At Week 11 we were 3/4 of the way through the Certificate portion of the program. I could not believe how incredibly fast the weeks had flown by. Of course the three and a half weeks of school we missed in the middle made it seem like we had spent even less time in the kitchen, but by this point we were well past caught up, settling into a nice rhythm and starting to think about the midterm practicum and written exams at the beginning of May. The subjects for the week were Italian Desserts and Ice Cream & Sorbet.
Keeping with the European theme, we rolled right out of two days of French Cakes in Week 10 to a day of Italian Desserts. Given that one of our instructors is a classically trained Pastry Chef from France there was definitely some French influence/interpretation going on in terms of decoration and flavors. We molded the three desserts in bowls to create domes versus last week’s cake rings. Same general principles except unmolding from bowls involves a precarious procedure where you VERY carefully submerge the bottom of the bowl to loosen the frozen mousse and get the dessert out without getting it soaked with sloshing water. Cake rings are easier as you can simply go around the edge with a torch, although we did burn a whole lot of cardboard rounds with the torches. But that’s what culinary school is about; trial, error and flames.
Italian desserts in order of appearance below; Mimosa (lemon/ginger), Mara (strawberry/Grand Marnier) and Tiramisu (coffee/rum/orange).
If you’re keeping track you’re realizing that over three days we made eight “cakes”. Lots of cake tasting parties with neighbors, lots of full freezers and lots of Easter desserts.
On Tuesday we left Europe and landed firmly in the midst of an iconic American dessert, Ice Cream! It is said that we consume more ice cream in New England than any other region in the country. I believe it. From working class to the 1%, health nuts to dessert freaks, it seems like everyone loves ice cream. Half gallons of Breyer’s or quarts of Brighams from the grocery store to online orders from Jeni’s of Ohio or a chocolate Fluff cone from Gracie’s Ice Cream in Union Square, we all have our favorites. At the end of Ice Cream & Sorbets many of us were saying it was our favorite class to date. We learned a lot during lecture about the history of ice cream, various ice cream bases, temperatures for holding and serving and how to use a saccharometer to measure the sugar content in sorbet bases so they freeze properly. Even better than all the new, fun information to add to our repertoires of pastry knowledge was that Chef gave us a lot of creative license in the kitchen. In teams of two we were told to make an ice cream and a sorbet along with some sort of cookie, sauce or other garnish to plate with. No constraints on flavors or approaches. My partner and I did a whiskey pecan ice cream with brown butter sugar cookies in the shape of stars and moons. We dubbed it “Whiskey Dreams”. The whiskey was Knob Creek and the pecans were toasted with maple syrup and kosher salt. It was good, really good. For our sorbet we did strawberry & sage, a flavor combination I came upon when researching recipes for our Fruits, Herbs & Spices seminar project (more on that in a later post). There were some serious doubt in the class about the pairing but in the end we had more than convinced everyone it was delicious. Some of the other ice cream flavors were Irish coffee, avocado w/jalapeno, fig and salted caramel and the sorbets included blueberry coconut mint, passion fruit, orange/grapefruit and rosemary apple. Everything looked and tasted fabulous.
The first six pictures are the Whiskey Dreams ice cream and Strawberry & Sage sorbet. Next three are fig, salted caramel and Irish coffee. The only three pics I got before we all descended on an amazing ice cream feast!