night we moved to high-ratio cakes: financiers and pound cakes. 

The financiers were cute and compact and it was easy to see how they had received their name: the dessert is a good size and texture for financial workers to eat with one hand.  I wish Mike liked berries, because it would be a perfect dessert for him.  But the doormen were happy to take the extras off my hands.

Then we made what turned out to be one of my favorite recipes of the program: ginger pound cake with lemon glaze.

This pound cake was simply incredible.  The taste was so fresh and light, it made you forget you were actually eating something not exactly healthy.  Sweet without being sickening, spicy without being hot; all combined in a melt-in-your-mouth base.  Pure heaven.

On Thursday, we created a traditional pound cake which uses mace.  It was not good.  While it had a nice crumb, the taste was just not appealing.  

We also made a sour cherry crumble, which I thought was very tasty.

I am not usually a big fan of cherries, but I guess the loads of buttery-sugary crumble on top of the cherries tricked my taste buds into enjoying it.

We also made muffins for the second time this week.  After the disappointing, but not unexpected, results of the first creation, I did not hold much hope for the second batch.  My partner and I set about making bran muffins, only to find the school had run out of bran.

So we decided to make banana muffins.  I love banana bread, but I do not like banana muffins (strange I know).  This recipe did not change my mind.  The mushy bananas in the muffin reminded me of baby food.

Another team did, however, make a wonderful muffin - lemon raspberry.  These disappeared quickly, so I really only got a little taste.  But I know they would be even better in Nana's recipe.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunrise Run

Monday morning, the morning Mum was heading back to Virginia, came far too quickly.  We spent three care-free days exploring the city: shopping, eating, gossiping and enjoying each other's company.  It's always funny to me how quickly days like that go by, but yet other days (for instance, today as I sit at my desk wondering how only two minutes could have passed since I last wondered how far away 5:00 PM was) can seem like an eternity.
Since my Mum and I live rather far apart and both keep busy schedules, there is always a lot of catching-up to do when we finally are together.  So I was shocked and incredibly proud when she announced that she had started running - and wanted to complete a 5K in the fall!  Having already worked up to running 2.5 miles without stopping (and this on the hills in Christiansburg, mind you), I think she will be ready well before she thinks.
She needed new running shoes so I took her to get properly fitted at New York Running Company.  I was excited for her as she tried on each pair, remembering the same new-runner enthusiasm I had shown last fall.
But I was beginning to feel a little guilty about my recent slacking on my running.  Between my work and school schedule and either being too exhausted or too busy on the weekends, I haven't been able to enjoy much running.  Even during my lunch hour, I dread my treadmill runs.  For me, running on a treadmill is a means-to-an-end; I do not find the same feeling of freedom and relaxation emulated on the treadmill.
I was up early this morning to see Mum off to the airport.  After I couldn't see the taxi anymore, I headed back up to my apartment.  5:23 AM.  I knew I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep.  I could do some housework, but that seemed a rather depressing way to start off an already sullen Monday.  So I went for a run.
I ran the 3.75-mile course I had taken Mum for a walk on Saturday morning.  In the park, if I looked over my shoulder, I could see the pink sun starting to rise uptown, reflecting its light and color on the reservoir next to me and waking the skyscrapers downtown.
I thought about how different this year's good-bye had been from last summer's.  I was in tears before I made it back up to my apartment last summer.  I crawled back into bed and cried because I was so miserable.  I hated my job, hated the city, hated being so far away from my family.  My relationship with Mike was having lots of ups and downs and most weekends I found myself alone, lost and lonely.  I had no idea what I was doing in Manhattan or why I thought I could make a life for myself here.  Mike thought I was going to move back to Virginia; I had stopped trying to convince him that I wasn't.
This year was a little different.  It was still difficult to say good-bye, it always is.  I've been sad today because I know time together is so rare now; I want to go home and spend time with my family.  But I do like the little life I've carved out for myself over the last year.
I still hate my job, but I'm taking classes to pursue a career in a field I am truly passionate about.  I don't love the city all the time, but I do like it most of the time.  Mike has been a tremendous support as I've taken on a hectic schedule and, now, the only thing I wish is that we had more time together.
The one thing that hasn't changed is that I hate being so far away from my family.  But I find it a little easier to deal with that now that I feel like I've found my little niche, no matter how small, in the city.
By 6:10 AM, I was back in my apartment.  It was the kind of run that reconnected me, both to the city and myself.  That's the kind of running I miss.

Week Thirteen: Laminate Doughs and Exam

Last week is a bit of a blur.  I woke-up Monday morning to found I had lost the week long battle with my head cold.  I suspect the stress from my trail at Blue Hill the previous evening played a major role in the way I felt, but it was bad enough that I called out of work for the first time ever.  I rested up most of the day and headed to class Monday evening, even though I still wasn't feeling very well.
We finished up puff pastry that evening, working to create palmiers and cheese straws.

The palmiers I created were much smaller than the versions I have seen in bakeries, but I wanted to make a miniature version.  These little treats were just puff pastry dough, rolled out with sugar instead of flour and then, after forming and slicing, dipped in more sugar.  I quickly became addicted to these, taking a couple the next few mornings to enjoy with my coffee.

The cheese straws were also quite tasty: the filling was Parmesan cheese and paprika.  The recipe was definitely a good base to play around with other savory flavors in the future.
Tuesday evening was another night focused completely on making dough that would be held in the refrigerator overnight and be used during the following class.  We individually made and rolled our croissant and danish doughs, anticipating the flaky treats which would emerge from the ovens Wednesday night.
It was worth the wait.  Wednesday night we formed and shaped our croissants, pain au chocolats and several danish forms.  Once they had proofed long enough, they were gently egg-washed and placed in the oven until they reached their desired golden tone.
The longest part of the evening was waiting for the fresh croissants to cool just long enough that I wouldn't burn my mouth on it.  It was flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
I was a little disappointed with the interior of the croissant; I was hoping it would be a bit flakier.  Our chef-instructor told us this was a good recipe, but that the layers wouldn't be as flaky and they wouldn't hold their crunch very long.

 But the pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) stole the show.  I was lucky enough to also have one of these straight from the oven, with the gooey chocolate blending seamlessly with the butter from the surrounding croissant.  For those who were lucky enough to try one, they seemed to be a new favorite.
Thursday night marked the end of the second module.  The format of the exam was the same as before: an hour-long written examination followed by a practical.  Even more than usual, I couldn't wait for the exam to be over - Mummy was coming for the weekend!

But I made myself focus on the task at hand.  I completed the written exam and felt happy with my performance.  Then it was time for the practical portion, which was made-up of two tasks: the first was soft roll dough, the second was classic puff pastry.  The chef-instructor had to evaluate each step of our performance, which left ample opportunity for points to be deducted.
The kitchen was extremely hot and humid, which made working on the puff pastry dough particularly challenging.  I was nervous and ready to have the exam be over, but I just kept thinking how relaxed I would be tomorrow walking around SoHo.
Then, it was over.  Chef Gerri said she would meet with each of us individually to give us our grades and feedback.  We would go alphabetically by last name, so guess where that left me?  Bottom of the list.
My clean-up was finished and I waited nervously for it to be my turn.  Then, tempers which had been brewing since the beginning of program finally boiled over with, presumably, the stress of the last few hours.  Classmates started screaming at each other, accusations flying about slacking on kitchen responsibilities coupled with too personal attacks.
I stood, watching in horror and disbelief as adults acted like hormonal, immature teenagers.  I was literally caught in the middle of a shouting match and all I could do was look nervously at the table and fidget with my tools.  There were things I wanted to jump in say, people I wanted to defend, but when it came down to it, I knew it would only make it worse.
After what seemed like an eternity, it was finally my turn to meet with Chef Gerri.  After calling me her "little perfectionist" and informing me I had received a 99% (maintaining my 4.0 GPA), she complimented my work and assured me I would not only do fine in the industry, but that I had the "skills, talent and speed" to go after anything I wanted and be successful.
It was a perfectly-timed compliment.  I walked back into the kitchen where tempers were still fuming and the tension was enough to take your breath away.  Without a word, I collected my tools and headed upstairs to change.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Trail: Blue Hill New York

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to trail in the kitchen of one of the top restaurants in New York City: Blue Hill New York.

I remember seeing its sister restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, on a episode of last season's Top Chef.  I was intrigued to see this reemerging idea of "farm-to-table" in action.  The restaurant's ingredients are supplied only by what is grown and raised on the Stone Barns farm.

I was thrilled to find there was a Manhattan location for this restaurant, aptly named Blue Hill New York.  When our career advisors asked us to start brainstorming locations where we would like to trail, this restaurant was at the top of my list.

Needless to say, I was more than a little nervous about my first trailing experience being at one of the places I most wanted to pursue an externship.  

The trailing started at 1 PM, but I arrived in the area around noon.  I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to find the restaurant.  I passed the hour sitting in the shade in Washington Square Park, finishing up my book while listening to a two-person jazz band.

Upon entering the restaurant, I was happy to meet Molly, an ICE student in the culinary program, who was also trailing that evening.  The sous chef, Michael, greeted us both and showed us downstairs, where we could change into our uniforms for the evening.  Come to find out, Molly had trailed a few other times at Blue Hill, so she prepared me for the small kitchen size.

She was right.  I couldn't believe how tiny it was - or maybe I was more amazed by how many people they managed to fit in the kitchen!

The next few hours were all prep, as dinner service began at 5:30 PM.  I sorted blackberries, hulled and sliced strawberries and made a peanut butter sorbet and chocolate ganache foam.  

At 4:30 PM, the pastry chef invited me to join them for staff dinner, an offer I was happy to accept.  There was a fish soup, seasoned rice, zucchini salad and fresh bean salad.  The food was absolutely wonderful - simple, fresh and perfectly seasoned.

After the staff meal, it was a bit of a waiting game for pastry.  I helped wipe out glasses and sort them for service.  I picked through the tiny flowers used for presentation and placed them in containers on wet paper towels.  Then I felt like I was just in the way.

Including me, there were four people in the kitchen who were either trailing or interning.  The intern had been assigned to pastry for the evening, so he was working closely with the pastry chef, Joel.  And when the pastry counter is no larger than a cutting board, it's tough to squeeze your way between two guys.

But Michael quickly offered to let me stand with him as he called out the incoming orders to the hot kitchen.  I was able to watch him precisely plate each dish and taste everything as it came off the stove.  I even tried pig snout.  Not kidding.

I could still see pastry over my shoulder, so I could also watch Joel work and plate each dessert.

I was also able to try several of the desserts, which were phenomenal.  They were exactly the reason I was so excited to be at Blue Hill - not only were the ingredients seasonal and fresh, but they were organic, straight from the farm.  

The raspberries actually tasted like the raspberries I remember getting from farmer's stands in Maine.  The strawberries were actually strawberries - only the size of a raspberry, but juicy and sweet beyond belief.

The night ended around 11:30 PM, but not before I was able to speak with Michael and Joel about my experience.  I was thrilled to not only be invited back for future trails, but also to complete my externship, if I chose.  Needless to say, I was quite excited.

So, the night was a success.  I learned a lot during my shift, mostly about how to move in that kitchen without making anyone upset.  And that was pretty important.

Homemade Granola

Tired of paying steep prices for a small amount of so-so tasting granola, last weekend I decided to make my own version.  I had never attempted to make my own, but I figured it couldn't be very difficult.

I was correct.  In it spicy, sweet aroma.  In fact, the most difficult part of the whole process was not eating the entire batch straight from the oven.

It quickly became a new favorite; this morning I will be making the third batch in less than a week.  I know not everyone is a fan of granola, but this recipe might just convert you.

Allie's Homemade Granola
2 cups Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Unroasted almonds
Coarse salt
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Splash of pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

1.  Place oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, almonds and a pinch of coarse salt in mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.

2. Pour honey into a small, microwave safe bowl.  Warm in microwave until no longer viscous, about 20 to 30 seconds.  Add olive oil and vanilla to honey; stir.

3. Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients.  Using your hands, mix together, ensuring the liquid is evenly distributed.

4. Distribute granola on a parchment-lined 9" x 13" baking tray.  Bake until fragrant and golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Be sure to stir granola a few times during baking.

5.  Add raisins and allow granola to reach room temperature.  Immediately place in air-tight container.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Week Twelve: Puff Pastry

I will open with the moral of the past week: just buy puff pastry.  That's right, buy the frozen stuff in the grocery store and don't think twice about making your own.
I advise this from the very bottom of my heart: your shoulders and respiratory system will thank you.  I also say this because, despite the past week being devoted entirely to puff pastry (with more to come next week), apparently even the top restaurants use the frozen stuff.  Surprised?  So was I.  But, according to multiple chef-instructors, there is little difference in the taste of frozen or freshly-made puff pastry.  Since it is incredibly time consuming to make even a small batch, I can now understand why restaurants would just use the frozen version.

We made a "quick puff pastry" dough last Thursday, which chilled over the weekend, and was used to create the hors d'oeuvres on Monday night.  My partner and I worked to create a smoked salmon mille feuille and baklava.

The salmon mille feuille was a light, fresh little bite.  It reminded me of a (very) mini version of the salmon in puff pastry my Mum makes for Christmas Eve dinner.  Just a touch of the dill-butter sauce would have made these even more tasty.

For some reason I was never a fan of baklava.  It was not because the quality of the baklava I was tasting was not good - we got it at Greek Fest every year - but I just didn't like it.  This was much to the enjoyment of my Dad, who every year would pick-up a few pieces for me, "forgetting" that I didn't care for the taste of this dessert.  Surprisingly, it never seemed to go to waste.

Looking at the ingredients, I could not figure out why I had not enjoyed this treat.  We ground up the nuts and added the cinnamon and sugar.  The process of actually assembling the baklava was quite time consuming: every layer of "dough" was six sheets of phyllo dough.  And each sheet of phyllo dough had to be completely coated with a wash of clarified butter.

But the work was absolutely worth it.  Fresh from the oven, it was coated with the cinnamon-infused honey syrup.  Delectable.

Tuesday evening was spent preparing our puff pastry dough for the remainder of the week.  It was incredible to see how much butter could be Incorporated into a seemingly small amount of dough (one pound of butter to one pound of dough).  The first hour spent rolling and folding the dough was quiet and relaxing.  The next three hours of rolling and folding the dough were not as enjoyable.
Wednesday morning, my arms and shoulders ached from all the rolling the previous night.  I was still battling a head cold from the week before and inhaling all that flour dust made it even worse.

That night we were able to use the industrial sheeter, which was basically a giant pasta roller.  I was at least thankful we did not have roll our dough into the necessary 14" x 16" and 11" x 22" sheets required for our desserts that evening.

The first dessert was apple strip, a rustic looking treat that seemed to beg for a hot cup of espresso.  This went over incredibly well the next morning at work.  In fact, it went so quickly, I didn't even get to take a piece.  Most people decided that this was in fact the best treat thus far, restoring my quickly fading confidence in them after the peach pie incident last week.

The second treat was a gateau pitthiviers, which was a mound of almond frangipane sandwiched between two large circles of puff pastry.  It was incredibly beautiful emerging from the oven.

I was even more surprised when we cut into it, the slices looked so pillowy soft.  They tasted wonderful and went over very well the next morning when I served a slice to Mike with his morning coffee.  So much so, I was forbidden from taking them to work and encouraged to make more whenever I wanted.

Thursday evening seemed to be a continuation from the previous night, as a mixed berry fruit strip and a napoleon were on the menu for the evening.

The fruit strip was similar to the night before, except the puff pastry shell was blind baked and, once cooled, filled with lightened pastry cream and topped with freshly-cut berries.  I chose raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.

The napoleon was a cute little treat, although the fondant dried very quickly, making it difficult to draw the lines through the chocolate.

Next Thursday will mark the halfway point in the program.  I can't believe how quickly it's going; in the middle of my long weeks, I feel like I will have this schedule forever.  But the weekends offer me a brief moment to catch my breath and reflect on just how fast the time has passed already.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Week Eleven: Tarts, Pies, Biscuits, Scones, Strudel

I have officially fallen a week behind in my posting.  So to get back on track and not stress myself out, the recap of last week's adventures in pastry school will be quite brief.  I did manage to take some nice photos of my work, so I'm hoping this, combined with some brief commentary, will serve as a nice supplement.

MONDAY: Apple Galette
I absolutely loved this free-formed mini apple pie.  They were the perfect size to make it seem quite special to have one all to yourself, even if it was not much larger than a slice of apple pie.  These are currently being held in my freezer so a special visitor next week can taste it with the cinnamon ice-cream.

MONDAY: Peach pie
I was beyond disappointed that we had to use canned peaches to make this pie.  How am I supposed to rival the best peach cobbler I've ever tasted (at the "Troth" in Georgia) using canned peaches?!  Despite my disgust, this dessert was a huge hit at work, with many people saying it was the best yet.  Which leads me to question some people's qualifications for being my taste testers...

TUESDAY: Linzer tart
I had only ever had linzer in the form of a cookie, which I remember coming across in a cookbook when I was pretty young.  I begged Mum to make them one New Year's Eve and she did so, despite the intricate nature of the dough and the fact that I was really the only one who liked them.  A few years later it was my turn and I chose to make the tart with the darker dough, which used hazelnuts instead of almonds.  The raspberry jam could have been better - but I still loved the taste of this treat.

TUESDAY: Biscuits
What can I say?  There were four versions made Tuesday evening; my version was a sweet biscuit.  Upon tasting this foreign biscuit recipe, my involuntary reaction was to spit it back out into a napkin and reach for a large bottle of water.  My chef-instructor laughed and said, "You must be used to a more Northern biscuit."  Precisely.

I was excited to make scones as I had been having an unusual craving recently for a small, delicious scone and a good cup of coffee.  But I was disappointed to find that all but one of the recipes used currants.  The chocolate scones were tasty, which was confirmed by Mike the following morning.

WEDNESDAY: Pear Breton
I hated working with the breton dough.  HATED.  At first, it wouldn't roll out enough.  Then it started breaking.  Placing both the bottom and top layers in the pan ended up being quite a frustrating venture.  I froze this tart and transported it to upstate New York for the Fourth of July weekend.  Despite my frustration in assembling the tart, it was quite tasty.

WEDNESDAY: Individual tarts
These were quite time-consuming little treats, but I enjoyed making them.  We could choose which flavor to make from a list of about twenty versions and I immediately claimed almond - only because the butter cream in the middle had amaretti cookies (my newest obsession) crushed into it.  In fact, the only thing that made this tart "almond" was the almond slice on top of the awful-green colored marzipan.  I did not like the taste of the marzipan at all, so I removed it from the top to better taste the amaretti butter cream.

Have you ever seen someone make strudel dough?  I had not.  But it is quite an incredible sight to watch and even more-so to do yourself.  The dough is stretched paper-thin; so thin, in fact, the entire dough is stretched over a table! (See example)  I created the classic apple strudel which was scrumptious.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy Fourth of July Weekend

I will be in Upstate New York this weekend celebrating the Fourth of July with part of Mike's family.  So I will continue to run a bit behind on my weekly post - but I hope to be caught up by early next week.  

I love this weekend - the summer is just beginning, family and friends gather together and our freedom is celebrated with good food and good company.

I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Fourth of July weekend.  A special thank you to those in my family who have protected our freedom over the years and their wives who have tirelessly supported them.

Week Ten: Sfogliatele, Canoli and Tarts

I'm running a week behind on my posts from school, but as I was lucky enough to squeeze in some time to go visit family in Florida, I feel I have a good excuse.  So my recap of last week's classes will be rather brief, but hopefully the photos will serve as a good supplement.
It was a tough week of classes, not due to the material or work load, but I was still recovering from my emergency oral surgery the previous Friday, which left me with four gaping holes in the back of my mouth and an inability to eat anything requiring chewing for a week.  I was still on pain killers on Monday and Tuesday, which made class especially interesting.
On Monday night, we used the sfogliatelle and canoli doughs we had so painstakingly created the week before.  The little pastries came together quite quickly and, at least visually, I could appreciate the effort required to produce them.

While I could not taste either the sfogliatelle or canoli, Mike gave a thumbs-up on the canoli.

We spent the entire class on Tuesday preparing doughs and fillings for the following two evenings.  Pate brise, pate sucree, pastry cream, various flavors of frangipane (walnut, praline, almond and pecan) and various flavors of curd (lemon, lime and orange).
We started using these components Wednesday evening as we created tarts and tartletts.  The design of the fruit on each large tart was to be created by each individual in the class.  I decided to form my design using all berries, not only because I love these flavors together, but also because berries are especially ripe during the summer months.

I took the fruit tart to work the following day and it seemed to be hit among the co-workers.  I also took in the individual chocolate praline tartletts, which I thought were especially tasty.
On Thursday night, we were assigned a new chef-instructor for the following few weeks.  Her personality and teaching style was quite different from our previous instructor and it put the class in a whirlwind for the evening.  Teams worked to create a sheet pan tart and 12" and each individual chose a 10" tart to create.  My team worked on the rhubarb cheese sheet pan tart and the fromage blanc.
I was excited for my trip to Florida the following day and kept this in mind while selecting which tart I would create that evening.  I chose the blueberry tart, but decided to use walnut frangipan as the filling instead of the suggested almond.  I love the flavors of blueberries and almond together, but if we were given to room to be creative, I was going to take the opportunity to create something I thought would be a bit more rustic. 
The result was beautiful and after freezing it overnight, it transported beautifully the following morning. 

It had been strongly hinted that my hosts would enjoy a sampling of my pastry school activities, so it was not entirely unexpected that I gave up half my suitcase to ensure this request was fulfilled.  It was immediately cut-into upon taking it out of my luggage and the reactions were quite in favor of my flavor combination, despite the usage of New Jersey blueberries.  It was such a treat to watch everyone nibble at it over the weekend.
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