Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tarts and Cookies

I've been a culinary student for six weeks now and have made my way through four units so far: Tarts and Cookies, Pate a Choux, Puff Pastry, and Viennoiserie. I haven't posted about school yet solely because I had older posts I still wanted to publish, but now that I'm all caught up, I'm ready to fill you in!

Preparing the Best; that's me!

I've been taking pictures of some of the more interesting or visually impressive pastry we've made, which I'll of course include here for your viewing pleasure, but I don't think I'll be posting all the detailed recipes. I did have to take out loans to get my hands on them, after all. If I can, I'll definitely give you the basic steps and ingredients though, so you'll at least get an idea of the components and procedure.

Sadly, I haven't been doing a lot of recreational cooking or baking since school pretty much satisfies my sugar cravings. Plus, after being in the kitchen for 6 hours, all I can really do is collapse on the couch when I get home and mainline Diet Coke like it's my job. So for now, you'll have to be satisfied living vicariously through my culinary school adventures, but I promise as soon as I get back into my own personal kitchen, I'll let you know.

The unit we started with was Tarts and Cookies. This was the longest unit so far, and by the end of it, I was so sick of tart rings, blind baking, and rolling pins, it almost soured me on pie baking all together.  Almost.

Keep in mind most of these pictures were taken with my iPhone under lots of fluorescent lights. Nothing makes food look less appealing than fluorescent lights.

Tarte aux Pommes
Apple Tart

This was the very first thing we made over the first two days of class. The powers that be who designed the curriculum certainly know what they're doing. So elegant. So delicious. And yet so simple. 

They like to build us up before knocking us down.

The crust is pate sucree, or a sweet pastry crust, but brisee, or flaky crust could be used instead, filled with an apple compote and topped with slices of very thin apples, baked until browned, sweetened, and irresistible. The apple compote was very simply flavored with a vanilla bean, and cooked until tender before placing it in the raw pastry. I think I'll be making this for Thanksgiving this year, maybe with some additional Fall spices in the compote, and definitely with some homemade ice cream. Cinnamon or Caramel?

Tarte Alsacienne
 Alsatian Apple Tart

This tart was also made with pate sucree, and is filled with flambeed apples and a simple custard. Maybe not the prettiest one, but we got to play with alcohol and fire and no body singed their eyebrows off.

Tarte aux Fruits
 Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream

This tart was filled with pastry cream and topped with apricot quarters. Probably not my first choice of fruit in terms of flavor, but it made for a very pretty picture.

Tartelettes aux Fruits Frais
Fresh Fruit Tartlets

These are a miniature version of a 9'' tart that was made a day I was absent. They're composed of pastry crust that is baked, then filled with pastry cream, and topped with fresh fruit glazed with apricot jam. I love how these look and really liked how they tasted as well. I've come to realize that I don't really like pastry cream, but the fresh fruit help to cut the richness of the cream. The key is not to fill the tart shell with too much pastry cream that it becomes too sweet and rich.

Tartelettes au Citron
Lemon Meringue Tartlets

Your basic Lemon Meringue Pie: pastry crust filled with a lemon curd and topped with Swiss Meringue. I made and decorated the 4 at the top of this picture that are only slightly browned as opposed to dark brown. The rest are examples other students in my class made. The darker browning comes from using a hardcore propane torch, something wasn't quite ready to take my chances with. Instead, I baked mine in a hot oven for just a few minutes. This causes the meringue to brown only lightly, and also sets it slightly, which I like.

Tarte Bavaroise au Chocolat
Chocolate Bavarian Tart

Finally, some chocolate! This tart has the typical pastry base and is filled with a chocolate Bavarian and chilled until set. The Bavarian starts with a creme anglaise base. While still hot, chopped chocolate and gelatin are added. Once cool, whipped cream is folded into the custard base, which is then poured into the baked pastry and chilled. The decoration on top of the tart is just some melted white chocolate. The surface should be smooth, and was before I wrapped it in plastic to bring it home. Since this is filled with a Bavarian, the chocolate flavor is a little subtle, but still nice and satisfying. The addition of the gelatin results in a pretty firm filling, so when the tart is cut, each slice will hold its shape, but it was a little Jello-y for my taste.

Tarte au Ganache Chocolat
 Chocolate Ganache Tart 

Now this was a chocolate tart. Simply pastry crust filled with chocolate ganache, which is made by boiling cream and pouring it over chocolate and butter, stirred until melted.

This tart had a much more intense chocolate flavor, that was almost a bit too much when I tried it. By my second piece, it had grown on me. This tart will set up at room temperature, and thanks to the natural cocoa butter in the chocolate and addition of butter to the ganache, will also hold its shape when sliced.

 Please note the glass of milk. And two pieces of pie. Both clearly necessary.

Linzer Torte

This was one of my favorite tarts we made in this unit. It is comprised of a Linzer dough and filled with a layer each of almond cream and raspberry compote. The Linzer dough is made with hazelnut flour (or ground hazelnuts), cinnamon, and cloves, all of which give it a really beautiful complex, spicy flavor, that still manages to be a little subtle. Although you think it may sound busy, somehow all of that pairs deliciously with the almond and raspberry filling.

We all know by now that I'm not a big fan of nuts, but for some reason, I love almond cream. It's probably the same reason I hate tomatoes but love salsa, kethup, and tomato sauce. Almond cream is basically just butter, sugar, ground almonds, eggs, and a little starch. It has a wonderful sweet, slightly nutty flavor that I have just really come to love. Combine that with homemade raspberry jam inside that yummy pastry- DELICIOUS.

Our next unit? Pate a choux. Stay tuned! Think eclairs, profiteroles, cheese puffs....

And if you have any questions about culinary school or pastry classes, feel free to ask! I'll probably have no idea what the right answer is, but I'll make one up.

1 comment:

  1. These look amazing!!! You are becoming quite the professional. I can't wait for you to make me some of these!!!


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